Gros Morne Mountain, I Pwned You

We arrived in Norris Point just outside of the park at sundown, where all we could see after nine hours of driving (yeah, we took a wrong turn…for about an hour) was the dark outline of the hills. My friend Heather hosted us for the weekend in her amazing little bungalow, her backyard being the mountains and her front-yard being the Tablelands.

Yeah, I wouldnt mind having breakfast with this view.

Yeah, I wouldn't mind having breakfast with this view.

The next morning, we got up early for our first big hike around Gros Morne mountain. Heather asked if we were prepared. “I’m gonna make this mountain my bitch,” I said with confidence. 16 kilometres? No sweat. I run five kilometres three times a week. I got dis.

Right off the bat, I forgot to pack my lunch.

Heather hiked with us through the gulch and to the base of the mountain, about 2 hours in. The day was perfect: sunny, warm, and just a slight breeze. We shed our coats in favour of long-sleeved shirts. We didn’t encounter a single person along the way, just dense forest and the occasional pile of moose droppings or a hoof-print embedded in the mud. Have you ever appreciated the smell of Newfoundland autumn? It’s like peat and mud, and makes you feel healthier just by breathing it.

The mountain, from afar, doesn’t look intimidating. It stands out like an awkward teenager, surrounded entirely by verdant hills. Nothing grows on it, because the mountain is actually exposed quartzite from an old beach which occurred as a result of the continents colliding and closing over the Iapetus Ocean, somewhere between 600-400 million years ago. Yes, it’s essentially the earth turned inside out. Some people refer to this province as “the Galapagos of Geology.”

Even at the immediate base, looking up and ignoring the “WARNING: YOU MIGHT DIE” sign, the slope doesn’t look drastic. Until you begin to climb. And climb, and then climb some more. All the while, you’re scrambling over extremely loose rock, large boulders and trying to avoid that one precarious foothold which might send you crashing backwards.

Pausing to be one with nature.

Pausing to be one with nature.

This is how I actually feel.

This is how I actually feel.

I barely made it. Maggie, the valiant trooper, rushed ahead of Glassman and I while we struggled and sweated up the slope. My backpack killed me. Every time we thought we were about to reach the top of the mountain, there was another ridge. This happened at least three times, and each incident made me want to cry. Even when we had FINALLY breached the top of the mountain, the goddamned summit was halfway across the surface. Little green signs just kept popping up on the horizon. We kept walking through more jagged and loose rocks. My ankles cried.

The surface of the mountain looked like a combination of the moon and the Arctic tundra. Being so wide, even standing at the center we couldn’t see the sweeping fjords we had so often viewed in all the tourism paraphernalia. For a rest, we hunkered down in a man-made rock fort and ate our lunches, while I tried to come to terms with the fact that I’m terribly out of shape and probably developing Secretary Butt.

But finally, as we followed the makeshift route laid out by those goddamned green arrows, we came to the wide open chasm plunging deep across from Gros Morne. There’s the quintessential Gros Morne shot, the cliffs with the dark blue water and a hiker posing in various yoga stances in front of it all. I would have lingered, but we had gone from warm spring weather to a raging, windy nightmare as soon as we made it to the summit, and I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore.

This is the view.

This is the view.

The rest of the hike, six hours in total, we mostly trudged along in silence. We fanned out on the trail, Glassman disappearing somewhere ahead while Maggie fell back to take pictures, and I spent over an hour walking in complete, total silence. Nothing, not even a rustle of wind. You’d think this would be ideal time for thinking, but the mission at hand was finding a firm footing. I liked that part, the simple task of just moving forward, one foot after another.

The sun was setting and glaring directly in my eyes when I finally decided to take a break and to wait for Maggie to catch up. Glassman had sprinted on ahead, fuelled by adrenaline and oatmeal cookies. We sang campfire songs on the way out, nearly ran into some frolicking moose, squealed like little girls, and totally made it out alive. We then celebrated by ordering two large pizzas and one large platter of garlic fingers from a local joint named Earle’s. We also made a drinking game out of the Newfoundland scenery slideshow being presented, whereby we scared of all other customers and were promptly told to leave the premises.

(JK, we left on our own accord.)

So there I am, hiker Candice breathing lung-loads of fresh, crisp autumn air in western Newfoundland, a place which reminds me of Cape Breton and similarly heals my soul. I’m an amalgamation of personalities, never dismissing the city life until I’m driving through a rural village after a day of hiking with the most perfect view of stars in the sky. Then I’m thinking, “Wait a second, this is living.”

  • Travelogged

    Newfoundland holds a fascination for me — I enjoyed reading about your hike. And these photos are incredible, especially the way you captured the light.

  • The Jetpacker

    We want to go to there. But we get winded walking to the mailbox.

    Would you ever consider ditching the backpack and carrying us up instead? If not, we can live with looking at your beautiful pictures at an oxygen bar.

  • neha

    Thanks for putting up photos and sharing the amazing views! I also really liked the imagery of the mountain standing out like an awkward teen.

  • Ayngelina

    Six hours, not bad, even lazy me would consider a six hour hike – although that photo of you exhausted makes me think sitting in a pub for 6 hours in NFLD may be more up my alley.

  • Michael Tyson

    Looks gorgeous. That loose rock would’ve been a bitch to hike up though!

    The title of the post looks like it’s in Welsh. What exactly did you do to the mountain to “pwn” it?

  • Alouise

    That view from the top looks fantastic. I’m not much of a hiker but this might convert me.

  • AdventureRob

    I love it when you climb so high you can see the curvature of the earth. Some stunning views up that mountain Candice :-)

  • maggie

    eeheehee, i get smiley when my photos show up in your blog ;D
    (also, you were a trooper with that backpack! to be fair, I only got a ways ahead of you guys up the mountain once I was backpack free ;) )
    Also, yay for the knowledge bombs! I just liked Gros Morne ’cause it was preeeetttyyyy ;) But cool to know it’s geologically wicked as well :)

  • linlah

    Wonderful photos and great story, I felt like I was there.

  • Cammy

    This place is gorgeous! Great story and pics =)

  • Michelle Schusterman

    Fantastic story, and man are those pictures gorgeous!

  • Jade

    breathtaking views!! and after a six hour hike- I wouldn’t be talking either!!

  • Ivy

    “This is the life” is the exact same thing I said while sitting by the Yukon River in Alaska. Used to be a real outdoors child back in the day… and then somebody gave me the Internet.
    Beautiful pictures, and good god, Candice, I love the way you write.

  • Candice

    Thank you! Maybe I don’t need to invest in an $1k camera after all. :) What a weekend, can’t believe it’s a snowy, sloppy hell here right now.

  • Candice

    I could perhaps carry you, after I get in shape myself. I’m pretty ashamed of myself.

  • Candice

    Hehe, thanks Neha! You’ve been MIA for quite awhile, glad to have ya back!

  • Candice

    Hahaha, trust me, if I can do it, you can. I’d do it all again!

  • Candice

    Hehe, no, “own!” It’s Geek-speak. Because I’m lame.

  • Candice

    The next one has great views too, and is a lot easier. :)

  • Candice

    Thank-ya! First time on a mountain, wish I could do it again.

  • Candice

    For real, brushing up on my Gros Morne knowledge made me wanna take a few geology courses. Good thing I have Matt around.

  • Candice

    Thank you, Linlah!

  • Candice

    Thanks dearie!

  • Candice

    Glad ya enjoyed, Michelle!

  • Candice

    Thanks Jade!! Yeah, I think I crawled into bed around 10 that evening, hahaha.

  • Candice

    Best comment I’ve heard in awhile, thanks Ivy. :) I used to be such an outdoors child too, but I kinda lost it.

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