We reached the parking lot at 12:40pm. Fly dope went on at 12:42 as I was packing up all our drinks and sandwiches into one of the backpacks. We were on the trail shortly thereafter.
We started going up right away.
The trail was well marked and maintained. We crossed a low bridge but within a few minutes, we had climbed high enough that we could hear the river off to our right and a fair distance below us. I was wearing a t-shirt and a denim long sleeve shirt. There was a sweatshirt in the knapsack as well, as the guides warned of colder weather on the summit regardless of the time of year. Within 10 minutes of starting, I had to stop and remove my shirt. Within a half an hour, my t-shirt was soaked and sweat was running off my face in rivers. It was hot and the trail was steep. I was loving it.
(24K) We were told that it was about a two hour hike in to the base of Gros Morne from the roadway, and after about three quarters of an hour, we stopped at the first rest area which gave us our first good view of how far we had come. Turning around 180 degrees showed us how much farther we had to go. It was always a daunting view; you would keep saying to yourself, "That's where I'm going...." but it was difficult somehow for the mind to believe that you were actually going to get there. (81K)
I was really hoping to see some wildlife... up close. The evening before, in the dusk, driving to Norris Point from the airport, we had briefly glimpsed two moose grazing in the ditch neside the road. The was also a sign in the parking lot warning of bear in the area, but what I was really hoping to see was moose. Or caribou. There is a large human presence on the moutain in the summertime, and as a result, we didn't see anything except for the odd chipmunk and some birds. I was able to snap a nice picture of some sort of speckled woodpecker, almost hidden on the tree branch as we continued to climb... and sweat. (26K)
We consumed a lot of liquids on the way up. It occurred to us that despite having bought as many bottles as we did, we might not have brought enough. I was constantly reaching under my sunglasses to wipe the sweat from my eyes. Ann, god love her, had the lead and I would make the occaissonal suggestion that if she were finding the going too tough, that we could stop and break. She seemed to be faring far better than I and just kept on going. Winded and absolutely drenched, I followed behind. Then we broke through the tree line. (68K)
We speculated about the precence of a "base camp", some spot where there might be another rest area. We talked about the altitude and wondered if part of the reason why it was tougher to pull a breath was the thinner air. Things changed quickly once we were out from under the canopy of the trees. It was cooler with a little breeze that made the going more comfortable. And the ground flattened out for a while. Giving us a chance to collect ourselves again before the steeper climb up the rock. And speaking of rock, I spied one poking out of the shrubs and asked Ann to shoot a picture of me and the wonderful view behind us. You can tell from the shot I was having a pretty good time. *g* (46K)
There was a base camp! Right at the bottom of the rock overlooking a couple of ponds, was another built-up boardwalk with some benches and signs pointing out the way and helping to identify the different plants and animals that we might meet gpoing up the mountain. It was about an hour and forty minutes since we'd left the parking lot. I squinted to look at the mountain to see if I could spot the trail, and noticed a few people climbing up the steep cut in the rock. It looked like they were climbing over loose stone. I said to Ann that it looked like a pretty stupid idea to try to leave the path and climb up the stones. What about the people below when the rocks came loose? What if you fell? I figured it was crazy college kids. Then I saw from the sign that that was the way to go... *gulp* (42K)
The path through the woods was often steep. On the really hard parts, there were wooden steps, which naturally gave rise to speculation over how the hell they had brought all that wood up the hill through the trees. Somebody spent a lot of money on this path. On the rock, though, there were no steps. You made you own steps, carefully and slowly picking a route up over the rocks, hoping you didn't slip, or pick a rock that was going to slip from under you and pitch you onto your face. Most steps brought your foot up to knee height. On the tougher parts you were almost reaching for waist height and you were climbing with all fours. We realized why the guide suggested bringing a first aid kit. But like the sign said at base camp, go slow and go careful and everything would be okay. Ann would tease me on the way up through the woods asking me, "What are you?" To which I would reply (out of breath), "I'm a hiker", then later, "I'm a mountain climber". As we went higher up the rocks, my conceit grew to a point were I would reply in a quaint English accent, "I'm Sir Edmund Hillary." I took the picture that follows just after a tough part of the climb, that would be were the slope seems to disappear into nothing beneath us. THAT'S how steep it was. Looking back almost brought a sense of vertigo. (38K)
From there, the climb looped up (always up... I kept repeating to myself on the climb, "Ever upward" like it was a mantra) and left. There were four college kids ahead of us... we could see them in the distance as we left "base camp". We passed two of them on the steepest part of the climb and the other two as they rested on the corner. It made us feel better for all the panting and sweating that we were doing to go past the young kids (whippersnappers! *laugh*... Gerry (my brother in law who had made the climb some years earlier) had warned us that you would get tricked a few times on this part of the mountain thinking that you were seeing the top and finding it was like a ledge that led to a new section which ALSO looked like the top.... So forewarned, we just kept climbing. Ever onward, ever upward... Then suddenly we were on a winding stone path, still not quite at the top of the mountain, but walking upward along a gentle grade. In the picture you can see the path is well defined by the stones (MORE work for someone to have done that) and if you look really carefully, you can see the fluorescent orange markers that help to mark the trail and guide you along the path. (34K)
There was a sign and a simple cairn of rock. After sweating through the trees, pulling ourselves over the steep rock, a simple, ambling little ten minute walk brought us to the peak. It seemed a little anticlimatic, maybe just proving the creedo of the climbers ("Why do you climb a mountain?" Not "To get to the top", but "Because it's there." It made for a good photo op though! (81K)
The air wasn't cool at the top. It was lovely. Except that the breeze was drying the sweat on my body and that was chilly. We found a secluded spot a little way off the path, a spot that gave a tremendous view of the surrounding mountains, and we nestled into the rocks to have our lunch. This is a picnic site that I highly recommend. (31K)
The views from the top of Gros Morne were incredible. We saw mountain lakes and pockets where the snow hadn't melted. It was an unspoiled landscape that was somehow alien. The greens and blues were so bright in the sunshine that they were almost shouting. I took a picture of a lake that seemed to be nestled into the edge of a cliff, thinking that somewhere, sometime, there would probably be a waterfall. This is the picture that I took, although I later regreted it since there was a better view of it about 20 minutes later on where you circled the backside of the mountain on the way do3wn and you were treated to a stunning view of the waterfall. (45K)
Why didn't I take the picture later, you're wondering. That's a good question. I said how we had found a nice spot with a great view for our picnic. Ten minutes farther down the path we saw where we should have stopped. It was a glorious view into the gorge and a place called "Ten Mile Pond" What a wonderful picture! I thought. I'll snap the bay where the land meets the water, and I'll snap the "million dollar view" into the gorge. I took the first picture and my camera beeped. Oh, say it isn't so...! I had bought one extra roll of film. I had merrily snapped photos all the way up the mountain, my photographic record of the ascent. I hadn't been keeping count. I was out of film. But here's the half of it I got.... (28K)
The trip down was the hardest part. You wouldn't think initially that it would be tougher climbing down than it was climbing up. But it was. The trip up was a direct line up the face of the mountain. The trip down was a more circuitous route around the back. Every step down brought all your weight on your knees which started to hurt. We rationed our water a little closer because we were almost running out. The hour between 5 and 6pm was the hardest. You were looking down at the path to make sure you were stepping properly and you stopped noticing the views. Your neck started to stiffen and hurt, when it should have been easier to carry the knapsack which was now almost empty. We arrived at the "base camp" again at about 6:15. We were now back on the path we knew. Where it took us almost two hours to get there on the way up, the way down took us only another hour to get back to the parking lot. We flew down that hill! *g* We were sore for about three days, but it was a wonderful climb and well worth the aches and pains. And it rained for the next two days, so we reflected on our good fortune that we decided to go out when we did.
But I didn't get that million dollar picture. So I'm going back. Someday, I'm going back to get that picture.