A couple of my colleagues at work had been discussing the popular winter recreational activity that is snowshoeing. They'd not done much of it in their pasts, and, both being the relative keener-types that they were, had gotten it into their heads to give it a shot. In fact, one of the two had already gone out and bought two pairs of capable MSR Denali snowshoes.
I offered to show them what I consider to be one of the more interesting snowshoe outings in Gatineau Park (the closest bit of good outdoors in the vicinity of where we work). The outing consists of an ascent of King Mountain, one of the low hills that form the escarpment on the southwest boundary of the park. Done the way I like to do it, one gets to climb King Mountain in such a way that it actually feels like you're climbing a peak -- something you often don't get in hilly-but-not-really-mountainous Gatineau Park. Add to that the fact that access to this outing is easy and it offers some good views, and you have a pretty decent route.
The starting point for our route is an old unmarked path that leads diagonally upwards from Chemin de la Montagne, on the southwestern edge of the park immediately below King Mountain. We parked on a side-road (Chemin Kelley) just off of Chemin de la Montagne, which intersects right at this very spot. From our parked cars, we had a great wintry view of the snow and ice streaked cliffs of King Mountain. For something within 15 minutes' drive of Ottawa, this was reasonably mountainy!
I [re-]assured everyone that we were not planning on climbing straight up the cliffs.
We walked back to and crossed over Chemin de la Montagne. From this point, an already packed path led up the old decommissioned road. An NCC park sign implies that they don't want you walking there, but there's no outright prohibition on it. After a short snowshoe fitting session, the five of us (myself, Jenn, Andy, Andy's wife Andrea, and Chris) were off.
For the first few minutes, we followed the well-defined path up the old road. The track soon branched, and we turned left, heading up more directly towards King Mountain. Ice climbers often use this route as an approach to the various ice cliffs that dot the lower flanks of the Mountain, and I presumed that we were following one of their trails. In fact, I hoped that it would be, as the ice cliffs would be a nice first spot to visit.
Sure enough, the tracks led up to the ice cliffs. The approach up to them gave everyone time to get used to the traction capabilities of the snowshoes being used. Everyone was using some sort of high-traction snowshoe, so there were no issues. We had a short break at the ice cliffs before retreating back down our tracks to a flat below the cliffs.
Although I wasn't absolutely sure our time or our group actually wanted to go to the top of the mountain, I thought we could head in the general direction of the ascent route, and along the way we could try out breaking trail in fresh, untracked snow.
Distances aren't far on this route, so it wasn't long before we met up with the tracks of another party who'd obviously aready gone up before us. After a brief discussion, everyone was reasonably keen to push on, so up we went.
From this point, two or three relatively steep pitches (interspersed with flattish sections) bring you most of the way up the remaining 500 or so feet (150 metres) to the top of King Mountain. The pitches make for straightforward and uncomplicated snowshoe climbing, but they are reasonably steep in spots. Good training!