Climbing Mount Caubvick and Mont D'Iberville
The Torngat Mountains are located in northern Labrador and North-Eastern Quebec, East of Ungava Bay. The East/West watershed that marks the crest of the mountains serves also as the provincial boundary. It is an extremely remote area that has almost no habitation and no roads. The closest communities of size are Kuujjuaq, on Ungava Bay, with a population of about 2000, and Nain, on the Labrador coast, with a population of about 1000. Both communities are about 300km from the Torngat Mountains.
Geologically, the Torngats are part of the ancient core of the north American continent: The Canadian Shield. They are therefore primarily composed of ancient igneous rocks that have been eroded and metamorphosed over the several billion years of their existence; The rocky mountains are orders of magnitude younger by comparison.
Hikers amidst vastness
Because they have been around for so long, the Torngats have been subject to much weathering. As such, they are not nearly as high as their younger counterparts out west. However, extensive recent alpine glaciation has created a beautiful and rugged glaciated topography, something relatively rare in Eastern North America. In fact, the only glaciers in eastern continental North America are found in this area.
Spectacular view to the north
The landscape is characterized
by wide, U-shaped glacial valleys, some of which form spectacular
Fjords leading in from the Atlantic Ocean. Cirques, Tarns, knife-edge
arête ridges, and horn-shaped summits abound. On the north
sides of several peaks are small, still-active glaciers. In the
lower valleys, tundra is present, with lichens, mosses, grasses,
and arctic sedge. The ground is underlain by permafrost. Many valley
bottoms have beautiful stretches of grassy meadows. Several large
and important rivers drain away from the area, including the Palmer
river and the Koroc river.
Caribou, Black Bears, Polar Bears (in coastal zones), wolves, foxes, and ptarmigan inhabit, and other small mammals inhabit the area.
The average temperature in the Torngats is well below zero. Summers are not long, and have an average temperature of only about 5 C.
The Torngats can be reached from the two major communities of Nain and Kuujjuaq. From Nain, one can reach the area by boat (weather and water conditions permitting), or with a charter air flight. Kuujjuaq is arguably the easier method of access, with a fairly major airport offering direct flights from Montreal. From Kuujjuaq, a charter flight can be arranged to fly into the area. In both cases, a primitive gravel landing area at the head of the Koroc River provides the only air access point to fixed-wing aircraft.
Mount Caubvick / Mount D'Iberville
Mont D'Iberville / Mount Caubvick is the highest mountain in eastern continental Canada. It is directly on the border between the two provinces, and rises to a height of 5,420 feet (1652 metres) above sea level. The mountain has been (and is being) glaciated; three active glaciers are still on its northern flanks, and the summit area is characterized by knife-edged aretes and a small horn of a summit.
Mont D'Iberville / Caubvick is generally not a technical climb, although some approaches do require technical climbing. Here is a breakdown of approach and summit routes.
There are three ridges radiating away from the summit: The Minaret ridge, The Koroc ridge, and the North ridge. Please note that this guide assumes a certain level of proficiency and comfort with narrow and exposed ridges. If you are already comfortable with class 4 exposed ridges, then you should be ok. My definition of class 4 is this: considerable exposure (ie- steep dropoffs), a fall is quite possibly fatal, and you need to use your hands to climb.
Elevation Profile: climb up Koroc and down Minaret, over distance
The Minaret Ridge
Of the three ridges,
the Minaret ridge (leading east from the summit) is easiest. Even
so, it is still a knife-edged ridge, with near-vertical exposure
on its north side, and very steep ledgy terrain on its south side.
Additionally, there are many pinnacles and spires along the ridge
(hence its name, Minaret ridge). The ridge is mostly a class-3 scramble
with a few class-4 sections. Those who are inexperienced and/or
uncomfortable with such terrain or with exposure may want to do
this ridge belayed with a rope. Those who are comfortable will find
a delightful scramble over relatively solid rock.
Descending the minaret ridge
The Koroc Ridge
The Koroc ridge is the next easiest of the ridges to ascend.
It leads south away from the summit. The Koroc ridge, like the Minaret,
is also a knife-edged ridge with extreme exposure in spots. However,
it is, in two ways, more difficult than the Minaret ridge: First,
the Koroc ridge is, in places, composed of much more loose rock
than the Minaret. Extra care is therefore required. Secondly, the
Koroc Ridge has one thirty-foot step of rock that is technical (perhaps
5.6YDS difficulty) and must be climbed. This step of rock is down-ridge.
That is, when ascending the ridge you must downclimb or rappel this
step, and when descending the ridge you must ascend this step. This
means that when ascending this ridge, one can set up a rappel, and
then return on the descent and top-rope climb back up the step.
Again, for the rest of the ridge (ie- apart from the Koroc Step),
those who are inexperienced and/or uncomfortable with such terrain
or with exposure may want to do this ridge belayed with a rope.
Annotated Mount Caubvick/D'Iberville
Rapelling down the Koroc Step
The North Ridge
The North Ridge
Not much is known
about this ridge, which leads from the summit of North Caubvick
to Caubvick/D'Iberville. It apparently has been downclimbed once.
From a quick visual inspection, it is also a knife-edged ridge in
spots, and ascends more steeply to the summit. It appears more technical
than either of the other two ridges.
Approaches to Caubvick / D'Iberville
The mountain can be approached from either the north or the south. Generally speaking, the south approaches are easier than the northern ones. If you are flying into the Koroc River landing area, then the south access is definitely the easiest. If you are arriving by boat from Navchak Fjord, then a north approach is closer for you. Flying into and landing with a floatplane in the Navchak Fjord is also possible.
South basecamp from afar
All southern approaches are accessed via a wide, gentle valley south of the mountain. This valley runs south until it merges with the Koroc River valley. To reach this valley from the landing area on the Koroc, simply head downstream (on the Koroc) for about 3 kilometres. The first large valley heading north is the one you want.
Hike approximately 8 kilometres up this valley, and camp anywhere on the nice grassy terrain on the right-hand side of the valley. You will be very close to the major canyon-like U-shaped valley that drains the entire south side of D'Iberville/Caubvick. There are no trails, so travel is cross-country. Down near the Koroc there is grassy tundra interspersed with some wiry low thickets, and higher up in the valley are grassy sections, some boulder fields, and a number of small wet areas to cross.
From the campsite spot 8km up the valley, there are three approach options (the second option has two sub-options):
1) To reach the Koroc Ridge: ascend the first small couloir west of the major U-shaped valley that drains the entire south side of D'Iberville/Caubvick. Once at the top of this coulior, turn right and head up to the crest of the lower Koroc Ridge. The ridge is very broad here. Almost all of the ascent is over large, angular boulders. Once you reach the crest of the Lower Koroc Ridge, there are excellent views north into the cirques and of the summit itself. Continue north on the Koroc Ridge, and eventually it narrows to the final 1km or so of knife-edged ridge leading to the summit.
Typical ascent terrain
To reach the Minaret Ridge: hike into the major U-shaped valley
that drains the entire south side of D'Iberville/Caubvick. When
in the valley, stay on the right hand-side of the stream that runs
down the valley. There is easy grassy walking there. Stay on the
right-hand side of the stream until you reach the spot in the valley
where it forks off into two sub-valleys. You have two choices here.
2a) One is to continue ahead and to the right, climbing a
short steep section of rock, then heading left and up a steep boulder
field to gain the Lower Minaret Ridge. 2b) The other choice
is to cross the stream and head up the left sub-valley. If you go
up this valley, stay on the right side of it, fairly high above
the gorge that contains the stream. Continue until the valley splits
Lower Minaret Ridge
At this point, climb the ridge that separates the two valleys. This is what I refer to as the "South central Minaret Ridge spur". The ridge is not narrow, and is a relatively straightforward boulder hike, although relentless and tiring. This is the easiest way to get up the mountain of all of the approaches. These two sub-approaches both meet up on the Minaret ridge, below where it becomes knife-edged. From here it is a short hike (less than 1km) to the "upper football field" and then the knife-edged portion of the Minaret Ridge .
The Northern approach involves either hiking directly north up to the headwaters of the Koroc from the landing area, or south along the McCormick river from Navchak Fjord, or possibly in from the Talleck arm of the Navchak Fjord. In either case, a good spot to make a basecamp is in a high rocky basin to the northeast of the lower "football field" (see topo maps). The approach from the landing area is grassy and relative easy at first, but when the height of land is reached, the terrain becomes very bouldery and backpacking is more difficult. Most parties take 2 days to make it to the camp from which a summit attempt is made.
The primary approach on the north side is the broad ridge leads up the so-called "minaret spur" on the north side, leading up to the upper "football field". Gain the toe of the Minaret Glacier and ascend it (the crevasses, if encountered, are small and easily bypassed). When high enough, transition off of the glacier and onto the rock, and hike up the rige to the upper football field.
Maps, Tracks, and Photo Locations
find some potentially useful satellite maps overlain with GPS
tracks and photo location information in the main expedition
trip report. Specifically, the bottoms of pages three
the expedition trip report contain satellite overview maps pertaining to routes approaching and up Mt Caubvick / D'Iberville.
Each of these maps can be expanded into
full-size, high detail representations of the actual track
we took and where photos were taken. Included is the ability to view the tracks overlain atop a topographic map.