In-Depth: Mont Provencher Climb, Groulx Mountains
An in-depth account of our climb of Mont Provencher in the Monts Groulx of Quebec
This page describes, in detail (and with lots of extra pictures), our overnight backpack and climb of Mont Provencher in the Monts Groulx (Uapishka Plateau) region near the Manicouagan Reservoir. This backpack was part of our 2-week "Overland to the Rock" Newfoundland Trip. If you came to this page looking for the general narrative for that trip, then you have come to the wrong place. You should go here
The Monts Groulx are a range of low mountains to the east of the Manicouagan Reservoir, in the province of Quebec, Canada. Also known as the Uapishka Plateau, the mountains are low by most standards, averaging around 3,300 feet and reaching only around 3,600 at their highest. However, being this far north, treeline is only around 3,000 feet. There is a lot of terrain in the Monts Groulx that is above this level, and as a result, there is a very extensive area of truly alpine terrain here.
As part of our Newfoundland Road trip via the Trans-Labrador, we drove by this area. I was intrigued and scheduled a short hike/backpack to sample it. I chose Mont Provencher -- one of the higher peaks that was near highway 389 and which was close to the established southern access trail into these mountains.
The southern access trail into the Groulx Mountains is reached at the 335-kilometre mark along Quebec provincial highway 389, some distance north of the Relais Gabriel. There are a couple of signs and a pullout / parking area. One sign is more formal, and the other is more whimsical and hand-made.
On the day that we arrived, the weather was drizzly. This didn't bode well for our backpack, but the packaging of our time was fairly tight on this trip, so it was either do the backpack and endure the wet, or skip it entirely. We thought about it for a bit and figured that it was still worth the chance that we'd get some sort of weather break at some point during the 24 hours we'd be up there.
We quickly re-arranged our gear and packed our backpacks, then headed off on the access trail (once you get above treeline, the trail eventually peters out). Our aim was to hike the 6km or so up to treeline, then camp in the open alpine. Early the next morning, we'd climb the closest of the nearby peaks (Mont Provencher), then return down back to the car and the highway. The plan was tidy: it was short, it got us into the alpine and on top of a peak, and still allowed us to be rolling on the highway towards Labrador by afternoon of the following day.
After passing some unexpected and very fanciful forest artwork (there is a 'friends of the Monts Groulx' outdoors group that holds a sort of work jamboree here every summer), we started gaining altitude. At first the trail was quite good, with extensive bits of trailwork and good footing. The weather, unfortunately, was not good. A light mist turned into a more steady drizzle, and visibility lowered to practically nothing. We passed a few viewpoints that we knew would give us good views of the nearby Manicouagan Reservoir, but all we saw a hazy view of the near shoreline of the reservoir. On we went.
After an hour or so of hiking, the trail itself also deteriorated. There were extensive sections of soupy, boggy muck that necessitated careful picking along the edges of the trail. These types of trail conditions are tiring and result in very slow forward progress. We were quite glad when the gradient steepened and we could see the beginnings of open patches that marked the arrival of the alpine.