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Climbing Southern Québec's Highest Peak in Winter: A Trek to the Summit of Mont Gosford

My beard was completely frozen and the wind was blowing it in all directions as I unzipped my puffer to grab my camera from my pocket. Cam stood on the wooden platform, widening his stance for balance as each gust of wind challenged him to stay standing.

We rocked back and forth giving each other “holy shit” glances as I grabbed a shot of him. We switched places, I handed him my camera, and he took mine. Instead of the beautiful backdrop of the Eastern-Massifs of the United States that you would usually see from the summit of Mont Gosford, all we could see was pure white.

Standing on the summit of Mont Gosford in a whiteout. Temperatures dipped to -28°C. Nov 27, 2021
Standing on the summit of Mont Gosford in a whiteout. Temperatures dipped to -28°C. Nov 27, 2021

Mont Gosford is the highest point in Southern Québec standing at 1193m above sea level. Compared in size to the famed Rocky Mountains in Alberta or the coastal mountains in British Columbia, it’s not that prominent. Still, it’s a solid climb. From point A to point B, it’s just over a 20km there-and-back trek with a total elevation gain of 862m (roughly calculated by my Garmin watch). The last 4.5km section makes up most of that elevation gain and isn’t kind to your quads.

It had been snowing all day Friday in Montréal with forecasts calling for more snow on Saturday in the Eastern Townships. We were stoked. To me, more snow meant stunning mountain vistas of New Hampshire and Maine to the South, and Mont-Mégantic to the North. Being one of the highest mountains in the area (the highest if you don’t count some of the higher peaks south in the States), Mont Gosford boasted a stunning 360° view of the surrounding hills and mountains; those were the shots I was after.

The drive in was incredible. Coming into view were beautiful mountains covered in snow with a fresh dusting on the pine trees along the side of the road. The stoke was even higher now. We knew we’d be getting some use out of the snowshoes sitting in the trunk of the rental car. After a few out-of-tune renditions of some old punk favourites from the early 2000s, we pulled into the parking lot, bundled up and got our snowshoes on.

The first 5-ish kilometres were relatively flat and followed the river. It was quiet, pure-winter bliss besides the odd squirrel and the sounds of the flowing river. It was snowing a bit, but not enough to even really consider it a snowfall. Moderate temperatures of -7°C meant that we were taking on and off layers to regulate our bodies so that we wouldn’t become overly sweaty and eventually chilled.

The first section wasn’t strenuous, and after roughly an hour and a half we reached a second parking lot where the trail split off towards the “Sommet du MT Gosford.” We happily pointed at the trail sign full of summit fever. I hadn’t been to the mountains since I visited Alaska in the summer of 2019; standing on a summit again was high on my to-do list.

The second trailhead indicating 4.5km to go until the summit of Mont Gosford

I love seeing the landscape change whenever you ascend in altitude. We transitioned from a mixed forest with lots of maple and birch trees to a forest made up mostly of tall balsam firs in the subalpine forest. As we climbed, the snowfall got thicker, the snow cover on the ground grew denser, and the winds grew stronger.

We reached a sign that said 2.4km to the summit. We were even more excited now despite the winds picking up and the almost whiteout snow squalls. We were dressed well, had the necessary safety gear in case of an emergency, and didn’t have too far to go.

That last push was a grind. We climbed sharply in altitude, but the quad-burning, ankle-twisting terrain couldn’t dampen our spirits as we saw the tree-line get thinner and thinner the higher we got. Then there were no tall trees; just rocks.

We walked towards the platform as the wind tried its best to knock us off our feet, grabbed the railing, climbed the stairs, and stood on the top. We were at the summit of Mont Gosford, 1193m above sea level.

“I think we’re good for photos now,” I yelled at Cam over the howling winds, but of course I was going to take more photos; this scene was otherworldly.

The day before we had checked a weather report saying that it would be -28°C on the summit of Mont Gosford the day of our climb. It sure felt that way. The hole in my favourite thin gloves that allowed my index finger access to operate my camera with ease was being bitten by the cold. Still, the scenery was epic. Not what I had planned to shoot, but epic in its own right.

I grabbed one more shot of Cam, he grabbed one more shot of me, and we took off down towards the parking lot in a race against the sun that we couldn’t see, but knew was already starting to set.

Summit of Mont Gosford Nov 27, 2021 approximately 3:10 p.m


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