My goal: To capture the sunrise atop Vallières-de-Saint-Réal.

Réserve faunique des Chic-Chocs

 

I set my alarm clock for 4:45 a.m.

My goal: To hike, using a headlamp, in order to reach the first summit by daybreak. This is a barren ridge that joins a series of small peaks, so I am pretty sure the sunrise will be amazing!

5:45 a.m.: We’re ready to face the significant difference in altitude that awaits us.

In my backpack are 3L of water, lunch, a thermos of hot water, spare socks, a Polartec HITI jacket, a shell to wear later, a toque, my gloves, some snacks, and finally, a first aid kit.

 

I’m ready to go with hiking poles. I’m very comfortable in my ESCALON pants and MATARA sweater. These 17ºC temperature levels in November are exceptional. The sky is overcast, and the clouds are moving at breakneck speed. But down here, the heat and humidity are shocking. There’s no wind on the horizon.

The first three kilometres were particularly hot, as the climb is sustained and steep. I pass through a deciduous forest and then conifers. The landscape soon transforms into a sea of alpine vegetation. This is when we start to feel the first drafts of wind, and we notice the breathtaking views. Arriving at the first summit, at an altitude of 840 m, the wind is omnipresent and greatly appreciated. We take this opportunity to dry ourselves and put on a second layer. I am glad I packed my thermal fleece jacket and my shell SCHALE.

 

This first bare summit offers a 360º view. We can see Lac Saint-Anne, our starting point. But with such a low ceiling, the visibility isn’t great. We still see the ridge and the seven peaks in the distance to reach.

The descent to the second summit is pretty good. We plunge back into a mixed boreal forest; we are sheltered from the wind. There will be no sunrise, as the thick fog doesn’t seem to dissipate.

On the bottom of the ridge, between peaks 2 and 3, the wind intensifies and whistles. The little view we had has given way to gray mist. Visibility has become nil. We are impressed by this drastic change in temperature. We stop to experience this almost unreal moment. In the throes of the gusts, we barely manage to put on our shells to shelter ourselves from the wind and drizzle.

 

We head off toward the third summit.

When we reach the fourth, the famous Sterling Peak, we take shelter and have lunch behind a small grove of conifers. This includes protein oatmeal, grilled pecans and bananas. It’s the ideal energizing combo for a hiker. We are at an altitude of 940 m—the highest of the seven peaks.

 

It's still early: 8 a.m. We want to continue, but because the weather doesn’t seem to want to cooperate, turning back is the alternative. We’re disappointed, but nevertheless proud of our progress.

As we start heading back, the view finally seems to want to emerge. We almost regret our decision. But the view of the surrounding mountains in the distance causes our doubts to be overshadowed by euphoria and excitement. Not far away, the Mont Jacques-Cartier plateau and the south basin of Mont-Albert stand majestically before our eyes. Within a few moments, the points of view become completely different.

As we mount the initial summit, the rain decides to accompany us all the way back to the parking lot.

The last 3 kilometres, like the first ones, are the most difficult, because of the wet stones rolling under our feet. We have sore legs and wet socks. We are starting to feel the blisters on our feet.

11 a.m.: We got back to the car, happy and content.

 

Pascale Anctil

Instagram.com/pascaleanctil

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