This is the central route that links most of the routes that exist in the Tablelands, in Newfoundland's Gros Morne National Park. The park operates a ski chalet at the top of the gulch, and many skiers in the area use the cabin as a base from which they explore the surrounding landscapes. The gulch itself is a narrow valley between the Tableland and the hills surrounding the southern arm of Bonne Bay. The valley forms a natural wind tunnel and 100+km/hr winds are not that uncommon in the gulch during winter.
The landscape here is bleak but beautiful and the stillness and tranquility of the Tablelands make this a great place to really get away from it all.
There are two trails will take you to the chalet and your decision should be based upon current weather and snow conditions, as well as the ability of the people with you.. The area has its own micro climate and conditions can often be much different in the highlands than they are at the trailheads below.
The trail straight through Southwest Gulch itself is very open and exposed and there may be a maze of rocks to traverse around if there is not a deep snow cover. The wind tunnel formation of the valley means that travel through it usually involves facing a small gale at the least, even if it is windless above and below the gulch. On clear days with no wind, however, this is the most scenic route, traveling directly beneath the Tablelands and below Trout River Bowl and Winterhouse Brook Canyon. This route is approximately 8.5km one way and can be traversed fairly easy in 3-4 hours if conditions are good. The elevation rise is approximately 200 meters, but it is a gradual rise that is easily traversed with skins. There can be major safety concerns with this particular route, especially in late spring. Do not travel to close to the mountain slopes, especially where there is evidence of previous avalanches. This area is famous for slides, but by staying away from the lower slopes you will be safe. Another thing to keep in mind is the two small rivers in the area. Winterhouse Brook must be crossed and deep snow bridges may become rotten and unsafe later in the spring. Shoal Brook at the upper end of the gulch does not require crossing, and by keeping between the brook and the Tablelands you can easily find a safe route to the cabin.
The other route to the chalet is a snowmobile trail that begins at the community of Birchy Head, in Bonne Bay South. This trail is mainly forested and sheltered from the wind but it is much steeper and can be quite icy after rain or a mild spell. It is also frequently used by snowmobiler's so take caution and move to the right side of the trail as soon as you hear one approaching, and keep your mp3 player in your pack. This trail is shorter at 5km but it rises well over 300 meters, making for a tougher ski. On a good day expect a 3-4 hour trek depending on conditions and group size. It is not as scenic as the Southwest Gulch route but it does offer some great views of Bonne Bay and Pic a Tenerife. This is also a much better route for viewing wildlife. Moose are a common sight, roaming in the young hardwood stands that run all along the park boundary that lines most of the trail. Skins are a must if you decide to take this route into the chalet, and be cautious when skiing out this way. The trail is narrow, making it impossible to check your speed, even with a snowplow. I found myself having to drop my butt to stop several times where the trail had been worn down to mud below.
Whichever route you choose, you will eventually (hopefully) reach the backcountry chalet which lies just over 5km from the southern reaches of the park boundary. It is located in a small stand of trees that serves as the boundary between the rolling hills of the Bonne Bay Valley and sheer walls of the Tablelands, which rise up another 350 meters to the North West. The cabin sleeps ten and is well stocked with wood and propane for heat and cooking. You can even arrange to have your bigger packs delivered by snowmobile from park officials. A small pond nearby can be used for water but prepare for a couple of hours of work with the auger. On my most recent trip the ice was almost three feet deep and that was after a long mild spell. The cabin is in a perfect location and makes a great base camp for any number of day hikes either on the Tablelands or the foothills around the cabin.
You can spend plenty of time running the lower slopes of the Tablelands and the surrounding hills feature a wide open forest made up of a mixture of Birch, Larch, and Black Spruce that is ideal for show shoeing. The area is very quiet and serene and everywhere you turn there is another great view that just can't be recreated in a photograph. The incredible sense of power that I felt during my time here is something that I have never experienced before on my adventures. The whole landscape so bleak and ragged and it just seemed to emanate the fact that it was boss and I was nothing. This fact was proved when a blizzard with 90km/hr winds kept us inside for two full days.
Southwest Gulch is an amazing place and I would recommend it as probably the best backcountry ski destination in Newfoundland. The sheer unmatched beauty of the place overshadows its world renowned geology and intriguing ecology, and will be sure to keep you coming back again and again to explore the mysterious alien landscape. It is however a remote location and should not be attempted unless you have the necessary skills to do it safely. Avalanches are common here so educate yourself on the warning signs and always carry probes, shovels, and beacons and know how to use them. Remember to step lightly when traveling through this delicate ecosystem so that it can be enjoyed by generations to come.
From Deer Lake route 430, also known as the Viking Trail and follow it to Wiltondale and the entrance to Gros Morne. Take route 431 to Birchy Head. The trailhead is directly across the street from the local Arctic Cat dealership. The Southwest Gulch trail begins at the Tablelands parking lot. Just take the exit to Trout River and you will see signage indicated the trailhead just a few kilometers ahead.
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Posted By: kristianwolf
- Mon Jan 31 11:04:55 EST 2011
QuestionHey I was wondering if anyone knows the phone number of the owner for the cabin. I know his name is Coiley and he lives in wiltondale but I would like to talk to him about renting his cabinANSWERS are in this forum: Cabin owner