Ascent of The Cabox on 2018-10-06

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, October 6, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:The Cabox
    Location:Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador
    Elevation:2664 ft / 811 m

Ascent Trip Report

Useful Info:

Theoretically, one can hike from the signed trailhead all the way to the summit of the Cabox by using the grandly named “International Appalachian Trail-Newfoundland and Labrador” (IATNL). But while the path starts out well-marked, it soon becomes a bit hard to follow and pretty much disappears completely for most of this hike. There is not enough traffic to keep a good footway over the bogs and rocky slopes. This nothing at all like the AT in the USA.

Also, the trailhead is reached by a 28-km drive on a very rough dirt road—a vehicle with high clearance and good tires are highly recommended. The main obstacle for the hike is fording the Fox Island River, which can be difficult and dangerous when water levels are high. A GPS with a pre-loaded track is also very useful, since it would be very easy to get lost and disoriented if the clouds roll in. Otherwise, this is a long but manageable scramble over mostly easy terrain, not unlike many long day hikes in the Rockies.

My Story:

I had a motel room in Stephenville for two nights (a good idea for this peak) and it took me an hour, with some wrong turns, to get to the trailhead. The road was very rocky, rutted, and steep in spots, and I was very happy for my rented Jeep Renegade, even if I never needed its 4WD. At the trailhead there was a very impressive IATNL sign and another Jeep (red) parked there, so I had thoughts that this might be an easy and popular hike.

The first 2 km of trail was clear through some forest, and then it was marked with IATNL poles through the usual swampy-grassy Newfoundland bogs—it was an effort to keep my feet dry. After that I came to a slope overlooking the Fox Island River 160m below and a good view of the orange-rock Lewis Hills beyond. The trail was often faint heading downhill, but the terrain was open.

I forded the river by crossing three separate braids, the largest with water over halfway to my knees—I crossed barefoot over the smooth river stones, with my boots hanging from my neck. Once across, there were a few more marker poles, but the trail was quite intermittent as it ascended into the deep ravine ahead, staying to the right of the creek. There was occasional footway, but it didn’t seem terribly bad if I lost it every now and then—the terrain was easy and the wild, rugged scenery was spectacular on this clear day.

Eventually the route crossed a tributary stream and ascended a steep gray-rock ridge, and after this point any semblance of a trail completely disappeared. I did see a couple marker poles, but they were few and very far between. Once above 650m, the terrain was a gentle alpine expanse of pretty lakes and rocky or grassy tundra, and travel was easy by rock-hopping with some very mild scrambling. The ascent was quite gentle here. My weather was clear and cool, and the only real issue was a very strong wind that forced me to don all my clothing.

The route finally climbed above the “tarn zone” to a huge grassy plateau, where my GPS guided me to the broad south summit, the true high point looming ahead in the distance. It was practically flat going across the mile col and its marshy ground, then up to the summit.

The Cabox’s summit is marked by a huge cairn, a large memorial granite plaque that was unfortunately cracked into about eight pieces, and, about 20m away, an iron cross on a rock. The area is extremely flat, so I walked around a bit and stepped on all of the higher nearby boulders. I had a lunch break but it was very windy and cold, even in the lee of the cairn.

On this clear day the views were spectacular, especially out to the nearby ocean, but the flat central summit area was not the best vantage point. So I hiked a short loop around to the northeast, where the greater slope angle below me afforded much more awesome views to the deep blue ocean over the deep ravines of the Lewis Hills.

I had thought about hiking over to the top of famous Molly Ann Canyon and back, and/or hiking back via the Travertine Ravine, to the south of the IATNL route. But sunset comes early in October, I got a late start due to the long drive to the trailhead, and it had taken me over 4 hours to hike up (8:10 to 12:20). So after my short summit loop I just retraced my upward route all the way down, leaving the summit area at 12:50 PM or so.

It took me a bit longer to go down, oddly. I was tired and took some rests, and It was a bit of effort to follow my GPS track in the trail-less terrain around the alpine tarns. I also took a while in crossing the Fox Island River—I tried that in another place, but I recommend my northern route from the morning. River conditions will likely change over time, of course. Please be cautious, swift and deep streams can be a surprisingly deadly mountain obstacle.

I was back at the car by 5:10 PM, after a fairly long and tough day. I never saw a soul on the mountain, and I suspect the red Jeep driver hiked the IATNL north beyond the Cabox to camp, perhaps to make the traverse up to Humber Arm—his car was still there. I was quite positive I saw his fresh footprints at times, but they could have been from the day before.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2665 ft / 812 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2665 ft / 812 m
    Round-Trip Distance:14.8 mi / 23.9 km
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Stream Ford, Mud/Swamp
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Very Windy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2074 ft / 632 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 1483 ft / 452 m; Extra: 591 ft / 180m
    Loss on way in:591 ft / 180 m
    Distance:7.3 mi / 11.7 km
    Route:Int'l. AT-From S
    Start Trailhead:Cold Brook Rd  1181 ft / 359 m
    Time:4 Hours 10 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:2074 ft / 632 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 1483 ft / 452 m; Extra: 591 ft / 180m
    Gain on way out:591 ft / 180 m
    Distance:7.5 mi / 12.1 km
    Route:Int'l. AT-From S
    End Trailhead:Cold Brook Rd  1181 ft / 359 m
    Time:4 Hours 20 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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