This day-hike was a spur-of-the-moment initiative. I woke up around 09:00 and as I ate breakfast, I wondered what I could do with a free day. I had built an itinerary for this hike about a week earlier as I had planned to go with Martin, who's always willing for a bushwhack. We had called a rain check then but I guessed I could go bag it today. My pack was almost ready to go, I just had to fill my hydration pouch and gather a few items that were in my touring bike's handlebar bag. Having gathered everything, I headed out and took off around 10:00. Highway 175 was mostly clear of traffic and I was promptly out of the city. I stopped in Stoneham to fill the gas tank before resuming the drive up towards lac Jacques-Cartier. A few minutes after that, I realized I had, just like last November for my mont du Barbeau ascent
, forgotten to take my hiking boots. I'm getting very negligent and will need to adress that through a checklist... As I progressed north, the mostly clear skies gave way to a denser cloud cover. When I made it to l'Étape, it was grey and the colors muted. I kept going along lac Jacques-Cartier and soon reached the junction for RTE 17. I took a right, heading east towards lac Malbaie.
I wanted to get my bearings so I stopped at the first side road and turned my GPS on. A pickup truck passed by while I was standing around and the man waved. I got back in my car and started again along the gravel forest road. For the first few kilometers, the surface was fair but it quickly became less than perfect with numerous rocks protruding through the gravel. I had to slow down somewhat and, after I passed a fork on my right that led to a bridge with a "closed" sign, the road became even worse. It was still easily manageable in my car, but it required some weaving and careful negotiating of the rock outcrops. One particular hill was on the limit as a large round slab is starting to show. The tires had barely enough traction to get up it but using some of the shoulder helped. Roughly 9 kilometers after leaving HWY 175, I reached a large junction with three branches in front of me. The leftmost one was disused and overgrown, but a sign indicated the middle branch led to lac Durue and the right branch to lac à Jack and lac Malbaie.
I took the middle road that started going uphill and followed it until I reached a conspicuous junction. A sign marked "lac Durue" pointed straight along the road, but I checked if this was the path I had seen on the topo maps and satellite imagery. It was the right place so I pulled off the main road and parked. It was very windy outside and much more chilly than in town so I took my shell out and put it on. Then the gaiters and backpack followed, and I was off towards the mountain. The trail was good and it ascended easily in a valley where spurs shot from the trail left and right. It might be possible to drive up there with a high clearance vehicle, but there are a few stream crossings that would prevent most to go further. After a bit over 500 meters, the trail angled left. It wasn't long before I reached the area where I should have diverged and took a side trail towards my goal.
I couldn't see a junction and eventually just dove in the trees. I tried to rejoin the trail I had marked and it took 200 meters before I merged with it. From there, I could see a definite trail. There were deep ruts and a path that seemed to be used by the local fauna. It was a very old disused trail though and it was badly regrown in many spots. In a narrow part following a small cliff band on my left, I stumbled across a spruce grouse. I took a picture before going past at which point it flew to nearby branches. After getting past the foot of a ridge on the northern side, I arrived to what looked like a dead end. I heard a stream on my right and decided to follow it. This has yielded good results in the past and I thought it would be easier that way.
I was disoriented at first but then stumbled into an open area. It was boggy and I could see a faint path going north. I followed it and it became a true trail after a little distance. Further, the ground became flatter and a large grassy clearing had to be crossed before I rejoined the trail on the opposite side. From there, it ascended in a slight valley bordered, on the west, by the ridge I had circled around. I could see cliffs there and they might have been the source of huge boulders I encountered at various points. I kept going in the same northward direction until I reached the place where the track I had prepared at home diverged east towards the summit. I tried to find a suitable place to dive in and it wasn't long before I was in the trees, bushwhacking uphill. It wasn't too steep, but I had to routefind my way through a few slight rock faces and blowdown.
As I gained some altitude, the forest became cleaner and a bit more open until I reached a ledge on my right. There was an amazing panorama to the southwest and I could see the aerials on mont Camille-Pouliot
along with parts of lac Jacques-Cartier. I took some pictures and then resumed hiking. A few minutes later, I reached the summit area. It was wide open on the south side, with a cover of lichen and labrador tea. I wanted to find traces of the fire tower that stood there in the past and was satisfied almost instantly. About 10 meters southwest, past a boulder, are the four concrete pillars where steel bolts are still present. Tons of rusty debris were strewn around, as the people who took it down probably left the materials on site. I put my pack down and explored the summit for a while before eating some snacks.
The view was slightly obscured by clouds and I received a few raindrops before blue skies appeared and the visibility became much better. Looking around, I started to see very far to the east, and I then noticed the horizon looked familiar. Indeed, I could see the mine on mont du Barbeau
, along with the clearly defined forest fire swaths on mont de la Galette
. Between the two, I could see mont du lac à l'Alouette
. This amazing vista was topped by a great view of lac à Jack and part of lac Malbaie. Mont Durue is clearly one of the best viewpoints in the high Laurentians.
I stayed around for a short time and then planned the descent. I saw an opening to the southwest and wondered if it would become a trail. This wide patch of lichen goes downhill from the tower but soon stops at treeline. There were some walls around and I had to backtrack uphill a little to find a suitable slope. From there, I just dove in the woods, no really trying to find a trail. It was dense, but not the worst I've seen. The main problem was the blowdown, which was rotten and wouldn't hold my weight. Combined with the really flimsy shoes I was wearing, it made for some sketchy footing. Before long, I stumbled upon a high cliff in front of me. The treetops barely reached my feet and I was stuck there. To the left, that rock band seemed to continue for a while, so I went right. There was still a lot of blowdown so I had to fight my way along the cliff-side for about 30 meters before it was low enough that I managed to slide on the moss and land at the bottom.
From there, it took no time to rejoin the valley trail. Backtracking, I passed through the boggy areas quickly and followed the path as best I could. Having managed to keep my feet dry up to that point was ruined by a misstep that sank my left foot in wet peat, almost ripping my shoe off. It held on only because of the gaiter strap. At some point, the trail became confusing and I diverged significantly before noticing it and getting back on track. After that though, it was straightforward and when I reached the stream where the better trail would start, I found the remains of an old foot bridge.
Past the stream, I picked up the pace. I was surprised to find the grouse where I had left it, pecking at the ground. It flew out of the way as I went past. After a few more minutes, I was in the wider part of the trail, making my way southeast towards the jeep road. When I reached it, I noticed why I had missed the junction on the way in. It is strangely hidden by a row of fir trees, perfectly positioned. Going downhill from there, it was a matter of minutes before I reached my trailhead. After gearing down, I turned the car around and made my way back to HWY 175, heading south, back to Québec.
This is a very fine summit, definitely of the more interesting ones I visited in the area. The trailhead is at relatively high altitude, and the hike is short. What could we ask for, if not those perfect conditions!