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Adventures in the heart of the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon and Newfoundland

Small practical guide to hiking on SPM

This information is intended for visitors who wish to practice hiking or snowshoeing on the Archipelago of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.

The hikes are divided into 3 levels of difficulty, however whatever the level, the route can take du « hors chemin » , terrain that is sometimes very wet, muddy, potentially slippery, rocky. It is therefore necessary to be fitted accordingly.

Level 1 : discovery hike accessible to all those who walk without particular physical difficulty. The duration does not exceed 3 hours.

Level 2 : hike that alternates semblance of a trail, or off-trail areas, sometimes steep slopes, bogs. The running time can reach 6 hours.

Level 3 : committed hike reserved for those who regularly hike on any terrain and whose duration can reach more than 10 hours.

Obviously, you can combine all these options by leaving for several days : count 2/3 days for a complete tour of Langlade (about 45km).

Weather

 

Very changeable on the archipelago the weather is sometimes difficult : frequent and strong wind, humidity and low temperatures are factors to be taken into account for each outing. A beautiful sun and a summer temperature can be erased in a few minutes by a dense fog which will not rise in the following 8 days ! It is therefore important, even in summer, to provide what is necessary in the event of rapid weather change. Problems related to hypothermia should not be neglected, whatever the season, especially if the hike takes you quite far from your " refuge ". It is imperative to have read the weather report before leaving. Météofrance broadcasts a telephone bulletin, updated in the morning, at noon and in the early evening. Telephone : 41-18-68 or on the Internet : www.meteofrance.pm

Orientation in the field

Some known trails are quite easy to follow but practically no paths or routes are marked on the Archipelago. The tracks on the ground are not always correctly visible, and very difficult to follow in snowy weather. The 2 topographic maps (1/25000th) which cover Saint-Pierre/Langlade on the one hand and Miquelon on the other hand indicate some routes but they are sometimes lost on the ground ! Without habit and experience of the places, these maps are essential for hiking and orientation.

Warning !Mist and winter powder are the 2 conditions " soudaines " which can become dangerous very quickly. Visibility is then very reduced and orientation difficult. Identify the place where you are when the visibility is reduced then use the compass and the topo map to continue the hike. Using GPS in the event of a problem can come in handy. Be careful to save a few key points or your tracks before leaving !


 

Land 

Most of the areas are devoid of tall vegetation, suggesting that progression is easy, but the different soil facies are very varied, some not facilitating progression. There are sectors of dense woods with a good surface area : they are very difficult to cross.

Thus, during the same outing, you can cross a peat bog, walk on a muddy path, climb a slope covered with Ericaceae, walk along a rocky area, cross a river, pass through an undergrowth, cross an area of small fir trees (“package of bush ” according to the local expression). The straight line is not always obvious and you have to know how to take the time to get around an obstacle, especially a wooded one. The possible passages, well known to regulars, are not always clearly visible. Warning : deer leave sorts of paths in the undergrowth that are not always easy for a human to take ! You can give it a shot, but sometimes you have to end up crawling or turn around and try another path.

Soil moisture is the main factor to consider. The level of the rivers does not always allow them to be crossed at all points, even with conventional boots. A bog (“ plaine de mousse ” according to the local expression) is often waterlogged : walking is enough slow. Do not rely on the distance on the map, only the duration is to be taken into account.

Winter

Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing can be practiced when the snow conditions are suitable. These activities are carried out " hors pistes ", without landmarks other than the natural elements of the landscape.

Winter snow cover is not regular, the areas exposed to the wind can be completely devoid of snow. Some areas are conducive to snowdrifts or the formation of wind slabs that should be avoided. Cornices of snow are likely to fall on certain sectors (hollowed-in valleys, edge of cliffs, under breaks in slopes, vicinity of rocky ridges at the top of hills, etc.). Even if the concept of an alpine-type avalanche is not possible, you have to be vigilant because there is a potential risk of being buried.

Many ponds dot the archipelago. Caution must be maximum to cross them in winter :

  • The ice is sometimes thin

  • Edges thaw very quickly

  • Snow can hide a thin layer of ice

  • The quality of the ice near a stream is altered.

  • A local river is rarely well frozen over its entire surface

  • Reservoir ponds for water supply should be avoided, as the ice may no longer rest on the underlying water !

Find out about the state of the ice in the ponds from the regulars before thinking about crossing them !

Mosquitoes

Present  from the end of May until the end of September, their number varies depending on the year. The 2 species to be feared are black flies at the start of the season and later mosquitoes, “the local mosquito”. They are especially painful in light winds ! You can protect yourself with repellents sold in many shops in summer, or with mosquito net clothing (jacket or simple hat).

Adventures in the heart of the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon and Newfoundland

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