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Saturday, July 20, 2013

A trek to Mont Tremblant (The "Trembling Mountain")

Or, my recommendation for what to do if you have a weekend to spare in Montreal.

Mont Tremblant (pronounced "Trom" to rhyme with "mom", and "blent" to rhyme with "blond" without the "d") is a city in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec, approximately 130 kilometers from Montreal. The city may seem like the weekend getaway of the fancy people, with golf courses and spa resorts aplenty, but it also has a beautiful wooded hill, perfect for a day trek, lakes to swim in, and dozens of little coffee shops and pubs that you can keep walking in and out of over a weekend

To get there: I took a bus from the Montreal bus station. Buses run from Montreal to Tremblant 3 times a day, and can be booked online at the GAMTL website. The buses are super-comfortable (I saw a loo inside a bus for the first time in my life!)

My room in Le Couvent
To Stay: There are many hotels and homestays in the city, which consists of 4 municipalities, all quite close to each other, and all quite picturesque. Among the four - Ville St. Jovite, Paroisse de Saint-Jovite, Mont Tremblant, and Lac-Tremblant-Nord - I recommend the Mont Tremblant village because it's the closest to the mountain, where all the excitement is. I stayed at the Le Couvent, a charming homestay (run by one Susan Staub, who serves the most amazing breakfast ever). For my second night in the village, I chose the Hostelling International's hostel in Mont Tremblant, which is a steal beyond belief.

The Trek: Trekking in Mont Tremblant can seem a little tame, but if you're in the mood for a short day hike through a steep forest trail, wonderfully silent except for the sound of wind through trees and filled with delicious jungle scents, you will not be disappointed. 

Susan gave me a map with a well marked route from the village to the mountain base - it was a lovely 3 kilometer walk at the end of which is a cable car that takes you to the foot of the mountain. There's also a information kiosk next to the cable car where they'll tell you everything you need to know about the trails. There are 6 trails to choose from, with varying degrees of difficulty and ranging from 2 hours to 6 hours for the climb and back. There's a second cable car at the mountain base that takes you to the top, and there is a very well hidden notice board that tells you that the last return trip from the mountain top will be at 5 PM.

The trails are marked with colored arrows that correspond with the markers on your map (I did say it's a bit tame), but the path is steep enough, and lonely enough to be adventurous. There were times when I had minor panic attacks when I thought I had lost the trail, but they turned out to be all false alarms, except for one very exciting half hour, when I reached a dense and dark place and retraced my steps with prayers in my heart. It took me a total of five hours (3 up, 2 down), and it was a lot of fun. I've put some more pictures of the trek on my Facebook page.
The Mont Tremblant hiking trail

My tips if you're planning a trek on this hill (relevant for any day hike, in fact; please take notes) -
1. Start early. I cannot stress this strongly enough. My over confidence and over reliance on the Canadian sun's late hours made me start my trek at 4 PM, and I spent a very alarming hour hiking down the mountain in steadily increasing darkness.
2. Carry more water than you think you'll need. 
3. Carry a torch even if you're sure you'll return long before it's dark.
4. Carry insect repellant.
5. Carry Food. I know few things worse than hiking on a grumbling stomach. 
6. Make sure you have your return trip planned. Is there a cable car? What time does it get back?

But overall, I think I prefer climbing in the Indian Sahyadris, where you're seldom sure where a wrong turn will take you.



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