Launching my children the challenge of conquering the summits of the Monteregian hills in the midst of a pandemic, last year, I did not know that I was embarking on an adventure full of surprises
“Guys, we're going to climb all the peaks of the Montérégiennes this summer!”
When I launched this challenge at a family meal last year, I did not know that it would take us eight months to declare victory. It's been done since June 18, when Ludovic and I, chilled and shivering, set foot on the highest point of Mount Yamaska, in Estrie.
Why this challenge? Because the pandemic was wearing us all down and I was looking for a way to motivate the troops. Not Everest or the Himalayas, but the few peaks – I thought there were five or six – of the mountain range closest to us. Better: on which the majority of Quebecers live!
Wikipedia brought us back to earth: the Montérégiennes are a “series of ten hills aligned over a distance of about 90 km” can we read.
A distance clearly underestimated. Between Mont Mégantic and Calvaire d'Oka, the tongue of metamorphic rock plunges and resurfaces like a snake of stone for 300 km.
Alkaline intrusive rocks
“What distinguishes the Montérégiennes from other mountains, such as Orford or Sutton, which are not part of it, is their geological composition,” says geologist Pierre Bédard, who teaches at Polytechnique Montréal.
The School of Engineering itself is located directly on the busiest of these hills: Mount Royal.
Mr. Bédard is familiar with these igneous rock intrusions, having studied them in detail for more than 20 years. He even accompanies groups in the field as part of UQAM's Cœur des sciences excursions for the general public.
“It is a geological ensemble that is quite rare on Earth and has several particularities. »
If all are made of metamorphic rocks, the subspecies are numerous. At Mont Saint-Bruno and Rougemont, feldspathic peridotite dominates. At Mount Royal, it is the melanocratic gabbro.
At 118 million years (M), Mount Royal is not the oldest of the peaks. Yamaska (140 M), Bromont (138 M) and Saint-Bruno (135 M) are the deans of the group.
For the hiker, these differences are not very visible, but each hill has its charms and own challenges (see texts below). But the big disappointment is the difficulty of access to several trails.
A tenacious myth, which Mr. Bédard has debunked 100 times, is that Mount Royal and its sisters are ancient volcanoes.
“Absolutely not! sighs the geologist.
Yes, the lava-like molten rock that escapes from volcanoes is the source of the pebbles that damage our boots, but it is also different.
“Unlike volcanic rock, the alkaline intrusive rock cooled very slowly because it was covered by a 2 km layer of soil,” he says.
It is erosion that has allowed the hills to emerge; the Saint-André intrusion discovered in the 1960s is still underground. It may be the 11th hill in a few million years.
1. Bromont (Mont Bernard): the hill we drive
At the top of Mont Bernard.
- Height: 553 m
- Difficulty: 4
< li dir="auto">Access: Public, paying. Go to Parc des Sommets, which is located at parking lot P-7 on the Mont Brome massif (Bromont). Cost: $11 adult, $8 child. At this price, one would have expected a trail map.
- Features: Circuit rather difficult in the climbs. The 7.2 km walk culminates with a few platforms at the top of Mount Bernard where the view is very beautiful. What is striking from the parking lot is the number of mountain bikers who meet; they often outnumber walkers. To the point where the hiker must be vigilant on the trails. The main disadvantage of this network is poor signalling. We got lost several times trying to follow the M50 trail, the only one prohibited for bicycles.
- Note: The citizens mobilized to save their mountain of a major real estate project. Friends of the Trails raised $500,000 to acquire the coveted land.
2. Mégantic: the closest to the stars
Mathieu-Robert Sauvé surrounded by members of his family: Ulysse, Caroline, Ludovic and the dog Tokyo, at Mont Mégantic.
- Height: 1,105 m
- Access: Public, paying via the Company outdoor establishments of Quebec (SÉPAQ), reservations required
- Difficulty: 5
- Features: Superb trail, but difficult; plan the day to reach the summit, where the Mont Mégantic Observatory sits. This unique laboratory in Quebec is reserved for researchers, but the public can take the opportunity to visit the magnificent Astrolab, a museum of space exploration, at the bottom of Mt. Note the dark sky reserve which was created to avoid light pollution.
3. Mount Royal, the busiest
- Height: 233 m
- Access: Public, free, reservations not required
- Difficulty: 1
- Features: Mount Royal Park is visited annually by 5 million people. A Montreal icon, a cross was planted there in 1643 where it is still found today. Yes, there were beavers at Beaver Lake, but they are long gone.
4. Oka, the nun
- Height: 249 m
- Access: < /strong>Public, paying (SÉPAQ). reservations required
- Difficulty: 1
- Special features: The only one of its kind in Quebec, the calvary of Oka was erected in 1742 by the Sulpicians to evangelize the Aboriginal peoples. It consists of a 2 km path dotted with religious buildings housing bas-reliefs symbolizing holy history. In the 19th century, it was the most frequented place of pilgrimage in the Montreal region.
5. Rougemont: in the apples
- Height: 390 m
- Access: Private, paying, reservations not required
- Difficulty: 3
- Special features: Circuit of about 5 km: it climbs very steeply for 1 km then it is a plateau. There is not really a summit, but you can take a break in a lookout halfway through. Note, here and there you can see butternut trees, an endangered tree in Canada. The trails are on private land; you enter through the Michel-Jodoin cider house. The cost is reasonable ($4 per person), but the company takes the opportunity to advertise on signs along the trails. We are allowed dogs on a leash ($3) on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
6. St. Bruno
- Height: 218 m
- Difficulty: 1
- Access: SEPAQ, reservations required
- Special features: The summit of Mont Saint-Bruno is at the highest point of the alpine ski resort of the same name. The site, where the ski lift system is anchored, is therefore not very picturesque for walkers. But Mont Saint-Bruno, the most popular of Quebec's national parks, remains a very pleasant place for hiking. There is an excellent chance of seeing white-tailed deer, which thrive in the region.
- Height: 251 m
- Difficulty: 2
- Access: Public, paying ($5.75 adult; $2.75 child), reservations not required
- Features: The 2 km trail is done in one to two hours. It forms a loop; we therefore do not retrace our steps. A beautiful hike where you dive back into a time when rock was exploited industrially. Remains of the steel monsters that were used to extract it are still visible. Cime Haut-Richelieu, the organization that manages the trail network, insists that Mont Saint-Grégoire is now a recognized ecological reserve.
8. Saint-Hilaire, the most studied
- Height: 411 m
- Difficulty: 3
- Access: Public, paying ($9 adult), reservations required
- Features: Open every day of the year, the network of hiking trails of Mont Saint-Hilaire is a must in Montérégie. Totaling 25 km, the trails are of great beauty and remain very well maintained. You can choose the short and difficult ascent (Pain de Sucre, 5.4 km) or the classic one (Rocky, 8 km). It should be noted that the public only has access to about half of the area of the Gault Nature Reserve; the other belongs to researchers at McGill University who conduct countless biology research there.
9. Shefford, the most surprising
Mont Shefford trail.
- Height: 526 m
- Difficulty: 2
- Access: Public, free
- Special features:We go next without seeing her, because Bromont steals the show! My favorite of the ten. Magnificent trail very well maintained by volunteers; steps were built with stones and pipes with rocks on site allow the soil to drain well. The walk of about 2 km (one way) culminates at the top where a few benches and a picnic table allow you to appreciate the agricultural landscape. Large clearings of ferns give the forest an open, slightly Jurassic look. Easy trail. We go around the circuit in 1 h 45 (very relaxed). To get there, take the same exit as for Bromont (78), but on the other side of the 10 (on the left). About ten kilometers along a beautiful agricultural and forest path and you arrive at the starting point (mountain park).
10. Yamaska, the most difficult
In the Yamaska trail, ropes have been installed to help hikers.
- Height: 416 m
- Difficulty: 5
- Particularities: Circuit of about 2.5 km: it climbs slowly then it is very steep to the top. Ropes are installed to help us up and especially down. At the top is a runway for hang-gliders.
- Access: Private, reservation required
You can access the only trail via the Les petits cailloux vineyard in Saint- Paul d'Abbotsford. And again only if you go for a tasting at $49 per adult entry (entry without tasting: $10 per child). As these activities are only held once a month, it is necessary to plan your visit in advance. The lady who receives us is dumb as her feet. She advises us not to climb the mountain and insists on having us sign a waiver. The reason: the risk of injury to hikers.