Sunday, 18 March 2012

Snowmobiling in the Lewis Hills, Newfoundland

by Keith and Heather Nicol
   We recently had a great snowmobile trip to the Lewis Hills, also known as the "Roof of Newf", since it is the high point of the Island. The main purpose of the trip was to check out the avalanche activity that had recently occurred and to look at how to better map the avalanche hazard in this area. The weather preceding our mid March trip had been warm with rain and then temperatures had dropped below the freezing mark. There had been a few centimeters of snow accumulation on top of this rain crust so riding on the groomed trail leading into the Lewis Hills was ideal. Once in the Lewis Hills we had to be careful of some of the steeper wind swept areas since the icy conditions would have made snowmobiling treacherous.
Secret Bowl had an impressive overhanging cornice and you can see several small avalanches on the lee slopes
      Our group consisted of Cam Campbell (an avalanche mapping expert from B.C.), Rick Wheeler, Mike McCarthy (our guide) and myself. Rick and I had been mapping avalanche locations for several years in various parts of the Long Range Mountains of Western Newfoundland and Cam wanted to show us another way to map avalanche hazard that they are using in B.C.Although Mike McCarthy thought that snow levels were down by 1-2 meters this winter compared to last year, we still saw 8-10 recent avalanches on our tour of the Lewis Hills on this day. All of them were on lee slopes where new snow had been deposited over the slick rain crust and had either slid naturally or had been triggered by snowmobiles. Most of them were small but we saw some larger ones in Rope Cove Canyon and other locations. The Lewis Hills is a fabulous place to snowmobile since it is so varied with lots of nooks and crannies but be aware of steeper slopes when the snow is unstable. If you plan to get into these areas it is suggested that you carry an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe. For more information on avalanches and where they occur check out the following web site for on line maps and videos of avalanches in Newfoundland:
From there you can click on the Hazard Map and then pan or zoom to the area you are interested in. You can turn on various layers like previous avalanche locations, the groomed snowmobile trail network, common backcountry routes etc.
Scenic Rope Cove Canyon with the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the background



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