Cirque Mountain is so named after the bowl shaped hollow on its southern slopes where the head of its galcier begins. Cirque is the third highest mountain in the Tornagts at 1568m after Caubvick and Mt. Torngarsoak (1595m).
The Torngats are a rare wild area (virtually undisturbed) that features, eagles, bears, wolves and is home to one of the largest herds of caribou on earth (over 300 000 strong). It is in the process of becoming a National Park and at this time is one of the protected areas for Newfoundland and Labrador.
For decades Cirque was believed to be the highest point in the Torngats and the highest point in Canada east of the Rockies and south of Auyuittuq. This was based on a faulty measurement made by the first man to scale the peak, A.P. Coleman, who climbed CIrque in 1916 and attributed to it a height of 1768m, a full 200 meters higher than it actually is. Even when its height was re-measured several decades later the measurement was still wrong. Its altitude was put at 1676m still over 100 meters high. Recent survey teams have surveyed this area and the controversy about the highest peak in the Torngats was resolved with Cirque coming out as the loser as it lost some its lustre by not being the highest peak around. There are now topographic maps (very hard to get) which correctly display the true altitudes of these mountains.
While not as rugged a mountain as Caubvick it is still an impressive mountain with its knife edge ridges and steep rocky slopes. Very much a typical mountain for the Torngats. Like Caubvick, Cirque is also galciated making it one of the few peaks in the area with that distinction. Most approaches to the mountain are made via the Cirque and over Cirque's southern glacier. Because of its remoteness though Cirque is very rarely climbed.
There are no established trails in the Torngats most simply pick their way along the Steeker Valley floor avoiding trampling plants underfoot. There is the occaisonal cairn to let you know that you are on the right path... though because of the parks remoteness experience with a compass is also a necessity if you are visitng the park without a guide or without a tour group. While it is difficult to get lost if the weather were to change and a storm were to blow in navigating the path would become much more of a serious challenge.
The Torngats are named after the Inuit God of the wind and the name when translated means 'place of the wind devil'. The area is known for its notoriously harsh and even brutal storms. The window to visit is July and August before and after that the weather is far too dicey.
There is NO road access into the park. Visitors arrive by Twin Otter or Float Planes or can take a 400km boat trip form the nearest village Nain. IT is one of the most remote and inaccessible places in North America so come prepared to ford streams, hunker down through storms and grit your teeth while black flies the scourge of the north buzz about you incessantly looking for any exposed areas. Even with all of this it is still a magical place that few who visit ever forget.
To get to the Torngats one must first fly out of Halifax, St. John's or Saint John up to the village of Nain where you will either take a float or Twin Otter plane or take a long boat ride up to Saglak Bay.
From Saglak Bay where the journey begins it is several days along the Steeker/Korak River Valley. Cirque is located near Caubvick only a few kilometers north and east of Caubvick. Cirque is located down its own corridor valley that is closely connected with the Steeker River Valley that most follow from Saglak Bay to Nachvak Fjord, about 4-5km east and south of Tallek Lake. It is not unheard of for people to start up at Nachvak fjord and work your way down to Saglak Bay either. This is in many ways easier because it lessens the travel distance on the way home. If Approaching Cirque from the north it is a 3-4 day hike and then will require most of a day to reach it and climb it via the Cirque on its southern slopes.
The climb requires you to scramble up its steep 60 degree slopes from the CIrque. All in all one must climb 1000 meters of this mountain and the climb itself can take 5-7 hours because it is exposed in many places along the ridge and one must proceed with care.
All of the mountains in the Torngats are treeless, so the climbs are straightforward up and over rock... also most of the areas largest peaks are no more than a day trip away. So as long as you make allowances for bad weather and day trips to climb there should be little in the way of logistical difficulties. The Torngats are one of Canada's most unsullied areas and natural beauty abounds so please respect the park and its flora and fauna.
Much like Mt. Caubvick there is litle info. on routes out there, I will try and gather this and post it when I discover it in the future.
At this time there are no permits required (as far as I know). Though in the near future it will be a National park and the fees are as follows: For Backcountry camping it is $8-10 Cdn per person per night and a seasonal pass for the year 2005 will run $63 Cdn with an increase of seven dollars (up to $70) planned for 2006.
There are no seasonal closures... simply put the only time people really go into the Torngats is from the end of June to the end of August. That is the two month window that Mother Nature provides for those who wish to see the beautiful valleys and mountains of the Torngats.
It is asked that you pack out what you pack in... encounters with bears have never been documented. The polar bears stick to the coastal regions and never venture into the valleys. I am sure sightings of black bears occur buck again there are no documented cases that I know of where people have had dangerous run ins with blacks.
Simply leave the animals alone and try not to trample any of the newly emerging flowers and plants underfoot.
To find out more info. about the Torngats (and outfitters) you can contact Newfoundland and Lbarador Tourism at 1 800 563 6353 or email them at email@example.com.
When To Climb
The only time of the year that one can climb in the Torngats is from the end of June to the end of August... its as simple as that. Unless one is made of money and is prepared to risk their lives flying into the notorious storms of the region.
It is after all named after the Inuit god of storms and a place with a long history for the Thule and Inuit peoples because of its unparalleled ferocious weather..
Camping is allowed, there are no official camping areas it is advised that one camp up on the mountain slopes to avoid the worst of the bugs.
The only fees are the ones already mentioned in the Red Tape section and those have yet to be implemented. Though the costs involved in simply getting there are more than enough.
One thing to be careful of is the bugs... they come out in droves during the brief Ungavan summer. Experienced hikers stick to high ridges or the upper slopes to avoid the worst of the plague, it is also mentioned that you simply keep up a brisk and constant pace. Bug nets and a tent with zippers are also essential to ensure that this trip doesn't become a nightmare. Also it is important to have a bug screen on your tent to ensure that there is at least one bug free zone for one to relax in.
The best way to check the weather is to go to www.theweathernetwork.com, click on Canadian cities and then head to Labrador and Newfoundland. From there the cities are listed alphabetically and you can find the weather for the city of Nain... this is the closest you will most likely be able to get