The Acropole des Draveurs or Acropolis of the log boom drivers is situated about two hours (or 165km) northeast of Quebec City, the area was originally home to the ‘coureurs de bois’, French fur trappers and ‘draveurs’ the log boom drivers. The Malbaie River where the mountain is located was used by the log drivers to float log booms down to the St. Lawrence River in the early part of the twentieth century.
The Acropolis is located within Hautes Gorges de la Riviere Malbaie National Park (The Throat of the River Malbaie Park), a 233 square kilometer park and UNESCO world biosphere reserve. It is also part of the larger Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve. Located in the park are the largest rock faces in Eastern Canada outside of Auyuittuq on Baffin Island where the world famous Mount Thor and Mount Odin offer up walls between 1000 and 1300 meters (unmatched virtually anywhere on earth). These gorge walls while not quite vertical still measure 700 meters (or more) and are fractionally higher than the cliffs found in Gros Morne Newfoundland.
The gorge was caused by a fault in the earth’s crust which was later widened by glaciation and then subject to the erosional forces of the Malbaie River. This is what caused this dramatic valley that is clearly unmatched anywhere in Eastern Canada.
The Acropole des Draveurs is the highest peak in the park reaching a height of 1040m or 3411ft and rising over 850 meters from the river’s edge. There are ample climbing opportunities to be found in the park as there are over 10 300m+ high cliffs with numerous routes to be found. In the winter Hautes Gorges Park is the mecca for Eastern Canada’s ice climbing with its famous Pomme D’or route which at 350m is the highest to be found in Eastern Canada. The Pomme D’or or ‘Golden Apple’ is so named because of the caramel coloured ice.
Similar to Gros Morne you cross several vegetation zones on the steep scramble up to the summit. At the base of the mountain are renowned giant elms and near the summit you will find arctic tundra usually only found at higher latitudes like in Quebec’s Ungava region. The Acropolis is part of the Laurentian Mountains which is an upthrust section of the Canadian Shield. The hike up the mountain is about 9km or 5.5 miles long and takes between 4-6 hours. It is an unrelenting steep, difficult scramble with an altitude gain of over 800meters (around 2700 feet).
The area is also known for its disastrous floods, in 1996 a flood caused over $500 000 in damage when it washed out the one bridge in the valley and the gravel road and campgrounds located nearby. Forty Eight people had to be evacuated by helicopter, this flood devastated the region and it’s still recovering even today.
From Quebec City it takes between two and two and a half hours by car. You take highway 138 NE out of Quebec City to La Malbaie and then up to Saint-Aime-des Lacs. Be sure to gas up in La Malbaie of Saint-Aime as there are no stations between here and the park entrance 50km away.
From Saint-Aime you follow the park signs along a narrow, winding logging road that is paved for the first 10km and then becomes a gravel road. This is why the 165km distance takes so long to cover as it is difficult and more than a little dangerous to drive fast along this road. The Park is open from 8am to 9pm from May through til October and then is open during the day throughout the rest of the year with a greatly reduced compliment of park staff.
Once you arrive at the park follow the signs to the Mont Acropolis parking lot which is located close to the campsites south of the visitors center. From there follow the Cascade trail up to the summit. You can check www.sepaq.com for information on the park and to make reservations.
The area is renowned for its scenery and is one of the best kept secrets in Quebec... the view from the top is fantastic and well worth the sometimes gruelling scramble up. From the top you can also scramble to the summit of Mont des Erables it only adds another hour or so onto your hike and allows for some slightly different views from the second highest peak in the area at 1028m.
As mentioned above you have to obtain a permit whether it’s a day pass or an overnight pass to use the park. These can be obtained at the visitor’s center and reservations can be made by calling 418 439 1227 or 418 439 4402 or on www.sepaq.com. It costs $14-20 for the use of an overnight campsite and $3.50Cdn for day use of the park throughout the year. I am unsure if there is a separate permit required to rock climb or ice climb but I will add this information later when I find out.
When To Climb
There is no best time to climb as it depends on what you are looking for.. whether it is ice climbing or rock climbing or the scramble up to the summit. For rock climbing or hiking the best time to visit the park is between May and October. For ice climbing the best time to visit is in January or February when the ice is at its firmest and the temperatures are well below freezing on a daily basis. There is no really bad time to climb the Acropolis though wet rainy months like November, March and April would make for really tricky even dangerous hiking and climbing
Camping is allowed in three campsites... there is no water provided (for drinking) so be sure to bring your own. The first site is Le Pin Blanc which has 20 sites, the second is Le Cran (the starting point for the scramble up the Acropolis) which has 103 sites and the third and with the best access to the Acropolis and usually popualted with the quieter more outdoors minded individuals is located in the Equerre sector and has 25 simple sites... fees range from $14-20 a night and for day use it costs $3.50 per person.
There are also sites 8km downstream along la Riviere Malbaie by kayak or canoe that are more remote for those wanting a truer wilderness experience.
Park officials would be able to give accurate weather conditions, and are usually more than co-operative, the phone number they can be reached at is found in the Red Tape section. Otherwise on the Weather Networks parks forecast you can find accurate details on the weather... simply type in www.theweathernetwork.com/features/parks/pages/CAQC1182.hitm and you will hvae up to date conditions for the park.