Make your own free website on

Bike adventures

A hill with an attitude

Home | Un petit détour-somewhat beyond the trail | A comment on myself-Un petit commentaire sur moi | le long de la voie ferrée | Beyond the mainstream


Once in the vicinity of Noranda why not try your luck with some serious mountain climbing. But then since there aren't any real mountains you'll have to settle for some hills. Actually once you end up in the vicinity of the hill I set my sights on you'll be overwhelmed with fear despite the fact that this is a hill. But then this hill is a hill with an attitude considering what hills are all about being the hills everyone enjoys climbing for the thrill of it .

I first set my sights on this hill in the mid 90's once following the path of mining development along the Cadillac fault line which lead me straight into Ontario. I biked an uneventful course in mostly flat terrain passing by some noteworthy places associated with what the locals enjoy namely boating and fishing such as at lake Opasatica and Lake Dasserat . The day was drawing to a close. I was getting somewhat impatient with myself for being so slow. I was almost ready to call it quits for the day when behind the trees I saw the hill at the border (at km 66.. ) standing proud and tall, a forteress by it's vertical walls with a forest on top as it's crowning glory.

I stood in dumb wonderment not knowing what to think of it until the next day when I went to investigate I saw people of all ages trying their luck clambering up it's vertical slopes to get to the summit. I thus tried my luck myself but never made it to the top once it became apparent that I still had a long way to go up a 60 degree slope despite being pushed up by a group of aspiring mountain climbers following a group of youngsters rapidly progressing towards the top.

Chaudron as the name is called is that borderline hill that just causes some unusual reactions once you first see it. But the really exciting part occurs once you observe people of all ages trying their luck following a passage which the knowledgeable claim is safe. I personally tried and will advise caution even if you observe some youngster from town climbing up and telling you on the way down that there is nothing to fear .

Once there on top the immediate vicinity while mostly devoid of hills will somehow entice you to explore mostly if your boat is waiting down there at the base of the hill. While I didn't go up to the summit and it's forest, I took a hike up the hill with the communications tower to get an idea of what the immediate vicinity looked like and came back with my curiosity satisfied even if I would ave otten a better view from Raven mountain which is the ski slope in te area. I even took the time to visit the towns in the vicinity associated with mining lore and got a feeling of what things were like then. By the way, Virginiatown and Kearns being in the immediate vicinity oblige some siteseeing mostly knowing what the Kerr Addison mine represented being what many deem as the richest gold mine of all time... (with regards to the actual amount of gold produced in the area; while the formal government figures including for Timmins -but most probably excluding Sudbury-approaches 150 million ounces it is interesting to note that central banks of the period in being the source of major gold transaction to offset imbalances of trade would on occasion deal with amounts that were in the hundreds of millions of pounds (an example being the bank of England in the early 1930's) whose true source has to be taken into consideration despite the fact that gold is theoretically perpetually recyclable...)

Despite having current pictures to present, I'm in the impossibility to connect the camera to the computer for some obscure reason . Thus I'm in the impossibility to download images the camera not being recognised as such...(go ask the intrusive characters which must get enjoyment from this...) .I thus can only include this short basic description of the hill...(with some old images to spice things up)

My most recent camera is an old A75 Canon purchased at the "Banco" outlet on Ontario street immediate east of Amherst street in Montreal Quebec.  MY previous camera was a Canon A430 demo model purchased at the Zellers outlet in Longeuil Quebec (which was a christmas gift from my uncle Murray Hodgson). My oldest camera was a cheap generic brand namely an AIPTECH 1.3 mega-pixel model purchased from the defunct "Comptoir informatique" on St Catherine's street east on the corner of Frontenac street in Montreal Quebec...


The images are from my first camera...

Since the immediate vicinity of Noranda was the host of past mining activity, it is a worthwhile venture to embark on an exploratory quest with the hopes of getting a glimpse of history and what such mining activity has left notwithstanding the fact that much of it is in immediate vicinity to civilisation thus implying that the risk of feeling stranded is fairly minimal...

As earlier implied, there is much to discover along the Cadillac fault line which parallels the 117 road east and west of Noranda. Such towns as Cadillac, Malartic and Val D'or were built around such mining activity with Val D'or having the best preserved urban center the Bourlamaque district being faithfully representative of what the city looked like in the late 1920's. Furthermore since there is still much mining activity in those parts someone gets a glimpse of the mines with interpretation centers (such as the one in Malartic and mostly Val D'or permitting an actual visit within ) assuring a fuller sense of immersion.

Although those that dare risk taking a ride on the wild side will enjoy discovering what there is uncovering in the outback such as along some gravel roads north of Noranda. This first starts with a treck along the Millenbach road . Despite the lack of tangible relics to uncover along the gravel road attainable at left side from the top of the hill at the northern fringe of town someone is left with a feeling of being in some lost frontier of rocky hills dotted with evergreens first observed from above . Subsequently if one dares take the road to the town of Duparquet (taking a right turn at the end of Millenbach) they will become overwhelmed by a monument a testamony to such a past which first appears as a high spear piercing the sky...

The first time I saw the old processing facility in town I was overewhelmed by an eerie sense of fear at the view of a pitch black building several stories in height crowned with what looked like chimineys adjacent to what appears as an amazingly high chiminey itself adjacent to an early 20'th century water tower. I did not take the risk of a view inside considering the number of years the building had been abandoned but was left with a fealing of dread with further consideration for those that had lost their lives there.The stark orange deposits on a host of objects further reminded me of the toxic nature of what was being processed. The complexe was set up in the late 1920's to roast the arsenic in what some deemed as high grade gold ore. Unfortunately the accident lead to the demise of the mine which basically had been abandoned for several decades until the recent aquisition by a mining exploration corporation

As earlier indicated ,despite the fact that formally my interest was with the mines and their history, the numerous towns which each hold their own vocation have a history of their own worth uncovering with buildings, some of which have a distinct archiectural appeal ,dating back to the turn of the century an example in the vicinity being Amos whose cathederal is certain to draw the curious ...

To conclude my own exploratory quest without wanting to go beyond the scope of this short presentation ;It is apparent that those with the time and the energy will take in depth exploratory quests. I  for my part had in the past taken the risk of visiting Joutel (during it's dismantlement ) and as a result couldn't observe the processing facility implanted. Places such as Normetal (whose deposit was exploited for 40 years ) , Casa Berardi (which  is still the site of much activity) and Selbaie were overlooked since (as is suspected for a cyclist out of shape) I lacked the energy and the courage. Most recently in returning to the region I took the time to superficially visit The RNC Dumont nickel project (in the vicinity of Amos) . It is rumoured as being the source of much anticipation knowing that the future rests with such upstarts which can sucessfully advance promising projects. While the grade isn't noteworthy, the tonnage is appealing enough to lead towards much promise...

As for the towns themselves which represent a microcosm of civilisation and thus try to offer everything needed to make the folks happy , the larger towns such as Noranda,Val D'or and Amos are certain to lead towards thrilling moments at least coming to grips with the glitzy night life ! Although don't underestimate what there may be to discover out of the major population basins. In that regard a smaller  town such as  Matagami, which while devoid of all the buzz of most of the other larger urban centers in the vicinity for it's part became the occasion to contemplate the long and lonely James bay road associated with hydro-electric development. I furthermore took the risk of escalating the hill north of town (also named Mont Laurier which is not to confuse with the other hill  by that name ) and made an intriguing discovery. A leapard frog was in some miniscule marsh on the summit !  (normally such frogs are found only further south, the other unusual encounter in the relative area being racoons encountered in the Temiscaming...)

Further east Chibouamau was the unexpected gem to contemplate after a lengthy treck through a mostly uninhabited wilderness which gave me ample time to think about what my exploratory quest had produced and what tomorrow held in terms of expectations. Once in Chibougamau please take the time to visit their mining museum situated within the old Bruno mine on the fringe of town. Afterwards a short stop at the Gwillum night club is certain to be revitalising !

To conclude; Overall such escapades were enriching giving me a certain sense of understanding permitting me to get an idea of the livelyhood of such folks including once living on the brink of disaster since as everyone knows these are economically depressed regions. Despite the difficulties the sense of initiative of certain is cause for some surprises of the like I found in Chibougamau which had it's own miniscule helicopter assembly plant the helicopters being the creation of a a daring person using his will and his craftmanship to creat a functional device which actually flies ! This to be honest was of a certain inspiration to more favorably view the future including my own future despite my frail state of health and despite the preoccupying stance of a minority of individuals lacking a sense of objectivity for reasons they best know...

I guess that life is best enjoyed being part of the gang instead of being alone and vulnerable as a result ...