The Laurentians


Catharine writes:

     Last Sunday I spend a magical few hours in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal.  The changing colour of the leaves in the bright sunlight drew families from far and near to St. Sauveur.  At lunch I sat reading a copy  ”Skiing Legends and the Laurentian Lodge Club”.  Neil and I had to much fun working on that book.  For days our dining room table was piled high with all the information about the Laurentians.

     Neil had an amazing way of boiling down a vast amount of information into a few paragraphs.  He could pluck a metaphor out of thin air the way a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat.  Here is one of what he wrote about the Laurentian Mountains :


More than a billion years ago, a lumbering land mass collided with the Precambrian Shield, squeezing the oceans between.  In this collision, rock buckled and scrunched up like sheets of plasticine crushed at both ends.  Out of this upheaval emerged the mountains we now call the Laurentians, probably as high then as the Rockies are today.

Meanwhile, deep in the belly of the earth, red hot rocks flowed upward under the surface of the continents, splitting them apart and, from this fiery maelstrom, forming a basin for the ancient lapetus Ocean.  About six hundred millions years ago, the waters along its western coast encroached on the subsiding land and the Laurentian stood on the shore of this warm, shallow sea, basking in the tropical temperature.  In these same waters, sediment accumulated that later formed the rock on which Montreal now stands.

After more cycles of collisions and upheavals, about a million years ago, tons of glacial ice formed and flattened the Laurentians.  These ponderously moving glaciers, like great icy balls of steel wool, scraped and gouged the mountains, polishing them down to  the bedrock.

Some 100,000 years ago, these ice caps coalesced to form the Laurentian Ice Sheet, a sea of ice four times as high as Mont-Tremblant. The pressure of this ice weighed on the mountains, smoothing and rounding them into softer bosomy shapes.  Finally, some 12,000 years ago, this sea of ice began to melt and recede.  Slowly out of the steaming mists, the Laurentians emerged, crowned by the majestic Tremblant, much as we see them today.  

As the ice sheets retreated, the climate, warmer than ours is, was able to sustain vegetation, forest of birch and aspen groves, deer, caribou, and small game.  Than after the ages of granite and ice came the first humans to gaze on the rolling purple hills from the top of Tremblant which thy called ”Manitou Ewitchi”, the mountain of the mysterious Manitou, the spirit in all things.

Are you a skier ?

Have you been to the Laurentians ?


  1. 1
    Vin Smith Says:

    …This excerpt from the writings of Neil McKenty perfectly displays a Rembrandtian skill with the glorious English language. It’s like he dipped the keys of his writing machine into a carefully calculated mix of colors; daubed his word brush to the page with infinite finesse, paying minute attention to the language strokes as a master painter would do. The result was always a richly hued portrait that radiated life from the printed page.

  2. 2
    ssstephaniep Says:

    What a delight to see your richly-hued response to Neil writing. Your paragraph is an inspiration to each of us who as ever tried to capture a moment in time on paper. Thank you for your continued presence on the blog.

    Richard Rice, in Canterbury, England and Stephanie Pagano here in Montreal are combining their skills to make Neil’s writing available on the blog as inspiration strike, since I am computer dyslexic. To day’s selection and this paragraph by me were place there by Stephanie.

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