Mt Benson — Winter Hike?

–Submitted by Ken Warren
On Saturday, February 21, eight of us tackled Mt. Benson by the front route.  At 8:30 AM the Witchcraft Lake parking area had more cars than I usually see at that time.  The weather was promising with clear skies, although the wind was chill and strengthening.  The temperature rose as soon as we got into the timber and Witchcraft Lake’s low water was unfrozen.

Our trip up was uneventful.  We met a couple who had ascended in the dark to catch the sunrise.  The sight of the sun climbing up over the silhouette of Mt Baker was fresh in their minds.  We stopped at all the viewpoints, checking out Nanaimo landmarks,  freighters moored behind Newcastle and Protection, and some fog over parts of the Strait.

The wind was still blowing when we crossed the road, and I thought the summit might be cold. We took the trail that is now officially called, on the RDN map, The Straight to the Top Trail.  As we settled into a comfortable pace, we renewed previous and made new acquaintances.
The sky was clear and the wind died down as we made the summit – it was cool, but not enough to stop us from having a snack.  The views were very good, with some clarity lost to haze.  Moriarty, Arrowsmith, Cokely, Albert Edward, and Jutland had some snow, but not their usual mantles.  The coast mountains were, as always, impressive with their challenging crags and ridges.  Baker was visible, but not particularly clear. 

Descending the Te’tuxw’tun trail we saw no snow hiding among the shady bluffs.  We met more people as we came down, including a small group who had come up Benson’s south-east ridge.  It’s good to see so many people taking advantage of the weather and local hiking opportunities.  We were back in the parking lot before one o’clock.  Good weather, good views, and good company equals a good day.

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