Pogo Mountain falls inside the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks. When hiking in these tribal parks, consider making a donation to the Tribal Park Guardians as we did.
The Island’s backcountry isn’t immune to the sways of social media. It seems like every summer there’s a new fevered interest in some area or other. A while back, everyone and their dog wants to reach Century Sam, and this year’s flavour seems to be 5040. It’s not difficult to point to the cofactors that drive people to these places: FOMO, Moral Panic, and various social media play their role. But how does one place become “the place” in any given region/year? And, what I want to know is why hasn’t Pogo Mountain become one of those destinations?
By many standards, Pogo should top anyone’s bucket list. It’s got incredible alpine character, simple scrambling (nothing more challenging than the lake at Triple Peak), and starts metres from the highway; it doesn’t require a car-destroying logging road approach! But even with all of these great features, it gets overlooked. Perhaps it’s the moderate bushwack that scares people away?
Total Distance: 13 km
Starting Elevation: 210 m
Maximum Elevation: 1484 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1310 m
Total Time: 8 hours
On August 9th, I was a member of a three-person group that made a summit of Pogo Mountain using the north (turning northeast) ridge. It’s one of those bumps that I put off for a while because most of my mountaineering buddies have long since visited it. But with two of said friends sidelined, it was a perfect weekend for Jes and me to make our way to the top of this iconic Highway 4 feature.
Perhaps perfect isn’t the proper adjective. The bush was sopping wet, laden with water from the evening’s rains and morning fog. Wet that flows through your clothing, down your body and into your boots. There’s no stopping it. Wearing a jacket only means the sleaves act as funnels as you reach up to grab a green-belay which allows the water to pour in. My boots were overflowing within the first thirty minutes. Even though we were soaked, I didn’t complain because the forest needed it.
We parked at the gate just off the highway and walked the ten minutes to a deactivated logging spur. At first, we considered walking through the land of the little sticks to keep dry, but that would have been silly. There would be no “keeping dry” on this hike. So, into the salmonberry of the slightly overgrown logging spur. By the time we reached the end of the spur, we had picked up the heavily flagged route.
With all the hoopla about how bushy this hike is, I entered the forest with trepidation. Sure, there is bush. Yes, if it’s raining or foggy, you’re going to get very wet. But in all honestly, the route doesn’t warrant the reputation it’s earned.
Up through the forest, we followed the flags. They kept us on track for most of the trip; only a few times did we refer to the GPS route, matching the flagged route. The bush mainly was easy, not too much deadfall. The flagging guided up and through the bluffs, without which I’m sure the bluffs would be considerably difficult to get around. Within 2 hours, we were beyond most of the bush, and by three hours, we had made it to the open ridge at 900 metres.
Once we hit the alpine, the route became far more appealing, with lots of easy scrambling for a direct approach or more meandering path for those others. At the toe of the ridge, we rounded small copes of trees, heading to the hikers right of the ridge. We knew to keep our eyes open for a bushy gully that offers a scramble to the summit ridge. This spot is the crux of the trip. Once we spotted it, we used the large branches as handholds to pull ourselves up the wet, slippery rock.
Beyond this challenge, we were walking the crest of the ridge to the summit. Because the route was so well marked, we were far quicker than our original plan; we were the cairn in 4 hours of leaving the vehicles. We beat the sun! We sat in the cloud during our 45-minute rest on the summit. We persisted a while, hoping that the cloud would burn off to give us some views of the surrounding mountains. It wasn’t until we gave up and descended back to the lower ridge that the cloud lifted.
We stuck close to our ascent route on the way down the mountain. Moving down through the bush is almost always easier than moving up, a combination of the bush facing downhill and gravity giving us a little boost. But, any reprieve from our wet clothing was lost as we pushed back into the bush. After a couple more hours of getting up close and personal with the salmonberry and false azalea, we were all happy to pop out on the logging road.
I think this route is going to become much more popular. Between the flagged route to the alpine and the wide availability of the GPS track, a boot track is already forming. Heck, we even found orange peals and dog tracks. If it’s popular enough for folks to drop their trash, and if a dog can make it to the summit, then any determined person comfortable with easy scrambling can make it.
If you doubt my opinion, look at Triple Peak or 5040. Not so many years ago, Triple Peak was rated by one hiking guide as a top-ten bushwack for the Island. Now, I think it’s possible to make it to the alpine without even touching a bush. And if you look at the Cobalt Lake route to 5040, it was a bushy mess not so many years ago too! It doesn’t take much imagination to project what could be possible for Pogo Mountain. And Pogo Mountain doesn’t have a logging road.