Big Den Mountain: The Land of the Little Sticks

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, originally published on explorington.com

Mountains are changeable. From a technical perspective, a route may be an easy ascent in the winter season, and a heinous, bush-filled scramble in the summer. Or, of course, it’s possible that winter adds more treachery to a route that’s a simple scramble in the summer. It’s probably because of this duality that first ascents and first winter ascents are documented as different feats.

hiking to Big Den Mountian in Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island
Thtere’s always time to stop and admire the beasts

I’ll count Big Den Mountain among those peaks that become more complicated when the snow melts. In the winter, Big Den Mountain was an aesthetic, though steep, winter ascent with some adventure between beautiful, mature trees. But in the summer, the approach became a complicated bushy route with at least one unexpected scramble.

Total Distance: 7.2 km
Starting Elevation: 789 m
Maximum Elevation: 1419 m
Total Elevation Gain: 724 m
Total Time: 4 hours, 43 minutes and 34 seconds

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Mount Tzouhalem

~ submitted by Mary Hof

January 13, 2019

16 hikers, 2 were members of the Ramblers and 2 were interested in us. The rest were Cowichan hikers, and with the beautiful weather and the route I choose, many wanted to join in. The hike was only 10k but had many view spots and was a wonderful day to be out. Thanks to all who joined.

Mount Elma Snowshoe

~submitted by Shannon Tagseth

January 11, 2019

We watched the weather all week with mostly changing conditions and fingers crossed that our hike would return to an overcast day.  Unfortunately the forecast was correct and we started our hike at 7:45am at Raven Lodge in the rain.  Although we all donned our headlamps, the sky had lightened just enough to not need them. 

After a few adjustments to our equipment, we set off through the trails.  Although each of us had hiked in the area before, none of us had led a trip to this objective and therefore we relied upon our navigation device and gpx track to steer us in the right direction.  For approximately the first half of our trip towards our summit, we were thankful to utilize the snowshoe trails.  However, since the onset of the warm weather, we found we were still sinking significantly most of our steps.  We crossed the popular bridge, high above the base of the bridge, and wound our way through the trails, across several groomed cross country ski tracks. 

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The Hordelski – Mt Benson New Year

~submitted by Ken Warren

January 1, 2019

Twelve eager hikers set out earlyish new year’s morning to enjoy what’s become an annual hike and remembrance of Mike Hordelski.

The weather was ok with mixed cloud and sun with no wind. The evidence of our recent wind storm was most visible around Witchcraft Lake, and several trees have fallen since the big blow, so the ground is still saturated and caution needed. Most of us put on our traction aids around the third way mark and the trail was easily followed. We met no-one going up and the views at the lookouts were quite good. There was a lot of snow on the final third, but the trail was packed and the going was easy.

We had the summit to ourselves for 10 minutes before the rest of Nanaimo started to catch up. Conditions on top were good with some changing views. The coastal mountains were quite spectacular. The descent was uneventful and somewhat slowed by the number of people we met. We heard some very animated conversation below us at one point and a hiker explained that it was group of Brazilians in their first encounter with snow. We intended to pass by the 1942 plane crash site but windfallen trees have all but covered the wreckage.

It was a grand day and Mike would have enjoyed it. Thanks to all for the pleasure of your company.

Mt Tzouhalem Traverse

~submitted by Mary Hof

December 30, 2018

Six of us met at Providence Farm for a short car shuttle for our hike across the Tzouhalem ridge. Started with winter jackets but soon we were just down to shirts.  The views were beautiful, not many trees down, and the company great. Three were members and three were from my hiking club from Cowichan.  A wonderful day to be out.

Big Tree Peak

–submitted by Matthew Lettington; originally published on explorington.com

Since beginning my project to summit all the peaks in Island Alpine, I’ve spent more time exploring the various unknown peaks and ranges of Vancouver Island than I ever spent hiking more well-known objectives. Sometimes, when I think about the time I’ve spent hiking, driving, and reporting– it’s become very time-consuming– I wonder, Is it worth it? Why am I doing this? Am I still having fun?

These questions are usually fleeting, but they strike like an avalanche. With more than two dozen trip reports in various forms of drafts, it’s a problem that seems impossible to surmount. Especially considering that these were some of the most important trips I’ve done over the past three years: Nootka Island; West Coast Trail; Augerpoint Traverse; Hesquiat Peninsula; three different seven-day kayak trips; Tatchu Peninsula; my Rambler Peak Trip where we summited Devoe and Slocomb; and a half-dozen family trips. These, and about a dozen other daytrips that I haven’t even started writing, add to the overwhelming workload I’ve created. I just can’t seem to keep on top of it. And if I’m not committed to doing them all, then why even do any of it?

Surprisingly, this lost and overwhelming feeling is one that I’ve grown accustomed to in my life. Although it’s easy to be subsumed by the feeling, there is also a small comfort that comes with it. I imagine it compares to an explorer crossing an ocean to an unknown destination: there’s probably something on the other side, and there’s definitely something behind you. The farther you get from the known shore, the braver you must be. Without landmarks to position oneself, it’s difficult to take stock of progress, and sometimes you just have to trust you’re heading in the right direction.

But taking notice of my accomplishments is the key to navigating through the sea of hopelessness, and that’s why I write these reports. On December 1, I was one of a group of six that summited Big Tree Peak in the Prince of Wales Range. The peak itself is hardly worth noting; it’s not the highest, bushiest, or most challenging, nor does it have the best view of all the peaks in the Range. However, it was the final peak I needed to summit in the range. And for that reason, it’s important to take note: I’m making progress.

Big Tree Peak Route

Total Distance: 7.2 km
Starting Elevation: 789 m
Maximum Elevation: 1419 m
Total Elevation Gain: 724 m
Total Time: 4 hours, 43 minutes and 34 seconds

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Stevens Peak, A Mountain of Many Summits

–submitted by Matthew Lettington; originally published on explorington.com

Back in early November, before we had even a light frost back home, I joined my core group of mountaineering buddies –with a few notable absences– on a trip to Stevens Peak. We planned to summit the mountain by following the east ridge from a spur of the Canton Creek mainline. Our research promised a straightforward approach, and the forecast predicted a splendid day with clear skies and sunshine. None of this held to be true.

hiking Stevens Peak in the Tlupana Range
don’t be fooled, that isn’t the summit

Total Distance: 11.7 km
Starting Elevation: 659 m
Maximum Elevation: 1504 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1339 m
Total Time: 8 hours
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1BojbPMRuE9CIEELkAwnOSM-T9uX79ulx&usp=sharing

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