Island Mountain Ramblers

Hiking/ Climbing / Mountaineering / Exploring Vancouver Island since 1958

Category: mountaineering (Page 1 of 6)

Watchtower Peak: We Found the Trouble

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, originally published on explorington.com
–banner image courtesy Phil Jackson– Summit Ridge

Route planning is among the most important parts of trip planning. It influences equipment choices, time estimates, and helps one visualize the role environmental conditions will play on the expected terrain. Sometimes route planning is easy; the most popular routes have trails, booted track, well-documented maps, GPS tracks, and dozens of trip reports. And sometimes, it’s not so easy – for example, my trip to Watchtower Peak in the Sutton Range. A key difference between easy and challenging routes is the beta available.

Watchtower Peak wasn’t our primary objective for the weekend and so Phil and I had the one-paragraph description in Island Alpine (2002) to rely on. It boils down to three points: Gain the ridge; Follow the ridge; Avoid troubles on the left side. A key part of using any beta is interpreting the information and its validity. First, you have to the question if the author is describing the route based on their first-hand experience and what their individual experience level is; Or, if it isn’t first-hand knowledge how reliable was their source. Assuming that you trust the resource, you have the job of interpreting the route description and reconciling it to the terrain. This experience might be lived out while neck-deep in some mountain hemlock looking for the edge of a cliff you may or may not be standing on, or even whilst dangling into a gully trying to decide if the route “goes”.

Watchtwower Peak, Vancouver Island hiking

Warden and Victoria in the background

On the other side of the coin, there’s the trick of writing a trip report. It’s always challenging for me to parse the information in a way that will be meaningful for those who hope to do a trip of their own. A big fault for some of my reports is their depth of detail; giving too many details can be just as harmful –maybe more, even—as giving a report with too little information. Yet, here we are with another trip report. Hopefully I can avoid being both too sparse and too detailed.

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Mount Phillips Family Backpacking Trip

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

I struggle to find a balance between work, play, and family. When it comes to my annual vacation, I pack in as much playtime as I can, and this means I often leave my family at home while I’m off on an adventure. With my busy schedule, sometimes I’m unpacking one backpack by putting gear straight into a different one. This is exactly what happened on my August 13-15 backpacking trip to Mount Phillips. On August 10th, I hiked off the Augerpoint Traverse; with the next trip only a few days away, I didn’t have time to put anything away before getting ready for my family backpacking trip to Arnica Lake and Mount Phillips in Strathcona Park.

We had an ideal forecast, and if not for the haze of smoke in the air from forest fires, it would have been perfect conditions. Fortunately, the smoke didn’t hinder our breathing – it only obscured some of the otherwise amazing views.

Mount Phillips, Arnica Lake, Mount PHillips

alpine meadows that any bear would love

In addition to my wife and two children, I led a group of five Island Mountain Ramblers on a trip that I offered as an easy backpacking trip. The trip was split into three days, and the lion’s share of the distance and half of the elevation was planned along the well-manicured trail to Arnica Lake, where we set up a basecamp for two nights. Of course, the second half of the trip, out to Mount Phillips, is where the suffering was found.

Horizontal Distance: 29.1 km
Starting Elevation: 351 m
Maximum Elevation: 1718 m
Total climb: 1707 m
Total Duration: 3 days

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Eden Mountain: Gully Grovelling and Needle Threading

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, read the full report on explorington.com

Eden Mountain is a high point among a series of bumps that form an aesthetic ridge in the Genesis Range. Like many peaks in the region, it’s seldom summited, has little in the way of trip report beta, and is nestled among a series of twisting logging roads. The trip reports we found were nearly useless, because they report approaches from a now-inaccessible and well-overgrown logging road. On July 15th, just two days after returning from a week-long adventure on the North Coast Trail, I joined a group of six Island Mountain Ramblers on our first attempt to summit Eden Mountain from the terminus of the CC800 spur off Compton Creek Mainline (~910m).

We anticipated a quick trip, as the total elevation gain and horizontal distance promised to be low; just 1.5 kilometers from the car as the crow flies, and 800 meters elevation gain. We could even see the summit from the car, rising high above the logging slash, bluffs, and bush. Of course, I’ve played this game before and know full well that regardless of the metrics, simple trips can turn into day-long adventures that leave me scratched, bruised, dirty, and bitten. The trip to Eden Mountain was made long because of four long waits while we moved people through two tricky pieces of terrain.

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Matchlee Mountain 2018

~ submitted by Clarke Gourlay
~photographs submitted by Phil Jackson

July 28, 2018

7 IMR members, great day out.  Very varied terrain: old logging road, thick bush (avalanche basin), rock scrambling & climbing (to low 5th), veggie climbing, scree fields, snowfields, ridge climb, epic exposed jump to a 4’x4′ pinnacle; 12 hours round trip.

 

Conuma Peak: Bush, Bluffs and Bugs

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

Conuma Peak has been on my must-climb bucket list since I learned that it features a large arch in the side of the mountain–the largest on any of the mountains on the island. Conuma is the second peak in the Tlupana Range that I’ve climbed, and offers views of many of the larger peaks around it. This trip wasn’t the first time we put it on the schedule, but it’s the first time we put our feet on the ground at the mountain; each of our previous attempts was thwarted by rainstorms, snowstorms, or the enticement of more feasible trips. Our July 22 summit attempt featured blue skies with minimal haze, hot air, and a bounty of bugs that made us question our sanity.

Our research yielded route descriptions from a few successful summits of Conuma Peak, but each used a different approach. The one that appealed to us the most, the one we used, approaches from a spur off the H60 logging road that originates on the Head Bay Mainline, halfway between Tahsis and Gold River. From the end of the logging road, our route travelled up the east side of the ridge until it gains the south ridge, and then up to the main summit block. By my estimation, a successful summit of Conuma Peak has as much to do with the strength of your navigation abilities as it does your tolerance for the bushwhacking and bugs. From the map, it’s impossible to decipher the specific terrain; however, the title of my report reveals all the majesty that makes up the convoluted route to Conuma Peak.

Total Distance: 8.5 km
Starting Elevation: 563 m
Maximum Elevation: 1479 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1028 m
Total Time: 9 hours, 10 minutes


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Jewel Lake, Mt Cokely, Rouseau Trail Circuit

–submitted by Mary Hof
Sunday July 15th was a great day for a hike, with clear blue skies. 9 hikers in two vehicles drove Cameron Main and parked at the saddle parking area of Mt Arrowsmith. We started hiking at 9:30 and heading up the saddle, many had not done this hike before so they were in awe how beautiful it was. Glacier Lily’s were seen, as well as other wild flowers. Just a bit of snow left at the top of the saddle.

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Crown Mountain: a Canada Day-Trip

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

On July 1st, two friends and I made a successful, though gruelling, summit of Crown Mountain inside Strathcona Park. The story of this day-trip is part of a much longer saga that starts with a failed summit attempt on Mount Colonel Foster.

Hiking to Crown Mountain

A view down the Crowned Creek Valley from the highpoint on the north ridge

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Mount Abraham, An Easy Scramble

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

In the past three years, I’ve summited more than one hundred peaks on my list, and I’ve categorized them based on their type – which makes it easier to make recommendations to friends. When it comes to aesthetic ridge scrambles on Vancouver Island, Mount Abraham is among the best; for anyone interested in easy scrambles, I recommend giving this mountain a try.

On June 3rd we were turned back on our attempt to summit Mount Abraham because of poor visibility, weather, and a misunderstanding of the route description (read more here). But on June 10th, we came ready with a better understanding of the route and a burning desire to outrun the impending weather due in the afternoon.

Total Distance: 11.6 km
Starting Elevation: 784 m
Maximum Elevation: 1702 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1103 m
Total Time: 6 hours, 30 minutes

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Mount Abraham

~ submitted by Matthew Lettington

June 3, 2018

We expected a gruelling day of fighting bush,  fording rivers and grunting up steep slopes. We were only half right.

After an early morning departure from Nanaimo, we were hiking the alder-covered logging road on our way to Mount Abraham. We were delighted that the bush was short and the river low; but, even more, excited that within 25 minutes we were hiking in the old growth on our way up to the hanging valley between Mount Sarai and Mount Abraham.

At the lake we discovered the snow was still more than a foot deep which allowed us to adjust our course and use a gully to access the ridge above– we were following a route described by Lindsay Elmes in the Island Bushwacker, from 2003.

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Hiking Between the Peaks in the Genesis Range: A Failed Attempt at Mount Abraham

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

It’s great having a regular group of friends to hike with. From week to week, the members of the group may change, but each person comes to be someone on whom I can rely. It’s more important that they are consistent and always improving than that they are the best at any given task. When the bush gets thick or the slopes get slick, looking over and seeing someone else suffering alongside me, or seeing them surmount a problem, inspires me to keep going. Of course, sometimes it’s the group that makes the tough choice to turn around, as we did on our June 3rd excursion to Mount Abraham. 

The lake in the hanging valley hiking to Mount Abraham on Vancouver Island

about 100 metres from this spot you should see a ridge rising toward the summit of Mount Abraham

Yes, another adventure in the Genesis Range. Mount Abraham was the goal, and we arrived expecting a gruelling day of fighting bush, fording rivers, and grunting up steep slopes through blueberry, willow, and huckleberry. We were only half right.


Total Distance: 13 km
Starting Elevation: 840 m
Elevation Gain: 950
Maximum Elevation: 1639 m
Total Time: 6 h

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