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

Continue reading “Big Den Mountain: The Land of the Little Sticks”

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

Continue reading “Big Tree Peak”

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

Continue reading “Stevens Peak, A Mountain of Many Summits”

Gemini Mountain: Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

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

On my journey to summit all the peaks on my Island Alpine Quest, I don’t often find time to hike a mountain more than once, but when I do, it’s because I’m hiking with my children. On October 27, I led a group of ten that included Hemingway and Octavia on a quick trip to Gemini Mountain in the Nanaimo Lakes area. It was a less than perfect day: cold wind made short work of our layers, cutting through our clothes to thoroughly chill us, but we took the chance to cross the saddle between the two peaks and scramble to the summit of the second bump.

the clouds lifting from the main summit of Gemini Mountain
the clouds lifting from the sub-summit of Gemini Mountain

My first visit to Gemini Mountain was on a bleak, blustery day, back in 2016. It was the type of day where we wore our jackets, gloves and toques, and by the end of the hike, our gloves were filled with icy water. Relative to that trip, this one was an improvement in almost every metric. But it was still frosty, and above 1300 metres we found ice on the tops of puddles– Hemingway took delight in smashing the ice with a hiking pole.

Total Distance: 5.7 km
Starting Elevation: 1138 m
Maximum Elevation: 1518 m
Total Elevation Gain: 626 m
Total Time: 5h 44m

Continue reading “Gemini Mountain: Zoom, Zoom, Zoom”

Mount Rorberts

-Originally published on explorington.com

Winter 2018 took its sweet time arriving on Vancouver Island. Many Vancouver Islanders eagerly watched the forecast as they tuned their skis and took stock of their winter gear. I too anticipated a beautiful winter pursuing adventure in the white stuff. Yet, by late October we were still waiting for the first hints of snow to hit the alpine. Fortunately, in the seemingly endless wait between the hot summer and the white stuff, there was a lot of fantastic fall hiking.

hiking to mount Roberts in the Prince of Wales Range on Vancouver Island
That bump is listed as the summit; har har

On October 18th we had a fantastic day; ideal for the type of hiking we wanted to do in the Prince of Wales Range. I love hiking the peaks in this range. They offer easy access to what I’d call mostly-easy hiking–except for the bush. And on top of the quality of the hiking, the mountains, Roberts, H’Kusam, Springer, Stow, Milner, Kitchener, High Rigger, and Big Tree all offer stellar eastward views of the Johnstone Strait. Plus, if you have a clear day you get views of the Coast Ranges including Mount Waddington; while, to the west Victoria and Warden stand prominently on the horizon.  The views are tough to beat (in my opinion only surpassed by the view from Tyee Mountain).

Mount Roberts Route and GPX by request

Total Distance: 12.9 km
Starting Elevation: 744 m
Maximum Elevation: 1485 m
Total Elevation Gain: 878 m
Total Time: 7 hours
Continue reading “Mount Rorberts”

Tsitika Mountain: Up the Crack

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

**apologies for the images; I forgot my camera at home and used my phone to document this trip.

Fall 2019 brought the full spectrum of weather. Through many weekends in September and into October, we trudged through dense, wet bush, and on October 13th and 14th, we were treated to a delightful sunny fall weekend. To celebrate the two days of uncharacteristically beautiful weather, I hiked first to Green Mountain with my kids, and then to Tsitika Mountain in the Franklin Range.

Phil and Israel, approaching the crack.
Phil and Israel, approaching the crack.

Before setting Tsitika Mountain as our objective, I had only heard of the mountain earlier this year, when I stood atop Mount Derby. At that time, I was just inside the Mount Derby Ecological Reserve, nursing some seriously wet feet, while trying to wait out the dense cloud mass that hung all around us. On October 14th, I was happy to take advantage of the dry, sunny weather and finally set eyes on Tsitika.

The drive along the logging road was quick considering the distance. The Tsitika Main parallels the river and penetrates deep into the Tsitika River valley. After crossing the river, the road becomes the Catherine Main and leads along the Catherine Creek. Eventually we diverted off the main road and followed the deactivated spur off Mudge Main to its terminus at 740 metres of elevation. After parking, I noted that we were only 250 metres from the Tsitika Mountain Ecological Reserve (poorly named as most of the mountain isn’t even in the reserve); nothing like logging right up to the edge!

<iframe src=”https://www.google.co.uk/maps/d/u/0/embed?mid=1DAIHmxxziCIc9w-zGz9KohdtCf6VW3xs” width=”640″ height=”480″></iframe>

Total Distance: 7.4 km
Starting Elevation: 732 m
Maximum Elevation: 1656 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1018 m
Total Time: 6 hours, 28 minutes

Continue reading “Tsitika Mountain: Up the Crack”

Mount Maitland: A Hike for People Who Don’t Want to Be Clean

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

Wet. It was wet. It was very wet. This doesn’t even come close to describing how wet we were by the end of the day. It was the kind of day where any effort or equipment used to contravene the water would result in failure; so, we left our raingear in our backpacks with our dry clothes in case we needed them to get warm—a smart decision. It was the kind of day where I saw water well out of the cuff of Clarke’s boot when he stepped down onto a rock, and oozing out of the tongue of Phil’s boot when he flexed his toes.

hiking to Mount Maitland
these are the faces of fatigue

 

Total Distance: 9 km
Starting Elevation: 225 m
Maximum Elevation: 1258 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1140 m
Total Time: 9 h 15 m

Continue reading “Mount Maitland: A Hike for People Who Don’t Want to Be Clean”

Leighton Peak: A Surprise Canyoneering Experience

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

The transition between summer and fall was exceptionally rapid this year. After months of hot, dry weather, a cold front rolled in and brought temperatures below ten degrees and a deluge of rain that seemed to last for weeks. Even my five-year-old son noticed the change: “Dad, is it fall now?” Apparently so.

For me, the seasonal transition marks a time to reflect on my summer of accomplishments and disappointments, and to set new goals! New goals give me something to look forward to during the upcoming winter and help me plan out the next summer (I’ve already planned more than twenty days of trips for summer 2019). Between Phil and me, we have a lengthy list of multi-day adventures that we have been putting off, and this is the year to do them.

Phil on the summit ridge– it looks far!

Part of the planning for these trips is observing the inspiration that comes from reviewing the accomplishments of my online friends, via social media feeds. This summer, the algorithms inundated me with many stories about canyoneering. But, because I’m still only halfway through my Island Alpine Quest –a massive list of peaks– I didn’t dare dream too deeply, because I am committed to my current obsession. Perhaps this is why I never imagined finding myself in a steep-walled canyon, and I certainly never expected that experience to come on the descent of Mount Leighton, but that’s precisely what happened.


Total Distance: 11.3 km
Starting Elevation: 363 m
Maximum Elevation: 1409 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1086 m
Total Time: 7 hours, 41 minutes


Continue reading “Leighton Peak: A Surprise Canyoneering Experience”