Island Mountain Ramblers

Hiking/ Climbing / Mountaineering / Exploring Vancouver Island since 1958

Category: mountaineering (Page 2 of 5)

Katzenjammer 2018- Arrowsmith’s Judge

–report by Wayne Mills
— photographs by John Young

Mount Arrowsmith (Judge’s-Route) was stunning, on January 1st. The largest mountain on southern Vancouver Island, definitely one for the more experienced hikers. It took us 6.5hrs at a steady pace, from dusk till dawn, steep and slippery, heart rate raiser and old injury breaker (knees/lower back). Snowshoes are not required. Crampons, poles, and axe are definitely required.

Read More

Snowshoeing Mount Elliot: Fun in the Sun

–submitted by Matthew Lettington — read the full report on his blog.

It’s official, I’ve lost all my summer fitness! It was a long slow decline to the state I’m in now, a fact that was made painfully apparent on my snowshoe trip up Mount Elliot. But, I’m looking forward to a winter full of snowshoeing, skiing and family fun in the snow. And who knows, maybe I’ll kick myself back into shape again!

If you’re looking for a great snowshoe mountaineering trip, Mount Elliot may be the trip for you. Aside from one or two short, steep sections at the top, it’s a lovely route up the side of the southwest side of the mountain. The reward is the summit. On a clear day, the lucky mountaineer is rewarded with spectacular views of the Bonanza Range and the Johnstone Strait. It took me two attempts to reach the summit, but it was worth it!


Total Distance: 8.3 km
Starting Elevation: 785 m
Maximum Elevation: 1549 m
Total Elevation Gain: 817 m
Total Time: 6 hours


Read More

Waring Peak: Striking Back

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, read the full report on his blog

Have you ever struggled to achieve an objective, and been turned back? I have–a lot! Waring Peak in the Sutton Range is among several peaks that we failed to summit last winter. My first attempt came to a premature end, with the group looking longingly at the base of the summit block, merely 200 metres away from the summit of the mountain. This August, we struck back at mountains that had turned us back last winter. This time, after only 2.5 hours of hiking, we were standing on the summit admiring the view, and enjoying the narrow upper ridge of this Vancouver Island peak. It’s satisfying to gain these summits, but it’s remarkable how different the approaches are in the different seasons. Of note, the biggest surprise is the bush!


Toal Distance:  9.1 km
Startin Elevation: 541 m
Maximum Elevation: 1599 m
Elevation Gain: 1071 m
Time:  5 h 15 m



Read More

Jagged Peak: Grovelling in the Gully

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, Read the full report and see more images on his blog.

[insert snappy introduction]

I love mountaineering in the Sutton Range because the peaks offer a sense of exploration I don’t always find in more popular regions. I attribute this feeling to the relative isolation of the peaks: they are a long way from the major population centres of Vancouver Island, and there are no paved roads to the trailheads. Because of this, we rarely see booted routes to guide us on our way. It’s in the Sutton Range that we found our Sunday adventure, on Jagged Peak.

Many of the peaks in the Sutton Range are dramatic, jagged forms that inspire feelings of dread (or excitement) as you look at them. Jagged Peak, aptly named for its long, crumbling gullies, is no exception. Jagged Peak is a less popular destination than other mountains in the Sutton Range, such as Victoria and Warden Peaks. Individually, they might be difficult to identify, but these dramatic, and iconic peaks rise together from the valley and create an easily identifiable Vancouver Island landmark.


Total Distance:  11.5 km
Starting Elevation: 605 m
Maximum Elevation: 1700 m
Elevation Gain: 1150 m
Total Time: 6 h 30 m


Read More

5040 Peak on a hot summer day!

–submitted by Bill Derby

Seven intrepid Ramblers met at Starbucks in North Nanaimo under a bright blue early morning sky to make introductions, grab a coffee, and sort out vehicles before departing for the 5040 Peak trail head via Port Alberni and Highway 4. 

Read More

Big Interior Mountain: A Failed Attempt of Nine Peaks

–submitted by Matthew Lettington. Originally published on his blog,

Every year, Phil and Rick celebrate their birthday by hiking to a remote peak on Vancouver Island. It was as part of this tradition that in June 2017 Phil, Rick, Colleen, and I made an ill-fated attempt to summit Nine Peaks as a day trip. Seriously, what better way to celebrate your birthday than with a 40 km hike, including more than 3500 metres elevation gain, and all on a day when you didn’t sleep? I can’t imagine what could be better!

Total Distance: 24.8 km
Starting Elevation: 500 m
Maximum Elevation: 1866 m
Total Elevation Gain: 2045 m
Total Time: 16h 18 m

The trip was destined to fail from the start: the distance was too far, the elevation gain too much, and we were just too tired. We started the hike at shortly before 11:00 pm, after a full day of work and no sleep; not the ideal way to start a heroic (but otherwise possible) effort. Despite our ragged condition and the fact that we didn’t reach the summit, everything worked to our best advantage. We had clear night skies, warm breezes in the valley – warm enough that we hiked through the night in t-shirts! – and excellent snow conditions that allowed us to walk on the surface without post-holing.

Big Interior Mountain, on the right in Strathcona Park Phil enjoying his moment in the sun

Read More

Crest Mountain: a Ridge Ramble success story!

–submitted by Ken Warren

Twelve of us set off for Crest Mountain from the trailhead on the Gold River Highway. The forecast was for good weather and the sky was promising. The trail is well-designed and built, but gains 1100 meters in the first 5km. We didn’t hit snow until the 1400m elevation shortly before coming onto the plateau by the first tarn. The tarns are still 3/4 frozen with blue water pooling among the snow and ice. A forty minute hike in the snow from the tarn saw us gain another  100m and the cairn marked summit.

Read More

Mt Rugged: day trip

–submitted by Clarke Gourlay

1Trip went well with 6 of us, arrived to within 80m of summit (Donkey’s Back feature), but needed to belay from there and didn’t have enough time to finish and get back with all 6.  As it was we had a 16 hour day car to car.  Got beyond the bergshrund below the East Ridge by belaying lead climber over an ice bridge to test it.

On the approach down low (near valley bottom), we returned differently than we went up, and it was a mistake.  As the approach trail (really an old decommissioned logging road) becomes VERY DENSE, turn up hill and proceed at 45 degrees to the hill in the same direction on a climb/traverse.  Much easier than slogging through brush in the valley.  All this could change as more logging is imminent.

Possible to do in a very long day, but we did not complete.

Mount Judson from Saunders Mainline

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, read the full report on his blog

Strathcona Park is a jewel nestled among many of the island’s tallest peaks. In many places, the long mountain ridges are the natural boundaries that define the shape of the park. All around the park, and sometimes within it, is evidence of industry: logging and mining change the landscape, and the juxtaposition of the two creates a dramatic, and obvious, delineation of the park boundary. Like it or not, these industries create roads that give access to some of the more obscure regions of the park, including the underappreciated northwest tip where Mount Judson (1750m) is located.

From some angles, Mount Judson looks intimidating. Bands of cliffs are clearly visible through pockets of dense forest, and on the skyline, steep snow slopes hide the true summit from view. For us, it was more than just a simple hike to the summit, but on June 11th our group rose to the challenge.


Total Distance:
Starting Elevation: 1200 m
Maximum Elevation: 1745 m
Elevation Gain: 1070 m
Total Time: 6 h 20 m



Read More

Mount Heber: worth the squeeze?

read the full report and see all the images on Matthew’s blog,

“Was the juice worth the squeeze?”

Phil asks this simple question after each of our adventures. In so few words, it gets to the heart of what drives a person to find adventure. That question came to mind as we hiked up a steep, pristine section of old-growth on our way to the summit of Mount Heber. Phil and I agreed that there are two overarching reasons that drive adventure-seekers: aesthetic or athletic. Of course, these are oversimplifications; there are likely as many reasons to seek adventure as there are people seeking it. Whatever our individual motivations, on June 4th, our group of five was keen on summiting Mount Heber. It was more than the fine weather and the promise of a view that made the trip memorable; we were excited because it was our first snowshoe-free alpine hike of the year!

map to Mount Heber, GPS route to Mount Heber in Strathcona Park

Mount Heber GPS route & topo map

Total Distance: 11 km
Starting Elevation: 567 m
Maximum Elevation: 1683 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1238 m
Total Time: 7h 20 m




We had a typical alpine start: Phil and I picked up Shannon at 5:00 am, and Rick and Colleen followed after us in their own vehicle. Mount Heber is a long way from Nanaimo, far enough that we spent at least as many hours driving as we did hiking. By day’s end, we would drive more than a hundred kilometres of highway and logging road. The drive itself wasn’t without adventure: notably, our logging spur off the Heber Mainline included crossing a decaying bridge, driving through board washouts, using a saw to remove windfall, and getting the Jeep stuck with one front tire and one rear tire hanging in the air while the Jeep wobbled back and forth. If anything, these offered some levity to the otherwise lengthy drive.

hiking, mountaineering, Vancouver Island hiking, Mount Heber

We parked where the road becomes an alder-filled, seasonal watercourse (~650m). Though there was no snow where we parked, we knew we would still find snow on the mountain, so we strapped our snowshoes onto our backs. I noted that despite it being just 9:00 am, there wasn’t any dew; the trees were dry. Summer was coming! We quickly worked our way up the road, crossing a few bad washouts and walking long stretches of open road, finally arriving at the terminus of the decommissioned logging grade. Along the way, we did cross a few bushy sections, but nothing worse than B2.

The road ends at a ravine, and it’s here that we stood to examine the route ahead. The roar of water convinced us to avoid entering the watercourse, and instead head up through the cut block to the right of the road. An easy ramp led up the embankment, and we then followed the easiest route over the fallen timber, through devil’s club and shrubs into a section of old-growth that lined the watercourse.

The terrain just inside the old-growth gently climbs; we easily avoided most of the bush by weaving between large trees and around thickets of shrubs and saplings. Phil and I were the route-finders, so we surged ahead checking for obstacles, and waited for the others when we couldn’t hear them. Around 1150 metres we found the ideal place to ford the river. We stepped out of the forest, crossed a wide gravel bed, and walked into the forest on the opposite side. Stepping out of the ravine, the terrain became a manageable grunt up through the virgin forest, though much of it was on a forty-degree slope. One thing is for certain: the route to Mount Heber doesn’t lack for vertical gain!

see more photos on Matthew’s blog

We hadn’t even reached the alpine yet, but we were already blown away by the beauty of the hike! Perhaps ours was a reaction against the advice we’d received about the trip. We were told, “Take your whole crew, because you won’t want to go back.” I disagree with the second part of that statement, but admit the first is correct: Take your whole crew. It’s so worth it!

The biggest obstacle of the day was a headwall that emerged somewhere around 1300 metres. We scouted to our left and discovered an easily-scrambled gully that put us on top of the headwall. As luck had it, the gully was filled with snow – the first of the trip – making it even easier to scale; however, the middle had a snow bridge. As the fifth person crossed over, it collapsed harmlessly. The headwall is worth mentioning; soon after that, the slope begins to ease.

Very quickly after this obstacle, the grade eased off, and as we left the dense forest behind for the open alpine, snow accumulated beneath our feet and the long snowy slopes rising ahead of us created a dramatic contrast to the dark forest below. We stopped for a few minutes in the shadow of a huge alpine fir, to rest and admire the view. From our vantage, we could see Treo Mountain framed between two large trees. Treo was the first trip that I did with Shannon and Colleen, and I’ll confess that I felt a tear in the corner of my eye over the sentiment. No wait, that was the sunscreen in my eye — it was hot!

hiking, mountaineering, Vancouver Island hiking, Mount Heber

I looked all around me for Mount Heber, but it was still out of view. We trusted a track set by a bear that had run down the hill the day before; his tracks led us up the easiest route, until we diverted to create switchbacks up a steep snow slope. The snow was in perfect condition for edging boots in, and when the slope became too much for switchbacks, I turned directly up and kicked steps to the upper ridge.

We crested the ridge and gave a shout of excitement over the amazing panoramic view. To the south, we could see the giants that populate the Elk River Valley and the ridgeline that marks the Cervus/Wolf divide (Filberg Range Traverse). To the north, we had a clear view of Victoria and Warden Peaks. On top of this, we could see our objective, Mount Heber, and the high point of the ridge which carries the unofficial name Kenite Peak.

The two peaks are less than a kilometre apart and the terrain between is mostly easy, just a small scramble to the summit of Heber from a notch. We hit up the higher, unnamed bump. On the summit of this bump (don’t be misled by the name Kenite Peak in Google Earth), we posed for pictures, admired the view, and ate some lunch. Phil, never satisfied to stand still, took off running across the broad snow-topped plateau to the opposite side. He was checking the height of a distant marker to make sure it wasn’t higher — it wasn’t. In time, we left the high point behind us and headed south, into a low saddle and up to the bump that sits below Mount Heber.

At the top of the bump, we only had to descend into the notch and then get up the snow slope to the top of Mount Heber. In the hot sun, the snow softened, causing us to sink easily with each step. It took very little effort to descend into the notch. Phil led the way. At the rocks, I used the adze of my mountaineering axe to clear the surface ice off the rock, making space for foot and hand placements. I used rocks, snow, and green belays to scramble up the route, and eventually reached the summit.

In my opinion, the view from Mount Heber offers the best view of the Elk River peaks. I’ve been told that it’s the only peak from which you can see all the others. Each stood tall, distinct from the other. The snowy features created a romanticized image of the mountains.

It was 1:30 pm when we started our descent. Wherever possible, we saved time by taking a direct route down steep snow slopes. Once we were back in the forest, we sought the easiest path down, and though we kept very close to our original route, I think it was a bit easier than the ascending route. Our only problem with the descent was the snow gully at the headwall; in the warm afternoon sun it was slippery, and as Phil stepped into it, the snow collapsed and sent him on a short, unexpected butt-slide.

We arrived back at the cars by 3:30 pm, much earlier than we originally anticipated. We had come ready for ten hours of hiking, but with the favorable conditions, we managed to make it much quicker.

As to the questions of aesthetic or athletic, my tastes tend toward the aesthetic, though my true goal is somewhat separate from either of these reasons. I don’t like to think of my Island Alpine Quest as simply peak-bagging, though it must appear that way to others. Whether it’s skunk cabbage blooming in a watercourse, a huge fungus growing on a log, or a snow-capped peak in the distance, I’ll enjoy them all. For now, I’m content to enjoy the aesthetic that comes in whatever place I visit. In the future, I may have more time to select my locations; for now, I’m content gathering data and visiting some of the most beautiful places on Vancouver Island. I’ll include Mount Heber among those places. And to answer Phil’s qustion, yes, it was worth the squeeze.

See the full album of images on

Page 2 of 5

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén