Island Mountain Ramblers

Hiking/ Climbing / Mountaineering / Exploring Vancouver Island since 1958

Category: mountaineering (Page 2 of 3)

Meares Island : Lone Cone & Big Tree Trail

Read the full report on Matthewès blog

To early European explorers, the western edge of North America must have been an overwhelming place to visit. We humans navigate by landmarks, known places with names; explorers applied names to many places, making them easier to identify on maps. At some point, it must have been really overwhelming to provide names to so many different places, or perhaps they lacked the creativity to do so; thus, we ended up with names like Elkhorn South Mountain. The name itself isn’t an issue, except that Elkhorn South is immediately south of the much grander Elkhorn Mountain, and shouldn’t be confused with the south peak of Elkhorn Mountain, which is completely different. Even the name Vancouver Island has caused issues for travelers who mistake the location of either the island, or the city of Vancouver. But this post isn’t about Vancouver Island’s haphazard naming structures – it’s about Meares Island.

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Mount Spencer: Revenge on the Mountain

–Submitted by Matthew Lettington: read the full report on his blog

Back in early November, I led a group of Island Mountain Ramblers on a memorable snowshoe trip to summit Mount Spencer. It was the most challenging snowshoe trip of the season: a gruelling 12-hour slog, hiking over 21 kilometres through the worst type of snow, and we were benighted on our way back to the vehicles. It was a grind, to say the least. But, the biggest sting of the trip? We didn’t even summit! We were only a few hundred metres from the summit, though at the time, it looked like we were another hour away. When I returned from that trip, the first thing I did was reschedule the hike. This is the trip report for that second attempt: the revenge on Mount Spencer.

Mount Spencer GPS track & map

Mount Spencer GPS track & mapTotal Distance: 10.8 km
Starting Elevation: 822 m
Maximum Elevation: 1460 m
Total Elevation Gain: 907 m
Total Time: 6h 30 m


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Mount Abel: A Great Spring Snowshoe in the Sutton Range

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

The Sutton Range holds a good number of peaks that I’ve included my Island Alpine Quest, including our goal for the day: Mount Abel. The names of the peaks and valleys follow a pattern – Mount Cain, Mount Abel, Mount Adam, Adam River, Eve River, and so on – that have some people referring to that portion of the range as the Genesis Range. Mount Abel, like most mountains, has both an easy or a difficult approach. The west aspect is a dramatic rock wall, but from the southeast there is a good variety of easy mountaineering options.

We parked a short distance down a logging spur, just off Adam Road (~850 m). Only the week prior, the snow was piled at least forty-five centimetres high on the place we were now parked. That’s a lot of snow melt in seven days! Seeing how fast the snow is melting brought a smile to my face, as it’s a sure sign of summer ahead. At the same time, I groaned a little, knowing that we would be trekking through some sloppy conditions.



Total Distance: 9.9 km
Starting Elevation: 886 m
Maximum Elevation: 1819m
Total Elevation Gain: 943 m
Total Time: 6 hours

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A winter route up Big Den turns unseasonably warm

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, read it on his blog

This year, winter on the West Coast has been full of surprises, though this may only have been noticed by those who venture outdoors. Winter keeps serving up a huge variety of weather! We’ve seen temperatures at sea level that dip below negative ten for so long that lakes in Nanaimo have frozen hard enough to walk on, snow piled up on the roadside and yards for more than a month, blizzards in the mountains, and now, temperatures in the high alpine that are reaching into the low teens. On our February 13th adventure up Big Den Mountain, the unseasonably warm conditions forced us to turn back.

Total Distance: 8.7 km
Starting Elevation: 109 m
Maximum Elevation: 1470 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1377 m
Total Time: 7h 15 m



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Mt Cain — The Long Way Around

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, Read the report on his blog

Being focused on an objective is a great way to track progress and remember to celebrate when you achieve a goal. But sometimes, I get so focused on the objective that I forget about everything that goes into making the day a success. On January 22nd, I had a good reminder that getting to the destination can be half the fun.

I’m usually the driver for our adventures. Behind the wheel, I’m focused on the moment: making sure I don’t fall asleep, leave us sideways on a patch of ice, or take the wrong road. I try to take in as much as I can, but I often let the landscape slide past me without paying it much mind. On January 22nd, I was a passenger — Oh, the sweet passenger life! I scrunched myself into the backseat, propped my head against the window, and watched the landscape roll by. I took it all in – well, at least the right side of the highway. We were on our way to … well, I don’t even remember where. I recall that our destination was past Gold River — a long drive, for sure! But where we were headed isn’t important, because we didn’t get there. In fact, we rerouted several times and ended up far from our original destination.

Mt Cain Snowshoe in the Dream Chute

Mt Cain parking area, Genesis Range

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Mt Grey, another in a growing list of failed summit attempts

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

Mount Grey is a lovely hike through old-growth alpine fir and along a treed alpine ridge, up to a summit that offers great views of the Alberni Inlet. My Mount Grey trip had two portions of adventure: the cold from an arctic outflow, and the ride home.

On January 8th, I joined a group of six Island Mountain Ramblers on a trip up Mount Grey. Our original trip plan was Mount Adam, but we were concerned about avalanche and difficulty ascending the two incredibly steep slopes on the route. Our failed trip up Mount Derby and Mount Peel had given us first-hand knowledge of the region’s conditions, and currently, the avalanche conditions were rated considerable. It was a smart choice to change our plans, and I was happy to be attempt Mount Grey. We had high hopes that the conditions would be stable, due to lower elevation and proximity to the Alberni Inlet.

Mount Grey GPS Route and Map


Total Distance: 9 km
Starting Elevation: 434 m
Maximum Elevation: 1337 m
Total Elevation Gain: 894 m
Total Time: 6 h 45 m

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Katzenjammer Light

–submitted by Ken Warren

New Years morning was cold, breezy and clearing when four Ramblers set out in the snow from Witchcraft Lake to Mt Benson. There was one truck in the parking lot before us and a single hiker ahead of us.  Trail conditions were fair with around 6cm of fresh snow softening up the ice slick of the well used track. We made good time to the halfway point with a short off trail ramble to mix things up.

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Mount Spencer: The Great Congo Line of December 2016

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, see more images on his blog

I’ll cut to the chase– we didn’t make the summit of Mount Spencer. Of course, as with most of my stories, the devil’s in the details.

On December 18th, Vancouver Island was deep in a colder-than-normal shoulder season. The day held a forecast for overcast skies and precipitation. Further, the Mount Spencer trip was scheduled on a day with only 8 hours of daylight, almost the shortest day of the year.

The cold month had brought snow low down on the mountains, and covered the logging roads in snow. From a hiking perspective, with our approach routes covered in snow, we wouldn’t be able to drive very far — meaning that our Mount Spencer hike was double the normal distance.

snowshoeing, vancouver island, explorington, matthew lettington, hiking, mountaineering, Mt Spencer, Alberni Valley

Mount Spencer map and GPS route


Total Distance: 20.6 km
Starting Elevation: 388 m
Maximum Elevation: 1430 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1414 m
Total Time: 11 h


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Mount Ashwood & Bonanza Peak

–submitted by Matthew Lettington from his blog:

Each summer I look forward to one of two longer multi-day trips, mountaineering through Vancouver Island’s back backcountry. I set the time aside and plan most of my summer around these trips. They become the focus of the summer. This summer we planned a 7-day trek through Strathcona Park, along the Wolfe/Cervus Divide. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans.
As the day of departure came, the long range weather forecast looked bleak: three days of heavy rain. It’s not the rain that doused our trip plans, we’ve hiked and camped in many a deluge. However, along with the rain the forecast predicted multiple days of lighting! Instead, we traveled farther north, to avoid the inclement weather, and used the days to do some climbing in the Bonanza Range. This report is for the first day Mount Ashwood and Bonanza Peak!

Mount Ashwood and Bonanza Map and GPS Route

Mount Ashwood and Bonanza Map and GPS Route


Total Distance:10.9 km
Starting Elevation: 690 m
Maximum Elevation: 1746 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1488 m
Total Time: 11 hours




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Marmot Mountain

— Submitted by Matthew Lettington, read the report on his blog

As I write this, I’m drinking a hot chocolate to warm my belly and ease the dull ache of dissatisfaction that’s buzzing in the back of my head. Today, we took a shot at Mount Marmot. Unfortunately, the steep slopes and powdery snow proved too much for the short time we had.

It was already 6:00 am when the fourteen of us met at Harewood Mall. By the time we drove the long road to Nanaimo Lakes, the gates were open; since there was no attendant, we were able to drive right through. Our destination is deep in the heart of the Sadie Creek Valley, along a road familiar to me. We tried to climb this route last winter, but at that time a creek was flowing so fast that we couldn’t hop over it. Today, we discovered active logging in the area, and a new bridge constructed across that creek. With the new bridge, we were able to drive farther into the valley, making the hike several kilometres shorter.

Marmot Mountain Map and GPS Route

Marmot Mountain Map and GPS Route


Total Distance: 7.5 km
Starting Elevation: 419 m
Maximum Elevation: 1209 m
Total Elevation Gain: 786 m
Total Time: 6h 45 m



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