On Saturday, March 14, I led a small group on a snowshoe trip to Lake Helen Mackenzie. It was two families, me with my two children, and Jes with his son Trace. It was Hemingway’s first-time wearing snowshoes to walk, even though the conditions didn’t require it. We had very sunny conditions but cold air that kept the snow very dry and the sky clear.
Lucky or what? My fifth time snowshoeing in the last 2 months and each time the trees have been adorned with snow! Some years, you might never get that, as the snow melts off or is pelted off with untimely rains.
This time, we had snow on the trees right from the parking lot, and although the skies were clear when we set out at 9:45, cloud moved in, limiting our view from the summit.
The plan was to summit Mount Allan Brooks, but the weather had other ideas. On our start up the road to Raven Lodge, the snow on the road was so slippery that a long line of cars had formed not far from the lower chain up area—forget that noise! We detoured to Mount Becher, perhaps a bit far from our original destination, but the road was plowed and the snow just as fresh.
It was late January. I’d been signed up for a winter snowshoe ascent of Mt Becher with the Island Mountain Ramblers for a while, but the weather had not been easy to predict of late. In the end, it had to be postponed for a week, but with a forecast of light snow and afternoon clearing, the trip was a go for Groundhog Day. Well, I’m no meteorologist, but that sounded good to me. I’ve only seen that movie about twelve times by now!
As our trip leader John was later heard to say “In Saskatoon, you know, we never really worried about the groundhog seeing his shadow. Six more weeks of winter didn’t sound too bad at all!” But I digress, despite the torrential rains of the previous Friday, it was time for us to gear up and head for the hills!
There were seven of us altogether: Fearless leader John, Mo, Karen, Sylvie, Goody, and I left Nanaimo at 730 am. We met Kristy on the mountain a little later on. As we drove up Highway 19, the sun and skies put on a bit of show, once we got north of Qualicum. I remember musing that it might just be the best light of the day, and that there had to be a storm behind it. Sure enough, when we reached the turnoff to Piercy Road, it had begun to snow lightly, and by the time we’d parked near the site of the old Forbidden Lodge, it was snowing harder and the wind had picked up considerably.
Sitting on the south side of Zeballos Lake rises a seldom-summited peak of the same name. It suffers from the ignominious problem of being a neighbour to the far more glamorous peaks of the Haihte Range; with an elevation of only 1540 metres, it’s a problem that won’t be outgrown by this report.
On March 17, 2019, I joined Phil and Ramsay on a summit attempt of Zeballos Peak. We were in high spirits as we started our hike. The south-facing slopes of the mountain were clear of snow to the end of the road, allowing us the luxury of heading straight into the slash without the additional work of grunting up a steep logging road (450 m).
Total Distance: 6.8 km
Starting Elevation: 450 m
Maximum Elevation: 1380 m
Total Elevation Gain: 941 m
Total Time: 7 Hours
Five members met up at the Wood Mountain parking lot for a snowshoe to Mt Becher in the sunshine.
We departed at 9:45 am mostly following the summer route. There was only one other person on the trail whom we played leapfrog with up to the summit. We arrived at the summit around 12:30 pm where we experienced the rarity of no wind and clear views of the surrounding mountains all to ourselves.
After a short lunch break, we headed back along the same route, where we encountered several groups of people on snowshoes and backcountry skiers as well as their dogs. We arrived back to the vehicles at 3:00 pm.
We don’t often get a whole day together for just the two of us. Typically, the entire family goes on our adventures, or at the very least it’s you, Hemingway, and me. In fact, that was the original arrangement, for you both to come with me –and 12 of my closest Ramblers buddies– on our February 3rd summit of Mount Elma. But Hemingway decided to stay home for a swim lesson and his first overnight camping trip away from home, leaving the whole day for just us–our first time!
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.