Every once in a while, one of my adventures doesn’t live up to my expectations (ahem, West Coast Trail). Be it an error in planning and predicting terrain, or environmental conditions, sometimes a trip is either much easier or much more difficult than anticipated. In our planning for Mount Adam, we anticipated that we’d be anxiously gritting our teeth as we hung on for dear life and dragging aching legs by the end of the day. But on April 29th, we summited rather quickly, and avoided the teeth-grinding, mostly.
I overestimated the difficulty of this trip based on two factors, the first of which was poorly predicting the elevation of the snowline. The second and most significant factor relates to a prior trip to Mount Schoen, a mountain located on the same ridge. On that trip, we accessed the connecting ridge between Adam and Schoen via a steep, long (>1000 metre elevation) scree slope. It was an experience that ended a pair of Phil’s much-loved shoes and scared us, and even two years later — more than 80 mountains — we still frequently reference the experience. That slope has become a benchmark of sorts when comparing terrain on all our trips.
Total Distance: 5.6 km
Starting Elevation: 861 m
Maximum Elevation: 1727 m
Total Elevation Gain: 871 m
Total Time: 5 hours
On March 25th, three Island Mountain Ramblers braved a poor forecast and made an early spring summit of Mount Flannigan. The three met at the Hydro Project at 7:15 am, found luck with the hydro gate being open, and drove nearly 20 km down the logging road where they finally parked at ~550m. Using a route that climbed through steep slash and beautiful old growth ridge, the three made their summit and then head off to the highpoint on the ridge.
If you’re like me and love hiking the alpine of Vancouver Island, then I recommend you make time for a trip to Tyee Mountain. Despite its form only rising to a height of 1670 metres, it offers views of the Salmon River to the east and the Gold River valley on the west. Even better are the views of the surrounding ridges and peaks, including at least five of the tallest peaks on Vancouver Island. There’s just one problem: getting to it.
Most people mark the passage of time by annual events in their lives like birthdays, holidays, the New Year, and so on. Since I’ve started my Island Alpine Quest, I’ve started marking the march into Spring by how early I leave home on Sunday morning. During the winter, my departure from home is timed so that we arrive at the trailhead when the sun is rising, allowing us to maximize the daylight hours for hiking. As Spring emerges, the long winter nights erode, and the days get longer, we start to plan longer, more challenging routes. This means that in order to reach the trailhead at dawn, we find ourselves leaving home earlier and earlier; by mid-April, it’s not uncommon for us to leave Nanaimo at 4:00 am and do most of our driving in the dark. This was certainly the case for my March 22, 2018 trip to Big Baldy Mountain.
Big Baldy Mountain is a broad, treeless summit west of Gold River. In fact, from the summit, you can clearly see this shrinking west coast town. It’s not the most challenging or aesthetic mountain on the island, and it doesn’t offer amazing views, so it’s no surprise that most mountaineers won’t make it here. Instead, they are lured in by the more dramatic peaks of Strathcona Park; you have to drive many of them on your way to Gold River. It’s also overlooked as a destination because while the ridge is easy to access, getting to the summit takes some route-finding skills that will challenge those more interested in an easy trail walk.
Even for those that will add Big Baldy Mountain to their list of destinations, snowshoeing to the summit like we did will be an even less popular choice. But for anyone who does, they will revel in the forested west ridge, snow-covered mountaintop, peekaboo views of the west coast, and one of the finest butt-sliding opportunities on the island.
Distance: 19 km
Starting Elevation: 500m
Maximum Elevation: 1450 m
Elevation Gain: 1750 m
Time: 9 h
Getting up at 3:00 am isn’t my favourite way to spend a Sunday, but I do it week after week. I head outside, driven by my Island Alpine Quest, the goal of summiting more than 250 peaks. In doing so, I find myself hiking in some seldom-visited locations on Vancouver Island. Why do I do it? I’m the type of person who needs a goal to stay interested. There are factors that help smooth the rough early morning starts, like those fleeting moments of looking through old-growth forest or picking my way along a craggy ridge. But occasionally, the quest takes me to a place that I’ll never return – one worth skipping. Strata Mountain is in this category.
It’s not that the mountain is out of the way; after all, it’s in the heart of one of the most popular regions of Strathcona Park. And it’s not that it doesn’t have anything to offer; the high ridge tops out over 1400 metres, with an easy walking alpine ridge that has great views of many nearby peaks, including Mount Albert-Edward and Mount Adrian. But because the area is overused, and because there are many other nearby peaks that offer a more dramatic and aesthetic ascent, it’s just not worth the effort – except maybe as a side trip.
Nevertheless, it’s on the list, and Strata Mountain demanded my attention. On March 4th, 2018, I led a group of six Island Mountain Ramblers on a winter trip to the summit of Strata Mountain. It was a near-perfect day for the long trip across Forbidden Plateau, with clear skies that persisted through the morning, and a well-packed boot track that allowed for a quicker-than-normal pace.
–submitted by Adrian Houle
— photographs submitted by Carmen Zitek
February 10th, 2018:
Four members of the Island Mountain Ramblers headed out on a winter camping trip to Lake Helen Mackenzie. The goal of the trip was to gain experience camping in sub-zero temperatures. And sub-zero temperatures we had!
As parents, my wife Kim and I fall into all-too-familiar parent-child relationships with Hemingway and Octavia. My behaviour exemplifies the old platitude: When you love your kids, you want the best for them. You’ll go out of your way to make sure their lives are better than how you perceived your own to be. I take my children on backcountry adventures to give them formative experiences at a young age, experiences I don’t remember having when I was their age. Of course, believing that these adventures are making their lives better is a romantic notion; I wonder if Hemingway feels the same way. Continue reading “A family snowshoe loop: Featuring another family!”
You’re four-and-a-half years old now–time sure flies. I made only two resolutions for 2018, and the first and most important one was to get my whole family out on a mountain adventure (Paradise Meadows doesn’t count). You’ve been my adventure companion on many trips, but it wasn’t until our January 6th trip that we summited our first mountain together: Mount Elma. It was a lot of work, but well worth the effort to see your smile when we crested the hill and walked out onto Mount Elma’s summit plateau.
Total Distance: 12 km
Starting Elevation: 166m
Maximum Elevation: 1418 m
Total Elevation Gain: 446 m
Total Time: 5h 30m
You’re a natural outdoorswoman! It was back on December 16th, 2017 that we finally got you out on your first snowshoe trip. I hosted a family/beginner snowshoe trip with the Island Mountain Ramblers as a way to get the whole family outdoors together. You were already 14 months old at the time — a whole year older than your brother’s first time! I’m sorry we waited so long to get you into a backpack and out in the snow! We tried to make it happen last winter, but between your age and the weather, we just couldn’t find a day that worked.
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