On Saturday, October 28th, I led a group of 9 –including a
13-month-old—to the summit of Mount Apps. The sun may have been shining but
that did not offer much reprieve from the biting cold and bitter wind.
Mt Cokely sounded like an interesting destination. I had read about
the trip on the Island Mountain Ramblers page several weeks before, and
though at first it was fully booked, I managed to latch on when a few
people cancelled. The plan, for our group of ten, was to ascend the
Saddle Trail, scramble up to the ridge of Cokely, and then further on to
the summit. On the return trip, we’d return to the ridge, find the
Rosseau Trail, and return to the vehicles via that route. This would be
my first visit to the Mt Arrowsmith Biosphere Region, and I was looking
forward to the views!
The lightest of rains and low clouds followed us as we made our way
from Nanaimo on the Island Highway toward Highway 4. By the time we
passed through MacMillan Provincial Park (Cathedral Grove) and turned
onto Summit Main, the rain had begun to fade. Next came more logging
roads, as we followed Cameron Main and Pass Main to the trailhead high
above, at roughly 1000m in elevation.
That moment when you stand on the end of a cliff, a rope both ahead of you and dangling over the cliff, when you make the conscious decision to step over the edge is the hardest. If it’s your first time or the 100th time rappelling down a rock face, it’s a thrilling feeling.
I’m a prisoner to my work schedule, and my summer vacation kicks off in the final weekend of June. However, since meeting Phil, I’ve come to participate in an annual pre-summer trip known as the Birthday Hike. This annual prelude-to-summer trip has brought us to some of the best places on Vancouver Island.
For two days, starting June 22, 2019, we set our sights on the three peaks which rise high along the ridge, on the west side of the Elk River Trail. The ridge is among the best Island Alpine I’ve had the pleasure of hiking; its near-pristine nature is protected by the awful bushwhack of Butterwort Creek on one end and a gnarly few steps on the other. It’s the type of terrain that is only visited by the crazy few who would seek out these diminutive objectives over the many giants of the Elk River Valley.
Total Distance 28.6 km
Starting Elevation: 312 m
Maximum Elevation: 1826 m
Total Elevation Gain: 2421 m
The party of six Ramblers set off from the well marked parking area on Western Mine Road. From there the group started the trail that climbs and weaves its way into the alpine. The relatively gentle gradient that gains 1,100 meters to the ridge crests at kilometre 8. The trail is dispersed with a few rolling treed areas that offer some relief from the grade as well as an impressive view point over looking the Myra Falls mine site.
With clear skies, cool breeze, and warm –yet not scorching– weather we had high hopes of reaching the summit of The Cats Ear. We had intended to approach via Highway 4 but when we arrived at the head of the “road”, we had a good laugh at the dense bush and changed our plan.
Three of the five people on this hike had never participated in a club trip before. Kerry drove from Nanaimo, Dave (Mitch) and I from Qualicum Beach, Sarah drove from Tahsis via Campbell River to pick up Elliott.
We started trudging up the unpleasant remnants of the ski resort around 10:30 and after a few brief pauses arrived at the top at 12:30 where we had lunch.
It grew more overcast during the ascent and clouds obscured the views at the top. We were surprised by the number of folks on the trip, particularly those families with small children. Many dogs also.
Descending the resort caused a few butts to unexpectedly kiss the earth. Would I do the hike again? No, except possibly in winter on snowshoes– should we have a good snow year.