Island Mountain Ramblers

Hiking/ Climbing / Mountaineering / Exploring Vancouver Island since 1958

Category: Matthew Lettington (Page 1 of 3)

Westwood Ridges – Ridge Ramble

~ submitted by Matthew Lettington

June 2, 2018

Our Westwood Ridges Ridge Ramble was hiked under mixed skies. The five adults and two children took our time exploring the picnic shelter, memorial garden and picking our way through the salal to the upper ridge.

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Peak 5800: An Attainable Obscure Peak

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

Without a doubt, the shoulder season is one of my favourite seasons for hiking! The cool air makes steep climbs tolerable, and when the sun makes an appearance, it usually brings just enough warmth to chase the chill away, but not enough to dehydrate us. The cooler temperatures mean I’m not dying of thirst, looking for the next trickle of water to drink from; instead, there’s plenty of water trickling downstream and filling alpine tarns, getting ready for winter ice. Finally, the cool air brings a great fall aesthetic. I’m not talking about thick-knit wool sweaters or fashionable scarves; I mean the greens of early summer, now retiring to a full spectrum of fall alpine colours. A personal favourite is seeing how the alpine blueberries transform, their leaves showing deep red, orange, and even purple hues!

GPS Route and Map to Peak 5800

GPS Route and Map to Peak 5800


Total Distance: 5.8 Km
Starting Elevation: 906 m
Maximum Elevation: 1763 m
Total Elevation Gain: 860 m
Total Time: 5 hours



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Horseshoe Mountain: The Journey is the Destination

-submitted by Matthew Lettington: Read the original post on his blog

Everyone has a favourite hike. For some, that hike may be a well-travelled location, such as the Cape Scott Trail, or a route past Lake Helen Mackenzie. For others, favourite routes are more private, with information held close by those in-the-know; secret spots where not many people venture. Assuredly, Horseshoe Mountain belongs in the second category, as one of Vancouver Island’s best-kept secrets.

Horseshoe Mountain has views to rival many of the better-known routes. With easy Class 2 hiking through old-growth forest, and a final approach along a broad, high-elevation alpine ridge to the 1742-metre summit, it’s surprising that Horseshoe Mountain isn’t more well-known. The reason is simple, and the title of this post alludes to it: accessing the trailhead is a pain in the rump!


Horizontal Distance 5.8 km
Starting Elevation 1230 m
Maximum Elevation 1742 m
Total Elevation Gain 642 m
Total Time: 3h 45m

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Comox Glacier: A Great Day Hike

Don’t let what you see on the Island Highway fool you: beyond the trees that border the highway, Vancouver Island is densely populated with hundreds of peaks that reach over 1000 metres of elevation. If you follow my blog, you know that I have the lofty goal of summiting every peak (some 292 of them) described in Philip Stone’s Island Alpine. This goal will keep me busy in the backcountry for years to come!

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Sunshine Coast Trail – August 19-21, 2016 -an Island Mountain Ramblers’ Outing

The view from Fairview Bay

The Sunshine Coast sure lived up to its name. Sun! Sun! Sun! And what a trail! Well-signed, scenic, and with wonderful facilities – huts, outhouses, and tables. And surprisingly not crowded.

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Elkhorn & Elkhorn South: Learning about Leadership

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

At the end of July, I led a group of five Island Mountain Ramblers on a mountaineering adventure to summit Elkhorn Mountain and Elkhorn South Mountain, both in Strathcona Park. I was excited to lead this trip for my club mates, a reprisal of a similar trip I did last year with another friend.

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Climbing Triple Peak: A Little Peak with a Big Mountain Feel

When I think back on my numerous mountaineering adventures, Triple Peak stands out as a favourite among them. The approach is as beautiful as the alpine; it ascends beside a waterfall, and up to the large lake that sits in the bowl below the ridge. The lake alone is worth the trip, and many people make the hike simply to lie on the rocks and bathe in the water; however, it’s what’s beyond the lake that interests me. I seek opportunities to scramble over good quality rock, strap on some crampons, and ascend steep snow slopes on my way to Triple Peak’s aesthetic summit block. From there, different routes offer chances to place protection and climb to the summit.

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Idsardi Mountain: A Thirst for Mountaineering

Vancouver Island’s backcountry is riddled with a maze of logging roads that penetrate deep into secret valleys and grant access to its hidden peaks. Although I bemoan the logging of old-growth areas, I take these roads for granted. Without these roads, I would have many long, bushy approaches which would add days onto each one of my adventures. Because I can use the roads to access peaks that are tucked in behind other mountains, I seldom cross over one mountain to get to the next. However, I did exactly that on July 26th when Rod and I hiked to Idsardi Mountain in Strathcona Park.

Idsardi Mountain is nestled between Crest Mountain and Big Den Mountain, and can be accessed by climbing over either mountain. Although the routes are fairly easy to hike, each route has significant distances and elevation gain/loss. This fact accounts for why Idsardi is usually done as a traverse of all three peaks, not a day hike. It’s also the reason the peak was still on my Island Alpine Quest to-do list.

GPS Route and Map

View the route and see where I took my photographs.

GPS Route

view the topographical map, annotated with photographs. Download available.

Click Me!

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    Horizontal Distance 28 km

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    Starting Elevation 308 m

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    Maximum Elevation 1667 m

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    Total Elevation Gain 2334 m

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    Total Time: 11h 30m

On Monday night, Rod messaged me with his plan to do Idsardi Mountain as a solo trip the following day. I invited myself along to take advantage the great forecast. Honestly, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Although I hiked Crest Mountain this past winter, I didn’t visualize the route to Idsardi well; in my mind, I saw a peak just off the summit of Crest Mountain—just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

I was keen to get going when we met outside Rod’s home at 4:00 am. The early start ensured we had enough light for the trip, and let us gain the majority of the elevation before the hottest part of the day. The plan worked, and we stood on the summit of Crest Mountain (~1554m) by 10:00 am. As we ate our snack in the hot sun, smacking the mosquitos feasting on us, we examined our maps and the terrain ahead. It looked simple enough: just 350 metres of elevation loss and 400 metres to gain, all through pleasant open terrain.

The route up to Crest Mountain is well booted.

We headed off the north end of Crest Mountain, descending through large fir trees and heathered slopes. As the scent of the flowering heather wafted through the warm air, it triggered memories of past trips. I associate the scent with a parched throat, and as if obeying some Pavlovian cue, my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. Although I carried 1.5 litres with me, I sipped it sparingly, wanting it to last. All the same, I was delighted to descend the long slope after the steep climb of Crest Mountain.

The terrain is easy to navigate, but requires some route-finding skill. Before reaching the saddle between Crest and Idsardi, we dropped off the east side of the ridge below the saddle to avoid some bluffs. It was pleasant to walk in the shade of the big trees—almost worth the light bush we had to work through.

To say we quickly ascended from the saddle to Idsardi would be a lie. We walked the easy route uninhibited, but by the time we’d done half our elevation gain, our water bottles were empty. As we ascended, we searched widely for water, but found only a small trickle coming off the last pile of snow remaining on the south side of Idsardi. It wasn’t enough to fill a bottle, but it wetted our whistles while we ate our lunch on the cairnless summit.

Just one example of the peaceful landscape on our route to Idsardi Mountain.
For those considering a route over Idsardi to the Valley below, here is your option! Watch the first step --it's a doozy!

After the longer-than-it-should-have-been climb, I was grateful to sit on the hot slabs on Idsardi’s summit and admire the views. I looked west toward the Elk River Valley, inspecting the mountains for my upcoming trip to Elkhorn Mountain and Elkhorn South Mountain, noting that they still had enough snow on them to provide drinking water at our camping locations. Thanks to the clear day, we could also see the potential route to Big Den; that adventure would wait for another day.

From Idsardi Mountain we looked across to Big Den Mountain.

The pleasure of sitting was tempered by the only sour note of the day: the relentless bugs —a continuing theme for the summer, I know! The light breeze should have cooled us as we sat under the hot sun, but I couldn’t feel it, because I wore my rain jacket as mosquito armour. Despite the bugs, we stayed at the summit and enjoyed the hard-earned views for a long time. I wasn’t eager to head back; we had more elevation to gain when we regained Crest Mountain, before wending our way down the steep switchbacks to the car.

Rod walking the end of the mountain toward Idsardi's summit.
King's Peak as viewed from the summit of Idsardi Mountain.

On our return, we took every opportunity to cut angles and reduce elevation gain. As we worked our way through the saddle between the two peaks, I slipped on a buckskin log. I don’t remember the fall, but I do remember seeing my feet above my head, worrying about crashing into Rod, and grunting as I smashed my tailbone down on the log. Don’t worry though, when I rolled off the two-foot-high log my face broke my fall…on a rock! Well, almost; fortunately, I crashed down with my forearms on either side of the protruding rock, which only grazed my chin. However, my tailbone was on fire!

Regaining my feet, I could feel a deep bruise forming on my glute and tailbone. I don’t feel like it slowed me down, but I’m sure it must have. As we continued, we cut to the east of Crest Mountain’s summit to avoid unneeded elevation gain. Traversing below had its benefits: we found a strong trickle of fresh snowmelt running between two large boulders. We each filled our bottles multiple times before hiking the final stretch back to Crest Mountain’s ridge and the festival of switchbacks down to the car.

Walking in the saddle between Idsardi Mountain and Crest Mountain. Looking back up Crest Mountain!

I had a great day out with Rod. As I reached the car, I was exhausted, and the data showed me why: we had covered a lot of ground, much more than I expected. In fact, it was more intense than a day trip to Mount Albert-Edward! We covered 28 km and 2334 metres of elevation gain in 11.5 hours. We were a bit slow, which I attribute to the hot day and my sore butt.

As we drove home, I felt the familiar stiffness developing in my legs, and my mind wandered to my upcoming trips. In the following few days, I had trips planned to Triple Peak, Elkhorn, and Elkhorn South. I was rushing home to rest for my hike the next day. I couldn’t help thinking, “Maybe I made a mistake – I’m going to be slow!”

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Matthew is an adventure blogger and photographer. He documents his adventures on His stories create a vivid backdrop to give his photographs cotext.
He finds his adventures with the Island Mountain Ramblers, and whenever possible, his family joins his adventures.

The post Idsardi Mountain: A Thirst for Mountaineering appeared first on Explorington.

Nootka Island Trail Backpack – July 9-13, 2016


Maquinna Point

But most of all, humbling.

Yes, the Nootka Island Trail is all of these.

Isolated because it is an island off the north-west coast of Vancouver Island, accessible only by boat or float plane.

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San Josef Bay to Lowrie Bay

Eden at Lowrie Bay 

An Island Mountain Ramblers’ Outing

The second San Jo beach on Friday morning, with rain threatening.


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