After watching the mountain forecast for Arrowsmith all week, we decided to move our trip up the Unjudges route to Sunday and take advantage of the partial sunshine forecast – haha. 5 of us met at Whiskey Creek and picked up a sixth at the Alberni summit hump. We dropped a car at the judges route and took 2 cars to the unjudges trailhead.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve summited Mt. Arrowsmith for the annual New Year’s Day expedition, but it must be at least 10. The first year I participated was in 2001, and I climbed it in my backcountry touring skiboots. They provided great support, but were heavy and of course cumbersome. But there was a lot of snow that year, right from the parking lot off Pass Main, and they were great for kicking steps.
Before leading this year’s climb I was apprenhensive:
after a 6-week trip to Mexico I wasn’t in the best of shape. Could I handle it?
of the 7 others in our group, I didn’t know 3. Would they all be okay?
there have been three accidents in recent years on this climb, and I fretted about the conditions. Would it be icy and treacherous?
Thankfully, though, my fears were unfounded. Everyone did just fine, and it was probably the easiest winter climb I’ve had up Arrowsmith with good snow conditions, for the most part.
The trail was bare of snow until we’d hiked up for about 1/2 hour.
We pushed the limits of a B rating on our sunny, December trip along Wesley Ridge. We had an excellent day on the ridge. The leisurely pace helped with this as it allowed for in-depth conversation on a diverse range of topics.
The most challenging effort of the day was gaining the ridge. To ease the transition from sitting to hiking, we took our sweet time. Once we gained the hill, we found ourselves first walking in hoar frost, and eventually the lightest dusting of fresh snow. Though the first highpoint was mired in a fog that obscured any meaningful view, it didn’t last long. By the time we were halfway along our route, the cloud dissipated and the sun shone down.
Though it remained cold throughout the day, we kept ourselves warm by maintaining a consistent though relaxed pace to cover the 1000 meters of elevation gain and 14.4km.
So did we make it in under 6 hours? No, we needed an extra 15 minutes. We might have made the 6 hours mark but for the blowdown along the ridgetop and missteps at the very beginning of the day. I heard no complaints over the smiles on people’s faces as we finished up this Ridge Ramble!
The six of us started at the Cathedral Grove parking lot. We followed the cabin road to the start of the trail, from there it is a steep hike up to the deteriorating railroad tracks. After a short wander along the tracks it was time for more uphill hiking until we reached the logging road followed by the last uphill section to the summit for lunch.
Even though all the weather forecasts predicted clearing around mid-day, it wasn’t until we were back at Cameron Lake that the sun broke through.
When we returned to our vehicles, what had been an empty parking lot was now full of noisy vehicles and people, a stark contrast to the peaceful hike we had just completed.
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.
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.
Sept 7 – Phil picked up 3 of us in Parksville Saturday morning at 7:15 – we jumped in with him and headed off to Sutton Pass and the logging road up to the trailhead. The logging road up was quite a trip in itself – apparently the logging company deactivating the road had gone relatively crazy with the waterbars in the last 2 years since Phil and Debbie had been up there. I got a lesson on what my Jeep may be capable of with a competent driver
Steamboat Mountain rises prominently on the north side of Highway Four; you may have spotted the prow, a feature on the east end of the summit ridge, on a drive to Tofino. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like up there, it’s incredible! It’s also a problem that took me a few years to work out.
The mountain screams for good weather approaches. This route, like many of the others off Highway Four, creeps through some of the densest biomass on earth. Buried in dark forest, the route is slimy when wet, and any semblance of a booted route can be obscured by low-hanging, water-laden branches. And here is where I hang my many failed, foolhardy summit bids: winter trips done in search of routes accessible off the highway, as the backroads were covered in snow. Of course, these early spring and late fall months are also the wettest, and short on daylight hours. In short, failed trips done in foul weather.
Total Distance: 15.4 km
Starting Elevation: 51 m
Maximum Elevation: 1469 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1538 m
Total Time: 13 hours, 10 minutes
I’m not a fair-weather hiker; in fact, I’m pretty stubborn. There are countless times when we’ve hiked despite a crappy forecast. Often, the poor weather never manifests, and instead we get something better; but more often, it’s worse. About the only time the weather stops us is when we are sitting high and dry in the vehicle at a trail head while a storm rages on outside. Then there are those unique hikes, the ones done on sunny days after an overnight downpour, when you end up with soaking clothing in hot weather. You chafe, your boots get waterlogged, and you feel wet, yet hot and uncomfortable at the same time.
Our trip to Hidden Peak (July 11th) was an example of uncooperative weather – that which changes for the worse when you need it most. Although we started our journey with the promise of good weather, it became much worse before we got to the good stuff.
Total Distance: 14.6 km
Starting Elevation: 276 m
Maximum Elevation: 1455 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1492 m
Total Time: 14 hours