Winter 2018 took its sweet time arriving on Vancouver Island. Many Vancouver Islanders eagerly watched the forecast as they tuned their skis and took stock of their winter gear. I too anticipated a beautiful winter pursuing adventure in the white stuff. Yet, by late October we were still waiting for the first hints of snow to hit the alpine. Fortunately, in the seemingly endless wait between the hot summer and the white stuff, there was a lot of fantastic fall hiking.
On October 18th we had a fantastic day; ideal for the type of hiking we wanted to do in the Prince of Wales Range. I love hiking the peaks in this range. They offer easy access to what I’d call mostly-easy hiking–except for the bush. And on top of the quality of the hiking, the mountains, Roberts, H’Kusam, Springer, Stow, Milner, Kitchener, High Rigger, and Big Tree all offer stellar eastward views of the Johnstone Strait. Plus, if you have a clear day you get views of the Coast Ranges including Mount Waddington; while, to the west Victoria and Warden stand prominently on the horizon. The views are tough to beat (in my opinion only surpassed by the view from Tyee Mountain).
**apologies for the images; I forgot my camera at home and used my phone to document this trip.
Fall 2019 brought the full spectrum of weather. Through many weekends in September and into October, we trudged through dense, wet bush, and on October 13th and 14th, we were treated to a delightful sunny fall weekend. To celebrate the two days of uncharacteristically beautiful weather, I hiked first to Green Mountain with my kids, and then to Tsitika Mountain in the Franklin Range.
Before setting Tsitika Mountain as our objective, I had only heard of the mountain earlier this year, when I stood atop Mount Derby. At that time, I was just inside the Mount Derby Ecological Reserve, nursing some seriously wet feet, while trying to wait out the dense cloud mass that hung all around us. On October 14th, I was happy to take advantage of the dry, sunny weather and finally set eyes on Tsitika.
The drive along the logging road was quick considering the distance. The Tsitika Main parallels the river and penetrates deep into the Tsitika River valley. After crossing the river, the road becomes the Catherine Main and leads along the Catherine Creek. Eventually we diverted off the main road and followed the deactivated spur off Mudge Main to its terminus at 740 metres of elevation. After parking, I noted that we were only 250 metres from the Tsitika Mountain Ecological Reserve (poorly named as most of the mountain isn’t even in the reserve); nothing like logging right up to the edge!
Eden Mountain is a high point among a series of bumps that form an aesthetic ridge in the Genesis Range. Like many peaks in the region, it’s seldom summited, has little in the way of trip report beta, and is nestled among a series of twisting logging roads. The trip reports we found were nearly useless, because they report approaches from a now-inaccessible and well-overgrown logging road. On July 15th, just two days after returning from a week-long adventure on the North Coast Trail, I joined a group of six Island Mountain Ramblers on our first attempt to summit Eden Mountain from the terminus of the CC800 spur off Compton Creek Mainline (~910m).
We anticipated a quick trip, as the total elevation gain and horizontal distance promised to be low; just 1.5 kilometers from the car as the crow flies, and 800 meters elevation gain. We could even see the summit from the car, rising high above the logging slash, bluffs, and bush. Of course, I’ve played this game before and know full well that regardless of the metrics, simple trips can turn into day-long adventures that leave me scratched, bruised, dirty, and bitten. The trip to Eden Mountain was made long because of four long waits while we moved people through two tricky pieces of terrain.
Conuma Peak has been on my must-climb bucket list since I learned that it features a large arch in the side of the mountain–the largest on any of the mountains on the island. Conuma is the second peak in the Tlupana Range that I’ve climbed, and offers views of many of the larger peaks around it. This trip wasn’t the first time we put it on the schedule, but it’s the first time we put our feet on the ground at the mountain; each of our previous attempts was thwarted by rainstorms, snowstorms, or the enticement of more feasible trips. Our July 22 summit attempt featured blue skies with minimal haze, hot air, and a bounty of bugs that made us question our sanity.
Our research yielded route descriptions from a few successful summits of Conuma Peak, but each used a different approach. The one that appealed to us the most, the one we used, approaches from a spur off the H60 logging road that originates on the Head Bay Mainline, halfway between Tahsis and Gold River. From the end of the logging road, our route travelled up the east side of the ridge until it gains the south ridge, and then up to the main summit block. By my estimation, a successful summit of Conuma Peak has as much to do with the strength of your navigation abilities as it does your tolerance for the bushwhacking and bugs. From the map, it’s impossible to decipher the specific terrain; however, the title of my report reveals all the majesty that makes up the convoluted route to Conuma Peak.
Total Distance: 8.5 km
Starting Elevation: 563 m
Maximum Elevation: 1479 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1028 m
Total Time: 9 hours, 10 minutes
In the past three years, I’ve summited more than one hundred peaks on my list, and I’ve categorized them based on their type – which makes it easier to make recommendations to friends. When it comes to aesthetic ridge scrambles on Vancouver Island, Mount Abraham is among the best; for anyone interested in easy scrambles, I recommend giving this mountain a try.
On June 3rd we were turned back on our attempt to summit Mount Abraham because of poor visibility, weather, and a misunderstanding of the route description (read more here). But on June 10th, we came ready with a better understanding of the route and a burning desire to outrun the impending weather due in the afternoon.
Total Distance: 11.6 km
Starting Elevation: 784 m
Maximum Elevation: 1702 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1103 m
Total Time: 6 hours, 30 minutes
It’s great having a regular group of friends to hike with. From week to week, the members of the group may change, but each person comes to be someone on whom I can rely. It’s more important that they are consistent and always improving than that they are the best at any given task. When the bush gets thick or the slopes get slick, looking over and seeing someone else suffering alongside me, or seeing them surmount a problem, inspires me to keep going. Of course, sometimes it’s the group that makes the tough choice to turn around, as we did on our June 3rd excursion to Mount Abraham.
Yes, another adventure in the Genesis Range. Mount Abraham was the goal, and we arrived expecting a gruelling day of fighting bush, fording rivers, and grunting up steep slopes through blueberry, willow, and huckleberry. We were only half right.
Another May long weekend has come and gone, and with it another “first of the summer” camping trip. I don’t put much stock into the idea of the shoulder season — it’s a myth made up by The Man — but this trip felt more like a summer getaway than any other of the season, except for the rain, fog, and snow up to our knees. But thank goodness that the shoulder season is over, right?
The trip started with a hoot an’ a holler. We anticipated a longish slog along a deactivated logging road, more of an alder farm complete with cross-ditches, but today we found that the former jungle has been replaced by a new logging road. We cheered the removal of this most dreaded obstacle, the one that would take the most amount of effort with the least amount of reward. Driving to the end of the logging road allowed us to park just meters from the old-growth, and probably saved us a few hours of travel in each direction. What a boon! We grabbed our gear and headed up into the dense West Coast forest.
Total Distance: 33 km
Starting Elevation: 844 meters
Maximum Elevation: 1645 meters
Total Elevation Gain: 3155 metres
Back in September 2016, I was one of a group that failed to summit Mount Sarai in the Genesis Range. On that trip, we routed up a steep slope to the end of the west ridge in the hopes of following it to the summit. Unfortunately, we discovered a piece of not-so-micro terrain that didn’t make it onto the map – a not insignificant bluff- that stopped our summit attempt. On that day, from our highest vantage point on the end of the ridge, we looked down into the valley and spotted a route up a gully that we believed would provide access to the summit of Mount Sarai. But it wasn’t until May 6th, 2018, a week after our successful summit of Mount Adam, that we gathered ourselves for a spring summit of Mount Sarai.
Total Distance: 8.4 km
Starting Elevation: 812 m
Maximum Elevation: 1670 m
Total Elevation Gain: 960 m
Total Time: 6h 20 m
Located in the Genesis Range on the northeast edge of Schoen Lake Provincial Park, Genesis Mountain is far from a well-known mountain. It’s out of the way, and surrounded by more impressive objectives, but if your mountaineering interests include easy rambles along alpine ridges, then add Genesis Mountain to your bucket list of Vancouver Island hiking destinations.
After a stellar early-season snowshoe up Mount Romeo, we had high hopes for another early-season snowshoe trip. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the start of our route, we were surprised to discover that the accumulated snow from just two weeks prior had melted — that’s a lot of melt! On the plus side, we parked at the highest point of the road (~1200m).
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