Sutton Peak is one of Vancouver Island’s illustrious 6000 footers. It’s a destination that I frequently poke Phil about doing; since he first summited – without me—back in 2016. Aside from its height, this route’s sparkling feature is the long west ridge that leads mountaineers to seek this summit.
No GPS Track Available
Total Distance: 15 km Starting Elevation: 1094 m Maximum Elevation: 1870 m Total Elevation Gain: 1511 m Total Duration: 8 h 30 min
We did it! We finally summited Mook Peak! Sure, it may have taken seven scheduled attempts, but we only set foot on the mountain twice. So often it appeared on the schedule, that it became a running joke between my hiking buddies and I. However, it was on the second attempt that we reached the summit.
Our late September trip to Pinder Peak was fantastic! The combination of a dry, cool day on a snow-free route filled with plenty of alpine berries reminded me why I (sometimes) love fall hiking! This trip was very different from my first trip to Pinder Peak.
If you’ve ever driven along by Atluk Lake, you’ve probably spotted the Pinder massif out your window. It rises from the wooded shores of the lake as a rocky tower that begs the mountaineer to climb it. The summit massif is marked by two prominent features, either of which is a worthy objective, though the subpeak is probably more of a challenge.
Total Distance: 14.0 km
Starting Elevation: 360 m
Maximum Elevation: 1550 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1223 m
Total Time: 7 hours
After a comfortable night camping at the Sayward municipal campground, seven of us gathered at Bill’s Trail head at the base of mount H’kusam.
The weather was overcast with the cloud rising up to give us occasional views then dropping into the tree tops. The ascent was unremarkable except for the unrelenting climb. Trail conditions were very good.
We made it to the col in just under four hours and four of us dropped down to look for the route to the summit. Despite the best effort of eight eyes we could neither find the upper route nor the lower route. We returned to the col and clambered around the rocks for some nice views.
We returned the way we came, which made for a difficult descent. When I do this hike again I will do a car shuttle so we can descend the same way as the racers do. It was a very good day with excellent company. Thanks.
On Saturday, July 20th five hikers set off on their first trip to Cape Scott. After meeting up at the North Coast Trail Backpackers Hostel in Port Hardy, we went for dinner and checked out the local Filomi Festival.
Sunday morning, we arrived at the trailhead, eager to get started after 1 hr 45 min on the logging road. We followed the well used trail past the Eric Lake campsite, over the new bridge at Fisherman River, and past the junction to Nels Bight before arriving at Nissen Bight 5 hours later, our home for the next two nights. After setting up camp, we headed to the water source at the opposite end of the beach. No whales were spotted, but we did see a large black bear happily grazing on the grasses above the beach. We arrived back at camp ready to relax and enjoy dinner, and were treated to a beautiful sunset that evening.
Like many people, I consider May Long Weekend the kick-off to summer. The extra day tagged onto the weekend makes trips further afield possible, and the lengthening days and few extra degrees mean that many people are looking for their first overnight trips of the season. This year, we planned a return to the Port Alice area to finish off the few peaks remaining on our list: Mount Pickering and Carter Peak.
Early Saturday morning, after picking up Phil and Shannon, we began our long trip north along the Island Highway, to our destination behind Port Alice. Nearly five hours later, we parked at the end of a deactivated and overgrown logging road, high above the north side of Teeta Creek (~550m). After some conversation and checking the day’s forecast, we selected Carter Peak as the first objective. We expected this route to be the bushier of our two goals, and we welcomed the best weather in hopes of keeping dry and making any terrain challenges a little easier.
Total Distance: 20 km
Starting Elevation 560 m
Maximum Elevation 1115 m
Total Elevation Gain 1350 m
Total Time 9h 30 m
From where we parked the Jeep, we walked the old road to a saddle between Carter Peak and Mount Pickering (~700m). We were looking for the final spur that would deposit us on Carter Peak’s north ridge; it was so overgrown that at first we passed it, and had to double back. Once we located it, we stood to scratch our heads. The alder towered over our heads, and we couldn’t see more than 15 feet into the bush. For a brief minute, we considered bushwhacking through the re-growing evergreens over trying to use the old road–insanity!
Burning that idea, we pushed on through the bush. As dense as the bush was, it was still young enough that we could weave between the trees or force our way through the branches with relative ease. Sure, at times we didn’t know if we were still on the road, but when we finally broke onto the end of the road, we were standing just thirty metres from the old-growth with only one obstacle between us. Crouching and crawling to duck under the thicket of desiccated salmonberry stalks, we forced our way along a path suitable only for small mammals.
Once we were inside the forest, we quickly followed the height of the land, straight up the ridge. Once in the old-growth, we noted that most of the salal and at least half the blueberry were dead or dying, but the azalea and the low-hanging branches from the evergreens left plenty of bush for us to push through. ‘Straight up the ridge’ is only a turn of phrase; the forest meant that we meandered –twisted, really– up the ridge to Carter Peak.
At times we were on the left of the crest, other times on the right, but we had minimal difficulties finding a route. The most challenging part required us to scramble up a rocky headwall and thread between a rock and the exposed roots of a tree overhanging the path. Shannon had a few moments of excitement here as a rock dislodged below her and she earned a few scrapes on her arms, and tears in her shirt (~1000 m we did find a different route down, no coming This direction).
Above the headwall, we found our first patch of consolidated snow, which made the walking a bit quicker. Within thirty minutes we had gained the elevation to the unremarkable summit (1115 m). We anticipated some excellent views into Brooks Peninsula; unfortunately, the summit is partially treed, and we didn’t get much more than a peekaboo view.
On the route down we avoided the rocky headwall. If you read my blog, you’ll know that I often use gullies to get up and down mountains; well, guess what we found? A gully, a ravine, or a seasonal watercourse –whatever you call it, we followed it down. An inconsequential trickle of water flowed down the centre, but there was little bush to contend with. Around 800 metres, where the gully turns east, we hopped up the embankment and used green belays to help us up to the ridge, where we eventually re-joined our original route.
Back where we first gained the ridge, we took a gamble. Rather than use the road on the top of the ridge (our approach route), we decided to give a lower road a chance. Even the hope of a slightly easier course was enough of an enticement to draw us away from the assured route back to the logging road.
We bushwhacked down the re-growing forest, linking up with old game trails and watercourses, but still leaning heavily into dense evergreens to the road below. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as clear as it looked when viewed from above, but it was far better than our approach route. It didn’t take long before we were all back on the open road, enjoying a sit-down lunch.
Carter Peak had been significantly more relaxed than we anticipated, and by the time we finished our lunch, we still had half a day ahead of us! Rather than heading back to the car to camp, we took aim at Mount Pickering. The two routes originate from opposite ends of the same logging road, as the two peaks are likely two bumps on the same ridge. We hiked east, gaining the roan on upper Mackay Ridge (840 m) , and carried on to the end of the road for a secondary objective, Mount Pickering.
As compared to Carter Peak, Pickering was a breeze! Following the southwest ridge, the bush is sparse with plenty of open glades, and the terrain is benign.
By the time we summited (1000 m), we were hot and tired, but awestruck by the view. Where Carter restricts the west and southern views, Pickering offers a superior view along the northern shore of Brooks Peninsula and near-panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Of interest to me, Wolfenden rose tall across the valley, a route that we did just a few weeks earlier.
Descending back to the car was quick, despite a minor hiccup that required a second ascent up the mountain to retrieve an item that fell out of a pocket. But, even with that delay, we were back at the car by 7:15 pm.
These two accessible mountains together made for a surprisingly quick day of hiking, about 24 kilometres round-trip and 1400 metres elevation gain. They offered a perfect early-season trip where we logged some good, snow-free distance and elevation gain.
Having completed our objectives, we considered our options for the next day. There was a lot of talk about Merry Widow, but the forecast was questionable with lots of cloud and likely precipitation. We didn’t make up our minds on what to do until we got back to the Hyde Creek gas station. After refueling and grabbing some sandwiches, we decided to drive home and sleep in our own beds, then head to Mount Landale in the morning.
When I arrived home around 1:00 am, I discovered Octavia sharing the bed with my wife –in a perpendicular orientation. So as not to wake them, I spent a restless night on the couch. I’m not going to lie: after nine hours of hiking and 11 hours of driving, it was more comfortable than it probably should have been! When my alarm sounded five hours later, I rolled off the couch and shuffled around the house, preparing for the hike to Mount Landale, near Lake Cowichan.
This trip was my second attempt at Landale this year. The first was back in March when there was a layer of snow right down to the Widow Main gate. At that time, we struggled through snow that was, at times, up to our hips, and gave up with 1.5 kilometres (as the crow flies) remaining to hike to the summit. During our March trip, we thought were only another 90 minutes from the summit, but now, having completed the hike, I realize we were likely three hours away due to the conditions at the time.
Total Distance: 25 km
Starting Elevation: 220 m
Maximum Elevation: 1532 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1505 m
Total Time: 7h 15 m https://drive.google.com/open?id=1aOoH9huLkacoe9iFzfIVk45Q5o6-3sAt&usp=sharing There are three common ways to access this mountain: we picked the Widow Main access on the east side of Cottonwood Creek. The route follows the logging road into Widow Creek Valley, and cuts back north, high above the Cottonwood Creek valley, as the road traverses along the ridge toward Mount Landale. The old road deteriorates at times, making it difficult to drive, even if you can manage to get keys or access. We followeded the road along several switchbacks to their terminus ~1000m. Where the road ends, we cut through the moderate bush to a road 100 metres higher that traverses the ridge between the Cottonwood Valley (to the west) and Sherk Lake (to the east).
By the time we crossed this section of the ridge, my feet were burning, and my skin was dry and salty. Along the whole route, there were no possibilities of getting more water (save for the river way back at the gates). I was approaching mild dehydration, saving what was left of my water for the summit and the walk back to the Jeep.
At the end of the road (1230 metres), we followed a string of ribbons up the well-defined boot track. If I were to call this the start of the hike and ignore the approach, then the trip to the summit is very short! The route is well-defined, the bush very sparse, and it breaks into the alpine in short order.
We summited (1532 m) at 1:00 pm. As I took my first picture, I heard voices calling to the north; we spotted three people waving at us from a feature between Landale and El Capitan. They were doing the same as us, resting and eating.
After admiring the view and eating our lunch, we struck off for home. The afternoon sun was blinding, and the heat sweltering. There were a few knees crunched on the hike back; none of us wanted to spend more time on the logging road than we already had. We arrived at 4:00 pm.
By the measure of distance and elevation gain, Mount Landale is a tough hike — a logging road grind. Although tougher than I expected, in every other metric, the trip is easy. I’m happy to get this peak checked off my list, but I won’t be using this route to return. I far prefer the Cottonwood Main approach via Lomas Lake.
Come the next day, I was exhausted. The more than 2800 metres of elevation gain and 45 kilometres of hiking were a great warmup for the season!
After an insulting first attempt on Zeballos Peak–one that saw us practically thrown off the mountain and selecting an alternate route back to the car for fear of avalanche and falling rock– we used one of our open weekends to make a second attempt on the peak.
It was only six weeks after our first trip, but on the 28th of April, the snow on the south-facing slope had considerably retreated. Although we had several route options for ascending, including the one we used to come down on our first trip, we opted to stick to the ascent route we tried on the first trip, because the cornices were long gone.
Total Distance: 7.3 km
Starting Elevation: 442 m
Maximum Elevation: 1584 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1229 m
Total Time: 8 hours 30 minutes
Sitting on the south side of Zeballos Lake rises a seldom-summited peak of the same name. It suffers from the ignominious problem of being a neighbour to the far more glamorous peaks of the Haihte Range; with an elevation of only 1540 metres, it’s a problem that won’t be outgrown by this report.
On March 17, 2019, I joined Phil and Ramsay on a summit attempt of Zeballos Peak. We were in high spirits as we started our hike. The south-facing slopes of the mountain were clear of snow to the end of the road, allowing us the luxury of heading straight into the slash without the additional work of grunting up a steep logging road (450 m).
Total Distance: 6.8 km
Starting Elevation: 450 m
Maximum Elevation: 1380 m
Total Elevation Gain: 941 m
Total Time: 7 Hours
When it comes to ascending seldom-summited peaks, I’m often reticent when we depart the Jeep. So many questions about the route and what we will find ahead make me reflect inward. So, it’s probably no surprise that when winter’s snow and ice become part of the adventure, there is sometimes a certain amount of foot-dragging before we leave. That was indeed the case for our planned New Year’s Day ascent of Mount Sir John; we didn’t even make it to within six kilometres of the peak, calling off the trip before we had even put our boots on.
Distance: 11.0 km
Starting Elevation: 831 m
Maximum Elevation: 1443 m
Total Elevation Gain: 724 m
Total Time: 5 hours, 56 minutes
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).