Pickering, Carter, Landale — North & South

–submitted by Matthew Lettington; originally published on explorington.com

Carter Peak

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.

Summit Push! Wolfenden way back there.

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!

A common scenario on the road to Carter Peak

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.

It’s the one lovely rest stop on the hike to Carter Peak (~700 m)

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).

it’s an owie

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.

The view through the trees, if you stand on the dead stump

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.

Down the gully

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.

From the ridge about to head back into the bush. Mount Pickering pictured at the end of the ridge.

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.


Mount Pickering

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.

The route up 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.

AH! What it’s all about

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.

Looking West to Brooks Peninsula

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.


Mount Landale

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.

Cotton Wood creek, about the most aesthetic element on the hike.

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.

El Capitan as pictured from Mount Landale

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.

Phil on the summit

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.

Three people eating lunch on the ridge

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!

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Zeballos Peak 2, A Successful Boogaloo

–SUBMITTED BY MATTHEW LETTINGTON; ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON EXPLORINGTON.COM

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.

Rishi and the Haihte Range in behind, getting ready for the fastest glissade of his life!

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.

Zeballos Peak Route

Total Distance: 7.3 km
Starting Elevation: 442 m
Maximum Elevation: 1584 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1229 m
Total Time: 8 hours 30 minutes

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Zeballos Peak Exploration

Submitted by Matthew Lettington; originally published on explorington.com

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.

a hike to Zeballos Peak
Zeballos Peak, the south face

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).

Zeballos Peak Route

Total Distance: 6.8 km
Starting  Elevation: 450 m
Maximum Elevation: 1380 m
Total Elevation Gain: 941 m
Total Time: 7 Hours

Continue reading “Zeballos Peak Exploration”

Mount Sir John : A First Winter Ascent

–Submitted by Matthew Lettington; originally posted on explorington.com

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.

Hiking to Mount Sir John in the Franklin Range on Vancouver Island
Sasquatch – the elder

Distance: 11.0 km
Starting Elevation: 831 m
Maximum Elevation: 1443 m
Total Elevation Gain: 724 m
Total Time: 5 hours, 56 minutes


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Mount Rorberts

-Originally published on explorington.com

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.

hiking to mount Roberts in the Prince of Wales Range on Vancouver Island
That bump is listed as the summit; har har

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).

Mount Roberts Route and GPX by request

Total Distance: 12.9 km
Starting Elevation: 744 m
Maximum Elevation: 1485 m
Total Elevation Gain: 878 m
Total Time: 7 hours
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Tsitika Mountain: Up the Crack

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, read the full report on explorington.com

**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.

Phil and Israel, approaching the crack.
Phil and Israel, approaching the crack.

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!

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Total Distance: 7.4 km
Starting Elevation: 732 m
Maximum Elevation: 1656 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1018 m
Total Time: 6 hours, 28 minutes

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Eden Mountain: Gully Grovelling and Needle Threading

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, read the full report on explorington.com

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.


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Conuma Peak: Bush, Bluffs and Bugs

–Submitted by Matthew Lettington, originally published on explorington.com

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


Continue reading “Conuma Peak: Bush, Bluffs and Bugs”

Mount Abraham, An Easy Scramble

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, originally published on explorington.com

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

Continue reading “Mount Abraham, An Easy Scramble”

Hiking Between the Peaks in the Genesis Range: A Failed Attempt at Mount Abraham

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, originally published on explorington.com

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. 

The lake in the hanging valley hiking to Mount Abraham on Vancouver Island
about 100 metres from this spot you should see a ridge rising toward the summit of 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.


Total Distance: 13 km
Starting Elevation: 840 m
Elevation Gain: 950
Maximum Elevation: 1639 m
Total Time: 6 h
Continue reading “Hiking Between the Peaks in the Genesis Range: A Failed Attempt at Mount Abraham”