This trip received so much interest initially that a second trip running the opposite direction was scheduled and Julianna W graciously agreed to lead the second trip, although she was very quick to call shotgun on the downhill version – somehow predicting the benefit of finishing the day with lakes, rivers and rapids along the trail rather than starting the day against the flow. By the morning of the trip, partly due to normal attrition and partly (mostly) due to an “inclement forecast” the overall group size shrunk to 9 and we all started from Raven Lodge for a generally downhill ramble to Wood Mountain.
The transition between summer and fall was exceptionally rapid this year. After months of hot, dry weather, a cold front rolled in and brought temperatures below ten degrees and a deluge of rain that seemed to last for weeks. Even my five-year-old son noticed the change: “Dad, is it fall now?” Apparently so.
For me, the seasonal transition marks a time to reflect on my summer of accomplishments and disappointments, and to set new goals! New goals give me something to look forward to during the upcoming winter and help me plan out the next summer (I’ve already planned more than twenty days of trips for summer 2019). Between Phil and me, we have a lengthy list of multi-day adventures that we have been putting off, and this is the year to do them.
Part of the planning for these trips is observing the inspiration that comes from reviewing the accomplishments of my online friends, via social media feeds. This summer, the algorithms inundated me with many stories about canyoneering. But, because I’m still only halfway through my Island Alpine Quest –a massive list of peaks– I didn’t dare dream too deeply, because I am committed to my current obsession. Perhaps this is why I never imagined finding myself in a steep-walled canyon, and I certainly never expected that experience to come on the descent of Mount Leighton, but that’s precisely what happened.
Total Distance: 11.3 km
Starting Elevation: 363 m
Maximum Elevation: 1409 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1086 m
Total Time: 7 hours, 41 minutes
Beautiful area. Easy canoe voyage across the lake, nice open switch backs to the alpine and easy terrain spotted with turquoise lakes in Marble Meadows. Complete with Karst sinkholes, caves and fossils galore. Easy camping, good water (even after this very dry summer) and tall, but not difficult, mountains. The whole group successfully climbed both peaks we set out for, and five of us added Marble Peak as an extra (a bit spicy and exposed). Spent the one rainy evening/night in Wheaton Hut luxury. Could have easily done the trip beginning Saturday morning early (we started Friday afternoon). Wind at our backs both ways across the lake!
When I was new to mountaineering, I was often intimidated when I listened to experienced mountaineers talk. They always seemed to know where they were and could easily identify the peaks they could see all around them, when to me it just looked like a sea of peaks. Further, they would talk about the names of places and trails as though they were commonplace. Features like the Augerpoint Traverse, and names like Mount Albert-Edward, were just two of the many names everyone (other than me) seemed to know. It was overwhelming! Although I was interested in learning about the places, names, and locations, I couldn’t imagine a time when I’d be able to identify them all.
Fast forward eight years, and today I can identify the shapes of many peaks amongst the sea. A big part of that is visiting a wide range of places, though I still struggle when I visit a new area. On top of being able to identify places, I’ve also met many of my hiking goals. Since I started hiking, I’ve hiked many of the most common access points to Strathcona Park, and even managed to hike one of those routes I heard about long ago: the Augerpoint Traverse (sometimes referred to as the Mount Washington to Buttle Lake Traverse).
Horizontal Distance: 47.8 km
Average Speed: 0.5 km/h
Starting Elevation: 291 m
Maximum Elevation: 2092 m
Total Elevation Gain: 3064 m
I struggle to find a balance between work, play, and family. When it comes to my annual vacation, I pack in as much playtime as I can, and this means I often leave my family at home while I’m off on an adventure. With my busy schedule, sometimes I’m unpacking one backpack by putting gear straight into a different one. This is exactly what happened on my August 13-15 backpacking trip to Mount Phillips. On August 10th, I hiked off the Augerpoint Traverse; with the next trip only a few days away, I didn’t have time to put anything away before getting ready for my family backpacking trip to Arnica Lake and Mount Phillips in Strathcona Park.
We had an ideal forecast, and if not for the haze of smoke in the air from forest fires, it would have been perfect conditions. Fortunately, the smoke didn’t hinder our breathing – it only obscured some of the otherwise amazing views.
In addition to my wife and two children, I led a group of five Island Mountain Ramblers on a trip that I offered as an easy backpacking trip. The trip was split into three days, and the lion’s share of the distance and half of the elevation was planned along the well-manicured trail to Arnica Lake, where we set up a basecamp for two nights. Of course, the second half of the trip, out to Mount Phillips, is where the suffering was found.
On July 1st, two friends and I made a successful, though gruelling, summit of Crown Mountain inside Strathcona Park. The story of this day-trip is part of a much longer saga that starts with a failed summit attempt on Mount Colonel Foster.
If you’re like me and love hiking the alpine of Vancouver Island, then I recommend you make time for a trip to Tyee Mountain. Despite its form only rising to a height of 1670 metres, it offers views of the Salmon River to the east and the Gold River valley on the west. Even better are the views of the surrounding ridges and peaks, including at least five of the tallest peaks on Vancouver Island. There’s just one problem: getting to it.
Most people mark the passage of time by annual events in their lives like birthdays, holidays, the New Year, and so on. Since I’ve started my Island Alpine Quest, I’ve started marking the march into Spring by how early I leave home on Sunday morning. During the winter, my departure from home is timed so that we arrive at the trailhead when the sun is rising, allowing us to maximize the daylight hours for hiking. As Spring emerges, the long winter nights erode, and the days get longer, we start to plan longer, more challenging routes. This means that in order to reach the trailhead at dawn, we find ourselves leaving home earlier and earlier; by mid-April, it’s not uncommon for us to leave Nanaimo at 4:00 am and do most of our driving in the dark. This was certainly the case for my March 22, 2018 trip to Big Baldy Mountain.
Big Baldy Mountain is a broad, treeless summit west of Gold River. In fact, from the summit, you can clearly see this shrinking west coast town. It’s not the most challenging or aesthetic mountain on the island, and it doesn’t offer amazing views, so it’s no surprise that most mountaineers won’t make it here. Instead, they are lured in by the more dramatic peaks of Strathcona Park; you have to drive many of them on your way to Gold River. It’s also overlooked as a destination because while the ridge is easy to access, getting to the summit takes some route-finding skills that will challenge those more interested in an easy trail walk.
Even for those that will add Big Baldy Mountain to their list of destinations, snowshoeing to the summit like we did will be an even less popular choice. But for anyone who does, they will revel in the forested west ridge, snow-covered mountaintop, peekaboo views of the west coast, and one of the finest butt-sliding opportunities on the island.
Distance: 19 km
Starting Elevation: 500m
Maximum Elevation: 1450 m
Elevation Gain: 1750 m
Time: 9 h
Getting up at 3:00 am isn’t my favourite way to spend a Sunday, but I do it week after week. I head outside, driven by my Island Alpine Quest, the goal of summiting more than 250 peaks. In doing so, I find myself hiking in some seldom-visited locations on Vancouver Island. Why do I do it? I’m the type of person who needs a goal to stay interested. There are factors that help smooth the rough early morning starts, like those fleeting moments of looking through old-growth forest or picking my way along a craggy ridge. But occasionally, the quest takes me to a place that I’ll never return – one worth skipping. Strata Mountain is in this category.
It’s not that the mountain is out of the way; after all, it’s in the heart of one of the most popular regions of Strathcona Park. And it’s not that it doesn’t have anything to offer; the high ridge tops out over 1400 metres, with an easy walking alpine ridge that has great views of many nearby peaks, including Mount Albert-Edward and Mount Adrian. But because the area is overused, and because there are many other nearby peaks that offer a more dramatic and aesthetic ascent, it’s just not worth the effort – except maybe as a side trip.
Nevertheless, it’s on the list, and Strata Mountain demanded my attention. On March 4th, 2018, I led a group of six Island Mountain Ramblers on a winter trip to the summit of Strata Mountain. It was a near-perfect day for the long trip across Forbidden Plateau, with clear skies that persisted through the morning, and a well-packed boot track that allowed for a quicker-than-normal pace.
March 17th, 2018: We headed out from Raven Lodge, Mount Washington ski resort around 8 am. We took the western route through paradise meadows to and across Lake Helen Mackenzie, between Mount Elma and Mount Brooks. We continued past Strata Mountain and several hours after leaving the parking lot we were at our chosen base camp on Circlet Lake.