Octavia’s first snowshoe trip

–Photographs by Mike Hincks and Kim Leong

— view more pictures on explorington.com

Dear Octavia,

You’re a natural outdoorswoman! It was back on December 16th, 2017 that we finally got you out on your first snowshoe trip. I hosted a family/beginner snowshoe trip with the Island Mountain Ramblers as a way to get the whole family outdoors together. You were already 14 months old at the time — a whole year older than your brother’s first time! I’m sorry we waited so long to get you into a backpack and out in the snow! We tried to make it happen last winter, but between your age and the weather, we just couldn’t find a day that worked.

Continue reading “Octavia’s first snowshoe trip”

Westwood Ridges

A slight departure from the scheduled route, an extra leg was added to the hike to extend the day trip.

Four of us started out from the N. end of Westwood L. following the standard ridges route with a first stop at Ridge 1 overlooking the lake. After a brief snack it was on to Ridge 2 for lunch, complete with views to Mt. Benson, Robert’s Roost and Ladysmith inlet. We concluded our hike with a brief tour of a couple of trails in Morrell: the Rocky Knoll trail (not to be missed), and the Beaver Pond.

Good weather, good group, and a nice woodsy ramble fit for anyone with average physical fitness.

Rappel Workshop

We all congregated in the parking lot of Pipers Lagoon at 6pm. The sky was dark, threatening rain. But we were lucky and avoided any moisture. The cool air made us eager to get active and get our gear on.

We covered the basics needed for rappelling safely. We started tied to the bench and worked our way up to the small ledge, rappeling safely off the tree. To top everything off we set a line down the face into the cove, at Pippers Lagoon. I think a few folks were very nervous when we started the evening but by the end of the night, everyone was very confident in their own abilities. Three cheers for teamwork. We hope to host another event soon, likely focusing on belay technique to do some top roping at the local crags.

Mount Tzouhalem – Spring Flower Frolic

–submitted by John Young. 
 A wonderful excursion on Mount Tzouhalem today. Although the forecast was for rain, the 13 of us lucked out and even enjoyed a little sun. A profusion of flowers – including shooting stars, sea blush, and camas. We spent a leisurely 10 minutes admiring the flowers in the reserve, and then wandered along the ridge to the cross, enjoying wonderful views along the way. Although the parking lot was full, we didn’t see many other people along the way. We had lunch near the summit, before heading down, taking a more inland route back to the car. A most enjoyable nearly three hour jaunt. 

Kokummi Mountain

–submitted by Matthew Lettington. Read the full report on his blog

April is a month of unpredictable weather. Before we head out on a hike, we are seldom concerned about the forecast; let’s face it, it’s usually wrong. On Sunday, April 24th, we planned to hike Steamboat Mountain, in the Maitland Range. We were going to use a route notorious for its bushwhack. With rain in the forecast, we made an exception to the rule and changed our plan–wet conditions and bushwhacking are a recipe for disaster. Pushing through trees branches, getting soaked and freezing, isn’t exactly my idea of great fun! Instead, we headed north, looking for respite from the forecasted rain.


Mount Kokummi in the Sutton Range
Kokummi’s Long east ridge, shot on our way down
As predicted, the weather was erratic. We had it all: we hiked over logging slash and through dense bush in light rain and snow, through deep-snow-covered old growth in misty windy conditions, and finally along the gorgeous, rolling, snow-covered ridge to eventually be bathed in sun. The day was fruitful and the images created lasting impressions.

Over the past year, I’ve hiked some obscure mountains on Vancouver Island, in some hard-to-reach places, and even some previously unexplored regions. I’ve only just started exploring the Sutton Range, but so far I’m blown away by the views! This range of peaks is found on the northern half of Vancouver Island and accessed via a series of logging roads near Sayward. The drive may be long, but the views are well worth it.
Kokummi Mountain, Sutton Range, Vancouver Island Map and GPS Route
Kokummi Mountain Map and GPS Route
Total Distance: 14.6
Starting Elevation: 525 m 
Maximum Elevation: 1624 m 
Elvation Gain: 1213 m
Total Time: 6 hours
We piled into Rick’s city car and drove the long road to Sayward, finally turning onto the all-too-familiar logging road that leads into the valleys between many of the peaks in the range. As we drove, we could see the monsters, peeking through the clouds above. They whispered a warning, but we didn’t listen. We had our minds set on a goal: Kokummi Mountain.
Rick’s car did well on the road, which is mostly in good condition. As the route climbed, the car struggled for purchase in the loose gravel. We parked below a steep section (~550m) on the MC12 spur, off the Gerald Creek Mainline. Bringing the city car saved us money on fuel, but we now had nearly five kilometres of logging road remaining to walk before starting our hike. I really wished we had brought my Jeep!
Mount Kokummi in the Sutton Range
Warden and Victoria
The road is open and easy to walk; any all-wheel-drive vehicle would make it. The road twists as it climbs the mountain, gaining altitude quickly. We worked up a sweat early on, and soon the sky brightened and the air warmed, making our temperatures rise. This road must be an elk superhighway; there were literally hundreds of sections of scat piles on the length of the road. As we walked, we looked to Victoria and Warden and could see cloud quickly blowing over the peaks. It made these prominent peaks look even more impressive!
clouds in the low valley
We carried our snowshoes on our backs, but even now, at 1000m, the snow was just starting. The conditions were consolidated, and carried our weight well. We dumped our snowshoes, as we were now confident we wouldn’t need them.
We selected a line that looked clear, as there was no obvious trail. After crossing a ditch, we headed up the steep slope to the saddle, visible 80 metres above. Though the exposed ground was steep, it was easy to navigate between the sparsely planted spruce, hemlock, and cedar; in my opinion, it hardly even earned a B2 rating. The biggest challenges were the small shrubs that tugged at us as we passed, and the loose gravel that slipped away beneath our feet on the 40-degree slope. We quickly gained the snow-covered saddle, and caught our first view of the valley on the opposing side. It looked inviting, but it was nothing compared to what came later.
up through the old growth
We gingerly picked our way the short distance to the old growth. The snow was shallow, and as we walked overtop of fallen logs, we were careful not to break through the shallow crust into the pit traps beneath. More than once we broke through, and expletives were uttered. Into the old growth, and up we climbed. The route was steep once again, but the snow was in perfect condition for kicking steps, making it easy to gain the open upper ridge.
Emerging onto the open ridge (~1300m) was rewarding – we could almost see our goal! A thick fog blew across the ridge, but we could make out the shadow of the peak we sought, less than two kilometres down the wandering ridge in the distance. As we trundled west over the ridge, we had clear glimpses of the mountain ahead. At times it was clearly visible in the sun that blasted through clear blue patches in the sky, other times it was nearly encased in dense fog that made it impossible to see.
Sutton Range Vancouver Island
Across the valley
Mount Kokummi in the Sutton Range
Kokummi Peaks through the clouds

Phil and I walked close to the edge of the snow-covered ridge and nearly jumped back! We accessed the ridge via a steep slope, but on the other side it is a sheer drop-off. As we stood at the edge, we had a view to the valley, 400 metres below us. It was clear of snow, and the sun bathed the creek and surrounding area in light, creating a stark contrast from the winter wonderland we walked.

Mount Kokummi in the Sutton Range, Vancouver Island
Up into the clouds, Mount Kokummi east aspect
Our biggest obstacle was the final approach to the summit. The steep snow on the northeast face looked daunting: a slip would spit you off the side of the mountain. We played it safe and kept to the left, travelling over some light rock and snow to gain the summit above. Though it looked formidable, in the end, it was easy.
We were at the summit in good time. We gained the final 100 metres in fog, but as we reached the summit, the stiff breeze blew most of it away. We had a good view of the long ridge were walking, in both directions. The wind sculpted sharp edges on the crests of the snow-capped ridge, and the sun created a stark contrast that emphasized the sharp nature of the snow. To the south, we had a great view of Victoria and Warden Peaks. Even in the distance, across the wide valley, they towered above us. They would be an adventure for another time, an adventure much more challenging than today’s pleasant ridge walk.
Mount Kokummi in the Sutton Range, Vancouver Island
Me and Rick on the summit of Kokummi Mountain
With the awesome snow conditions, the return trip was fast. What took us a few hours to ascend took us just thirty minutes to return. As we descended, the weather was up to its old tricks: midway down the ridge we looked back, and the cloud was gone, leaving Kokummi Mountain doused in sunlight. This earned nothing but a few grunts from our group.
Mount Kokummi in the Sutton Range, Vancouver Island
descending back to the car

If you are looking for an out there mountain that offers exciting ridge walking and excellent views, but are not comfortable with exposure, this mountain may be for you. Although we needed to use our hands on occasion to fight the light bush up the short distance to the saddle (even this was easy), the route is fantastic.

The biggest challenge for our day was the logging road. Today was one of those days: six hours of driving, ten kilometres of logging road, five kilometres of ridge walking. If I sound bitter, I’m not – this trip was worth it!

Mt. Hooker Hike

–submitted by Rod Szasz
images submitted by Julianna  Wells and John Robertson

 Mt. Hooker is a peak located on the South Side of Second Lake, part of the Nanaimo Lakes chain. It is a lovely sem-alpine summit with a good band of First-Growth surrounding the summit and surrounding area. It used to have a Forestry Lookout from about 1930-1960 with the remains and the old telegraph wire still to be found on the summit. This peak used to be quite frequented because of the panoramic views, but now has few to no summits during any given year. In fact the summit registry I placed in the cairn in July 2014 had no entries since the original placement.

This peak had an access road to the summit still indicated on maps and GPS . This has become completely grown in and even walking on part of it is hard. We did not use this road for access.
Total time about 6 hours.
Total ascent 1023 metres.

After meeting at the Starbucks in Harewood we drove up Nanaimo Lakes Road past the open initial gate and a further 6 kilometres, past the old Nanaimo Lakes marshalling yards and then took the road to Nanaimo Lakes Campgrounds. This gate is open 0800 – 17:00 (20:00 in Summer) and maintained by the warden in the campground. We crossed the bridge between First and Second Lake and parked at the T-junction before the gate on the left. There is a wide parking spot here for a lot of vehicles. There may be some people fishing here, but there are certainly no other hikers.

We made our way up the road about a kilometre and then on a rise kept to the left after two turn offs to ascent an old logging road. This road is good to walk but rather relentless in terms of switchbacks. It is guilded with young alder but offers no impediment to walking. After about 45 minutes the road comes out into a newer clear-cut area and vista open up due to lack of trees. After about 2 hours at about 900 metres in elevation the logging road ends. From here we ascended through a relatively clean and short clear cut and gained some beautiful 1st growth forest. The going was steep but the forest floor is open and spongy underfoot. Evidence of game proliferates in this forest and we followed heavily trafficked game trails roughly keeping on the leading edge of the ridge elevation.

After 45 minutes the summit ridge was gained and from here it was a little over a kilometre in very good relatively flat ground with snow-covered tarns, small rocky hillocks and some Krumholtz. The going was very good and fast and a joy on the eyes after the clear cut.

Just before the summit block we hit the original access road to supply the forestry lookout and then made our way to the end of the old road past the original dilapidated stairs, old cans and remnants of the telegraph. The summit block had a little scramble and we were on the summit where an old helicopter pad and remains of the lookout  is located.

We had lunch where it hailed, snowed and then rained on us – so we lacked any real panoramic views.. but that is also a reason to return. It was my 5th ascent of the mountain that I can remember.
Our descent was along the same route, but we decided to explore the old access road for some of its way before breaking into the forest to rejoin our original ascent route. We were back at the truck by 1445 pm.
I searched out the old registry and found no recorded ascents in two years…. I guess because of lack of data online, no trail, and a fear of gates…?  I struggle a little with this as I cannot really believe there are that few people around who would not be enticed to try this summit so close to Nanaimo, so relatively wild and so beautiful.  

PS: If anyone knows of anyone who has a picture of the original forestry lookout of the peak please let me know.  rod@firebozz.com

Tapaltos Bay & Cape Beale: Hemingway’s First Lighthouse Visit!!

— submitted by Matthew Lettington Read it on his blog 

A burning question on everyone’s mind is sure to be, “When is the best time for my child to visit a lighthouse?” It’s a trick question: take them as often as you can! Kim and I have taken Hemingway on numerous backpacking and camping trips, but it recently dawned on me that he had yet to see a lighthouse, so we planned a weekend getaway with the Ramblers to visit Tapaltos Bay and Cape Beale.

The cape and bay are both located in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, the same park that hosts Long Beach, West Coast Trail, and Broken Group Islands. It is also home to Keeha Bay, which Hemingway visited last year. I’ve written before about the state of this trail: for years, it’s been in a sorry state of repair. It’s relatively flat and lies between a bog and a lake, which accounts for the copious amount of mud usually on the trail. The Tapaltos Trail, an offshoot of the Keeha Bay Trail, is well-marked and nearly impossible to get lost on. It’s very well routed, but unfortunately it’s in a similar muddy state. I was to carry Hemingway and the heavy gear, and Kim would carry the lighter, bulkier gear – thankfully, it’s a short trail!

Horoizontal Distance: 17.5 km Elevation Gain:  523 m Time: multi day

Ultimately 11 people would arrive at the beach, but our group started smaller. Rick M travelled with my family in our Subaru, and we met up with Rick K in Bamfield. That’s right, a two-Rick affair! We planned to arrive at our destination early enough to set up camp and enjoy the evening on the beach, and we timed it right. After meeting Rick K at The Market, we hit the trail. I was concerned about Kim, so to make things easier for her we cheated; we drove down the logging road which bisects the Keeha Bay Trail, and used this as our starting location. It was the right decision. We managed to keep her pack under 25 pounds, but her growing belly prevented her from using the backpack belt to good purpose. As she is now four months pregnant, the extra weight of the pack took its toll on her.
Tapaltos and Cape Beale
Minor water crossing
As we walked the Keeha Trail, I was surprised at the significant maintenance. Someone, possibly a group, has been using fallen trees to cut better-than-rudimentary boardwalk. It’s great! Many of the muddy sections have split log planks crossing them, which made for quick travel. Also, keeping out of the mud will allow water to drain, and gives the region the possibility to recover. Our hike in wasn’t all peaches and cream, however; the trail from the Keeha Trail to Tapaltos has seen no rehabilitation.
The route travels over, under, through, around, beside, and over (wait… I think I said that) various features. Hiking this with Hemingway in the backpack was tough, as he isn’t exactly a stable load. He leans left and right, shifts up and down, tries to squirm out of the pack, and sometimes grabs onto branches. To top it all off, my pack was tipping near 60 pounds.

Tapaltos and Cape Beale
she didn’t even use the rope

For all my complaining, though, I had it easy compared to Kim. Even with her light pack, the twisting, turning, crawling on hands and knees, and occasional jump over mud pit from root to root, was a lot. She is no stranger to backpacking but with work, Hemingway, and her body changing, she struggled. Thank goodness the trail is short – but darned if it isn’t deceiving! At one point, I examined my GPS and discovered we were only 500 metres from the ocean. “Well, that’s going to be quick,” I thought to myself. Nope. The trail took a right-hand turn, and for quite some time we travelled parallel to the shore, and then away from it, before finally turning back. What I expected to take 15 minutes took around 45! 

Tapaltos and Cape Beale
Taken on an earlier trip
The final approach to the beach is spectacular. The route is flat, except for a tall berm right before the beach. As you climb up and over the crest of the hill, you can hear the sounds of the surf crashing against the soft sand, a breeze cools your skin, and the distinct smell of the ocean fills the air. And the view! On a sunny day, the near-turquoise water and light sand glow between the silhouetted trees. It’s a stark contrast from the mud and dense mature forest of the walk. We were all happy to get to the beach with a good amount of light left in the day; the trip had taken just under two hours.
photo by Lisa Hanlon
As we set up camp and collected beach-wood for a small fire, Hemingway played in the sand and explored the multiple fishing buoys strewn about the beach. Before long, we were set up for the weekend, sitting by the fire, and enjoying an evening drink. As evening bloomed into night, the remainder of the troupe trickled in: Michael arrived with two Ramblers’ guests, and Bil, Gord, and Jacob arrived when dark was well upon us.
Tapaltos Bay Beach
chill time at the fire
Many tents Make Me Happy on Tapaltos Beach
So many tents, lets organize in the futre!
We gathered around the small fire, chatting and building expectations for the next day, and hatched plans for future adventures. It was late into the night – at least by camping standards – when at last we doused the fire and hit the hay.
Day two was relaxed: there was no rush to get anywhere fast. The weather even complied, with the threatening rain presenting only as simple showers. The moist environment and dark sky created an intense saturation of colours as we walked through the forest. I enjoyed the simpler trail: though still very wet and muddy, it lacks the complicated obstacles of the first day. We left Tapaltos around 11:30 am and made it to the mudflats just in time for the tide to allow us passage. The mudflats flood when the tides exceeds 1.8 metres, but as we arrived, the water was just passing the steep boat ramp which opens the way to the winding concrete path up to the lighthouse. Rather than taking the direct approach, Michael led us to the well-used trail to the south, which approaches through the old trees and past many of the promontory’s best features.
to Cape Beale
and then there is a section of lovely boardwalk
to Cape Beale mudflats
the mudflats, water gone!
We stopped for pictures and explorations of the terrain. Four adventure-seekers travelled down and through the island cavern, until they reached the ocean on the opposite side, clambering over slippery rocks with the roof of the rocky promontory overhead. Our next stops were at the various lookouts, where we took turns posing on the land bridge, enjoying the views, and taking photographs for each other. Lastly, we continued onto the rock and were greeted by the friendly keeper.
Beth rocking the land bridge!
photo by Michael Paskevicius

The lighthouse is high above the water looking north, overlooking the Broken Group Islands.  After a good long visit, we said our farewells; many of the Ramblers took the chance for one last look out before heading back to camp. Even with the relaxed visit and time spent gazing, we were back at camp just in time for dinner. Hemingway was ravenous!

As I prepared our meals, Michael and Lisa kindly played with Hemingway at the rocks, exploring the tide pools and other natural features. Hemingway must have fallen in love with the snails, because I caught him with a collection in his hands, about to be put into his pocket (truth be told, he did manage to sneak one in – I found it in the dryer after doing laundry. EEEP!).
Tapaltos Bay tide pools
Michael and Hemingway exploring
counting snails at Tapaltos Bay
counting his booty!
Day three was lovely, with the sun shining as we packed. Many of us didn’t want to leave, and we stood on the beach talking for a long time, with our bags packed and waiting for us. The slog back to the car was humid, and by the time we arrived I was dying to strip out of my hiking gear and into clean clothes.
Reluctant to depart from each other’s company, we set a rendezvous in Port Alberni:  fish and chips at Bare Bones. Hemingway was happy to eat real food, the kind that doesn’t come in a foil Ziploc bag!
Unfortunately, this story has a sad ending. I have to report a death in the family: my Subaru Outback. She was a fine car. I bought her used, and loved her for three good years, though I can’t say that I always treated her the best: I’ve had her in places that no Outback should ever be. But she always came through, even if it was with a few knocks and scrapes. Unfortunately, the Bamfield Road will be her last logging road. A failing transmission, worn brakes, and aging shocks/struts have let the air out of this old car’s tires. I’m letting her go with only 295,000 km on it. You shall be missed, and I will think of you often. Here is a photo of our first day together. 

Day One
I just realized there is a problem with this post. We didn’t take a photo with the lighthouse. Balls! I’ll have to remember to do that next time.

Trail to Tapaltos Bay
along for the ride

See dozens of more images ….

Alexandra Peak: The Last Snowshoe of the Season

–submitted by Matthew Lettington
 Read the full report on his blog

In search of what is sure to be our final snowshoe trip of the season, I set out on a mission with three other Island Mountain Ramblers. We braved a long logging road approach up Buttle Bluffs Mainline to reach camp for our summit of Alexandra Peak the next day. Alexandra sits outside the official Strathcona Park boundary; it’s in the range of peaks to the northeast of the commonly-hiked Mount Albert-Edward, across the Oyster River. Phil and I had attempted this peak earlier in the season, but the trip was ill-fated: the weather turned on us, the snow condition was terrible, and we turned back before even reaching the end of the Buttle Bluffs Mainline. We approached this second attempt with stern resolve – we would not be turned back.

The open cirque below the Alexandra ridge
The  cirque below the Alexandra Ridge
The Buttle Bluffs Mainline, eight kilometres of logging road off Highway 28 that gains ~1000 metres as it switchbacks its way up the mountainside, is the most common way to access Mount Adrian and Mount Alexandra. The road is gated, but those who drive 4x4s can bypass the gate on the right. The road is infamous for its narrow track: while driving it, you squeeze your vehicle between the edge of the road and extreme drop-offs. .

Read the full report on his blog