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.

Wandering About Mount Benson

–submitted by Ken Warren

Nine of us set off from Morrell Sanctuary to hike Mount Benson from the south. Clear skies and warm sun were promised and delivered. Logging activities have made the original trail somewhat more difficult, but a bike trail allowed us to bypass the damaged section.

We missed our intended trail, which turned out to be a recurring theme that day, and found ourselves on the eastern side of the ridge on a new trail that is only partially complete. We managed to intersect our intended trail only to wander off on several newer and similarly marked trails. We did eventually find the summit and enjoyed the views and the sunshine. The return leg of the loop was uneventful, without the trail exploration that marked our ascent.

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!

Mount Benson the outer route

— submitted by Mike Hordelski

Grey skies to start to our day, but no rain in sight. The five of us started out 8:45.  We weren’t  disappointed when we arrived at the creek crossing-lower water level than I expected, and were able to cross without event. Very windy at the viewpoints, saw out first snow just below the Old Road, and a trail runner out with his dog–in training for a marathon, by the looks of it, we followed his tracks along the same route we were taking.

We had an astonishing good hike to the summit, some kick-stepping required on firm snowpack;  needed to take shelter for the summit lunch as it was blowing hard. Found a nice spot allowing us to enjoy the falling snow, and feed those thieving whiskey jacks.

Clayoquot Plateau Bush Bash

–submitted by Matthew Lettington
Read the full report on his blog: Boring Art, Boring Life

Have you ever pushed through so much bush that it physically pains you, and causes emotional trauma to the degree that it haunts you for days? I have, and I recommend that every hiker/mountaineer does it at least a few times in their life. It gives you perspective: in some ways, it makes you enjoy an unimpeded trail that much more!

Lake at Clayoquot Plateau
Phil about to descend to the lake

Philip Stone dedicates a portion of his book Island Alpine (2003) to a series of Top Ten lists, including a section for the top ten bushwhacks. Since publication, the face of alpinism on Vancouver Island has changed. The rock hasn’t changed, but gear has improved, new logging roads have been punched through, many roads have grown over, some routes have been placed and others cleared. The Top Ten lists are still important, but at least a few of them need updating, and the list of Island bushwhacks is one of them.  Keep in mind that this is just one blogger’s opinion, but I think this route should be considered for the list.

On Sunday January 24th, Phil Jackson and I made a solid Rambler attempt to summit Steamboat Peak using a route named The Cavers Trail, a route set by Quagger sometime before 2003. I was warned about the route, which lies along Highway 4 and is filled with classic Highway 4 bush. True to the claim, I’ll testify that this route is filled with many sections of solid class 3/4 bush. This is the type that claws at you as you work your way through all manner of vegetation. It hooks gear and rips at your flesh. I made it through with only a dozen scratches on my hands and a few marks on my face.

Clayoquot Plateau lake Map and GPS Route
Clayoquot Plateau Lake Map and GPS Route with Photos

Total Distance: 9.3 km
Starting Elevation: 66 metres
Maximum Elevation: 883 m
Elevation Gain: 919 m
Total Time: 8 hours 15 minutes

Read the full report on his blog: Boring Art, Boring Life

We found winter! It was hiding at Crest Mountain

— Submited by Matthew Lettington. Read the full report on his blog, Boring Art, Boring Life

It’s been two long years but it’s finally here: winter! Last year, I had big aspirations for winter: snowshoeing, skiing, alpine ski touring, and winter mountaineering. Of course, winter never arrived. Like many other Vancouver Islanders, I have photographs taken on the summits of mountains that are bald! I remember a particular hike up 5040, when Phil and I sat on the summit sunning ourselves in shorts and t-shirts – in February. Even Cobalt Lake had only a thin crust of ice on it, and a few crazy girls were swimming in it! Regardless, winter is here now, and we found it in Strathcona Park.

Crest Mountain Trail
Ramblers snaking up the hill

Continuing through my long list of mountaineering ambitions, Crest Mountain was the goal for December 20th. By all accounts, it’s easy and commonly hiked. It features a well-developed and marked route with signs in a few key places, and the trailhead is on the side of the highway. The trail does have a few steep sections before attaining the summit ridge around 1400 metres, and then an ambling ridge walk to the main summit. However, meteorological conditions prevented us from achieving our goal.

Crest Mountain Map GPS Route
Crest Mountain Map

Total Distance: 8.4 km
Starting Elevation: 338 m
Maximum Elevation: 1216 m
Total Elevation Gain: 934 m
Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes

Read the full report on his blog, Boring Art, Boring Life

Queen Peak

— Submitted by Matthew Lettington — Read the full report on his blog

Queen Peak (Sutton Range) sits well off the highway, easily accessed via the Seward Junction. The name of the peak often creates confusion with another Vancouver Island feature commonly referred to as Queen’s Face, part of the King’s Peak hike in Strathcona Park. Queen Peak offers a steep approach through logging slash and first-growth forest to reach a long low alpine ridge that leads to its summit, which provides one of the best views of Victoria and Warden Peaks.

Queen Peak Vancouver Island, Hiking Lettington
The view of the valley below

Anticipating a long drive from Nanaimo, our plan of attack included camping at the trailhead to give an early morning start. We left Nanaimo well after dark as I needed to tuck Hemingway into bed first. The four of us rendezvoused at Phil’s house before hitting the long road to Seward Junction. Our beta provided good directions to the trailhead. Though the road is in reasonable condition, we encountered several cross-ditches at the upper elevations. Twice the passengers vacated the car to give enough clearance to get through the ditches and up the steep sections of hill. Once, they even pushed so I could get enough power to get up the hill; damned standards! All told, the drive took about four hours, including the long (more than 40 kilometres) logging road. It may have been faster had we travelled in daylight; the drive includes multiple turns on logging roads, and a few times we nearly took incorrect spurs.

Queen Peak Vancouver Island, Hiking Lettington
A late setup by car-lamp and an evening beverage before bed.
Queen Peak, Vancouver Island Map and GPS Route
Queen Peak GPS Route and Map with photographs

Total Horizontal Distance: 6 km
Starting Elevation: 700 m
Maximum Elevation: 1639 m
Elevation Gain: 972 m
Time: 6 hours 20 minutes

 High up on the logging road, at the start of our hiking route at 720 metres, we set up camp under clear skies. The stars shone bright, outlining the black silhouettes of the distant peaks. We shared a few beers before heading to bed. Though I slept well, I would be remiss in my friend-duties if I left out one detail: we camped near a trickling stream that created a significant amount of noise all night long. Though I didn’t have an issue, several of the hikers found sleep difficult, and made several trips to … water the forest.

–Read the full report on Matthew’s blog: Boring Art, Boring Life

El Capitan — Trail Clearning toward Lomas

-Submitted by Matthew Lettington

Recently, the Island Mountain Ramblers purchased a piece of trail-clearing equipment with the help of a grant from the Federation of Mountain Clubs of British Columbia. The club members had a busy summer, and September 25th was the first chance for us to get out as a club and use it.

GPS Route and Map with Photographs

Total Horizontal Distance: 20.8 km
Starting Elevation: 208 m
Maximum Elevation: 1210 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1051 m
Total Time: 7h 5m

 There are a lot of trails in need of maintenance. For our first effort, we chose to clear the Lomas Lake trail. In the summer of 2014, Sherry Durford led a club trip to the lake, and we noted that the trail was slightly overgrown. At the time, we discussed the need for trail maintenance; this was the impetus for us to submit the application for the grant. Our plan was to clear the trail to a point right before the final creek, and then search for a route to the col between Mount Service and El Capitan.

Read the full report on Matthew Lettington’s Blog, Boring Art, Boring Life

2015 Minnas Ridge

–Submitted By Dean Williams

 There were nine of us all told, and the weather was perfect with views down to the Olympic Mts,  Mt Baker, the coast range and of course Vancouver island.  No one was brave enough for a swim this year, but the water was looking a little murky in the bigger tarns. All in all a great fall outing with the club.