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