On my journey to summit all the peaks on my Island Alpine Quest, I don’t often find time to hike a mountain more than once, but when I do, it’s because I’m hiking with my children. On October 27, I led a group of ten that included Hemingway and Octavia on a quick trip to Gemini Mountain in the Nanaimo Lakes area. It was a less than perfect day: cold wind made short work of our layers, cutting through our clothes to thoroughly chill us, but we took the chance to cross the saddle between the two peaks and scramble to the summit of the second bump.
My first visit to Gemini Mountain was on a bleak, blustery day, back in 2016. It was the type of day where we wore our jackets, gloves and toques, and by the end of the hike, our gloves were filled with icy water. Relative to that trip, this one was an improvement in almost every metric. But it was still frosty, and above 1300 metres we found ice on the tops of puddles– Hemingway took delight in smashing the ice with a hiking pole.
Total Distance: 5.7 km
Starting Elevation: 1138 m
Maximum Elevation: 1518 m
Total Elevation Gain: 626 m
Total Time: 5h 44m
On October 14th, I led a small group of Island Mountain Ramblers on a relaxed hike to Green Mountain. Octavia (25 months old) and Hemingway (5 years old) came with us to enjoy the day, and they were the primary reason for the pace. The weather was perfect. The frost from the evening before still lingered in the shadows, but the sun warmed the open terrain, illuminating the spectrum of colours around us, and the valley surrounding the mountain.
The brilliant reds, yellows, and purples of leaves dangling from branches created a rich tapestry on the hills around us. The large field of bracket ferns had already died, yet their brown corpses still stood tall, dried by the sun, and as we walked through them their feathery fronds brushed against us. The bright colours of the fall were contrasted by the stark green of the evergreens that dotted the route.
Total Distance: 5.2 km
Starting Elevation: 1085 m
Maximum Elevation: 1464 m
Total Elevation Gain: 378 m
Total Time: 3 hours, 45 minutes
As I write this, I’m drinking a hot chocolate to warm my belly and ease the dull ache of dissatisfaction that’s buzzing in the back of my head. Today, we took a shot at Mount Marmot. Unfortunately, the steep slopes and powdery snow proved too much for the short time we had.
It was already 6:00 am when the fourteen of us met at Harewood Mall. By the time we drove the long road to Nanaimo Lakes, the gates were open; since there was no attendant, we were able to drive right through. Our destination is deep in the heart of the Sadie Creek Valley, along a road familiar to me. We tried to climb this route last winter, but at that time a creek was flowing so fast that we couldn’t hop over it. Today, we discovered active logging in the area, and a new bridge constructed across that creek. With the new bridge, we were able to drive farther into the valley, making the hike several kilometres shorter.
Total Distance: 7.5 km
Starting Elevation: 419 m
Maximum Elevation: 1209 m
Total Elevation Gain: 786 m
Total Time: 6h 45 m
–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. firstname.lastname@example.org
–Submitted by Rod Szasz –Photographs take by Maryann Wiggle
A group of six members ascended and climbed both peaks of Gemini Mountain, a mountain totally within the Nanaimo River watershed. The goal was to reprise a route taken the week before in foggy, drizzle where nothing could be seen. It was expected that views would be good and they did not disappoint .
The group comprised, Rod Szasz, Dean Williams, Rick Bronson, Lisa Bee, Deborah Blum and Maryanne Wiggle. Taking the traditional access to Green Mountain we ascended the road to the pass between the two peaks and parked. We entered beautiful first growth forest immediately with the goal of an ascending traverse to the notch between the North and South peaks of Gemini. The notch has some good Krumholz features and is relatively flat once it is reached about 300 metres above our starting place. From here it was more or less open and nice walking. After a more steep ascent we reached the open South summit and signed into the summit register we established in a cairn the week before. The summit and the cairn are on the northern boundary of the Haley Lake Marmot reserve. We did not enter the reserve.
From the South Summit we descended and then after climbing over a bump in the middle of the notch we ascended directly through good forest and elk trails the main and more frequented North Summit. There is no cairn here but two rocks on the highest point, a boulder on the summit. The South summit has had some trees cut on the south side to remediate the environment for marmots. We saw some older marmot dens, but nothing recent. Both North and South summits are broad and expansive with bluff bands breaking away offering unrestricted views.
This is only a moderate hike, but there is no trail and only a little flagging leading to the Northern, closest peak of the twins. This flagging is old and disappears rather soon, you cannot rely upon it. The Northern peak is 1518 metres and Southern summit at 1528 metres is only about 10 metres short of Mt. Whymper. People climbing this peak should be prepared and have experience with route finding. Use of GPS, map and compass in proper combination is de rigour (and know that a GPS can never totally substitute map and compass).
Highlights of the trip were the views, numerous mushroom species seemingly everywhere, elk sign, groves of mountain hemlock and fairy-like glens, open forest and good conversation. We saw much elk sign, some low deer rubbings and some older bear scat. Total time hiking was only 4 hours at a moderate pace. Total up and down, around 500 metres.
The area of Nanaimo Watershed and its peaks used to be frequented very often by Ramblers in the past. Changes of land ownership and active logging have lead to restriction of access to limit liability and vandalism. There was no evidence of anyone frequenting this area and the South Peak is really bereft of any human sign- my guess would be that less than 50 people summit the North Summit and around 10-20 for the South Summit on any given year. The roads are open to hunters and hikers from early September to the middle of December for hunting season and hikers can also take advantage of this to reach the high areas as well. Although hunters were passed in their vehicles we have never encountered any once in the old-growth forest. As a matter of prudence, if we see hunters where we are hiking we usually stop and offer then a greeting and let them know where we are planning to be.
Many of those who read my blog will know that I live in Nanaimo BC and that most of my hiking trips take me to the mid and north island. If you know your geography at all, you will also know that Nanaimo is wedged between the ocean and the mountains, a magical sort of place. However, that place is being held ransom by timber companies. The relationship between hikers and the land-holders is complicated. Though we would love to see the mountain left untouched, the reality is that most of the access to the peaks we want to climb is provided by the roads that are built and maintained by the forestry companies.
Total Horizontal Distance: 11.4 km
Time: 8 hours
Starting Elevation; 885 m
Max Elevation: 1460 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1087 m
In the past I have written of the challenges of getting into the areas around the Nanaimo Lakes Region. I believe that many folks who live on the Vancouver Island have little concept of how the land owned by Island Timberlands has shaped their concept of where communities are located on the central Island.