Nine Peaks, The Jewel of Strathcona Park

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, originally published on

On June 23rd & 24th 2018, I was one of five Island Mountain Ramblers who summitted Nine Peaks, located on the southern boundary of Strathcona Park. It earns its name from the nine distinct peaks that rise out of the Beauty Glacier, forming a line that runs along a northwest axis. Our trip was planned as an annual birthday getaway – one of Rick and Phil’s long-standing traditions – and was a reprisal of a failed daytrip to Nine Peaks, on the same weekend in 2017. Having been beaten back on the first attempt, we came with the intention of completing the trip as an overnighter.

two mountaineers on the summit of this iconic Strathcona Park peaka
Mel and Phil on the summit of Nine Peaks — all smiles after a hard day.

Our route originated at the Bedwell Lake trailhead, and by the time we were back at the car we had covered 38 kilometres and more than 3500 metres of elevation gain. The trip involves route-finding challenges that change with the season, terrain difficulties that may require scrambling, and the need for self-arrest skills. On top of the physicality of the route, it’s also mentally challenging. There are many sections where you gain elevation, lose it, and then regain it. It includes either two summits of Big Interior Mountain, an airy traverse from the saddle or, at least, an airy traverse around the base of the summit massif.

GPS Route & Map (by request)

Total Distance: 34 km
Starting Elevation: 515 m
Maximum Elevation: 1849 m
Elevation Gain: 3068 m

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Big Interior Mountain: A Failed Attempt of Nine Peaks

–submitted by Matthew Lettington. Originally published on his blog,

Every year, Phil and Rick celebrate their birthday by hiking to a remote peak on Vancouver Island. It was as part of this tradition that in June 2017 Phil, Rick, Colleen, and I made an ill-fated attempt to summit Nine Peaks as a day trip. Seriously, what better way to celebrate your birthday than with a 40 km hike, including more than 3500 metres elevation gain, and all on a day when you didn’t sleep? I can’t imagine what could be better!

Total Distance: 24.8 km
Starting Elevation: 500 m
Maximum Elevation: 1866 m
Total Elevation Gain: 2045 m
Total Time: 16h 18 m

The trip was destined to fail from the start: the distance was too far, the elevation gain too much, and we were just too tired. We started the hike at shortly before 11:00 pm, after a full day of work and no sleep; not the ideal way to start a heroic (but otherwise possible) effort. Despite our ragged condition and the fact that we didn’t reach the summit, everything worked to our best advantage. We had clear night skies, warm breezes in the valley – warm enough that we hiked through the night in t-shirts! – and excellent snow conditions that allowed us to walk on the surface without post-holing.

Big Interior Mountain, on the right in Strathcona Park Phil enjoying his moment in the sun

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