With clear skies, cool breeze, and warm –yet not scorching– weather we had high hopes of reaching the summit of The Cats Ear. We had intended to approach via Highway 4 but when we arrived at the head of the “road”, we had a good laugh at the dense bush and changed our plan.
We started up the climber’s trail under overcast skies. The forest was warm and muggy, but the ground was dry, allowing us to move over the complex terrain quickly. At every step, we watched our footing, ensuring the roots, rock, moss and other debris didn’t cause us to lose our footing.
As we climbed above 500 m, we met two men and a dog. They had overnighted at a muddy tarn and were on their way back down. After some conversation, they wished us well, and we continued our climb.
In the early mornign, 15 Nanaimo hikers met at Harewood Mall Starbucks, under threatening skies and proceeded to Nanaimo Lakes on our way to hike up Gemini Mountain. Hitting the trail after 9am we proceeded through old growth forest and within 45minutes summited the first summit under rainy skies.
Early Saturday morning Rick and I met Rishi at the Mt Cain turnoff and proceeded up Nimpkish Rd. till we hit Vernon camp. There we proceeded up Stuart main till we hit an area of the road that was no longer drivable(1100M). We then proceeded down the rest of the road(.5 km) where we found a lightly booted route through the logging slash.
Leaving Nanaimo at 5:30am Phil and Matt proceeded to Campbell River where we picked up Mary then proceeded to where Palmerston Rd meets Eve River main. Rishi was there waiting for us, Rick and Lisa weren’t to far behind.
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 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. .
Nothing screams “winter break” more than an overnighter in Vancouver Island’s Alpine. Complete with camping on snow, and a longish logging road approach to the start of the route, this trip will remain in my memory for a long time.
It is a long-standing Island Mountain Ramblers’ tradition to make the most of New Year’s Day, celebrating with a winter hike up Mt. Arrowsmith’s Judges Route, a semi-annual trip we call Katzenjammer. This year, though, I attended a different trip; Phil Jackson hosted a Ramblers trip to Pinder Peak, a seldom-visited peak in the Province Range. It sees few ascents, let alone winter ascents! Four participants enjoyed cold weather camping and fair snowshoe conditions, attempting this summit.
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.
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.