Mt. Hall – Coronation Mtn: Ski Traverse

–submitted by Rod Szasz

As part of a little micro-adventure to explore and document more alpine peaks closer to home and explore the ski-touring potential of the peaks, Matt Lettington and myself decided to ski traverse two 1350 metre peaks behind Ladysmith – Mt Coronation and Mt. Hall. I had summited both of these as running and day hiking destinations before – last year in March I led a snowshoe hike to the summit of Mt. Hall.

Ski traverse route with photos, GPS track

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Mount De Cosmos & Wine Tasting

A short, stiff hike up from Second Lake on the Nanaimo Lakes circuit. We leftHarewood Mall at 0700 and arrived at the base of the logging road 1150 metres below the summit. Stop about 400 metres before the main 2nd Lake Gate which is the gate just after the lake cottages. There is a small road to the right climbing up with an old,low gate which may be locked. It does not matter. We parked on the main logging road.From here it was a quick walk up from the lake to the end of the road at about 480metres.

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Mt. Hooker Hike

–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.

Gemini Mountain — redux of the week before

–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.

Mckay Peak, Bush Bash

Well… to be fair, not all of it.

Climbing through the woods to get to McKay Peak

This past Saturday, March 7th 2015, I joined my hiking club The Island Mountain Ramblers for a hike in the Nanaimo Lakes Region. Thirteen hikers hit the road at the not-too-early time of 7 am. We accessed our route via Spruceston road (remember to honk before passing under the trestle). At the end of the Spruceton, turn left onto Timberlands and soon a quick right onto McKay Lake FSR. We were lucky to find the gate open. For security, we left a vehicle on the exit side of the gate, in case we returned to find the gate closed and locked.
GPS Route with photographic annotation

Horizontal Distance: 8.5 km
Starting Elevation: 650 m
Maximum Elevation: 1260 m
Elevation Gain: 700 m
Time: 6 hours 30 minutes

Read full report on his blog…

Mt Hooper

— Submitted by Matthew Lettington

November 15th, I joined up with Rod Szasz and a few other hikers, many from the Island Mountain Ramblers for a trip up a rarely summited peak in the Nanaimo Lakes Region/Cowichan Lake Region. Mt Hooper tops out around 1490 metres. For me, an most interesting aspect of the hike is that the weekend before I climbed the peak immediately across the valley. Folks who follow my blog will note that summit is Sadie Peak.

GPS Route with Photographs

Total Horizontal Distance: 9.8 km
Starting Elevation: 795 m
Max Elevation: 1490 m
Total Elevation Gain: 865 m

We met at Rod’s place at 6 am, the thermometer on the car read -5 Celsius, the sun was not yet breaking on the horizon. 5 hikers piled into the truck and we picked up a 6th on at nearby elementary school . The six of us drove south turning off to meet the final group of hikers at the Youbou Firehall at 8:25.

From HWY 1 we drove about 80km reaching 800 m of elevation, before we started walking. After leaving Youbou we continued west to north shore road, which eventually turns into Nitinat River Main FSR. We continued well past Cowichan Lake, following the Nitinat River and ultimately turned up an old logging spur. The road along the entire spur was excellent, very few deep dips. The bigger issue is the encroaching alder. The farther up the road we moved the narrower the road becomes. Before long, the trees were scratching and clawing at Rod’s vehicle. Eventually we parked the vehicle and carried on, on foot.

Read the full report on his blog….

The Obscure Sadie Peak

— Submitted by Matthew Lettington, read the full report on his blog

View from the summit of Sadie Peak, looking North

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.

View GPS Route with photographs

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.