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. .
An important part of planning any trip is having a Plan B, and sometimes a Plan C. There are a lot of factors that go into developing backup plans, but for me, one of the most important factors is geography: Plan B should be close to Plan A. On Sunday February 28th, we were scheduled to make a summit attempt on Horseshoe Mountain. After a long haul from Nanaimo toward Gold River, down Highway 28 and then an additional 20 kilometres of logging road, we were turned back by a pile of snow more than six feet high that blocked the logging road leading to the Horseshoe Mountain Trailhead. We wasted no time in making the decision to switch to our alternate objective, Crest Mountain.
100 metres more to go to the summit ridge but the view was worth it
Late last year, but early in the winter snowshoeing season, we had a failed summit attempt on this peak. At the time, the snow depth was up to our shoulders, and we failed to find the all-important gully that leads to the lake at the top of the summit ridge. Today, we would fare much better.
Is there a difference between hiking and camping for three days, versus doing three hikes in three days? It sure feels like there is. For Family Day weekend 2016, I ventured out on three day-trips, each with a different group of friends. The first trip was a beginner/family snowshoe around Lake Helen Mackenzie; the second, an intermediate snowshoe to the summit of Mount Allan Brooks. The final trip, and the topic of this post, is a more serious hike ascending majestic Stowe Peak.
Stowe Peak is located in the Prince of Wales Range, which lies between Campbell River and Sayward. Geographically, this range is unique as compared to the south island. The mountains erupt on the edge of the Johnstone Strait, in some cases towering right out of the sea, and quickly rise to elevations greater than 1500 metres.
Family Day Weekend has come and gone, and I’m happy to say that I made the most of it. I planned three trips, including an overnight camp at a familiar trailhead in Seward. Don’t fret: I spent at least one of those days with my family! The first day was a beginner snowshoe trip to Lake Helen Mackenzie; Day Two, an intermediate snowshoe trip to Mount Allen Brooks; and the third, a more challenging trip to Stowe Peak, in the Prince of Wales Range.
everyone looking out for the littlest Rambler
On Saturday February 6th, eleven Island Mountain Ramblers headed out from Raven Lodge on an easy snowshoe trip to Lake Helen Mackenzie. Several guests joined us, including two of Kim’s long-time friends, Emhrys and Nichole.
Lake Helen Mackenzie Map with photographs
Total Distance: 6.8 km
Starting Elevation: 1068 m
Maximum Elevation: 1161 m
Total Elevation Gain: 178 m
Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
A long time ago, when people were talking – for the first time – about a certain movie that took place in a galaxy far, far, away, there was an underutilized ski resort on a site which is now commonly referred to as “the old Forbidden Plateau ski hill”…
Bright and early on Sunday, January 10th, we were on the road, questing for adventure in Strathcona Park. Six of us made it to the trailhead for first light. The icy road and parking lot were plowed, making transit easy, but once we parked and exited, John’s truck slid a few inches. We took our first steps up to the proper snow of the old slopes at 8:00 am.
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.
We headed up, seven of us, shortly before 9:00, taking Trail #1 and prepared to cross the creek to begin our hike proper. However, not unexpected, the run-off from the rains made the crossing too chancy. Plan B, to double back on the Old Road and take the fork to the ridge trail wasn’t looking too good either, so we opted for the less eventful Direct Route up.
I was placing a lot of hope on a snowy summit and we were not disappointed as the photos will attest! It was windy, so we took shelter just below to enjoy our lunch. Not as cold as expected, a bit of drizzle on the way up, I think most of us were overdressed for the day. Made our way down around around 1:00. Half way down, we passed people on their way up…always good to start early if you want to keep the light on the way down.
Got back to the cars just passed 2:00 with smiles all around.
ACC combined with Island Mountain Ramblers trip Apr 25, 2015. Traverse Mt Cokely to the Base of Mt Arrowsmith Gully and hike out climbers trail to the road. Organized and let by our fearless leader Clarke. Particpants included Clarke, Roger, Peggy, Monica, Wendy, Sandra and Wanda. We arrived to find loads of fresh snow. The trip took us 8 1/2 hours using various combinations of snow shoes and crampons. Thanks to Roger for breaking trail most of the way and Clarke for the excellent route finding. This route was moderately strenuous with beautiful scenery and some short steep and airy sections.
–Submitted by John Young –Photographs by Matthew Lettington & Bil Derby
The Introduction to Snowshoeing for Novices quickly morphed into an intermediate outing due to the sketchy snow conditions. With 23 of us setting out from Raven Lodge, we split into two groups, with Matt helping to lead the other group. I had decided to head uphill from Raven Lodge, reasoning that the snow would be better higher up, and it would be easier to navigate in the fog going uphill and then descending.
It was tough going up the slope north of Raven Lodge, however, because the hill, while usually almost bare of trees, was festooned with trees and sloppy snow, resulting in us plunging past our knees in the sodden mess. The going, and the weather, did improve as we went along, though, and the sun almost broke through. And coming down was pleasant in places, where there was enough snow. It was a really nice group to go out with, and I hope we get more snow!