Steamboat Mtn falls inside the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks, A donation was made to the Tribal Park Guardians on the way through.
Up at stupid o’clock by all, had us all together and on foot for 6:30 am. An eager group of 6, we set out on what was planned to be a full day out. How quickly the gentle start of an easy spur trail to distract you fades away, leading to progressively tighter and tighter trail, until the forest consumes you completely and spits you out the other side! Up old creek beds, steep forest, around wasp nests, under logs, over logs, repeat and repeat again and eventually you’ll find yourself at a nice unnamed lake maybe halfway up. A chance to ditch some pack weight, refill water and have a quick snack.
Steamboat Mountain rises prominently on the north side of Highway Four; you may have spotted the prow, a feature on the east end of the summit ridge, on a drive to Tofino. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like up there, it’s incredible! It’s also a problem that took me a few years to work out.
The mountain screams for good weather approaches. This route, like many of the others off Highway Four, creeps through some of the densest biomass on earth. Buried in dark forest, the route is slimy when wet, and any semblance of a booted route can be obscured by low-hanging, water-laden branches. And here is where I hang my many failed, foolhardy summit bids: winter trips done in search of routes accessible off the highway, as the backroads were covered in snow. Of course, these early spring and late fall months are also the wettest, and short on daylight hours. In short, failed trips done in foul weather.
Total Distance: 15.4 km
Starting Elevation: 51 m
Maximum Elevation: 1469 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1538 m
Total Time: 13 hours, 10 minutes
Have you ever pushed through so much bush that it physically pains you, and causes emotional trauma to the degree that it haunts you for days? I have, and I recommend that every hiker/mountaineer does it at least a few times in their life. It gives you perspective: in some ways, it makes you enjoy an unimpeded trail that much more!
Philip Stone dedicates a portion of his book Island Alpine (2003) to a series of Top Ten lists, including a section for the top ten bushwhacks. Since publication, the face of alpinism on Vancouver Island has changed. The rock hasn’t changed, but gear has improved, new logging roads have been punched through, many roads have grown over, some routes have been placed and others cleared. The Top Ten lists are still important, but at least a few of them need updating, and the list of Island bushwhacks is one of them. Keep in mind that this is just one blogger’s opinion, but I think this route should be considered for the list.
On Sunday January 24th, Phil Jackson and I made a solid Rambler attempt to summit Steamboat Peak using a route named The Cavers Trail, a route set by Quagger sometime before 2003. I was warned about the route, which lies along Highway 4 and is filled with classic Highway 4 bush. True to the claim, I’ll testify that this route is filled with many sections of solid class 3/4 bush. This is the type that claws at you as you work your way through all manner of vegetation. It hooks gear and rips at your flesh. I made it through with only a dozen scratches on my hands and a few marks on my face.