~ submitted by Brian Flemming, photos by Brian Flemming and Matthew Lettington
I joined the Island Mountain Ramblers recently to branch out a bit, meet some new people, learn some new things and participate in some safe group activities and hopefully summit a few mountains I wouldn’t be able to do alone.
Today’s snowshoe was a good example of a hike that I wouldn’t have done alone because of the weather.
Three of us met at the usual North Nanaimo gathering point at 7am, and quickly got underway for parts north. We made good time to Mount Washington. We met 2 more adventurers at the Raven Lodge. Boots were tightened, packs were donned, and we were off.
The trip through Paradise meadows was predictably lovely. Trails were wet and muddy, with no trace of snow, until Lake Helen Mackenzie.
Getting up at 3:00 am isn’t my favourite way to spend a Sunday, but I do it week after week. I head outside, driven by my Island Alpine Quest, the goal of summiting more than 250 peaks. In doing so, I find myself hiking in some seldom-visited locations on Vancouver Island. Why do I do it? I’m the type of person who needs a goal to stay interested. There are factors that help smooth the rough early morning starts, like those fleeting moments of looking through old-growth forest or picking my way along a craggy ridge. But occasionally, the quest takes me to a place that I’ll never return – one worth skipping. Strata Mountain is in this category.
It’s not that the mountain is out of the way; after all, it’s in the heart of one of the most popular regions of Strathcona Park. And it’s not that it doesn’t have anything to offer; the high ridge tops out over 1400 metres, with an easy walking alpine ridge that has great views of many nearby peaks, including Mount Albert-Edward and Mount Adrian. But because the area is overused, and because there are many other nearby peaks that offer a more dramatic and aesthetic ascent, it’s just not worth the effort – except maybe as a side trip.
Nevertheless, it’s on the list, and Strata Mountain demanded my attention. On March 4th, 2018, I led a group of six Island Mountain Ramblers on a winter trip to the summit of Strata Mountain. It was a near-perfect day for the long trip across Forbidden Plateau, with clear skies that persisted through the morning, and a well-packed boot track that allowed for a quicker-than-normal pace.