Maquilla Peak washed down with Mount Alston

–submitted by Matthew Lettington
In order to make the most of our time on the mountain, I organized a trip to the north island that included visits to two mountains. Both mountains are worth visiting individually, but by combining them into one day trip, we were able to save some money on fuel.
Friday evening Jes and Matthew camped out at the Forest Rec site at Klaklakama Lake. Predawn came even worse than it sounded after a poor night’s sleep (I think too much coffee). It was a short drive to the end of Chuckham Road, and we were hiking to Maquilla by 6:15 am. We parked to 800m, so there was a little more than 1000m to the summit. 
We ventured off the road and up a ridge to an adjoining route that gains the peak via the south ridge. We moved quickly through the light to moderate bush. There was no boot track to guide us but we had great beta provided by another club member – thanks, Eyrn! 
Lower ridge for Maquilla

Continue reading “Maquilla Peak washed down with Mount Alston”

Sutton Peak via the West Ridge


Sutton Peak is one of Vancouver Island’s illustrious 6000 footers. It’s a destination that I frequently poke Phil about doing; since he first summited – without me—back in 2016. Aside from its height, this route’s sparkling feature is the long west ridge that leads mountaineers to seek this summit.

No GPS Track Available

Total Distance: 15 km
Starting Elevation: 1094 m
Maximum Elevation: 1870 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1511 m
Total Duration: 8 h 30 min

Continue reading “Sutton Peak via the West Ridge”

Watchtower Peak: We Found the Trouble

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, originally published on
–banner image courtesy Phil Jackson– Summit Ridge

Route planning is among the most important parts of trip planning. It influences equipment choices, time estimates, and helps one visualize the role environmental conditions will play on the expected terrain. Sometimes route planning is easy; the most popular routes have trails, booted track, well-documented maps, GPS tracks, and dozens of trip reports. And sometimes, it’s not so easy – for example, my trip to Watchtower Peak in the Sutton Range. A key difference between easy and challenging routes is the beta available.

Watchtower Peak wasn’t our primary objective for the weekend and so Phil and I had the one-paragraph description in Island Alpine (2002) to rely on. It boils down to three points: Gain the ridge; Follow the ridge; Avoid troubles on the left side. A key part of using any beta is interpreting the information and its validity. First, you have to the question if the author is describing the route based on their first-hand experience and what their individual experience level is; Or, if it isn’t first-hand knowledge how reliable was their source. Assuming that you trust the resource, you have the job of interpreting the route description and reconciling it to the terrain. This experience might be lived out while neck-deep in some mountain hemlock looking for the edge of a cliff you may or may not be standing on, or even whilst dangling into a gully trying to decide if the route “goes”.

Watchtwower Peak, Vancouver Island hiking
Warden and Victoria in the background

On the other side of the coin, there’s the trick of writing a trip report. It’s always challenging for me to parse the information in a way that will be meaningful for those who hope to do a trip of their own. A big fault for some of my reports is their depth of detail; giving too many details can be just as harmful –maybe more, even—as giving a report with too little information. Yet, here we are with another trip report. Hopefully I can avoid being both too sparse and too detailed.

Continue reading “Watchtower Peak: We Found the Trouble”

Mount Abraham, An Easy Scramble

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, originally published on

In the past three years, I’ve summited more than one hundred peaks on my list, and I’ve categorized them based on their type – which makes it easier to make recommendations to friends. When it comes to aesthetic ridge scrambles on Vancouver Island, Mount Abraham is among the best; for anyone interested in easy scrambles, I recommend giving this mountain a try.

On June 3rd we were turned back on our attempt to summit Mount Abraham because of poor visibility, weather, and a misunderstanding of the route description (read more here). But on June 10th, we came ready with a better understanding of the route and a burning desire to outrun the impending weather due in the afternoon.

Total Distance: 11.6 km
Starting Elevation: 784 m
Maximum Elevation: 1702 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1103 m
Total Time: 6 hours, 30 minutes

Continue reading “Mount Abraham, An Easy Scramble”

Waring Peak: Striking Back

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, read the full report on his blog

Have you ever struggled to achieve an objective, and been turned back? I have–a lot! Waring Peak in the Sutton Range is among several peaks that we failed to summit last winter. My first attempt came to a premature end, with the group looking longingly at the base of the summit block, merely 200 metres away from the summit of the mountain. This August, we struck back at mountains that had turned us back last winter. This time, after only 2.5 hours of hiking, we were standing on the summit admiring the view, and enjoying the narrow upper ridge of this Vancouver Island peak. It’s satisfying to gain these summits, but it’s remarkable how different the approaches are in the different seasons. Of note, the biggest surprise is the bush!

Waring Peak GPS route, Waring Peak, Island Mountain Ramblers, hiking, Waring Peak
Waring Peak GPS Route


Toal Distance:  9.1 km
Startin Elevation: 541 m
Maximum Elevation: 1599 m
Elevation Gain: 1071 m
Time:  5 h 15 m



Continue reading “Waring Peak: Striking Back”

Jagged Peak: Grovelling in the Gully

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, Read the full report and see more images on his blog.

[insert snappy introduction]

I love mountaineering in the Sutton Range because the peaks offer a sense of exploration I don’t always find in more popular regions. I attribute this feeling to the relative isolation of the peaks: they are a long way from the major population centres of Vancouver Island, and there are no paved roads to the trailheads. Because of this, we rarely see booted routes to guide us on our way. It’s in the Sutton Range that we found our Sunday adventure, on Jagged Peak.

Many of the peaks in the Sutton Range are dramatic, jagged forms that inspire feelings of dread (or excitement) as you look at them. Jagged Peak, aptly named for its long, crumbling gullies, is no exception. Jagged Peak is a less popular destination than other mountains in the Sutton Range, such as Victoria and Warden Peaks. Individually, they might be difficult to identify, but these dramatic, and iconic peaks rise together from the valley and create an easily identifiable Vancouver Island landmark.

Jagged Peak GPS route
Jagged Peak GPS Route with Photographs


Total Distance:  11.5 km
Starting Elevation: 605 m
Maximum Elevation: 1700 m
Elevation Gain: 1150 m
Total Time: 6 h 30 m


Continue reading “Jagged Peak: Grovelling in the Gully”

Mount Abel: A Great Spring Snowshoe in the Sutton Range

–submitted by Matthew Lettington, Read the full report on his blog

The Sutton Range holds a good number of peaks that I’ve included my Island Alpine Quest, including our goal for the day: Mount Abel. The names of the peaks and valleys follow a pattern – Mount Cain, Mount Abel, Mount Adam, Adam River, Eve River, and so on – that have some people referring to that portion of the range as the Genesis Range. Mount Abel, like most mountains, has both an easy or a difficult approach. The west aspect is a dramatic rock wall, but from the southeast there is a good variety of easy mountaineering options.

We parked a short distance down a logging spur, just off Adam Road (~850 m). Only the week prior, the snow was piled at least forty-five centimetres high on the place we were now parked. That’s a lot of snow melt in seven days! Seeing how fast the snow is melting brought a smile to my face, as it’s a sure sign of summer ahead. At the same time, I groaned a little, knowing that we would be trekking through some sloppy conditions.

Mt Abel Map and GPS Route
Mt Abel Map and GPS Route



Total Distance: 9.9 km
Starting Elevation: 886 m
Maximum Elevation: 1819m
Total Elevation Gain: 943 m
Total Time: 6 hours

Continue reading “Mount Abel: A Great Spring Snowshoe in the Sutton Range”

Kokummi Mountain

–submitted by Matthew Lettington. Read the full report on his blog

April is a month of unpredictable weather. Before we head out on a hike, we are seldom concerned about the forecast; let’s face it, it’s usually wrong. On Sunday, April 24th, we planned to hike Steamboat Mountain, in the Maitland Range. We were going to use a route notorious for its bushwhack. With rain in the forecast, we made an exception to the rule and changed our plan–wet conditions and bushwhacking are a recipe for disaster. Pushing through trees branches, getting soaked and freezing, isn’t exactly my idea of great fun! Instead, we headed north, looking for respite from the forecasted rain.


Mount Kokummi in the Sutton Range
Kokummi’s Long east ridge, shot on our way down
As predicted, the weather was erratic. We had it all: we hiked over logging slash and through dense bush in light rain and snow, through deep-snow-covered old growth in misty windy conditions, and finally along the gorgeous, rolling, snow-covered ridge to eventually be bathed in sun. The day was fruitful and the images created lasting impressions.

Over the past year, I’ve hiked some obscure mountains on Vancouver Island, in some hard-to-reach places, and even some previously unexplored regions. I’ve only just started exploring the Sutton Range, but so far I’m blown away by the views! This range of peaks is found on the northern half of Vancouver Island and accessed via a series of logging roads near Sayward. The drive may be long, but the views are well worth it.
Kokummi Mountain, Sutton Range, Vancouver Island Map and GPS Route
Kokummi Mountain Map and GPS Route
Total Distance: 14.6
Starting Elevation: 525 m 
Maximum Elevation: 1624 m 
Elvation Gain: 1213 m
Total Time: 6 hours
We piled into Rick’s city car and drove the long road to Sayward, finally turning onto the all-too-familiar logging road that leads into the valleys between many of the peaks in the range. As we drove, we could see the monsters, peeking through the clouds above. They whispered a warning, but we didn’t listen. We had our minds set on a goal: Kokummi Mountain.
Rick’s car did well on the road, which is mostly in good condition. As the route climbed, the car struggled for purchase in the loose gravel. We parked below a steep section (~550m) on the MC12 spur, off the Gerald Creek Mainline. Bringing the city car saved us money on fuel, but we now had nearly five kilometres of logging road remaining to walk before starting our hike. I really wished we had brought my Jeep!
Mount Kokummi in the Sutton Range
Warden and Victoria
The road is open and easy to walk; any all-wheel-drive vehicle would make it. The road twists as it climbs the mountain, gaining altitude quickly. We worked up a sweat early on, and soon the sky brightened and the air warmed, making our temperatures rise. This road must be an elk superhighway; there were literally hundreds of sections of scat piles on the length of the road. As we walked, we looked to Victoria and Warden and could see cloud quickly blowing over the peaks. It made these prominent peaks look even more impressive!
clouds in the low valley
We carried our snowshoes on our backs, but even now, at 1000m, the snow was just starting. The conditions were consolidated, and carried our weight well. We dumped our snowshoes, as we were now confident we wouldn’t need them.
We selected a line that looked clear, as there was no obvious trail. After crossing a ditch, we headed up the steep slope to the saddle, visible 80 metres above. Though the exposed ground was steep, it was easy to navigate between the sparsely planted spruce, hemlock, and cedar; in my opinion, it hardly even earned a B2 rating. The biggest challenges were the small shrubs that tugged at us as we passed, and the loose gravel that slipped away beneath our feet on the 40-degree slope. We quickly gained the snow-covered saddle, and caught our first view of the valley on the opposing side. It looked inviting, but it was nothing compared to what came later.
up through the old growth
We gingerly picked our way the short distance to the old growth. The snow was shallow, and as we walked overtop of fallen logs, we were careful not to break through the shallow crust into the pit traps beneath. More than once we broke through, and expletives were uttered. Into the old growth, and up we climbed. The route was steep once again, but the snow was in perfect condition for kicking steps, making it easy to gain the open upper ridge.
Emerging onto the open ridge (~1300m) was rewarding – we could almost see our goal! A thick fog blew across the ridge, but we could make out the shadow of the peak we sought, less than two kilometres down the wandering ridge in the distance. As we trundled west over the ridge, we had clear glimpses of the mountain ahead. At times it was clearly visible in the sun that blasted through clear blue patches in the sky, other times it was nearly encased in dense fog that made it impossible to see.
Sutton Range Vancouver Island
Across the valley
Mount Kokummi in the Sutton Range
Kokummi Peaks through the clouds

Phil and I walked close to the edge of the snow-covered ridge and nearly jumped back! We accessed the ridge via a steep slope, but on the other side it is a sheer drop-off. As we stood at the edge, we had a view to the valley, 400 metres below us. It was clear of snow, and the sun bathed the creek and surrounding area in light, creating a stark contrast from the winter wonderland we walked.

Mount Kokummi in the Sutton Range, Vancouver Island
Up into the clouds, Mount Kokummi east aspect
Our biggest obstacle was the final approach to the summit. The steep snow on the northeast face looked daunting: a slip would spit you off the side of the mountain. We played it safe and kept to the left, travelling over some light rock and snow to gain the summit above. Though it looked formidable, in the end, it was easy.
We were at the summit in good time. We gained the final 100 metres in fog, but as we reached the summit, the stiff breeze blew most of it away. We had a good view of the long ridge were walking, in both directions. The wind sculpted sharp edges on the crests of the snow-capped ridge, and the sun created a stark contrast that emphasized the sharp nature of the snow. To the south, we had a great view of Victoria and Warden Peaks. Even in the distance, across the wide valley, they towered above us. They would be an adventure for another time, an adventure much more challenging than today’s pleasant ridge walk.
Mount Kokummi in the Sutton Range, Vancouver Island
Me and Rick on the summit of Kokummi Mountain
With the awesome snow conditions, the return trip was fast. What took us a few hours to ascend took us just thirty minutes to return. As we descended, the weather was up to its old tricks: midway down the ridge we looked back, and the cloud was gone, leaving Kokummi Mountain doused in sunlight. This earned nothing but a few grunts from our group.
Mount Kokummi in the Sutton Range, Vancouver Island
descending back to the car

If you are looking for an out there mountain that offers exciting ridge walking and excellent views, but are not comfortable with exposure, this mountain may be for you. Although we needed to use our hands on occasion to fight the light bush up the short distance to the saddle (even this was easy), the route is fantastic.

The biggest challenge for our day was the logging road. Today was one of those days: six hours of driving, ten kilometres of logging road, five kilometres of ridge walking. If I sound bitter, I’m not – this trip was worth it!

Queen Peak

— Submitted by Matthew Lettington — Read the full report on his blog

Queen Peak (Sutton Range) sits well off the highway, easily accessed via the Seward Junction. The name of the peak often creates confusion with another Vancouver Island feature commonly referred to as Queen’s Face, part of the King’s Peak hike in Strathcona Park. Queen Peak offers a steep approach through logging slash and first-growth forest to reach a long low alpine ridge that leads to its summit, which provides one of the best views of Victoria and Warden Peaks.

Queen Peak Vancouver Island, Hiking Lettington
The view of the valley below

Anticipating a long drive from Nanaimo, our plan of attack included camping at the trailhead to give an early morning start. We left Nanaimo well after dark as I needed to tuck Hemingway into bed first. The four of us rendezvoused at Phil’s house before hitting the long road to Seward Junction. Our beta provided good directions to the trailhead. Though the road is in reasonable condition, we encountered several cross-ditches at the upper elevations. Twice the passengers vacated the car to give enough clearance to get through the ditches and up the steep sections of hill. Once, they even pushed so I could get enough power to get up the hill; damned standards! All told, the drive took about four hours, including the long (more than 40 kilometres) logging road. It may have been faster had we travelled in daylight; the drive includes multiple turns on logging roads, and a few times we nearly took incorrect spurs.

Queen Peak Vancouver Island, Hiking Lettington
A late setup by car-lamp and an evening beverage before bed.
Queen Peak, Vancouver Island Map and GPS Route
Queen Peak GPS Route and Map with photographs

Total Horizontal Distance: 6 km
Starting Elevation: 700 m
Maximum Elevation: 1639 m
Elevation Gain: 972 m
Time: 6 hours 20 minutes

 High up on the logging road, at the start of our hiking route at 720 metres, we set up camp under clear skies. The stars shone bright, outlining the black silhouettes of the distant peaks. We shared a few beers before heading to bed. Though I slept well, I would be remiss in my friend-duties if I left out one detail: we camped near a trickling stream that created a significant amount of noise all night long. Though I didn’t have an issue, several of the hikers found sleep difficult, and made several trips to … water the forest.

–Read the full report on Matthew’s blog: Boring Art, Boring Life