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.  rod@firebozz.com

Mount Benson the outer route

— submitted by Mike Hordelski

Grey skies to start to our day, but no rain in sight. The five of us started out 8:45.  We weren’t  disappointed when we arrived at the creek crossing-lower water level than I expected, and were able to cross without event. Very windy at the viewpoints, saw out first snow just below the Old Road, and a trail runner out with his dog–in training for a marathon, by the looks of it, we followed his tracks along the same route we were taking.

We had an astonishing good hike to the summit, some kick-stepping required on firm snowpack;  needed to take shelter for the summit lunch as it was blowing hard. Found a nice spot allowing us to enjoy the falling snow, and feed those thieving whiskey jacks.

Lake Helen Mackenzie on a sunny day in February

–submitted by Matthew Lettington
Read the full report on his blog: Boring Art, Boring Life

Over the past two months, I have been working to build a pulk sled. I’m motivated by my dream of backpack-free winter camping (as I could haul my gear behind me on my snowshoe and backcountry ski tours), and by the weight of my son (as he just won’t stop growing). My first pulk sled had a high degree of success, but it also had some flaws. I learned a lot constructing Pulk Sled v.1.0.

Lake Helen Mackenzie in Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island
Hemingway cuts a trail on lake Helen Mackenzie

I went through at least four revisions on this first sled. My goal was to create a pulk that is easy to pull, easy to transport, easy to use in the field, protects the cargo, and maneuvers and tracks well.  Addressing the revisions, I altered the harness (how the stays connect to the harness); changed how the load in the sled is distributed; added stabilizers so the sled tracks better; and more. I found a great amount of success. In ideal conditions, Pulk v.1.0 works great. However, I hope to use the sled in conditions that are less than ideal.

Helen Mackenzie to Battleship Lake Loop GPS and Map
Helen Mackenzie Battleship Look Map

Total Distance: 8.0 km
Starting Elevation: 1042
Maximum Elevation: 1162
Total Elevation Gain: 250 m
Total Time: 4 hours

Mount Allan Brooks Intermediate Snowshoe on Family Day Weekend

-submitted by Matthew Lettington
Read the full report on his blog: Boring Art, Boring Life

Making the most of a long weekend means different things to different people. For Family Day Weekend 2016, I jammed in a daytrip for each of the three days, including an overnight camp at a familiar trailhead in Seward. Don’t fret, though; I spent at least one of those days with my family! On the first day, we did a beginner snowshoe trip to Lake Helen Mackenzie. On Day Two, I led an intermediate snowshoe trip to Mount Allen Brooks. For the final adventure, we cranked up the intensity at Stowe Peak, in the Prince of Wales Range.

Island Mountain Ramblers walking through Paradise Meadows
The line of Ramblers snaking along

Our trip to Mount Allen Brooks started at the early hour of 6:00 am, as we headed up to Raven Lodge. The morning brought poor conditions: dark clouds cast a dim light on the landscape, a light rain was falling, and a stiff breeze passed through us all as we stood outfitting ourselves, signing waivers , and waiting for everyone to arrive.

 I started the day with minor trepidation. This was my third attempt of Mount Allan Brooks; the two failed attempts were in less favourable conditions, but on this day I was less than fresh, as my hips were bruised from hauling my son around in the pulk sled the day before. It’s not often that I start a hike fatigued from an effort the day before — unless a tent is involved. However, I had a good feeling; the day before, I had noted that there was a cut track all the way to and across Lake Helen Mackenzie. Beyond that…. we would have to discover!

Mount Allen Brooks GPS Route & Map Strathcona Park, Vancouver Island
Mount Allen Brooks GPS route & map

Total Distance:  14.9 km
Starting Elevation: 1066 m
Maximum Elevation: 663 m
Total Time:  7 hours

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

Family Day Weekend, Beginner Snowshoe

–submitted by Matthew Lettington
Read the full report on his blog: Boring Art, Boring Life

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.

Island Mountain Ramblers, Snowshoe to Helen Mackenzie
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.

Raven Lodge to Lake Helen Mackenzie snowshoe
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

Mount Myra, a first attempt

–submitted by Matthew Lettington
Read the full report on his blog: Boring Art, Boring Life

Stonewalled, again! I’m getting tired of writing reports that end with a failed attempt on some peak or other. So far this winter we have been turned back on more than 4 different peaks! Mount Myra is the latest peak to turn us back and be added to the list.

Mount Myra in Strathcona Park
The long but quick road home. 

We expected good weather and we weren’t disappointed. Excellent visibility, cool temperatures, and light snow wouldn’t be the undoing of our attempt. An incredible accumulation of recent snow would accomplish that.

Mount Myra in Strathcona Park
Mount Myra Map and Photographs

Total Distance: 12.5 km
Starting Elevation: 331 m
Maximum Elevation: 1161 m
Total Elevation Gain: 926 m
Total Time: 8 hours

Read the full report on his blog: Boring Art, Boring Life

Simple Snowshoe around Lake Helen Mackenzie

–submitted by Matthew Lettington
Read the full report on his blog: Boring Art, Boring Life

Another beautiful day in the low alpine. On Saturday, January 30th, I led a small group of Island Mountain Ramblers, along with a special guest, on a trip through Paradise Meadows to Lake Helen Mackenzie and back. We had fine weather: a little sunshine, some light snow, and a clear view along our route.

Hiking Paradise Meadows in Strathcona Park, Battleship Loop

In late 2015, I built a pulk sled to use on my ski and snowshoe adventures. Its purpose is to carry gear and my little guy, Hemingway. Since building the sled I’ve made a number of modifications, attempting to improve performance. Hemi was in tow today as we made our way from Raven Lodge.

We left shortly after 10:00 am; we were in no hurry for this simple snowshoe to the lake and back. On our way to the lake, we followed the summer route from the lodge. Though the route is commonly traveled, the conditions vary. On this day, the route had icy patches with a few areas sloping off the booted track downhill. Unfortunately, the sled performed poorly in these short sections as I have yet to install stabilizing fins, or a skeg.

Helen Mackenzie – Battleship Lake route Map

Total distance: 8.4 km
Starting Elevation: 1072 m
Maximum Elevation: 1165 m
Total Elevation Gain: 214 m
Total Time: 4 hours

Read the full report on his blog: Boring Art, Boring Life

Winter Ascent of Pinder Peak’s Horn

–Submitted by Matthew Lettington, read the full report on his blog Boring Art, Boring Life

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.

Hiking Mount Pinder, Province Range, Vancouver Island
Rick and Rishi, on the southwest ridge. Photo by Phil Jackson

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.

Mount Pinder Map and GPS Route
Pinder Peak Map and GPS Route with photographs

Total Distance: 15.8 kilometres
Starting Elevation: 357 m
Maximum Elevation: 1531 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1254 m

 Read the full report on his blog Boring Art, Boring Life

Katzenjammer! Mt. Arrowsmith Judge’s Route – New Year’s Day, 2016

Submitted by John Young, Read the full report on his Blog, John Young’s Out There 

We set out for the Mt. Arrowsmith climb, looking forward to the snow-covered slopes and the sunny, warm temperatures that were forecast; however, we were not sure about the road conditions, and soon after turning off the highway we had our answer: the road was icy! We inched along, and even at snail-like speeds I found my truck, 4×4 with snow tires, sliding sideways down the road. We therefore opted to park at the Pass Main Junction, rather than driving up to the usual parking spot for the Judge’s Route, adding about 45 min. of walking to our approach.

The 12 of us set off about 9 a.m., and reached the spur road about 9:45. Last year there was no snow on the spur; not the case this year …..

Read the full report on John’s blog.