Earlier this year I made late spring trip into the Beaufort Range to visit Mt. Joan. On that trip we ended up making a winter ascent to the summit of Mt. Joan, where we were promptly socked in. Saturday, August 30th the Island Mountain Ramblers made an attempt to traverse the three peaks in this small range of mountains: Mt. Curran, Mt Squarehead and Mt. Joan. The forecast called for 2 mm of rain and light winds. Although the conditions looked a little miserable on our approach, it made for excellent hiking conditions.
Taken from Squarehead, looking back on Mt. Curran and the ridge we ascended (right in photo)
Starting Elevation: 594 m
Max Elevatyion: 1562 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1347 m
Horizontal Distance: 13.8 km
Total Time: 8.5 hours
We left the rendezvous point at Woodgrove Mall, making our way north of Nanaimo and past Qualicum before turning left onto Cook Creek Road. From Cook Creek Road you follow the forestry roads around 15 km along Bowser FSR and turn right just before the Roaring Creek Bride.
To drive the final 3km of the logging road takes a vehicles with high clearance and 4 wheel drive. There are several tank traps created by water washout. At several of the points we needed to get out of the vehicle so we could drive past them. Having a vehicle at this point is nice as hiking from the bottom of this final section would easily add an extra hour to the day.
We drove as far as possible and turned the vehicles around, parking in the turnabout at the top of the road, about 800 m. There are a few Comox District Mountaineering Club (CDMC) signs posted in this area. that help identify the route.
The ten hikers followed the main trail to the directional signage and turned right (north east) and following the well defined trail up up and away. I have to say thank you to the CDMC and the ramblers' president Ken Rodonets for his efforts at keeping this route clear. We found it easy to walk the old forestry road, enjoying the views of the valley below as we picked our way up the route to the a ridge at 960 m. that meanders up toward Mt. Curran.
After about 2 hours of hiking we were at the top of Mt. Curran's large plateau at 1430 m. On this trip we did not summit Mt. Curran, the main summit was about 500 metres to the north but it was only about 30 metres higher than our point. We still had a long hike ahead and set our sites to the west, toward Mt. Squarehead.
The Section from Curran to Squarehead is the most confusing of the loop. The trail peters out and route finding becomes a bit more tricky. There are a few different routes that look like they may go but one leads to a false summit. If you examine my GPS route you will note that we lose some elevation before climbing back up to the proper summit of Squarehead at 1509 metres.
descending from Curran toward Squarehead
We made the summit around 1:15 pm, we took a break, eating our lunch and making sure to drink lots of water. We were grateful for the whether, still overcast and cool. Everyone was able to stay hydrated. Plus, the clouds provided additional beauty to the landscape.
The route beyond Sqarehead becomes easier to follow, the path worn into the ground. At the col between Squarhead and Joan, the group took a vote; ascend Mt. Joan or head down. It was a unanimous decision to head to the summit of Joan.
From the col the route is a quick ascent, less than 30 minutes. It covers easy sub alpine terrain and offers amazing views of the valley. It was great to see this terrain in the summer season. In my previous trip there was so much snow that many of the low trees were covered in snow.
The hikers finally reaching the summit of Mt. Joans
On the summit of Mt Joan (1478 m) we had an amazing panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. From this vantage we could see Port Alberni, and the Courtenay/Comox areas as well as a variety of other peaks and mountain ranges.
As we ate a snack on the summit the barometer started to change, clouds began to billow. We started down from the summit just after 3 pm, backtracking to col between Squarehead and Joan. At the cole we turned east, down the hill and started the long descent.
Our descent took around 3 hours, ending back at the vehicles. About 4/5ths of the way down it started to rain. Though the forecast was for only 2 mm we had more, quite a bit more. As it came down we pushed forward following the route down. The route is easy to follow, though it does get a little bushy in the last two kilometres. I wouldn't call it bushwhacking but there are a number of alder trees starting to accumulate on the old logging road.
By the time we made it to the car the it was pouring. We took turns changing out of our rain gear and hiking cloths before beating a hasty retreat tot he cars.
This hike is well worth the effort it takes to get here. I would classify this as easy hiking (class two) with one or two short third class scrambles. The terrain is similar to that of nearby Mt. Arrowsmith. The pillow lava rock is very beautiful and is covered with many of the sub alpine species of plants.
For those that are interested in knowing more about the history of this little traveled range I recommend Lindsay Elms' website.