Not every hike goes as planned. Sunday, October 19th, the Island Mountain Ramblers head out on the scheduled Mt. Cokely trip We planned to ascend the Saddle Route and intended a a descent along the Rousseau Trail. I have wanted to do Cokely's summit again for quite some time, this trip offered that opportunity with the addition of a new descending route. We rendezvoused at Chapter at 7:45 am with a second rendezvous point at Whisky Creek Co-Op. In total 10 hikers joined in on the Sunday Adventure.
Total Distance: 9.7 km
Starting Elevation: 1047 m
Maximum Elevation: 1610 m
Total Elevation Gain: 805 m
As we approached the Cameron Mainline turnoff, near the Hump heading along highway 4 toward Port Alberni, the sky was gray but offered some hope of a nice day. In the distance we could see the clouds breaking up. Unfortunately as we began the route, the rain started. Though the weather persist ed throughout the day and we would ascend into the clouds, we were not deprived of a few amazing views. Further, we would not be deprived of real adventure!
I was bringing up the tail of the line, enjoying the view of the line of hikers snaking up the hill. We all joked about the views. Ahead of us, Arrowsmith and Cokely were obscured by billowing clouds, while down in Port Alberni, it looked as though they were getting sun! We maintained hope that the day was about to clear up. Many times the clouds threatened to clear out, the peaks above would become nearly visible, only to be subsumed by cloud. Over and over this happened! Alas, once we hit the ridge we found out why!
It is not uncommon, once achieving the ridge of the saddle, for hikers to experience wind. Today was no exception, in fact it proved an extreme example! It took us an hour and half to reach the ridge of the saddle, as we arrived we were greeted by a blast of wind. It his us so hard that it very nearly knocked a few of the hikers over.
We descended below the ridge and took our first snack break. Even though we were below the ridge there was a truly insane amount of wind. We ate quickly and got moving, with the wind the hikers were cooling off quickly. Once on the move we scrambled up a short section of class 3 rock, the worst of the hike, toward Cokely. If we thought the wind was strong before, we had no idea what we were in for. While we were making the climb up the rock the strength of the wind increased. A few of the members were finding it very challenging to move uninhibited, often taking a knee to insure they would not be blown over. This would be the case for the remainder of our trip to the summit.
The blowing wind was a spectacular view! The wind was easily 50 knots and possibly gusting as strong as sixtyfive. The clouds were visibly racing by, billowing and changing in shape and direction as they rounded rocks and finding the summit of the ridge.
by 11:45 we were at the summit (about 1600 m) of the Mt Cokely, two and half hours of hiking . The sound was unbelievable. To be honest, I was fearful of standing below the towers. The wind ripped through the structure, howling! At first we tried to take shelter behind the building, then below the hill, and even around the corner. There was no reprieve to be had. We took photographs and video of each other. In order to talk with each other we needed to yell, even as we stood side-by-each.
Given the conditions, we weighed our options; continue with our plan to hike the ridge the Rousseau Trail, return down the scrambley sections to the Saddle Route or take an immediate descent down the old ski hill. Many of the hikers wished to continue along to the trail. I was happy to do whatever was best. Ultimately it was decided that we would descend the ski hill. The right choice for the situation, one that every hiker was comfortable with. Once below the edge of the ridge, there was almost no wind, though the rain persisted the remained of the day.
We descended to about 1470 m, where we ate our lunch. The old ski-hill is nothing to romanticize about, there is little evidence of the old runs and there is no structures or ski-lifts remaining. Unfortunately the landscape is far from pristine or even reviving, it is badly chewed up. It was suggested by some of the hikers that this is the result of 4x4`s and quads, There is a lot of evidence of vehicle tracks, fire-pits, chopped down wood stands and garbage --including an old mattress overlooking the amazing valley.
The return trip to the vehicles was a slog. It took about an hour to hustle along the road, the experience was probably made worse by the weather. Fortunately it was a great section for friendly conversation. I'm a bit disappointed that we didn't make it down the Rousseau Trail but I am eager to try again.