November 15th, I joined up with Rod Szasz and a few other hikers, many from the Island Mountain Ramblers for a trip up a rarely summited peak in the Nanaimo Lakes Region/Cowichan Lake Region. Mt Hooper tops out around 1490 metres. For me, an most interesting aspect of the hike is that the weekend before I climbed the peak immediately across the valley. Folks who follow my blog will note that summit is Sadie Peak.
Total Horizontal Distance: 9.8 km
Starting Elevation: 795 m
Max Elevation: 1490 m
Total Elevation Gain: 865 m
We met at Rod's place at 6 am, the thermometer on the car read -5 Celsius, the sun was not yet breaking on the horizon. 5 hikers piled into the truck and we picked up a 6th on at nearby elementary school . The six of us drove south turning off to meet the final group of hikers at the Youbou Firehall at 8:25.
From HWY 1 we drove about 80km reaching 800 m of elevation, before we started walking. After leaving Youbou we continued west to north shore road, which eventually turns into Nitinat River Main FSR. We continued well past Cowichan Lake, following the Nitinat River and ultimately turned up an old logging spur. The road along the entire spur was excellent, very few deep dips. The bigger issue is the encroaching alder. The farther up the road we moved the narrower the road becomes. Before long, the trees were scratching and clawing at Rod's vehicle. Eventually we parked the vehicle and carried on, on foot.
view of Hooper from the Skdder Track
Once on foot we continued up the old logging road for about 2.5 km until we arrived at an old skidder track (1070 m) that gave easy access to the slashed out logging above. Walking through slash is not my favourite gig but it allowed us to easily gain elevation and access to the 2nd growth forest, less than a kilometer to the north east.
Being in the trees, as compared to the overgrown logging road and slash, is a pleasure. Without much effort at all we found an elk-trail and followed it through the forest and eventually to a narrow ridge, leading up.
For the most part the hike is nothing more than easy hiking. There are a few sections that get quite steep and require some scrambling up some simple rock, hands are definitely required, raising the level on the hike to a class three. Interestingly, the route was easy to follow. Though most likely made by animals, it clearly travels up the narrow ridge and even up the rock. This first section is the most challenging. I suggest that it was more fortitude and stamina that are required to make the route than skill.
Once atop the steepest section (1320 m) the views open up in all directions. From there the terrain transforms, opening up with stunted trees and typical low-alpine flora. We could see the summit ahead and we wandered the wide ridge to another short hill, easy to walk up.
As we topped the hill we approached the large rock face of the main summit block. We stood, impressed by the look of the wall. It appears easy to climb, many different possibilities for handholds and footholds. However, we chose to corkscrew around the east face. Checking my topo I could see that the route traveling to the left, along the east face of the block was likely to be less climbing and more hiking, it is. To get to the easier way up we sidled a steep hill, even here there was a bit of a route. We found grass filled space in the trees and easily hiked up to 1460 m.
pointing to Sadie Peak
The final challenge was walking up another 15 m to the top of the summit at 1490 m. From here we wandered along the top to the cairn marking the high-point. We fruitlessly searched for a register, then ate our lunch, 7 of the 8 hikers made the summit. We enjoyed food drink, company and views. The sky was so clear that we could see Mt. Baker to the south. We could also see Sadie Peak to the north, though from this perspective it looked very different.
Descending from the summit, this is the steep hill
Our return to the car followed a different route. Rather than returning along the steep ridge we ascended, we used the steep hill, right below the main summit block. We descended rapidl in a safer manner. Once at 1330 m we trended downward gradually south east. Ultimately we all made it back safe and sound at the vehicle.
The logging road was less than pleasant to walk but I have had worse experiences. Comparing Sadie and Hooper, I enjoyed the hike to Sadie more. It offered alpine meadows and a greater variety of terrain. Further, the road to Sadie was in better condition.
If you are considering a trip up Mount Hooper, I would suggest doing it as soon as you can. The road up is only going to grow in more, every year. See the full album of 32 photographs here...
Rod ascending the gully to the final few meters of ascent
A view of Hoopers wide plateau, leading to the summit