Wow, I'm tired. I have that familiar ache in my legs that lets me know that I didn't let life pass me by, I went out and found adventure. Valentines Day weekend 2015 was generous, I did two hike! My wife is an amazing woman, so kind to give me the time to do this (AKA she went out of town with her friends). My Saturday trip was 10 km of the Kludahk Trail on the San Juan Ridge, my second a long day in the rolling peaks of the Beaufort Range, between Comox and Port Alberni.
Cenotaph for Rosmarie Apps at Lake Rosemarie
This year I have been actively seeking opportunities to get into the Beaufort Range. I've manage to check about 3/4 of them off my bucket list. Before this weekend I had, Joan, Curran, Squarehead and Clifton. My goal for this weekend was, Mt. Cameron, Mt Henry-Spencer, Mt Stubbs and last but not least Mt Tsable. Phil Jackson researched the route and talked to Quaggar about the best approach. Phil did a great job, we had an easy time following a route for the entire long day of hiking and shuttling.
Total Horizontal Distance: 19.6 km
starting Elevation: 1150 m
Maximum Elevation: 1506 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1176 m
Total Time: 9 hours 10 minutes
By 6 am I was watching Nanaimo disappear behind us in my rear view mirror. Our destination beyond Port Alberni, for those who read my blog are familiar gate at the end of the Valley Link Highway (Comox Main or even Toma Main, depending on which resource you use). We left Rick's car at the gate and we backtracked, crossing the Lanterman Creek bridge and following a spur to the northeast. For those familiar with the area, this spur is the route that takes you to the Mt. Apps Trail. Travel on this 13 km stretch of road provides access high up into the mountains. If you take a 4x4, or if your like me and you don't mind pushing the limits of your Subaru Outback, you cross at least a dozen cross-ditches and can climb as high as 1150 m before you need to exit the vehicle. I'm leaving the directions vague because you can just look at my GPS route to see the directions.
low lying cloud, shot from where we parked the car
Overall I would give this trip a Moderate/Strenuous rating, it's 19 km of off trail route with 1200 metres of cumulative elevation gain, it was fatiguing. Before one heads out ensure you are able to read maps/GPS well enough to pick a safe route. Though most of the route is easy walking there are a few scrambly bits and two sections that we relied on using green belays to get up and down safely.
This trip report is long and a bit hard to take as a single piece of writing. Therefore, to make this post a bit more useful for readers, I'm breaking it up into sections that covers the terrain between summits. In this way one can find the relevant information that you need regarding traversing between two or more of the peaks.
Out of the Bush and up to Mount Cameron-- 1.6 km, 300 metres gain, 1 hour
Probably due to luck with the weather and bravery/stupidity regarding my choice to drive my Subaru higher and higher, we started our hike at 1150 metres, we were hiking the final 500 metres of road by 8:45. Once at the end of the road we picked up lightly flagged route that guided us. We contoured east along the side of the hill before we turning sharply northwest up and over a small section of rock.
Climbing from the road to Mount Cameron
We had our GPS point and in about thirty minutes after leaving the car, we were up and out of the trees around 1400 metres The trees thinned and we were walking on packed snow without the aide of the snowshoes --which we would carry the entire day on our backs... uneeded.
Once on the wide ridge we generally headed west along the top, to the Mount Cameron summit cairn. We arrived at 9:30. Though not in the official name registry, this peak name can be found in publications like the Backroads Mapbook. It's a peak that few people visit, it tends to be done when traversing to the more significant peaks in the range. There is a small register inside the cairn and we signed it. There were only three other names contained inside it. I imagine a lot of folks must just wander past.
en route to Mount Cameron
Mount Cameron to Mount Henry Spencer-- 4 km, 370 m gain, 1 hour 45 minutes
The conditions made travel a bit slow on the descent from Cameron. There was a good amount of exposed rock, some of which had an accumulation of ice. I was unfortunate enough to experience this first hand, it was a great ride and ... my butt still hurts. From Mount Cameron you can see Lake Rosemarie, which still had a thing crust of translucent ice. We observed the terrain and examined our maps and made a route change, originally we were going to travel the east side of the lake but there was considerable tree in this region. Instead we aimed for the west side of the lake, where we could see a large amount of exposed rock that looked quick to travel on.
Our first view of Lake Rosemarie
We continued our descent and made our way to Lake Rosemarie (1250m), named by the late Don and Sylvia Apps for their lost infant daughter. We chose to pass the lake along the western edge, hopping over the lakes narrow outflow. As we guessed the terrain was easy to follow, mostly bare pillow lava. On our way past the lake, we discovered a small monument to Rosemarie Apps. From the monument's vantage, we had the best view of the lake, half covered in ice, and to the west, a view of the mountain in the distance. The monument sits on a ledge, overlooking both. It sits forever facing the lake with the mountains of Strathcona at her back.
Lake Rosemarie, you can see the rock we walked to gain quick passage to the next ridge
Lake Rosemarie outflow
We carried on, following the obvious ridge leading up. Around 1340 m we crossed a small creek and climbed north to a small viewpoint (1412 m) with a small cairn. This viewpoint gave us the chance to survey our route . From this peak, we ventured north along the ridge, one needs to descend into a saddle before making it up to the next section which eventually leads to Mount Henry-Spencer. The final approach and gave a welcome break from the undulations of the landscape after the lake.
View of the final approach up Henry-Spencer
We arrived at the summing (1480 m) at 11:30, after signing the register we took our lunch. The wind was blowing lightly, enough to warrant wearing a jacket and huddling behind a tree to keep warm. We examined the name plaques, and enjoyed the view of the mountains on all sides of us; Beauforts, Strathcona and Coast Mountains. We mentally prepared for the next section.
Henry-Spencer to Mount Stubbs -- 2.6 km, 250 m elevation gain, 1 hour 45 minutes
The decent from Henry-Spencer is the most challenging portion of the hike. It has a hair raising descent. From the summit of Mount Henry-Spencer we ventured northwest, utilizing the famous Vancouver Island Green-Belays to lower ourselves down the very steep terrain. It comes very close to the edge of the mountain where it drops several hundred metres.
Shot from the summit of Mount Henry-Spencer, the ridge leading north to the summit of Mount Stubbs
Shot from Mount Stubbs, looking south to Mount Henry-Spencer
Once off Mount Henry-Spencer, the route is enjoyable again and simple to follow, with only one small section of bush to push through and a few tarns to navigate around. The final approach up Stubbs has multiple options, we opted for the more direct route up the rock. We arrived quickly on the summit (1490 m) but din't waste much time before scooting on our way. We were beginning to feel the length of the hike an knew we still had 8 km of logging road to finish off our hike.
Mount-Stubbs to Mount Tsable -- 2.8 km, 200 m elevation gain, 1 hour 30 minutes
The approach to Tsable from Stubbs requires a 100 metre decent to a ridge that parallels the south edge of Beaufort Lake then up and over a final steep section to gain the final approach to Mount Tsable. The lake provides a unique view, demonstrating why the Beaufort Range is so beautiful for hiking. Traversing the ridge Beaufort Lake is on the right, 350 metres below in a basin between Mt Stubbs, Mount Tsable and Mount Chief Frank.
Shot from the summit of Mt. Stubbs, looking northwest to the bump and Mt Tsable on the far right.
Ascending the bump leading to Mount Tsable
The final bump that gives access to the ridge leading to Mount Tsable. It quickly gains close to 70 metres. We called on our green friends once more and climbed quickly. Once over the precipice we descended the north side of the bump to get to the final approach to Mount Tsable. We arrived at the less than majestic (well in comparison to the other peaks in the area) summit around 3 pm. We were tired and after posing for pictures and examining our maps we were on our way. The least Romantic part of the hike in front of us, we were eager to get a move on.
Mount Stable to Logging Road and Home,
Nasty. Just nasty. Quaggar communicated with Phil that the descent is a good route with "almost a trail" LIES! The decent from Stubbs is my least favourite section of the whole day. We picked up a sparsely flagged route that descended the steep mountainside. I think we came in the worst possible conditions for this section. If the snow were deeper we would have excellent descending conditions and if we came in a drier season we would also find it easy. Instead, we had solid steep snow, crossing multiple types of substrate at varying angles. We were able to slightly retrace his route, and it did make the descent easier. However, it only got us so far. Once descending to 1050 m we were for confronted, nay, practically assaulted by a 8 foot high wall of planted Douglas fir and hemlock.
We came upon a section of rope to assist getting down this short rock ledge
Not only did we come out with scrapes, and bumps but the vile beasts stole one of my hiking poles and half of the other! I had them attached to my backpack and somehow in all the pushing through the trees the poles must have been pulled from the holder. Rick and Phil, were walking 1 metre behind me and they didn't see either of my poles. It simply wasn't even possible to see the ground while in the trees. They perfectly obscured our view of the landscape, making it really challenging to pick a route. My honest assessment is that there is no easy route through the trees. I would recommend looking for a way around them, possibly a bit further north. Thankfully the section is short. It took us 25 minutes to push our way, 250 metres horizontal and 50 metres of elevation loss, through the trees to the logging road 70 below.
250 metres of pushing through the green wall, descending Mount Tsable
From the road we were able to quickly make it back to Rick's car. The logging roads offer nothing in terms of charm or views but it does make for fast travel. We pushed on quickly along the 8 km of road.The time verily whizzed past us as we set our minds on getting home.
We arrived back at Rick's car at 5:45 and spent another 40 minutes driving and climbing back to the Subaru. By the time I was getting into my car, the sun was setting and the last glimmer of light was visible on the horizon, outlining the shapes of the behemoths in Strathcona Park.
courtesy of Phil Jackson
I have most of the peaks in this region completed and a pretty good notion of the terrain throughout the range. The Range is one of the possible routes for the Vancouver Island Spine Trail. Upon returning home and writing up this report I did some checking on various maps, looking for a route that would walk up from Port Alberni, possibly on the The Old Log Train Trail or other areas that would provide ease of access for traversing through the entire range without walking on copious amounts of dry dead logging road. It is possible to hike up from Port Alberni and Down to Comox Region. It looks possible and I know at least a few people have done the entire traverse of the peaks, though not with the intent of joining a longer section of trail.
Maybe this is a good goal for this summer.... who knows.