Sunday, June 26, 2011

Little Known Treasures.... Van Island

The only real sun we saw..... Rugged Mountain on the left and looking in to sea of clouds to the west

After having some wonderful adventures in my kayak it was time to start climbing, spring skiing and getting into the mountains. Being on Vancouver Island makes these things very easy!

Vancouver Island is located, for those that don't know, on the southwest coast of Canada. The island itself is roughly 1000km long and 350km wide. It is home to some of Canada's largest and oldest trees and is the birth place of western logging.

While I have been on the island I have spent most of my time at Strathcona Park Lodge, located on highway 28 between Campbell River and Gold River just on the edge of Strathcona Provincial Park (BC's First Provincial Park and it is celebrating its 100th year).

Being at the Lodge is great! Wonderful people, great food and easy access to getting out climbing at the local Crest Creek Crags, into the mountains for some good spring skiing or alpine climbing.

I was really wanting to get out and ski the Kings Peak glacier so I asked around and my buddy Scotty Ballhorn was keen so we packed some food and headed out the next morning. It was blue bird weather with stellar views of Mt Colonel Foster, Elkhorn Mountain, Rambler Peak and many others. We summited at around noon and when we got back to our skies at the col the snow was pretty much perfect so we headed down. Some awesome turns where had and we got to ski right back to our shoe's with only a short stroll back to the car. All in all Kings Glacier is a great day ski trip if you're in the area!!
Scotty skinning up the Kings Glacier
Elkhorn's North Face from the Kings/Queens Col
Scotty taring it up

After Kings Glacier I was really motivated to get into the South Gully of Colonel Foster so after talking to Bill we arranged an alpine start from the Lodge and headed to the Elk River Trail for the hike in. We started walking at 4:30am got to Landslide Lake at around 9:30 skied across the lake and where looking up at the 1100m East Face of Foster..... an incredible alpine wall with a number of different routes up it. The South Gully is off to lookers left and is a beautiful line. We decided, with the conditions we had not to go up the Gully and instead went and skied some other terrain close by. It was great to get up and play around Foster again! Can't wait to get in to climb it!!

Foster from Landslide Lake
Bill gearing up with Foster in the background
Bill getting in some turns

Shortly after our adventures on skies it was time to get out climbing at Crest. The climbing at Crest is really fun sticky basalt with a variety of climbs, 300, ranging from 5.5 to 5.13. Most climbs are sport with a few quality traditional lines and a lot of routes with mixed protection.

Bill climbing at Skid Row Wall

Gen climbing a 5.10a at Skid Row

Me climbing at Skid Row photo by Bill Phipps
Bill doing the all natural first acsent of his new route Flight School 5.10+ photo by Genevieve Bartlam

Me getting ready to top out on a 5.10b crack photo by Bill Phipps
Gen climbing the crack
Gen pulling through the crux

With all this climbing and skiing happening my mind was racing about which island mountain range I wanted to get into and explore. There was thought of traversing from Elk Mountain to Arnica Lake, Elk River Trail to Phillips Ridge or head up to the Haihte Range and climb there. 

The Haihte Range won pretty easily because I had never been there before and have been trying to put partners together to get in there over the past few years. The range is smaller then most ranges on the island in terms of height but being only a short distance from the west coast of the island and there glaciated character give them a much bigger feel.

Mike and Gen starting to gear up for the walk
Gen making lunch

Me, Mike and Gen planned for 4 days up in the range and our main objective was to climb Rugged Mountain. Rugged is the highest peak in the range and though the routes are short they pack a punch of exposure and big alpine feel. 

Day 1 was bushwacking up an old clear cut and hiking through big old growth to the alpine.... though it was pretty wet spirits where high and we made good time. We slept just below tree line for shelter from the weather and got up early the next day to get to Nathan Col to set camp and make an attempt at Rugged.

Just a glimpse into the bushwack

When camp was set and we decided to go try Rugged. The route we climbed was the Original East Ridge AI2, Low 5th class, 250m (II). This route was awesome lots of exposer and mainly steep snow climbing. When on the summit we looked at and signed the summit log, which was dated back to 89, and had been the first people this year, that had signed the log, to be on the summit. Once back at camp we cooked a big dinner and made plans for the next day. Make an attempt at Ya'ai Peak.

Mike and Gen hiking up with Ya'ai Peak in the background

We got up around 7am made breakfast and headed out. At around 11am we turned around due to some odd feelings and later where bummed we didn't keep going. Fortunately the mountain will be there for a few more years.

Camp, the Gendarms, Merlon, and Ya'ai

We headed down the next day and braised ourselves of a harsh bushwack that turned out to be pretty mellow. On the drive out we stopped in the small, 180 people, town of Zeballos found on the northwest coast of the island. Zeballos is a logging fishing community and often in the summer has goods dropped of by boat. If you get a chance to get to Zeballos be prepared for a 40/50km winding logging road drive and with some amazing views!

Gen and Ya'ai

Thanks to all my climbing, skiing and mountain partners all these wonderful adventures wouldn't have been as fun without you! 

For more information on mountaineering, skiing and alpine climbing on the island check out, or look for Island Alpine and Turns and Tours at MEC. Both these sites and books have excellent info on getting into the mountains, skiing and rock climbing on Vancouver Island.

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