Category Archives: The Mountain Diaries

A new blog, talking about my progress towards mountaineering and various summit attempts and successes.

Kings Peak

A Trip Report

On June 1st, Teslin and I made Kings Peak our goal. It was the perfect day for the hike. The sky was clear and blue, the temperature stayed moderate and true to Vancouver Island in June.

If my lack of actual writing, photo editing and general creation of this website is any indication, I’ve been extremely busy. Almost two months later and this trip report is rather fuzzy. But the important bits have been noted, and I hope that if you are reading this in hopes of attempting Kings, that no matter when you do it, you will go back again in May/June.

Happy Birthday Teslin! What a better way to spend a birthday, then a moderate 10 hr hike up such a prestigious mountain, with panoramic views of almost all the major peaks on our island home!

Elkhorn rises dominantly in your face as you come up over the glacier. Behind it, the Golden Hinde rises into the sky as the highest peak on Vancouver Island. Colonel Foster and Rambler are both viewable to the east (right side) and compete for your attention.

Elkhorn rises dominantly in your face as you come up over the glacier. Behind it, the Golden Hinde rises into the sky as the highest peak on Vancouver Island. Colonel Foster and Rambler are both viewable to the east (right side) and compete for your attention.

After a day spent climbing at Crest Crags, we drove out to the trailhead to spend the night. In order to cut back on hiking time (about half an hour), we parked higher up on an old road that cuts through the trail. 4×4 and/or high clearance is needed to get through this road. Initially waking up at 6am, we favoured a better sleep-in and stayed cozy in the truck bed until 7am when we finally made tea, attempted a light breakfast and hit the trail.

For once, I decided to lead the charge and with my trail runners, found myself going way to quick up the easy switchbacks that make up the first couple of kilometres. We slowed down a little and chose instead to take our time and enjoy the hike. This trail has been very well maintained and offers its users quite a view of the surrounding hills and forests. Keep an eye on the forest! These trees are huge!

At the top of the meadow, the gully makes for an excellent short cut to the top of the glacier when there is snow!

At the top of the meadow, the gully makes for an excellent short cut to the top of the glacier when there is snow!

Once we broke out into the meadow (a few hours), we hit some snow and I opted to trade my trail runners for my North Face boots (very comfy– but not great hiking attire). At the end of the meadow we decided to take a short break and sit on some large rocks, admiring the rock faces that rose above us.

The route we chose to go up was through the North West gully. It went steep, so the use of an ice axe was needed, but the snow was excellent quality and we didn’t need the crampons. It took a little while to get up here as I am still lacking in the cardio department and I was rather enjoying the steep climb up the gully. It was a little unnerving at times when it narrowed and the bergschrunds (for lack of a better term) appeared on either side. The waterfall that takes over the gully in the summer could be heard under the snow and peering over the edges gave me a little sense of vertigo. Keep away these areas!

At the beginning of the glacier, we sat down for another quick rest to munch on trail mix and enjoy the view, with the sun rising above the rock behind us and warming our backs.

Teslin making quick work moving across the glacier, while I lagged behind (as usual), enjoying the view and taking photos.

Teslin making quick work moving across the glacier, while I lagged behind (as usual), enjoying the view and taking photos. Kings Peak rises to the left and out of the photo, while Queens Ridge begins to the right.

Not far past Teslin in that photo is the top of the glacier. Reaching that point took my breath away, as Elkhorn rose dramatically in front of us and the entire Elk Valley could be seen. Elkhorn is a sexy mountain, we both agreed. I knew at that point that I would be climbing that summit soon.

We made the summit in good time and relaxed for over an hour. It was warm, light breeze, and we could see exceptionally far. The best summit day that I have had to date (even including now). Pointing out all the peaks that I want to climb was fun. I’d never see Elkhorn, Foster, Rambler, Golden Hinde or Victoria in person before, and I was happy to be able to identify all of them so easily.

For the descent, we chose to take the hiker’s route as I didn’t really want to descend the gully and felt it would be a worthwhile experience to take the full route. We lost the trail multiple times and it took us longer then it likely should have to reach the meadow again. Random, deep patches of snow as we hiked along the ridge made it difficult to find the proper way down, although we certainly found other areas! It was reaching 2pm for our descent and the day was starting to get hot. I got a little nervous at one point when we got lost and the heat started to rise. In my usual clumsy fashion, I’d smashed my head rather good with the pick on my ice axe and caused some minor bleeding and dizziness. Some sniffs of my essential oil blend and locating the trail again dispelled my uneasiness immediately and we found our way back to the meadow with relative ease.

Unedited Summit Selfie!!

Unedited Summit Selfie!!

View of the route we took down, looking back at it. Snow made this a LOT easier.

View of the route we took down, looking back at it. Snow made this a LOT easier.

We took another quick break in the meadow again, hiding in the shadow of a large rock and munching on the remnant’s of my trail mix (since Teslin had forgotten his lunch!). Good thing I’m always over prepared! Truck back to truck was 10.5 hours, including our multitude of breaks and hour at the summit. Easily doable in far, far less. I cannot wait to see what this place looks like in the middle of winter!

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The triumphant summit stance! (Thanks Teslin for the photo.)

 

 

Peak 5040

At 7:00am on a cool, dark January morning, the boys picked me up and we started the two hour drive to Peak 5040, located in the Alberni area. An obscure peak that many, if not most people have not heard of. The reviews online (such as summitpost.org) promised spectacular 360 degree island views.

Instructions to find the logging road are clear and correct. Head towards Tofino/Ucluelet after Port Alberni, just past the top of the summit is a logging road on the left. There is a sign marking it as “Marion Main,” but this cannot be seen from the highway. After this is where the instructions become less clear. Regular 2WD vehicles with low clearance likely would not make it very far up the logging road, as there are numerous and huge cross ditches preventing a smooth entrance to the back country mountains. The landcruiser we were in handled these cross ditches like a breeze and before long we found ourselves 10km up the logging road. (Due to the high snow level this year, we didn’t encounter any snow until we had been hiking for a couple of kilometres on the trail. Friends of mine that attempted this mountain a while later found snow so far down the logging road that they had to park at the 3km mark and couldn’t even find the trail head). There are two trail heads on this mountain– one higher than the other. Neither are marked very clearly, except for a semi-obvious area with enough parking for a few vehicles. We thought we’d be able to get even higher up on the logging road and blaze our own trail, however a massive cross ditch near the top prevented even the landcruiser from passing and we retreated to the regular trail.

For the most part, Peak 5040 is an easy to moderate hike with spectacular views right from the trail head. Triple Peak stands gloriously in front of Peak 5040 and if you are lucky, you might catch some loose sun rays dazzling in the snow on its dynamic face.

 

A view of triple Peak partway up the trail for Peak 5040 at Cobalt Lake.

A view of triple Peak partway up the trail for Peak 5040 at Cobalt Lake.

 

I love venturing out into the mountains. People ask me, “why mountaineering?” And to me, the answer is simple and obvious.

I love learning. Being up in the mountains teaches me something new every single time, in a way that I could never have gleaned from sitting in a classroom or reading a book. Not only do I learn something practical and long withstanding, but I also learn something about myself.

This experience was no different.

Please read the following and do so carefully, and by paying much attention:
Do not venture out into the mountains without an ice axe or other means of self arrest.

Whew, I’m glad that I got that off my chest… Why?

Mountains are inherently dangerous. One little slip, misstep or weakness in the snow pack on the side of a gully could send you tumbling down its face, with no means of stopping or even slowing down– except for by using your ice axe. So, if you did not bring one, good luck with that. Hopefully your group members feel like abandoning their summit goals to come find you who-knows-where at the bottom of that gully, likely half buried in snow, bruised and shivering. Or worse.

There were a few areas during our scramble up to the summit of Peak 5040 that had me wishing that I had brought an ice axe. (I wished I had crampons as well, but the mountain was doable without them and while crampons would have made it much safer and much easier, was not entirely necessary).

At one point, I took a minor tumble and slid on my butt towards a small ravine that had cut itself into the mountain side and boasted an admirable drop of at least a couple of metres. I would not have died and likely would only have suffered minor injuries, but getting out of that thing would have been difficult. Even though I didn’t slid very far or long, those who know me know that I gave out quite the scream. I was able to steer my way into a bush and stopped just before the ravines edge.

Later, after reaching the summit and heading back down, we skirted a steep gully, and I was last. After three people going over it the first time and being the third person to go across on the way back, the steps we had made in the snow had softened and began to give way. Suddenly, my left foot (the gully side) no longer had a hold. Instantly, I squatted down and put all my weight on my right side as I attempted to dig myself another hold with my left foot. The snow just kept giving way and soon, I felt the right side begin to give way too, and slowly, I was beginning to slide down towards the gully. If I’d had an axe, it would have been easy enough to drive it into the upside of the hill and hold onto it while I dug myself a new foothold. Without the ability to self-belay, my friend had to come rushing back across the gully and kick me in some footholds so that I could stabilize again.

This was an easy lesson to learn, and nothing too dangerous or scary had to happen. (Don’t get me wrong– slowly sliding down towards that gully was scary enough! But it wasn’t a matter of life and death). I don’t need a thrilling tale of hurtling down a mountainside, feet over head, twisted and jumbled up, only to go careening over the side of a cliff and landing headfirst into the hard snow, barely clinging to life, to tell me how to make myself safer in the mountains. I can imagine the scenario, and learn from it.

 

The Summit!

The Summit!

 

Thick clouds and fog would block our view most of the way up the mountain, and our hard earned summit was rewarded by a signature in the log book and a glass of white wine partway down (I definitely had the coolest ever partners that day to supply white wine in plastic wine glasses!). After clambering down the ladder that was kicked into the snow in order to climb up and around an exposed bluff (again, doing this would have been a LOT safer and easier with the use of an ice axe…), we knew how lucky we were to have conditions as good as they were to have managed that summit with our inexperience.

 

 

Crest Mountain

(c) Copyright 2016 - Searching for Sanuk, Michelle Leech, mexxlee.