20181019-22 “Winter camping” … Two climbs with James and David

Weather forecast looked good, so I tried to stir up a camping ride. I got a little more than I bargained for.

I ended up with two shots that will go into my “Good” collection. This was the Friday night sunset from the 1000m level on the side of Heather Mountain.

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(The GPS locked up on the way to Port Renfrew, that’s why there’s a gap in the track.)

The quick summary is: Friday afternoon run up to the north end of Lake Cowichan (via Port Renfrew), camped on the side of Heather Mountain, about 1000m up. Saturday, quick morning hike up to the summit, and back down to the bikes. South from there to Lake Cowichan, and then up island (effectively via Duncan) to Woss to meet David. Camped on the Nimpkish River. Sunday morning we road up to the 800m mark on Mt Ashwood, then hiked the 900m to the 1700m summit. Back down and rode a few km north to meet Chris and Jaki for Sunday night. Cold early ride home on Monday.

The longer version of the story started earlier in the week with me realizing that if I was going to do a real climb, I better make sure I could. So I climbed the local hill a few times, which probably got me 500m of climbing and some sore quads (but respectable times and no blisters).

Partway up the track from the lake to the 1000m campsite. Nice view of Lake Cowichan behind James, complete with sunset colors and moon.

We got out of Victoria at a reasonable time, but James wanted to take the long route through Port Renfrew instead of the malahat (and attendent risks of getting stuck in traffic). That’s a gorgeous motorcycle road, although loaded 400cc bikes with 50/50 tires aren’t at their best on it. We knew time was going to be a bit of an issue, and it was. It was also “not warm”. Sooke is almost never warm, but we kept hoping it would warm up as we got inland. The one notable consequence is we did not run through Lake Cowichan to fill the gas tanks.

We did get to the campsite in time to see the (very fine) sunset (first picture). If I’ve got my references right, the horizon is about 75 miles (110km) away, out over the pacific.

End of the track.

This isn’t a campsite you’d write home about, it’s not flat, there’s no water or facilites. There’s no plentiful supply of firewood. But the view more than makes up for it. I tried to catch pictures of the clouds moving through the valley in the moonlight, but that just doesn’t work well on a cell phone. But the clouds that were blowing inland in the evening were still there, but going the other direction in the morning.

The hike:

James on the oversize throne. There are two Loran towers up here (that phalic thing is one).
The view south from the summit, Lake Cowichan in the center, and way off, just above the clouds on the right side horizon are the Olympics.
Most of the hike is fairly flat, going from the first sub-peak to the shoulder of the main peak across the sub-alpine.
But the first/last part is pretty steep, and fairly rough.

If the picture timestamps can be trusted, we were back at the campsite around 12:30 and must have cleared out pretty quick. As the next picture is part way down the hill at 1:03 and we’d already stopped to ferry some gas from my bike (oversize tank) to James’. I might have run the backroads to Port Alberni if I was confident we both had enough fuel… but as it was I escorted James back to the Lake Cowichan gas station and then ran east (to Duncan) and north to Woss (while he visited friends before returning to Victoria).

Following pictures are all from David, I’m the guy in the balaclava, high-vis helmet, and/or baggy sweat pants.

Campsite on Nimpkish river, around 6:45. There was another couple in the more commonly used part of this site.
The summit we’re heading for is the one directly above my head. The rounded one, not the sharp one.
“Some obstacles were overcome” – Nice shot David!
Steep! This hike was much more “free form” than Heather Mountain. The terrain determined some way-points and the rest was a combination of elk trails and straight bush-whacking.
David W.
About 75 minutes after leaving the bikes we got to this nice plateau at 1200m, which is covered in tarns and about 400m higher than the bikes. The landslide/boulder-field on the far side of the tarn is route up from here.
That’s where we’re going. This part of the climb was heart rate limited… find your pace, take little steps.
An hour later, we’re above the boulder field and starting to see the final aproaches. The face is too rough/steep, so we will spiral in from the left.
I took quite a few (lousy) panorama shots with the phone, this 360 is one of the better ones. click for BIG.
Last ridge and scramble to the summit.
Yes, the drop on this side of the summit is basically as steep as it looks. You’ll see in the shots from the summit that is true for this row of peaks.

Next shots are from the summit, which is surprisingly flat. The view was great, Mt Waddington in the coast  range was clearly visible to the east (not shown).

The road in the distant left is the one we rode in on. The bikes are about 900m below us (summit is supposed to be 1740m).
Woss lake in the far right.

Starting the descent.

I remember this, waiting for David to get clear so I wouldn’t knock any rocks down on him, only to find him stopped and waiting for the shot.
Sorry, that peak is so scenic it is hard not to repeat some of these.
This is about the only place I can really remember being forced close to a steep drop off.
Getting down this probably took the hardest toil on the body. [Yes, the shot is out of order, but I needed it for the narrative.]
Mt Ashwood.
If you want a little more detail of the tarn filled plateau, click on this. It’s a panorama stiched together in hugin (much better than the camera’s panoramas).

After that, it was back down to the bikes (through the bush/elk-trails).

According to the picture timestamps, it was 80 minutes to the first tarns, 50 minutes to the top of the boulders, 25 to the shoulder, 10 to the summit, and about an hour back down to the tarns.

(Considering how long it has been since I’ve climbed anything significant, I thought I did well. I did need a bit of a break after coming down the boulder field, and I was slower than David from that point, but not significantly. My knee didn’t like the descent, but that was pretty much expected, I heard it talking to me during the Mt Doug warm-up.)

The original plan had been to ride back to Victoria after this hike, but David had told me friends were coming out for Sunday night. If I was going to stay out to see Chris and Jaki, I needed a quick stop in Woss for “supplies” (rum). As it turned out, they brought and cooked a great dinner.

Anutz Lake site (by David).
The morning after, the hung over guys commiserating.

I was the last to leave. I was NOT rushing off to work, and I needed the extra 45 minutes for coffee and food, and to hope the day would warm up. It was a long cold ride back to Victoria. There seemed to be fog over the inside passage all the way from Campbell River to Victoria, and the only place “warm” was Duncan.

Definitely a little “over done”, as with many of my rides, but a heck of an adventure. Many thanks to all involved.

(Edit: Oct 31, fixed the “click for bigger images” links… all images should link to the largest versions I have… which is 1600 pixels wide for David’s shots and double that for most of mine.)