Over BC Day long weekend my friend Patrick and I set out for an adventure in Vancouver Island’s Strathcona Park. Our chief aim was to conquer Mt Albert-Edward. According to Wikipedia, Mt Albert-Edward is the sixth tallest peak on the Island at a respectable 2,093m high, and is named after the good king Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales. And according to my mother, my great-grandfather surveyed several of the mountains in what became Strathcona Park – so he may have done Albert-Edward!
After a halting start from Victoria “early” on Friday morning (jumping back and forth picking up forgotten gear – rain coats – snow pants – etc – all totally unneeded in the end) we headed up-Island with a “brief”* stop in Nanaimo at Valhalla for more gear.
We finally arrived at the Raven Lodge parking lot with plenty of time left to make the hike in to Circlet Lake and our campsite. Unfortunately we weren’t yet able to set off, as we had to make one final detour back out to Mt Washington Lodge to get cash out at an ATM to pay those villains at BC Parks, the nerve of them (insert political statements re: “funding” and protection of archaeological sites here).
Our hike out to the campsite took somewhere between 4 to 5 hours. I stopped keeping track of time, largely because I didn’t have a watch. We passed over a few hilllets and into a few valleys, tromping from well-kept boardwalks over swampy meadow into less well-kept paths along creekbeds flushed with snow melt. I also quickly learned to beware walking over snowy patches, as there might be a rivelet cavern underneath!
What we thought was Circlet Lake was actually a small “duck pond”, but it was only another 5 minutes on to the Lake and the BC Parks campsite. We arrived with plenty of time before dark, and after setting up our tent we endeavoured to cook dinner (risotto!) with our borrowed (and inefficient!) Whisper-Lite.
The next morning we struck out to conquer Mt Albert-Edward. We had already gained a few hundred metres of elevation, so we only really had 1km left to go – up, that it is. We quickly realized that the “5.6km” the signposts quoted us was low-balling. Our trigonomical attempts to deduce how far we really walkedonly resulted in us feeling quite self-conscious about our rubbish math skills. While the 5.6km may have been a “truth”, it wasn’t very “truthful” to our experience slogging up that hill!
We took it slow on the way back down the mountain. It was only later that we learned that it was over 30C up there, with the sun beating down on the rocks and snow. No wonder then that so many people were getting Heat Exhaustion or worse. On our way out we talked to one guy who got heat stroke up there, to the point of throwing up and shivering all night. Taking that into consideration, buddy and his friend decided to cut their trip short by a few days and hike back in. Scary business!
All told it was a very enjoyable first multi-day hike. Patrick and I got along fairly well, and I didn’t really find any one part of it all that difficult (well, beside the last horrific 200 metre scale up the scree to the summit). That night though I did keep getting flashbacks to this one part of the climb:
Apparently later that day a big chunk of this bridge broke off and slid away – what fun!
On our way out on Sunday morning we stashed our bags and made a 1.6km detour at Kwai Lake to Beautiful Lake and Cruikshank Canyon. This is definitely to be recommended: Cruikshank Canyon looks out towards Castle Craig and Moat Lake, and you definitely feel humbled by the majestic, inanimate force of nature bearing down on you – all those trees, the depth, the breadth, makes you feel quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things. As a plus, it’s very Last of the Mohicans-y (but with less noble savages).
To cap off the whole trip we took a much needed trip to A&W in Courtenay – never has a Teen Burger and Onion Rings been so appealing! The selling point for both of us was the iced mug of root beer.
*No stop in Nanaimo is ever brief. The city sucks you in, and you spend 45 minutes stopping at every single stop light. The fact that the good people of Nanaimo haven’t risen up against this ridiculousness speaks as to the quality of their character.