|From one of the high points on Phillips Ridge, the route is visible all the way to the Hinde|
The Golden Hinde needs little introduction, it is after all the summit of Vancouver Island at 2195 meters. Our plan was to do the hike in five days, hitting The Golden Hinde, the Behinde and the Roosters Comb. We also considered to possibility of the high point of Phillips Ridge (1732 M) and Mt Burman. In our researched we referenced Hiking Trails 3 and Phillip Stone’s Island Alpine (Island Alpine Select had just been published but we didn’t have it). Things don’t always go as planned.
Total Distance: 58.2 kilometres
Total Elevation Gain: 5293 m
Starting Elevation: 350 metres
Max Elevation: 2195 metres
Ryan picked me my house and we set out early taking my Subaru, we were eager to get started on this weekends goal. We made our obligatory stop in Campbell River before continuing west along HWY 28, We drove through the active Boliden-Westmin mine to the Lower Myra Falls parking lot.We geared up and loaded our bag. The sun was already high but the temperature was quite moderate, in the low 20’s, aided by the shade provided by the tall trees . We examined the provincial park map and soon moving up the Strathcona-Wesmin managed trail to Arnica Lake, by 10 am.
Our research indicated that the ascent from the parking lot (230m) to Arnica lake (1200 m) would take 3-4 hours with our big backpacks. The horizontal distance is 5 km, about 1/4 of the total horizontal distance to Schjeldrup Lake. We were surprised when we made it to the lake in under two hours.. The Arnica Lake trail is well groomed with a punishing number of switchbacks, which keeps the grade low and makes it easy to keep a good pace. There were very few points where I felt as though I was stepping up.We arrived at Arnica Lake and followed the route north around the lake following the main path. At the tent pads we took the right (east fork) route and it eventually achieve the summit of Phillip’s Ridge. Route finding on Phillips ridge is quite easy. There are very few points where once could get lost. Worst case scenario, your choose a path that takes you a bit longer to traverse.
|Our First View of Arnica Lake|
|Ryan climbing up one of the final hills to gain Phillips Ridge|
Shortly after gaining the ridge we diverted north from the main route, we wanted to hit the high point of Phillips Ride purported to be at 1732 metres. We found an easy ascent to the wide plateau. Once on top we spotted a cairn which likely marks the high point, though the GPS only recorded 1728 m. It was difficult to determine if there was any point higher as the plateau undulates quite a bit. Regardless we ate a snack and carried on, descending the west facing scree slope, easy class three, merging with the lower route.
Shortly thereafter, the main route ascends a hump that travels up and over another high point. The route travels directly over the high point, my GPS read 1731 metres and I did find a survey marker. The real start of this hilltop is the view! I looked out across the remainder of ridge and all the beautiful bumps that we were about to hike over. We could see several kilometres, to the end of Philips Ridge where we would descent, Burman Ridge beyond, and even the Hinde herself.
Phillips ridge is straight forward, follow the cainrs and the very well worn path. It leads through heather, over rock, past tarns and offers amazing views on either side of the ridge into the various parts of Strathcona. From the ridge we could se: Myra, Mariner, Tom Taylor, Berman, Flower Ridge, Rousseau, Misthorns, and many more. From the ridge we looked down into valleys between the peeks to the countless small lakes below. The weather held throughout the day, permitting us to enjoy the vies.
Around kilometre 18 we had a choice: descend to Carter Lake or continue up another portion of Phillips Ridge before descending down directly to Schjeldrup Lake. Our research indicated that descending to Carter Lake was the easier route to take, it avoided scrambling down the scree slope at the end of Phillips Ridge and was faster (I can’t confirm this).
At some point during our hike we must have made the decision to traverse the entire ridge and hike straight into Schjeldrup Lake; the lake is where people commonly make their summit attempt for the Golden Hinde. We felt good as we descended toward Carter Lake and it felt as though we had a lot of time left in the day, even though people take two days to get to Schjeldrup Lake. We were on track to make it in one day of consistent but easy hiking.
|Clever little buggers, there are three ptarmigan in this shot|
The descent to the lake is steep and less worn than the route along Phillips Ridge, making the route only moderately more challenging to follow. I was expecting the route to descend directly to Carter Lake, the reality is that we end up about 40 metres below the lake and had to work our way back up. (As a note, Ryan and I had looked for the route up to Mt. Burman, it is marked in Island Alpine, we could not find it. It may be there but we couldn’t find a flagged route.)
We arrived at the south end of Carter Lake around 7pm, our hope of reaching the tarn at the base of the Golden Hinde was completely gone. The route around Carter Lake and Schjelderup lake was beautiful but tricky to navigate; Schjelderup more so than Carter. Each lake took at least an hour to bypass. Eventually we arrived at the north end of Schjeldrup lake around 8:45. The light was almost totally gone.
|taken in failing light, the pass from Carter Lake to Schjeldrup Lake|
We hiked a long day, around 11.5 hours, to cover the 23 km with a total elevation gain of 2243 metres. We quickly set up the tent and stuffed food into ourselves. We were both tired and eager to get some rest.
Day 2. Schjelderup Lake to Golden Hinde Summit
We woke early and hiking by 8 am. The easiest way to get to the tarn required us to hike up 100 metres to Burman Ridge which runs north toward the Hinde. Although the ridge is easy to hike and route finding is quite easy eventually you need to descend a steep treed hillside 100 m and almost immediately regain the lost elevation, hiking up to the short ridge that is level with the tarn. It took us almost two hours to hike up and across.
From the tarn we examined the route description we brought and picked our route up. Although there was no evidence of a commonly walked route, or cairns, from the written description we were able to easily find our way. We headed north up the scree slope, leading to the south east ridge. Mostly we climbed scree but the final 10 meters of elevation gain was an easy to climb gully. This lead straight to the south east ridge.
From the ridge we were able to find and follow some cairns up the ridge to the main summit block and follow the couloir. This route is the most common route that people use to summit, as its mostly class three, with a few class four sections. Given our long hot summer there was very little snow anywhere along Phillips Ridge, or anywhere on the Hinde, even the couloir was heavily melted, in fact almost bare except for one section. It is this one section that created some grief for us. When we reached the snow, route finding began in earnest. Ryan spotted a few cairns and flagging to the north, leading away from the couloir, though it did look like it matched the description in Island Alpine. However, it was not, things bit hairy.
If you examine our GPS route you will see that we eventually ended up between 60 m and 150 m away from the couloir. The route was marked with cairns, though there seemed to be cairns all over the place, I’m sure they all go but it was less than awesome. The rock got steeper and more exposure the further out and up we got. Moving up a small gully, I stepped on a large rock , likely 200 pounds, that I had tested for stability on the way up, and the rock shifted. I immediate reacted by jumping off the rock, bracing myself between the steep heathered slope and the wall of the rock gully. I was grasping onto tufts of grass and other organic matter. Just as I got into position, the boulder dislodged and fell 25 metres before crashing into the slope below and tumbling more than 150 before it disappeared out of sight. I was not looking forward to descending this route. The remainder of the summit attempt was smooth.
We reached the summit just after noon and enjoyed the view….. for thirty seconds before the clouds billowed up an obscured our view. Ah, living the high life on the summit of Vancouver Island!
After lunch, signing the register and finding a geocache, we set out checking out the local landcape. Bartlett examined a potential route on the west face of the mountain. Although it looked like it could go the exposure was greater than what we came up and we decided not to do it. As Ryan did some route finding, I hit up the secondary summit and peered over the edge to the south face. From this point I could also see the route leading down the south east colouir. I could see that we diverted form the easiest path really early (remember we followed cairns that led us off route).
When Bartlett returned to the col between the two summits I pointed out the route that descended, we followed it down. It would have been possible to descend to the ridge at 1800 metres by descending to the start of the snow, travel between the shallow moat and the rock face for about 50 metres, and finally emerge on the slope below. Instead we got onto the rock at the start of the steeper snow section and scrambled down. The descent was mostly class three and a tiny portion of class four, the exposure was easily managed and overall significantly easier than our ascent.
As we reached the south east ridge at 1800 m, it started to rain. Lightly at first but then we saw a flash and quickly heard thunder rolling across the landscape. We took cover under an overhanging rock and waited for about 30 minutes for the thunder to subside and the rain to let up. Before getting better it got worse, a lot worse. It took us by surprise, the day’s forecast was 2 mm of rain in the evening. It was only about 3 o’clock and there was way more than 2 mm of rain.
When the rain diminished, we descended to the tarn and refilled our water right before the rain started again. This time it came quick and heavy. We were invited to join another hiker under his tarp. We accepted and sat with him for more than an hour as we waited for the rain to pass. We talked with him about his 5 day trip doing the Elk River Trail to Myra Falls parking lot, he even made us some boiling water for coffee. It was a real treat to have this reprieve, though it did delay our return to camp significantly.
|The tarn at the base of the Golden Hinde|
Once the rain let up we were back on the path just before six. We discussed the possibility of doing Mt. Burman on our way back to Schjeldrup Lake but as we reached our route down from Burman Ridge we were pushing the light. We arrived back in camp at 845, it wasn’t quite pitch black but we definitely pulled our headlamps out the moment we put our backs down.
Day two was another long day, 11.5 hours. In that time we covered 13 kilometres horizontal, gained a total of 1754 metres and hit the summit of the Golden Hinde at 2198 metres. It’ was a great day.
Day Three — Schjelderup Lake to Myra Falls Parking Lot
Walking south toward Phillips Ridge, I was finally able to enjoy Schjeldrup Lake and Carter Lake for their real beauty. Gorgeous, crystal clear teal blue and green water guarded by the tall sentinel like trees lining the edge of the water. Truly beautiful!
We quickly made our way back toward Arnica Lake. The route back mostly followed our path in and was easy. We passed several groups of people on the way out, several we had passed on our way in. We talked with them, giving our two cents on the route to the Hinde. After reaching the high point of the route, we followed the main route around the diversion we took on the way in. As it turns out I don’t think that it was any faster than the path we took in, diverting up and around the high point.
We felt good as we approached Arnica Lake, we were progressing well, arriving at the tent pads around 6 pm. We rounded the lake and made our way to the switchbacks, the switchbacks which I so enjoyed on our journey up. The switchbacks. OOOOOOOOOOOOH, the switchbacks! So many, back and forth, hardly losing elevation. What the heck! After making the descent, I have renamed the route to Arnica Lake The Devils Intestines.
They stretch on forever and when you finally do arrive at the bottom (if you actually do rather than perish), you arrive chewed up and spit out; a changed person. It is at least a long as the digestive track as a Sarlack Pit. There were many points where I could see previous hikers had taken short cuts, cutting down from one level to the next below, many less than three metres. However, someone cunningly placed tiny little twigs across these alternate routes. Although not oppressive in nature they were enough to create problems if one tried to follow these alternate routes. There was a real concern of getting tangled in the twigs, potentially tripping. We continued down the proper trail finally, eventually, though somehow impossibly, arrived at the bottom. We were …. pooped.
A full 1/5 of the total horizontal distance of the entire distance to the Golden Hinde is contained in the switch backs from the car to Arnica Lake. It is obscene!
We gratefully dropped our bags, and exhaustively peeled our boots from our feet. In our third long day we hiked just over 11 hours covering 23 horizontal kilometres, with a total elevation gain of 2008 metres, a third long day,
If I was doing this hike again, or making a recommendation to future hikers I would say that the trip is doable in three days, if you are willing to do long days. However, if you want to do any of the supplementary peaks, three days will not be enough. Take the extra time, camp at the tarn and use that location as a launching point. That being said, everyone is unique and has their own skills and abilities. It is always better to plan for longer and finish quickly, rather than plan for a shorter time and miss your goal.