The highlight of my week is Sunday, when I’m adventuring in Vancouver Island’s alpine. Planning a weekly trip is an involved process that takes considerable planning. In many ways, these trips shape all the activities in my weekly schedule. There’s research, route-planning and plotting, communication with participants, weather-watching, and drafting a trip plan: each of these elements eats away at my free time.
Even with all that preparation, sometimes we are still surprised by unexpected features that crop up while we are on the trip. Often these surprises make a trip significantly more challenging than we expected. It’s become a familiar event, because we are attempting some relatively unknown peaks on the Island: sometimes there is little recent beta available to help us on our trips. Discovering hidden gems is part of the allure of these obscure places. My October 2017 hike to Mount Romeo in the Genesis Range was one of those trips.
Distance: 4.3 km
Starting Elevation: 1153 m
Maximum Elevation: 1661 m
Total Elevation Gain: 507 m
Total Time: 2 hours, 42 minutes
By October 22, the warm fall mornings were long behind us and the new normal was the cold, dark mornings of the coming winter. After the long, hot, dry summer and the unusually brilliant fall colours this year, the white that caked the roadside trees offered a refreshing contrast.
We easily navigated the logging roads, and the only cross-ditches we encountered came once we hit the CC800 spur (noted as CC900 in the BRMB). As my Jeep climbed past 1000 metres, we started driving over accumulated snow on the road, but we still climbed another 200 metres before we were forced to park.
As I stepped out of the warm car I was hit by full winter conditions. Even the dim morning light seemed to cool everything beyond the expected cold. We changed into our winter clothing and outfitted our snowshoes—yes, the snow was deep enough for them! From the vehicle, we looked to Mount Romeo, less than two kilometres away. We crossed our fingers that there would be no hidden obstacle on the route, but we didn’t hold our breath. Many of our trips start close to the objective and still take the full day to complete.
Fortunately, our planning worked out even better than we expected. Our predicted route was accurate –we followed our planned line on the map nearly to a T. From the end of the road, about 20 minutes from the Jeep, we cut up through the logging slash and kept to the gentlest of contour lines on the topo map to gain the upper ridge, before turning east again to the summit. By the time we left the road, the snow was already accumulated beyond thirty centimetres atop the road.
We headed east through the cut block, leaving our snowshoes on our bags for fear that they might get trapped between deep snow pits between the logging slash. It wasn’t until we were in the trees that we stopped to put on our snowshoes.
Knowing that our objective was so close, we took our time. The snow performed well under our snowshoes, compressing well where it needed to, and providing support when we wished it. At its most extreme, it supported our weight with only fifteen centimetres of compression with each step. Inside the tall, frost-covered trees, the snow was dense and allowed us to move easily along our route.
We were only forty-five minutes out from the Jeep when I cracked: “We are finally halfway to the summit!” The chortle of laughter was audible behind me; they didn’t know how serious I was.
Once on the ridge, we cut to our left and rolled along the ridge. Although there was more than a metre of snow, it wasn’t quite deep enough to hide all the features that might cause an issue. We rounded them with a little navigation, and by 10:45 am we were standing on the summit of Mount Romeo.
The day was exceptionally short, especially considering the drive. Is it worth the long trip from Nanaimo? No, not as an objective on its own. However, if you were looking to link up a variety of short daytrips with some base camping, it would make a great half-day objective.
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