I imagine you might be asking yourself, Why the benign title? If you’re a regular reader, you’re familiar with my Island Alpine Quest: to summit all of the peaks listed in Philip Stone’s book Island Alpine (1999). The goal is lofty, and many of the peaks will require multiday adventures through some of the least-frequented areas on Vancouver Island (I’m looking at you, Mount Doom). But the sad reality is that not every peak is a stunning romp through the backcountry – my trip up Mount Brenton certainly wasn’t!
February 4th, 2018
Total Distance: 10.5 km
Starting Elevation: 707 m
Maximum Elevation: 1216 m
Total Elevation Gain: 508 m
Total Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes
Some quick research will tell you that a trip up Mount Brenton is mostly a walk on logging roads to the radio tower, with a very short step up to the summit. On a clear day, the eastward view of the Salish Sea and the Gulf Islands is the reward of the trip. On Sunday February 4th, we had very little of those views. There was only one redeemable aspect to the day; it was a chance to ski-tour some new areas of the south island.
If you’ve ever toured the old-growth on southern Vancouver Island, you’re familiar with the pleasant aesthetics of moving through moss- and lichen-covered rocks between the towering conifers. Examining the topographical maps of the region near Mount Brenton might give you great hope for a walk around the small lakes in the low meadows between the rolling bumps. But like many of the mountains of southern Vancouver Island, the area has been held privately for well over a century. In this time, most of the easily accessible timber has been logged off, replanted, and logged again. On the bright side, the industrialized activities have pushed roads deep into the valleys and up the hillsides, making adventure into the backcountry much easier than it might otherwise be.
We drove the road as high as we could; at around 1200 metres, we reached the snowline and parked the vehicles. We opted to carry our skis over the lowest sections, where deep tire-ruts and snowmobile tracks shredded the snow-covered road. We walked for only ten minutes before we bound our skis to our feet and skinned up the road. Around 1000 metres, the road makes a ninety-degree turn to the east; however, we headed off through a small section of mature regrowth, seeking a second road that would take us to the radio tower and the summit of the mountain.
The cloudy sky brought brisk, cool winds and rain in the late morning, but by the time we reached the summit, the clouds were breaking. We never found the views of the strait, because distant, low-lying clouds obscured the distant islands. By the early afternoon, the patches of blue sky were enough to allow bright sunlight to pierce through. The bright sun was a welcome change from the week of rain, and the warmth was a treat for the ski back to the vehicles. On the return, I discovered the advantage that logging roads bring to ski-touring: they make for easy ski runs!
We finished off our trip with lunch a cafe in Ladysmith. By the time we exited the cafe, the sun was high which added a fine quality to the short trip to Mount Brenton. I won’t be rushing back to this destination, nor will I recommend it to any of my friends. That being said, the next time we get a big dump of snow, I might grab my skis and try to hit the road before the snowmobiles make it first.
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