When authors describe the beauty of the island’s alpine, I imagine they are visualizing a place like the Beaufort Range, which offers some of the best low-alpine hiking on Vancouver Island. The rolling features and open heather-covered meadows that allow you to wander easily walked routes make it a highly desirable area to explore. Possibly because it lacks the dramatic aesthetic of the taller peaks found in Strathcona Park, it doesn’t garner much attention, though it marks the divide between the Alberni and Cowichan Valleys. From the highway, most folks probably don’t give the range much attention, other than noting that they form the skyline on the inland side of the highway. The ridges are accessible from either side of the range —gates allowing. On October 6th, our group of three took advantage of an open gate on the east side of the range to reach one of my two remaining objectives in the range: Mount Chief Frank.
Total Distance: 10.0 km
Starting Elevation: 1114 m
Maximum Elevation: 1465 m
Total Elevation Gain: 997 m
Total Time: 5 hours, 29 minutes
Chief Frank wasn’t our first choice for the day, but when the rainy forecast demanded, we cancelled yet another bid for Mook Peak. The shorter route to Chief Frank offered a better option for a wet day of hiking, and at only about one-third of the driving distance, we wouldn’t be too invested in the success of the summit bid. We got lucky–the weather produced little more than a light mist.
We drove deep into the hills from the Buckley Bay Main gates, and parked at 1100 metres before heading off on foot. From the end of the road, we picked up a lightly-booted track that winds up the north aspect of the mountain to the summit.
Within thirty minutes we were on the summit of Mount Clifton, debating our route options. Regretfully, we didn’t follow the southwest ridge down to the road, and instead, we were led astray by another route description that took us straight down the mountainside. While this route is direct, it took some tricky navigation through dense, steep old-growth, skirting bluffs, and depositing us in the middle of a thick, regrowing cut block. But at least we were on the road between Clifton and Chief Frank.
Phil is familiar with this route, having hiked it some years back. We stuck to his original route on the way up, but still found ourselves rubbing shoulders with some unyielding evergreens at times. Eventually, we picked up a very lightly-flagged route that gave us enough hints that we made our way up through the mountainous terrain to the summit of Mount Chief Frank.
After a little exploration, we headed back to Mount Clifton. On the descent to the valley between the two peaks, we followed enough of the old flagged route to avoid the worst of the bush. On the road, we took the extra five minutes to use it and walk toward the flagged route that connects to the southwest ridge to Mount Clifton.
Because the dark clouds persisted, we didn’t tempt fate, and skipped revising Mount Clifton’s summit. The air felt like it could rain at any time. This motivated a rapid descent back to the Jeep.
This was my second time in the Beauforts this month. It’s ignited a desire to finish off the final peak in the Range, Mount Irwin. I’ve read that it’s possible to hike the ridge from one end to the other, but that may be too grand a trip for the limited time I have available. It’s on my to-do list, but that’s an ever-growing list that rarely sees items being checked off.
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