We did it! We finally summited Mook Peak! Sure, it may have taken seven scheduled attempts, but we only set foot on the mountain twice. So often it appeared on the schedule, that it became a running joke between my hiking buddies and I. However, it was on the second attempt that we reached the summit.
On our first attempt, the scorched earth left in the wake of the 2017 fires caught us by surprise. The fire burned so hotly that in many areas only the bare rock remains exposed to the elements, mottled ruddy surfaces betraying the intensity of the heat. Blackened timbers lay haphazard in other areas, the apparent victims of seasonal windstorms stacked between a jagged outcropping of rocks, creating a maze to work through. We didn’t give ourselves enough time on that November trip, and the wet conditions meant that by the time we reached 1000 metres we soaked. Frustrated and running short on time, we turned around well-before our set turnaround time.
Distance: 9.0 km
Starting Elevation: 405 m
Maximum Elevation: 1511 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1204 m
Total Time: 7 Hours 20 minutes
The sting of the first defeat was so great that on subsequent trips we gave up before we even started: Once deterred by the rain that created a wall of water falling off the east face of the mountain; another time, a forecast of 55 cm of snow; and, once by a forgotten pair of boots. Yet, we remained eager to find an ideal day to check Mook Peak off our list of objectives finally.
Our second time putting boots on the mountain, November 3rd, 2019, we found a fair forecast. The day promised a high of three degrees with minimal wind and only 2 mm of precipitation. But, when we parked just off the Artlish Mainline, we guessed that the forecast was off; the air was already warm, and the dim grey light of morning sky was already transitioning to blue.
We followed the degrading logging road, noting that many of the alder saplings we had to fight on our first attempt were now cut a few inches above the ground, leaving clusters of sharp stakes poking straight up. From the start of our route, we surmounted the steep bare slope and worked our way to the ravine created by the apparent watercourse that originates just below Mook’s subpeak. This route –used on our descent on our first trip– skirts the burn, leading –mostly– through old growth timber. Propelled by our first-hand knowledge of the terrain, we progressed quickly to 1000 metres.
Far from easy walking, we passed through the dry leafless plants, climbing north on the rib as we ascended. Beyond 1000 metres, we crossed through a surviving band of living bush and emerged in another stretch of scorched rock. Here skeletal trees stand tall in the few remaining patches of soil, and from these water seeps create pockets of green. I spotted some surviving lycopodium, grasses and a few offseason bursts of Dutchman’s Breeches.
The burn scar eventually gives way to alpine above 1200 metres, and we could see Mook Peak prominent on our left. We traversed below the subpeak by crossing north between the 1260 to 1280 m contour lines. Standing on the shoulder of the sub bump, we paused to admire the views. North, on the lower slopes of Barad-dûr Mountain silver stalks bristle, the remnants of more wildfire, and to the west, the Artlish River Valley and the coast beyond contrasted beautifully against the bright blue sky. By this time, the promised high of three degrees had given way to the hot sun. We were baking nicely, sweating under clear skies, and the light breeze was incapable of cooling us as we laboured.
Avoiding the subpeak meant losing elevation to cross an inconsequential watercourse. Beyond, we walked over polished rock slab, an oddity for the trip that was otherwise rife with grippy amygdule-filled rock, toward the summit. I noted deep and ancient scrapes along the rock’s surface. At one time, a glacier must have covered the slab. It was a considerable departure from the terrain below.
We reached the summit in less than four hours. We celebrated by posing for pictures on the ten-speed bike on the peak of the mountain. As we sat, the distant mountains became obscured by fast-moving dark clouds. Bad weather was mounting; it was time for us to get moving.
We explored the ridge before returning to the car. Heading southeast, we descended from the summit of Mook Peak down to the saddle and then made the easy scramble up to the summit of the middle bump. I hoped to make it to the far end of the ridge, but from this central bump, the route looked to follow a series of ledges down. I thought better of allowing our turnaround time to pressure poor decision making and opted for a safe return to the car.
The most exciting part of the day was descending from the subpeak to our original route. I picked a grass-filled gully that led to a deep trough in the rock. The fantastic scrambling was a great way to descend and lifted my spirits before heading back into the fire scar.
I’m happy to check Mook Peak off my list of objectives. It was a satisfying trip, though I’m sure it would have been better before 2017. I’m excited to see what else I’ll find when I explore my remaining objectives in the Province Range, Barad-dûr and Stone Trolls.
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