Mount Leiner and Phil’s beguiling smile

In Island Mountain Ramblers, Mountaineering, Strathcona Regional District by ExploringtonLeave a Comment

Mount Leiner is a surprisingly spectacular mountain. The most common approach begins on the outer edge of Tahsis, climbs Leiner’s southwest ridge and meanders several kilometres through the bush toward the summit. Considering its relatively low elevation, it holds a surprisingly high alpine character once you get beyond the shrubs.

The cirque south of Mount Leiner’s sub-peak, the lake is situated just above 1200 metres elevation

Leiner was a peak that we kept pushing off until “later”. But with an ever-shortening list of mountains remaining on our Island Alpine Quest, we’ve been faced with the reality that “later” is now. In Leiner’s case, we pushed it off because it’s located in Tahsis, making it too long a drive, and we had too many questions about a longer route to make it doable in a day. Heck! After we posted the trip to the Island Mountian Rambler’s schedule, Tahsis’ mayor reached out to warn us that he took three days to reach the summit and back. Obviously not a good omen, but along with his warning, we got a hot tip: A nearby logging road cuts as much as 5 km into the Leiner River valley – food for thought?

Mount Leiner Route

Total Distance: 8 km
Starting Elevation: 686 m 
Maximum Elevation: 1468 m
Total Elevation Gain: 1086 m
Total Time: 7 hours

Undeterred with a most-sensible warning, we proceeded.  On July 25, we arrived the night before our hike and camped at a forestry rec site, To our surprise, the logging mentioned above was directly opposite our camp. Locked, of course, and no way around.

After setting up camp, the three of us discussed our options. Sure, the road cut straight into the valley, but the route starting in Tahsis up the ridge looked to be a far more reasonable slope angle. Probably the only thing worse than a bushy route is a bushy and bluffy route! The two combine to create terrain that is very challenging to come back down. We went to bed with a firm decision to use the longer approach from Tahsis…

a little B2 or B3 bush to get an adventure started!

We started our hike at 6:30 am, 6 km down the logging road and at 668 metres elevation. The freshly deactivated road proved little trouble, and the incredible time saving made any suffering in the bush worth it.
It only took five minutes to cross the slash and hop into the thick of the mature forest.

The ascent was bushy enough to rival some of the bushiest routes on Highway 4. We kept to the left of an obvious watercourse up and through the forest as we made our way up to Mount Leiner’s long southwest ridge. Despite the steep angle, very few obstacles required tricky navigation, and in about an hour, we emerged onto the thinning bush of the ridge crest.

The ridge is broad but the east side of the ridge drops away dramatically.

Heading northeast, we picked up an animal trail that skirted around a bit of challenging terrain on the ridge. I’m sure glad we did! It took us around the east side of the feature and led us to a steep dirt slope to gain higher ground. Way better than fighting through bushy bluffs.

A little route fining build character. The summit — but which one?

The bushed thinned atop the ridge crest. Within a few minutes, we were wanding through meadows of heather and crowberry and taking in the views of the surrounding peaks. Often we stopped to admire the ridge ahead and behind as we worked our way toward the summit.

Mount Leiner’s summit tower

Topping out on a high point along the ridge, we could see another feature with a large cairn atop. We keenly pushed forward. The ridge is mostly easy walking, save for one spot that required a tricky bit of navigation over what is probably class-three (but some may say easier) to descend safely into another low point on the ridge. With the summit cairn in sight, we had a clear shot to the summit! It was obviously some simple third-class to the cairn! But, the closer we got, the more confident I became that the feature with the large cairn is most definitely NOT the summit. Off to the left an even larger tower emerges. Sure enough, the maps pointed to this other feature.

Scramble up, in and through the features!

We paused below the base of what we now knew to be the sub-summit to hydrate, snack and organize our gear. The route up the tower looked like a dense bushwhack that included some stiff scrambling to get up from our vantage. Some of us left packs behind, but I was happy to bring my pack since I carried the rope.

Karl prepared for a little serious mountaineering!

I’m grateful that we had such a dry day because we had 7-10 metres of stiff 3 or 4-class scrambling. The stone is solid, and the tiny small protruding rocks provided were enough to get the toes of our boots on. Once we got up the first 15 metres, the remaining ascent was spent grappling with green belays and a few big steps to get up and over –and sometimes through– the obstacles.

By 10:30 we reached the summit –well before our projected time — and were resting our laurels to enjoy the 360-degree views. The views of these west coast peaks are something to behold!

Before we turned our noses home, we made the side trip to the obviously more visited sub-summit. The easy scramble was enjoyable, and the view was just as good from the sub summit; it was just different enough to make the trip to both peaks well worth it.

Returning to the car, we followed our ascent route. Even with the thick bush, we were able to easily make our way back to the car. I was practically carried down the hill in a stream of cursing that came from behind me. I’ll be honest, I had a few choice words about the slippery nature of the false azalea and general shrubs.

If you’re wondering about the title of this trip report for Mount Leiner, the ellipses in the fourth paragraph obviously obscure a few details.

View more photos from this trip

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Matthew is an adventure blogger and photographer. He documents his adventures on His stories create a vivid backdrop that give his photographs cotext. He finds his adventures with the Island Mountain Ramblers, and whenever possible, his family joins his adventures.

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