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Hiking Mt. Arrowsmith

August 30, 2009

Arrowsmith hike LDSCN2448For more info about hikes and other things to do around Port Alberni, please look out for my new updated guidebook: The Wildside Guide to Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim (Harbour, 2010).

Arrowsmith is like the guardian of Port Alberni, its multiple craggy peaks visible from almost anywhere in town.  And it is one of those hikes that I have been meaning to do for years…  but one of those things that somehow you never get around to doing, because you always know it’s there.

Well, my friend (and training partner) Jeannie had a friend coming from Ontario to visit, so she had picked August 29th as the date to hike the mountain with him weeks ago.  And were we ever lucky!  Yesterday morning’s overcast cleared quickly to a Arrowsmith hike LDSCN2451decidedly spectacular day: crisp clear blue sky, windless, and warm – even up high!  We could not have had any better conditions for a mountain hike.

So, although I’ll write a bit about the hike, in this post I will let the photos speak for themselves.

At 1817 m, Mt. Arrowsmith is one of the highest mountains on Vancouver Island.  Unlike the other high peaks, it is not part of a range; rather, it just stands alone, high above anything else around.

arrowsmith hike LDSCN2453The hike, and access to it, are well described in the Alberni Valley Trail Guide (available at the tourism info centre).  Access is by 13 km of logging roads, turning south off the highway about 5.5 km east of the info centre, then:
– follow Summit Main 2.7 km
– turn L on Cameron Main and go 7.7 km
– turn L on Pass Main and go 2.8. km; if you are keeping an eye out, you will see the trailhead on your right and can park just ahead on the road on your left

arrowsmith hike LDSCN2466The gravel roads were in good condition when we went, fine for any type of car to travel.

The trail to the top is 2.5 km – but you gain a kilometre in elevation over that length!  The first 20 minutes are a gentle uphill on an old road.  From then on, it is a steep and relentless climb, first through forest and then along very steep trails with a lot of loose rock through the sub-alpine.  It is not “technical” – you need no special skills to do this hike, and there are only a few sections where you really need to use your hands a lot to get through or over – but it is definitely a very rough trail.  The loose rock and gravel make coming down challenging, so hiking poles are a very good idea.

arrowsmith hike LDSCN2473We took 5 hours 15 minutes to do the hike – hiking at a very brisk pace, especially on the way up, but also taking quite a few very long stops at the top.  Because the view from the top is amazing.  Westward, we could see all the way out to the coast, looking down on Alberni Inlet, Sproat Lake, and Great Central Lake.  We could even see that the coast was fogged in at home in Tofino!  Northward were all the peaks of Strathcona, at about eye level.  And, once we reached the summit, we could see eastward, across Georgia Straight, to the Gulf Islands and the mainland.

arrowsmith hike LDSCN2478The route we took is called the Judge’s Route – this is the only hiking trail that reaches the highest peak of Arrowsmith.  There are several other trails that ascend the mountain’s other peaks, one traversing a ridgeline between peaks.  Now that I have finally set foot on this mountain, I plan to get back soon!

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