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Mount Arrowsmith
In our discussion leading up to this trip, we'd convinced Jenn's Dad (who from here on I'll refer to as 'Roy') to come along with us on our first adventure: A Climb of Mount Arrowsmith. Mount Arrowsmith is the most southerly "real alpine" mountain on Vancouver Island. The FA Hiking and Climbing in Southwestern British Columbia guidebook calls Arrowsmith the "southernmost point of mountaineering interest on Vancouver Island". It has a respectably high summit elevation (nearly 6000 feet), and has lots of craggy alpine terrain well above treeline. There isn't really a simple single peak on Mount Arrowsmith. It is more of a massif with many crags and bumps, with the actual summit being the highest of these. It is said, also, that on the summit one can see both the east and west coasts of Vancouver Island, a fact which Jenn finds quite interesting.
Early Morning Hike Start
After a bit of searching through my two guidebooks and on the internet, we settle on a straightforward, non-technical ascent route on Mount Arrowsmith. The route is called the 'judges route', and it ascends the southern side of the Arrowsmith massif.

We are up before sunrise at the Innes family residence, and are ready to start our drive to the trailhead at 5am. We are riding in Roy's trusty old 23-year old Diesel Toyota Land Cruiser. We certainly won't get stopped by rough 4x4 roads in this!

It is less than 100 kilometres from Gabriola to the trailhead on the mountain - not such a long distance, all things considered. We hop onto the very first morning ferry at 5:45am. From Nanaimo, it is an easy drive up the coast highway, and then in-island on the highway leading to Port Alberni. This highway leads through a beautiful hilly area, complete with a big lake nestled beneath steep slopes (Cameron Lake) and an area of wonderful old-growth forest (Cathedral Grove). Shortly after this, we reach the turnoff that will take us into the complex of logging roads in the vicinity of Mount Arrowsmith. Much of Vancouver Island is logged, and logging road networks are often used to get to mountain trailheads.
Nose Route Trailhead
We head south-east on a principal logging road, eventually hitting a road heading back northwest up towards Arrowsmith called 'Pass Main' (this is apparently common logging-road lingo). Now, based on the descriptions I've read, I have placed the location of the trailhead to the Judges Route at the mid-point or the top of a series of switchbacks along this road. As it turns out (and as I piece it together later), the location of the trailhead is before any of the switchbacks. So, we spend a lot of time going back and forth along these switchbacks, not finding the trailhead. In my frustration, I decided to switch to a different route so that we could get started hiking. The trailhead we ended up on was higher up in elevation and on the north-west side of the mountain. It led up to the so-called 'bumps/nose' route, which also looked interesting.
Forest and Peaks
The first 500 or so metres of our hike was easy enough, along a slightly overgrown but basically intact logging road through a recent clearcut. Up above, we could see the rounded bald knobs of some of Arrowsmith's alpine terrain. The weather didn't look too bad - mostly blue!

After a few minutes of easy walking, some basic flagging and an obvious path lead steeply upwards through older, more mature forest. No more road here! The trail lead up quite steeply, with a few open spots here and there. Compared to an Adirondack trail, it was obviously very lightly travelled, since there was very little trail erosion to be seen. We were headed up to a saddle: a low point along a ridge that separated the Arrowsmith Massif with a neighbouring peak (Mount Cokely). Once up on the ridge, all we would have to do is follow it its entire length to Arrowsmith's summit.
Back down to the trailhead
Jenn ascends with peaks above
We proceeded up at an excellent pace - I was quite impressed with how strongly Roy was at hiking, even though he really didn't do a lot of it. In not much over one hour, we had gained the 1400 feet to the Arrowsmith-Cokely saddle. Amazing views opened up, back to Port Alberni in the west, and, in the east, over a sea of clouds that had started to form.
Reaching the Saddle
Signs of Gabriola
Beautiful Alpine terrain
Ridges Rise above the mist
After a quick snack break, we started on the most interesting part of the hike - the open ridge to the summit. At first, the ridge was very broad and relatively flat, and the hiking was easy but scenic. We came across an interesting little flag, which, curiously enough, had a bunch of little kid signatures on it and that also said 'Gabriola'. A neat coincidence! Soon we reached one of the first of many scrambling sections along the ridge. It was mostly very steep hiking with a few handholds here and there.
Mount Arrowsmith (Annotated)
This steep section led to the top of one of "the bumps". "The Bumps" is a name given to a series of high, rounded knobs along Arrowsmith's northwest ridge. From here, we could see into the heart of the Arrowsmith massif and to the summit. It actually looked a bit daunting. There was a lot of steep terrain here, with the rounded knobs dropping away into near vertical cliffs down into cirque-like scree bowls. And ahead, through the gathering cloudiness, we could see the summit and sub-summit of Mount Arrowsmith. The ridges and cliffs surrounding them looked uniformly technical. I wondered to myself if it would even be remotely possible to reach the summit.

After a few moments of thought, I figured we might as well see how far we get and take it one portion at a time. The next objective, which was crossing all of "the bumps", by itself looked a bit troublesome. Because of their dome-like nature, I couldn't see the steepest part of each bump unless I made may way over to the edge and had a look down. From where I was they could have had vertical cliffs separating them - I really couldn't know.
Scrambling through a notch
So... we went exploring to see what the down-and-up between the first bump and the next was like. At first glance it seemed class 5 and sketch without a rope, but as I had a closer look, there became apparent a few slanted ledges of weakness. These turned out, actually, to be relatively straightforward class 3 (moderate scrambling) - but, you needed to have comfort with heights, because there were some fairly steep dropoffs. The downclimbing went fairly easily, and the rise to the next bump, which looked quite steep from above, turned out to be very easy.

This particular sequence more-or-less repeated itself for the second and third bumps. It would look a little sketchy from far, but once you got close, it was a bit of manageable scrambling. Very enjoyable, really. What was less enjoyable were the ever increasing clouds, which had now risen from below us to envelope us. We could rarely see the summit now, even though we were getting much closer to it. It didn't much look like we were going to see any spectacular views even if we did make it to the summit.
Misty Nose
After crossing what must have been the third or fourth hump, we finally saw our biggest challenge. A very steep and slender rib of rock rose from the base of our hump up into whiteness. This, I concluded, must be the so-called "nose". As a hiking/scrambling route, it looked positively impossible. Not only did it appear steeper than what we'd done so far, its narrowness made it very "airy" (meaning the feeling of being high up and exposed to falling was much heightened).

Time for another break, and more thinking: We'd moved quickly - it wasn't even noon yet. We'd come across difficult-looking sections before, and they turned out to be not so bad when we got close. And our group seemed pretty able-bodied. So... it seemed reasonable to at least go up to the base of the nose section and see what it was like up close.

The very bottom section of the nose was actually in a bit of scrubby bush with a trail. Pretty easy. Above that, the trail petered out and the ridge narrowed. I could fairly clearly see the crux section of the nose now. It was still quite steep, but definitely climbable. The rock was solid but the holds were kind of slopey, meaning they didn't have a nice positive incut to them to hold onto - instead a bit of friction was required. Making it all a bit scary, though, were basically vertical drops of hundreds of feet on either side. This was definitely what I'd call "class 4" - meaning you could scramble it if you were very comfortable, but you'd better not fall! Many people prefer a roped belay on this kind of terrain.
The Crux
I could also see that there was a nice shiny 3-way belay station just below the most difficult part of the climbing. I recalled in the climbing guide that there were two of these, and I couldn't see the other one, so I could only assume it was a bit higher on the ridge, beyond my sight. I had no good idea of how long the class 4 section was, but according to my GPS, I knew it wasn't far - maybe 50 or 60 feet of climbing.

I decided to do a little reconnaissance scrambling to get a feel for what it was like before giving any recommendations. The climbing was fairly easy, but the exposure and slopey holds made it a bit exciting. The big issue was downclimbing, which is always harder to do. We didn't want any of us to get into a spot where we would be too uncomfortable downclimbing - and we HAD to come down this way, because we didn't know the other routes down the mountain.

I made it up to the first belay station. I had brought along a short bit of cordelette for ultra-basic belaying, but it proved too short even for this task. Jenn and Roy hummed and hawed - it was an understandably uncertain situation. I decided to climb above the belay station, which led up some very steep terrain but with very good holds. Do-able, but again, you'd better be very comfortable with exposed terrain!

I turned around before I got to the upper belay station, but I must have been very close - I could see the terrain start to ease off, and I was probably only 10-20 feet below where the technical terrain ended. so close! We were only a hundred or so horizontal metres from the summit, too!

But discretion is the better part of valour, and so I very carefully scrambled back down. The general consensus was that without a rope it was a little too sketchy, mostly for the fact that we'd all need to downclimb this terrain after summiting. I made my way down to Jenn and Roy and we headed back - a little sad that we didn't make it all the way, but hey, it was totally socked in anyway - we would have seen nothing!
Scrambling Inneses
Compared to the nose, the bumps now seemed like quite easy scrambles, and we made good time traversing back over them. As we neared the saddle where the trail headed down to the car, the weather (of course) started to lift, and we had wide-ranging views again. Figures!
Descent from the saddle
The last hour was spent threading our way down the steep forested slope back to the trailhead and the Land Cruiser. Roy's knees were causing him a bit of bother, and the last hour or so, Jenn later told me, were a bit painful for him. I hope this doesn't deter him from coming on other hikes, because he is a speedy and nimble hiking companion. Besides, we need to go back up there and tackle the nose route again, this time with a bit of rope! Arrowsmith via the bumps and nose route is certainly a very scenic and worthwhile endeavour. I'd say probably 75% of the route is above the trees and in the alpine!
We lived!
Now that I had a good mental sense of the layout of the peak, I had a better idea of where the elusive Judges Route (our originally planned route) was located. As we drove back along the logging road, I kept a close eye out for the logging road side entrance that marked its start. I understood my mistake now in interpreting the guidebook, and, sure enough, we located a small logging road _below_ the switchbacks that had a bit of "trail" blazing tape on a tree. That was very likely it.....
Minimal Judge's Route Marking
When we arrived back on Gabriola a little while later, we'd discovered that Pu had made it! He was having a nice glass of wine with Jenn's mom and generally enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the house and the island. He had had a nice three days exploring Vancouver and was looking forward to getting out into the hills.

Another excellent meal at the Innes residence, with lots of enjoyable chat and wine. We threw up an impromptu slide show of our attempt on the nose - probably the fasted I've ever gone from taking a set of pictures to giving a slideshow - less than 8 hours!
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