VIDEO: Golden Hinde, The Highest Peak on Vancouver Island

by Jes Scott
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Bernard and I made it to the highest peak on Vancouver Island, the Golden Hinde!

With high temps and little shade, hiking for five days was definitely the hardest part for me.

You gain over 5,000 m in elevation over the 60 km you hike to get there. You are constantly going up or down.

Since we had five days, we were able to stop and swim at least once every day. It’s worth budgeting some time for swimming.

Day 0

We drove up to the trail head on Saturday night and slept in the back of our car. The Westmin Mine was brighter, noiser and smellier than I had remembered. I wish we had stayed at Ralph River Campground, but it was full.

Day 1

We hiked from the parking lot past Arnica Lake to the most beautiful campsite on Vancouver Island.

The sunsets, sunrises and mountain views make it a worthy destination on its own. Even in late August, there was plenty of water to be found in the tarns.

It’s called as Phillips Ridge Corner in “Exploring Strathcona Park.” (GPS coordinates: 49.5669, -124.6813)

It took us about 6 hours to get there.

Day 2

The next day we pushed through the gruelling Phillips Ridge bumps. The steep descent down to Crater Lake did not help my morale, as I knew we just had to go back up again in a few hours. But a swim in both Crater Lake and S-lake lifted my spirits and cooled me off.

We camped at “Tak’s Camp” as I am told it is called by the Alpine Club folks. In the guidebook, it’s called the North Burman Ridge camp. (GPS coordinates: 49.6418, -124.7369)

It took us about 8 hours to get there, but I move at snail speed when it gets over 20 C. So you, like all the people who passed us, may be much faster.

Day 3

This was the last weekend in August in a low snow year.

We were one of six parties who attempted the summit on the same day. It very crowded by Vancouver Island standards!

Most folks were hikers and trail runners. Two groups brought along dogs, which was completely shocking to me.

We climbed through a lot of scree. Hours of scree.

Then we arrived at the South East gullies. The two options were quite clear: an very steep snow gully and a scrambling route.

We did not bring crampons or ice axe. I had wondered if the snow would not be that steep and we could just boot up with just a hiking pole to self-arrest. But no, that is not what it was.

And just as we were giving it a look, we noticed boot size rocks shooting down the gully at high speed. There was lots of yelling. We ran out of the way around the corner to hide.

We found a woman who was hiding there too with her dog and got the scoop. The snow had melted out near the rock on the right hand side making for easier climbing. Two parties were climbing in the moat at the same time, including a large dog. Her little dog was afraid of all the rock fall (smart dog!) and refused to climb.

We decided to stay away from the rockfall. We took the low 5th climbing variation, which we had all to ourselves.

There was only about 10 m of difficult climbing. There were some tricky moves with absolutely no room for error. As climbers, we felt fine.

The rest of the summit was stress-free, except for the fact that it was incredibly easy to send a river of giant rocks down on anyone below you.

We enjoyed the fabulous views from the summit.

We were the only ones up there!

The way down was the most difficult, as we had to go back down the climbing section with no rope. Usually I rappel terrain like this, but we hadn’t brought harnesses or ropes because they weigh too much. Everything was fine, but it was challenging.

We returned to our camp at after 12 hours. We had a long swim in the middle of the day. And stopped about one million times so I would not get heat exhaustion.

Day 4 and 5

We retraced our steps and camped in the same spots. What a privilege to be out there for five days!

Tips to make your adventure a safe one

We ran into someone who was attempting to do a round trip in 14 hours. No idea if he made it, but he said he made it to the summit in 7 hours. Amazing!

We also bumped into two other people attempting to do Hinde as a day trip who did not make it. No harm in trying. At least one guy sensibly turned around. But another one just kept going and ran out of energy. He emergency “camped” where we did one night, humbly accepting assistance from others to stay alive. He had nothing but his shorts, T-shirt and water bottle. I am glad he was OK, but it was complete luck that there were so many of us were out there on a random weekday to lend supplies. Please don’t do this! Respect your turnaround times.

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