More back-to-back training days for my upcoming multi-day ultramarathon: This time, climbing into the unknown!

LP1020277It’s less than two weeks to my race – 160 km over 5 days in the Himalayas, all of it at altitude. So I am at the stage of having a pretty heavy training load, especially incorporating back-to-back days of both hiking and running. Last week, I did three hard hikes in a row: Tuesday, 4hrs/14km with close to 700 m cumulative elevation gain, Wednesday (this blog post) 2:20 with another about 700 m of gain, and then the next day, a 3+ hour moderately hilly hike with Dave. And that was all following the Juan de Fuca Trail run that April and I did the Thursday before (8:30 on foot, plus another 1:30 on the bikes to get back to the car). And a few shorter faster runs in between.

So the hike I’m talking about in this post didn’t really go as planned. I had to drive to Nanaimo to get my shots for India, so I thought I should stop and do the CPR trail, above Cameron Lake, on my way. I had only gone up to the Lookout there once before, two years ago, with April, Ryan and Kevin (turns out I never posted those pix here, will do so!). You start by parking at the Cameron Lake Picnic Area, then crossing the highway to a rough road and following it to the trailhead. However, about 500 m down the road, there was a fork that I didn’t remember. I took the right one, since it was more uphill. I soon realized it wasn’t the Lookout trail, but it was a good solid uphill which I wanted for training, so, rather than go back, I figured I’d follow it anyway and see where it went.

Someone has flagged this for some reason...

Someone has flagged this for some reason…

It soon dwindled to a quad track, and then to a single-track trail, and then just to a rough route flagged along a steep forested slope. It was still climbing, and I figured that someone had flagged it for a reason – it must go somewhere interesting, so I kept going. (I was wishing Trail Guru Ryan was with me – he’d know where this trail went).

Then it turned straight up that slope, no switchbacks or anything. The ground was pretty rough – I stopped to tighten my laces, to get better footing, and assessed my timing. I had a total of 2 hours and 20 minutes before I needed to be back on the road for my appointment, and had initially set myself 1:20 of climbing and 1:00 to come down. But this steep rough stuff would be just as slow to come down, so I reset my turnaround time to 1:10 up, and the same to get back.

Stopped to tighten my laces. This is Tank's "WHAT is TAKING you so LONG??" look. We get that a lot from him...

Stopped to tighten my laces. This is Tank’s “WHAT is TAKING you so LONG??” look. We get that a lot from him…

LP1020282The route was hard to see, eventually rising out of the dark forest to rocky bluffs and scrubby bushes. I had ascended really quickly – started getting great views northeastward, across Georgia Straight, to the mountains on the mainland. The trail was obviously not well-used, because there were lots of logs down across it – pretty tough going for the dogs – but we kept going up.

A view ahead! So that's where I am, back of Mt. Arrowsmith... I think?

A view ahead! So that’s where I am, back of Mt. Arrowsmith… I think?

Finally, we came out to a mini-plateau where, for the first time, I could see what was ahead of us. I started to have a feeling of where I was going – I must be ascending the back of Mt. Arrowsmith! I was still under an hour on the trail. I didn’t think we’d make it to that first little mount ahead of us, but we had time to go up a bit further.

Beautiful, a Cameron Lake view. My car is parked there beside the lake - that's how much I ascended in under an hour.

Beautiful, a Cameron Lake view. My car is parked there beside the lake – that’s how much I ascended in under an hour.

Then we came to a narrow forested ridge, still climbing along it, with views down to the northwest and to Cameron Lake.

And the trail still kept going from here... will have to come back with more time.

And the trail still kept going from here… will have to come back with more time.

We didn’t go much further than that. By now, we were scrambling up rocks. I was using my hands a lot. We went up to one other rocky mini-plateau, and, with 5 minutes to my designated turnaround time, took a group photo and a quick break before starting the descent.

LP1020291It’s hard to get a photo looking down that really shows how steep it is – but we made it down, taking it slowly to avoid injury, in pretty good time. We did actually make it down in less time than it took to go up (it’s always good to be conservative) so, down at the bottom, we had time to turn right at that fork in the road, and find the trailhead that I had intended to go on. It was only a few hundred m farther up the road. Well, now I know for next time!


I photographed the map at that trailhead. Where I turned off the road was about halfway between the “You are here” sign and the parking lot at Cameron Lake (on to a road not shown). So I headed southwestward from there, and then ascended the ridgeline above the words “McBey Creek,” ending, as far as I can tell, around the “M”. The hill in our group photo would be the hill that is just SSW of there, at the bottom of the map.

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