Jackie’s solo hike-run to summit Mt. Albert Edward, Strathcona Provincial Park – 32 km with >1km elevation gain

LDSCN2079pWow, now this was fun! It has been a very hot and dry summer – not great for the garden or the salmon, but very good for getting up in the mountains, with little or no snowpack. (Dave and I did that Della Falls/Love Lake run back in June, and there was no snow at all up there – whereas when we did that same Della Falls route in September, late summer, a few years earlier there was not only snow up there, but Love Lake was still totally frozen!) So, while Dave was away in Iceland, I decided to head up to Strathcona Provincial Park (less than a 1.5 hr drive from here) and do a run/jog up to the peak of Mt. Albert Edward.

I had done part of this route a few years earlier, when a bunch of us hiked up Mt. Albert Edward for April’s birthday. We camped around 8 km in, at Kwai Lake, then hiked towards the summit the next day. We made it a fair way up, but didn’t summit (we had to get back down, break camp, hike out and drive all the way back to Port Alberni that day).

So I kind-of knew the route… the first part at least. When I examined the Strathcona Forbidden Plateau trails map, I saw there was also a side-loop that went off to do Castle Crag Mountain and Mt. Frink. My planned Mt. Albert Edward out-and-back would be 32 km (two possible routes in, so I was planning to go in via the slightly longer Kwai Lake route and out via the Lake Helen Mackenzie route), and if I did the Castle Crag extra (which – note – on the map is a “route” as opposed to a “trail”) that would add an extra 6.1 km. That seemed pretty doable… but then, when I hit the trailhead at 9am, I ran into the summer Park Ranger Jes (who you will hear more about in my next two blog posts).

Jes saw me in my running gear and – like any good park ranger – asked me a few questions to make sure I knew what I was doing. So I asked her about that Castle Crag add-on. She really recommended against me doing it – mainly because it truly is a “route” and not a “trail” and some of the route-finding can be difficult. She suggested that, if I am going to do it, I should do it on the way up, not the way down, so I have time up my sleeve. “Nobody will be on that one. No one will find you if anything goes wrong,” she warned.

That was enough for me. I was really glad I ran into her. I was pretty happy with my 32 km Mt. Albert Edward plan, and she was totally right – if I was going to do the add-on, I should do it on the way up, not the way down, so I could cut out the Albert Edward summit if need be. I didn’t want to cut out the Mt. Albert Edward summit. That already felt like “unfinished business” from that previous trip – so I was really glad that I had met her, and made my decision there at the trailhead, rather than somewhere later, along the route.

Well, I totally lucked out with the day. (Well, it wasn’t pure luck – I had been aiming to go the previous week, but delayed because of the forecast. That’s the big plus of working the way I do, as a freelancer, where I can shift my work hours around). So I waited for a day like this, with a forecast that was clear and sunny –  so I could get the views, but also for safety in navigation. Don’t want to lose my way in the fog alone on a mountantop!

So here are the pix. I did the whole thing in 9.5 hours – a bit slower than I expected, but I did stop a lot to take these photos (setting up the tripod, then putting the timer on and running through the image repeatedly until I got the shot I wanted), which takes a lot of time. There was over 1000 m elevation gain all together – starting at Mt. Washington resort around 1100 m, to the summit of Mt. Albert Edward at 2093 m (6th highest peak on Vancouver Island) plus a few extra ups and downs along the route. It was definitely the right choice NOT to do the Castle Crag loop this time – once up there, overlooking that route, I could see that it was definitely a “route” and not a “trail” (I was also slowed down up top picking my route along the Albert Edward ridgeline – you can pretty much see where you are supposed to get to, but the cairns supposedly marking the best route are kinda all over the place). Anyway, a very exhilarating day! As you will see from these pix:

I didn't depart from the trailhead as early as I had planned - left there around 9:30am. Here I am, passing Croteau Lake an hour or so later.

I didn’t depart from the trailhead as early as I had planned – left there around 9:30am. Here I am, passing Croteau Lake an hour or so later.

For the first 2 hours it was rolling, but pretty much flat. Pretty much all of the climbing comes in after you pass Circlet Lake.

For the first 2 hours it was rolling, but pretty much flat. Pretty much all of the climbing comes in after you pass Circlet Lake.

You get up on a beautiful plateau with lots of little tarns. You can see theMt.Albert Edward ridgeline behind me here - I'll be going up it around the right side of the photo, thentraversing it to the left. You can't see the peak of the mountain yet from here - it's behind the ridge.

You get up on a beautiful plateau with lots of little tarns. You can see theMt.Albert Edward ridgeline behind me here – I’ll be going up it around the right side of the photo, thentraversing it to the left. You can’t see the peak of the mountain yet from here – it’s behind the ridge.

And now here I am at the top of the ridge, but still with lots of climbing to do. The peak on the left is Mt. Albert Edward - where I'm headed.

And now here I am at the top of the ridge, but still with lots of climbing to do. The peak on the left is Mt. Albert Edward – where I’m headed.

Getting closer...

Getting closer…

This northern slope of the mountain is very steep - but the views are spectacular!

This northern slope of the mountain is very steep – but the views are spectacular!

Yay! Selfie from the top of the mountain!

Yay! Selfie from the top of the mountain!

Here's the view back to the trail I just came up - with some overnight hikers following.

Here’s the view back to the trail I just came up – with some overnight hikers following.

Such a great feeling when you make a mountain summit...

Such a great feeling when you make a mountain summit…

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