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Ascent of Victoria Peak on 2018-08-24

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:Rob Woodall -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Pete Ellis
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Friday, August 24, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Victoria Peak
    Location:Canada-British Columbia
    Elevation:7083 ft / 2158 m

Ascent Trip Report

Victoria Peak is the third highest and second most prominent peak on Vancouver Island and a real mountaineering objective. We climbed the south face route, the easiest, but we still needed to climb on steep snowfields, lots of loose rock, and low 5th-class cliffs.

We used the GPS track from Richard McClellan on this site to navigate the logging roads from the town of Gold River to the trailhead. The road was good for passenger cars for most of the way, but the last 3 kilometer or so were steep, rutted, and rocky. I parked just below a very steep section, about 1 km short of the trailhead--I could tell my Subaru would not make it any further. We car-camped at this spot so we could get an early start the next day.

We started hiking a little before 6 AM and quickly hiked to the end of the road. We had trouble finding the trail, but a cairn helped us find the right spot to climb a sandy embankment into the clear-cut brush above. The path was quite easy to follow as it climbed steeply, in the clear-cut at first and then up through forest to the gentle lower south ridge of Victoria, where the grade moderated.

The next few kilometers of trail were pleasant ridgetop cruising--if the first part of the trail was not so steep and there was good access to the trailhead, this would be a popular high-country hiking destination. We did lose the trail a couple times in the meadows or rocky slabs, but the GPS took us back and the terrain was easy.

The upper parts of the trail traverse the east side of the south ridge, and the last section gets pretty rocky and is marked with cairns. The path finally ends at a notch at about 1820m, where a view to the craggy south face of Victoria opens up. A steep snowfield blocked our progress--the idea is to descend the snowfield, cross the lower part of the basin below, and then climb up the right side of a large square-shaped snowfield to find the entrance to a "hidden gully" that leads up to a grassy ramp. See photo on this page.

We used our crampons and ice axes to carefully descend the steep snowfield for about 60m, where we cached our ice gear (it was late August in a dry year and we saw no more need for it) and traversed north. Our directions were not 100% clear, so we ascended the right side of the square snowfield and turned right too soon, finding ourselves on the "X" ledge in the photo. It was brushy and when it dead-ended, we backtracked and climbed steep class-4 chimneys to the right ledge, and headed up to the right hand skyline at 1880m.

Here we came to the obvious 15m step, since there was some colorful webbing on the cliffs. I climbed first, with the rope in my pack, to see if I could free solo it. It was high 4th or low 5th class, with a few tricky moves, but not super difficult--I did use the webbing as a handhold. Once up I offered a top-rope to Rob and Pete, but they climbed it with no problems. Once we were up we cached our rope and harnesses, since it was non-technical above.

The high bowl beneath the summits of Victoria was a huge area of loose rock, and cairned paths braided their way upwards. We could not completely avoid the hardpan, scree, and movable talus, but overall it was pretty standard steep loose terrain. The best routes seem to stay high, just under the walls guarding the lower east peak, and the final scramble goes a little ways beyond the main summit to catch the crest of the south ridge to the top.

The summit was a nice viewpoint, but even though we had none of the smoky air that plagued us earlier in the week, it was a partly cloudy day and the visibility was not great. And, as newbies on the island, we didn't really know what peaks we were looking at. The sheer faces of nearby Warden Peak were impressive, though. Rob used his sight level, finding a spot 9m lower than our main summit where the east peak was level--we were thankful our west peak was higher, since the east one looked difficult.

There was no register on top, just the usual swarm of flying ants. We were pleased with our 4:40 ascent time, so we took a nice 50-minute summit break before heading down at 11:20 AM. In the upper bowl we did our best to follow the optimal cairned route, and to avoid descending in the rockfall zones beneath each person--we all let loose some large rollers.

At the top of the step we set up a rappel--my 60m rope was more than enough, and it was nice to zip down the step without tricky downclimbing. On the grassy ramp we descended on the footway and found the "hidden gully" that we missed on the way up--it was quite steep with slippery hardpan footing, but still better than our off-route cliff route from the morning. Some nasty loose rock took us down to our traverse route, and then across to our ice gear cache.

Pete made a nice set of steps up the steep snowfield, but this was still a somewhat treacherous slope--any slip would have sent you flying down, perhaps into rocks a long way below. I carefully made my crampons bite into the semi-hard snow, wishing my ice axe self-belays were deeper and more secure. We all made it to the rocks of the 1820m notch, stashed our gear, and headed down.

The return to the car down the scenic south ridge path was uneventful--we were a bit tired and took a nice break about 2/3 the way down, and snacked on huckleberries on the steep section down through the forest. We were back to the car by 3:30 PM, a little over 4 hours down from the summit.

We were pleased with our effort--this peak had a bit of a reputation as a difficult one, and we anticipated a much longer day, given the snow and rock climbing involved. We had an extra kilometer of road walking each way, and a major routefinding blunder, so a 9 1/2 hours total trip was OK with us.

After we got changed and our gear back in the car, the long drive back to Gold River took about an hour, so we were happy to check into our pre-reserved motel just before 5 PM. Gold River is not much of a town, and dining options were severely limited--Rob and I were able to get some burgers at the Canadian Legion Hall due to a special event, and I bought some more food at the gas station.

Click on photo for original larger-size version.
The red line shows the correct ramp/ledge to use on the south face route on Mount Victoria--dashed line is the "hidden gully". Avoid the ledge marked "X" (2018-08-24).
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4244 ft / 1292 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4244 ft / 1292 m
    Round-Trip Distance:8.3 mi / 13.4 km
    Grade/Class:YDS 5.3
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3982 ft / 1213 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3720 ft / 1133 m; Extra: 262 ft / 79m
    Loss on way in:262 ft / 79 m
    Distance:4.2 mi / 6.8 km
    Route:S Ridge/S Face
    Start Trailhead:Logging Road  3363 ft / 1025 m
    Time:4 Hours 49 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3982 ft / 1213 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3720 ft / 1133 m; Extra: 262 ft / 79m
    Gain on way out:262 ft / 79 m
    Distance:4.1 mi / 6.6 km
    Route:S Ridge/S Face
    End Trailhead:Logging Road  3363 ft / 1025 m
    Time:4 Hours 10 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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