With millions of dollars of satellite technology at my disposal I decided that these peaks would be safe and feasible to do as a solo triple day bag.
Distance: 39.5km, Time: 9:06:00, Elevation Gain: 1550m
Steps required for success:
- Crank up Google Earth and start combing over the satellite view for approach roads.
- Trace the roads and export as kml files
- Convert the kml file to gpx
- Use Mapsource to add in expected routes to summits. Found track of Gardner trails on trailpeak.com and merged that in.
- Transfer expected track to mapping gps
- Do the trip with spare GPS batteries at hand. I use a Sony Xperia X1 cell phone running Windows Mobile as my mapping GPS. If you want something super reliable and bomb proof I'd recommend the Garmin GPSMAP 62.
The forecast had correctly anticipated a beautiful warm sunny day. I parked the car at the Caulfield exit and cycled onto the first ferry to Bowen at 6AM. I was starting the day with too little sleep having been up late preparing the tracks above. You can skip those steps since I've uploaded them here.
There were 3 cars, a couple of motorcycles, and 1 walkon passenger (me). Snug Cove was still fast asleep when we arrived and one of the ferry workers had to climb down a ladder, onto the dock to lower the ramp. There's a steep hill to climb before turning right onto Gardner road which leads to the trailhead. I cycled up a gravel road to the gate which marks the start of the trail and left my bike in the woods locked to a tree.
The route followed the Skid Trail to a well sign posted junction with the trail to the North Pk. I crossed this following the direct route to the South Peak, then left at the junction with the Mount Gardner South Trail, and right (up) the direct trail to the peak. The South Peak is the highest but is covered in trees and has no real views to speak of. From here, you can drop into a col and climb the North Peak which has magnificent views in all directions although interrupted by the sounds of generators and motors making noises from the massive communications complex that is located here. A nice loop can be done by dropping down the trail on the north side down to the gravel road which eventually leads to the first junction of the Skid Trail and back down to the gate.
Distance: 7.4km, Time: 2:40:00, Elevation Gain: 576m
Once again on the bike, I headed back towards Snug Cove, turning left on Miller Rd, and then left on Old Eagle Cliff Rd. I cycled to the point where Old Eagle Cliff Rd meets Old Eagle Cliff Rd (huh! ... well that's what google shows ... correction required) just past the intersection with Baker Rd. I headed up what looked like a driveway but was actually a road connecting 3 or 4 houses. I lashed the bike to the nearest tree and headed uphill. It was easy travel over ferns and branches. I eventually got onto a road that was probably the remains of an old logging road that headed uphill for a ways. The area here was mature 2nd growth forest with little scrub brush. I got up onto a ridge that led to a sub-peak of Collins, dropped down into a col before getting onto the actual summit. The upper few hundred meters of the mountain had denser bush and looked as though it may have been hit hard by a storm in the last few years. The most identifying item near the summit was the remains of an old structure that had netting all over it. After initially descending in exactly the opposite direction I was supposed to go, I found a route down that bypassed the sub-peak that I'd crossed on the way up. I eventually ran into a reservoir that I'd thought I would pass on the way up. There was a road immediately next to it which I followed back down to Old Eagle Cliff which was about .5 km from the one I had gone up. This would be the preferale ascent route.
Distance: 3.9km, Time: 2:12:00, Elevation Gain: 320m
I had good satellite coverage here and on Mt Gardner most likely due to the perfect weather conditions. I switched over to battery #2 on the descent. The return route would have been difficult without the GPS. An error of even in a few degrees can lead you to a much different place than where you started. Going uphill, everything leads to one point. It's quite a different story going downhill. A plain old compass would be a wise backup to the GPS in this kind of territory. I didn't have one with me.
Back on the bike, I headed towards Snug Cove and then right on Grafton Rd. A short distance beyond the junction with Harding Rd (on the right), I turned left on a road heading up the NW slopes of Apodaca which like the others looks more like a driveway from Grafton Rd. This is clearly visible on the google satellite view of the area. The address at the bottom is actually for the house on Grafton Rd. A lot of residential garbage has been dumped at the side of this road which switchbacks all the way up to 300m, a short distance above a local water reservoir. I headed up the gentle ridge leadng to the summit of Apodaca which is heavily forested. It was 2:30pm by the time I got to the top and the minutes were ticking to get back to Snug Cove in time for the 4:00pm sailing. I opted to descend directly down the north side which was steeper than the way I came up. I ended up somewhat east from where I left the bike but managed to quickly make my way across the flat bench at 300m which had remnants of an old road on it. To my surprise I arrived back in Snug Cove within an hour at 3:30pm.
Distance: 5.6km, Time: 1:52:00, Elevation Gain: 353m
It was a great exploratory trip. The ferry was a lot busier when it finally sailed at 4:20 than it had been first thing in the morning with lots of people enjoying this sunny Gulf Island. I stopped by the Mosquito Creek Bar and Grill on the way home in time to hear about the adventures of the Vancouver 100 survivors. Made my day sound like a walk in the park! :-)