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Day Trips To Comox Glacier
I have made up a "Topo/Image Map", with the GPS track route traced onto a topo map.

Click - 'Black star' to veiw photo taken from that approx. location.

    It was 1980 in Jasper National Park at a highway maintenance camp 5km south of the Columbia Icefields that I was to spend the next 5 winters & 3 summers. There I had Mountains over 11,500ft & Glaciers over 15km long basically right in my backyard. After work in the winters I used to solo up small frozen waterfalls in the dark which used to form in the Canyon just below camp, and on my days off I was out climbing the local mountains and exploring the crevasses, mill wells and ice caves on the Athabasca glacier. So, when I moved to the Port Alberni Valley in the early 90's I immediately took notice of the Comox Glacier looking like a big white pillow in the sky. I thought to myself that I'd be up there some day. For years I had put it off because I had assumed it was an overnight venture to reach the glaciers summit. The last few seasons I have been doing some pretty heavy duty hiking adventures and I noticed that I was now getting myself further into the backcountry than ever before. Last year in late summer the dogs and I hiked up the Kookjai Route [KR] hoping to get a good view of the glacier from Mt Kookjai. We were not disappointed and I was quite surprised looking over towards the Frog's Pond Route [FPR] at how close the glacier was. FPR looked more than possible to do in one day and KR looked like it would be more of a challenge as it was a lot longer. Over that winter I did some research on the two routes up from that side and found that the FPR is by far the faster and more preferred route as it was a well worn trail most of the way with minimum elevation loss and gain, where as the KR was only flagged and quite bushy with a fair amount of elevation loss and gain. After hiking both routes on the same weekend I found KR being a good leg burn and be expected to take at least 12hrs return taking only a few quick breaks. As for the FPR which can be done in under 9hrs, ski poles can be used for most of the way, this I find really saves the knees for the descent off the ridge.

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    Kookjai Route Trailhead starts roughly 500m past Cougar Lake. Look for a small pull-off 430m ("room for three vehicles") on the right just before a sharp bend left then look for flagging tape which will lead to an old logging road just inside the bush. Walk up to the end of the road looking for flagging tape heading left and up onto the main ridge. The first section is a good grunt but once in the virgin timber the going is a lot easier. You will come across pink flagging here and there that I placed from the year before. If you lose it just keep in mind to stay on the backbone of the ridge and you'll be fine, it is fairly obvious but I wouldn't recommend doing it in the dark. After reaching 1000m the bush starts to open up to alpine and the going gets a lot easier. Still stay on the main ridge that heads up to the summit of Kookjai. 1279m after that you can see the route up and over the unnamed peak towards Black Cat Mnt [BCM]but you can't see the elevation loss you're about to give up to reach Tatsno Lakes at 1080m. Hiking up from the lakes head for the widest part of the ridge, the views at 1440m were great and the hiking was enjoyable. Unfortunately this was short lived because as soon as you start to descend off the ridge there is a steep step you'll have to downclimb to be able to reach the ridge below at 1200m. ( head left looking for the obvious bushy ramp heading back towards the lower ridge) that heads North West over to BCM. Hiking up the ridge towards BCM the going is fairly basic. I took a small ramp which ended up at the bottom of some low angle rock. Climbing up from here put me on top of the summit ridge at 1590m with good views of The Red Pillar and Argus Mnt. Once again, down climb a rocky ridge to Lone Tree Pass 1460m. This was where I hooked up with the FPR. From here I stayed on the main trail, which was well marked by rock cairns, up to the lower summit 1860m. The weather that day was clear so I was able to see across the glacier to the far summit 1965m, which took another 30 min but was definitely worth it. The Turquoise Blue of Milla Lake lying at the base of Mt Harmston's rugged North Face is spectacular along with The Moving Glacier at the far end of the lake. It's one of Vancouver Island's hidden Treasures. A definite must see if you're in the area.

    The Descent to the vehicle was long and grueling, I was even having second thoughts of making it back out when I first started going up BCM from LTP. The front muscle on my upper legs was cramping up big time and getting up to BCM rocky ridge took a lot of effort. I sat down on the summit and gathered my thoughts on what I should do. After massaging the legs, having a snack, and drinking at least a litre of Gatorade I then decided to push on and descend BCM towards the steep section going up to the unnamed peak. Once I got going I soon realized that the legs were feeling some what back to normal. Looking back I remembered I had drained my camel back while venturing across the glacier and I went without anything else to drink under a hot afternoon sun until I returned to a mountain stream just above LTP. This must have dehydrated me more than I had thought because once I got some liquids in me I could feel the cramps dissipate. This was a good lesson to remember, when power-hiking always bring, and drink, plenty of fluids. I had no more mishaps for the rest of the hike out, except the legs you might say were a little wobbly by the time I reached the car. It was less than 36hrs later and I was now at the Trail head of the FPR with a couple of my hiking buddies. Am I nuts or something? No just possessed.

    Frog's Pond Route,5:30a.m. I was to meet up with Steve, Gary and Turbo at the Cruickshank Bridge, and then they were to follow me up to the FPR trailhead. When we got there I was quite surprised at how many vehicles there were, as I never ran into or saw anyone, even in the distance, while I was hiking KR. At the trailhead Turbo was swearing "lighter is better", so he was not taking ski poles and wore light running shoes. "I wish I was that young again." Myself, I need good ankle support, so I was wearing my heavy old faithful hiking boots, which I had resoled to accept ceramic corks. "Can't beat the traction in the bush and even good on rock", plus I brought ski poles, Steve and Gary were also packing poles. The morning was overcast which made it nice and cool for the ascent, but we were all hoping it would clear up after some elevation had been gained. Hiking up the road and the bottom part of the trail to the small lake 500m was a "Walk in the Park" as we say. Once past the lake the trail heads up and this is where the hikers separate from the whiners, it's not long, only about 500m elevation gain, but at a steady pitch and will leave even the fittest a little short of breath. Turbo and I reach the ridge top in just under 2hrs from the vehicles. Hiking the FPR ridge top was a real pleasure and I can see why it's so popular, being wide open on both sides with views that looked like they would be breathtaking, but unfortunately we could not see them as we were climbing into the clouds. The first steep section was not bad at all with lots of bush to hang from, and heading up the other side was a breeze. The next ridge section is shorter than the first and descending off requires you to down climb a small rock bluff, luckily for the people who are not very confident in there climbing abilities you can hand over hand down a rope that was placed there recently, this is what another hiker told us who we ran into later that day. Hiking up to LTP from here you are on a fairly narrow ridge that runs up to BCM and then just before the summit heads right and then down to LTP, not to worry as there was lots of flagging tape and a worn trail can be seen here and there. Once we reached the lower summit we were right in the clouds and the visibility was next to nil. Then the wind started to stir things up and spread the clouds apart for us to get some views towards Comox, but looking across towards the glacier it was not clearing at all. You couldn't even see where the glacier ends and the clouds begin, it just looked white. I was really hoping to take the guys across the glacier and maybe catch a glimpse of Milla Lake. I was not even going to start and guess were the summit was so this looked like a good place for the GPS to take over to guide us across the snowfield to the far side. This proved to be no challenged for the GPS as it plunked us right on the top. Low and behold the clouds lifted as if we told them too and then it stayed fairly clear for the rest of the visit, and yes, we all saw Milla Lake. Fantastic I Say.

    The descent back to the vehicles went smoothly after cresting the final steep section. Steve told me to go on ahead, so I hopped skipped and jumped down the first hill to the small lake. From there I went into a slow jog for the rest of the way back to the jeep. Another fine day in the hills, I can't wait till the next adventure.
Cheers: Quagger