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Mackenzie Range:
     Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, BC
Email: cwagnell@islandhikes.com
Early Sunday morning, before the stupid rooster across the street started his morning crow, I was up and ready to go. This was to be one of the first nice days in a long time to fall on a weekend. The plan was that Richard and I were to try and make it all the way to the base of the rocky pinnacles high up on the Mackenzie Range. The hike is approximately 5 km long and gains about 1300 meters in elevation from the valley floor.
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Richard arrived right on schedule and it wasn’t long before we were driving down beside Sproat Lake watching the sun hit the lake through the morning mist.[1] 30 minutes later we arrived at the parking lot just across form the trail head. [2] We took about 20 minutes to pack and to do a few stretches before heading into the bush. It was a nice clear morning with a little bit of low lying fog, perfect for a long hike uphill. Our packs were fairly light except for the snowshoes we had to pack for the lower part of the trail. The first part of the trail is an easy hike up an old logging road which has been cleared out by some nice folk. [3] When you come to a fork in the trail you’ll want to take a left turn. [4] This is where the trail heads off the old road and into the bush. You should come to a small hill that takes you across a creek. [5] When we crossed it was only a small creek, but beware, small creeks can turn into raging rivers in only a couple of hours out here on the West Coast. After the creek crossing the trail starts its steady uphill through some thick second growth forest. Not long after, the bush starts to open up and you’re in the virgin timber. [6] The trail from here is a steady uphill [7] with a short flat section in between. [8] The last flat section is where you’ll see a tree that looks like a barber pole. [9] From here on the trail winds its way up through small rock bluffs with some steep sections in between. [10] [11] A little further on we were able to get onto an open section which was just off the trail. This is where you can get your first good views of the Kennedy Basin and the Pacific Ocean. [12] We took a nice break here and had a bite to eat and a chug of Gatorade. It wasn’t long after leaving the open bluffs before getting some nice views of the Mackenzie Peaks. [13] From here we were on the last bushy section of the trail before getting into the alpine. This is the steepest section of the trail, which needs some careful footing and a good hold of one of the many small bushes in the area. There are also some open fissures about 20 ft deep just off the trail on the left side to be aware of. You can see them quite easily in the day time, but at night it’s a different story. [14] Just beyond the fissures, the snow started to materialize and it wasn’t long before it was over our knees. I stopped at the first convenient place to take a quick break and put on our snowshoes. [15] The route from here was fairly straight forward and easy to follow. Some short steep steps [16] and some nice gentle slopes through the trees. [17] The last and final part of the hike is all snow covered [18] and looking behind me I was able to see [19] a breath taking view of the Kennedy Water Basin. The closer to the Col I got the more impressive the peaks became. [20] [21] At last we had reached the summit Col that sat between two of the highest peaks. Hawk, our fearless leader, [22] sat down for a quick breather while we had a snack and took in the views from both sides. [23] From here it is an easy scramble to the summit of the main peak. [24] We did not bother to climb this time, but there’s always another time. The walk out was a fast one, we only stopped once when we had to remove our snowshoes. After that we raced [25] down to the creek to soak our aching tootsies. Arggh!! It was cold at first but it felt soooooo…good. The hike to the top took approximately 4 hours, the trip down took about 2 hours. We both enjoyed the hike up to the Col and said that we will return in the summer to hopefully sit on the top of one or some of the Peaks. Cheers: Quagger