Welcome to Islandhikes Hiking Page. Below is a " Topo/Image Map", with the GPS track route when ascending/descending the South Ridge of The Red Pillar
Click - 'Red Dots' along route
Date: July 23rd 2004
It was a couple of years back when bush whacking up to Mt Kookjai that I first got a good taste of The Red Pillar's awesome stature. Looking up at its summit from where I was standing made me feel real small and the mountain I was hiking now seemed to be nothing more than a rise. I thought of approaching it from the Comox Glacier, as I was familiar with the trails in the area. Unfortunately trying it as a blast trip from that side would turn it into a very long day. As I would have to circle the peak to be able to scramble up the South Ridge. So when I heard of a parties going in from Deep Lake I took a closer look at the Topo-map to see what was to be expected. Checking out the back road books for any info I seen there was a proposed trail into Margaret Lake which started off by following down the North side of Deep Lake then heads up the Ash River for a short distance before crossing over. From there it looked to be a roughly a 4km steep bush bash to the sub-alpine of Red Pillars South Ridge. Wanting to find out even more I then sent out a flood of emails, it didn't take long before getting some great feed back. They informed me there was a trail starting from Deep Lake and even better it was a well worn trail right the way up to where I wanted to turn north to head up the ridge. That all they also mentioned the steep bush section was well flagged right to the sub-alpine. Man Oh Man .... what more could I ask for it was like the mountain was calling me in.
The weather forecast was calling for a heat wave with the temperatures rising into the high 30's by late afternoon. It was 2:30am I was all packed and now sitting back enjoying my morning cup of coffee. Steve was to show up at 3:00 and we were hoping to hit the trail head by 4:30am under the power of LED's. Shortly after 3:00 I heard him pull down the driveway, quickly throwing his pack into the back of my truck we were now heading down Beaver Creek road under the moon light. The logging roads out there are all in fairly good shape and there seems to be a fair about of activity between Elsie Lake and Gretchen Creek Bridge. We arrived at the trail head in good time, the morning air still had the taste of yesterday's heat and the bugs were already out in full force. After coating ourselves in bug dope and putting our packs on we headed down the trail under the dim light of dawn, the time was shortly after 5:00am. This section of the trail starts of by first crossing a recent landslide which came crashing down in the winter of 2003. It then follows an old logging road before heading into the bush near the head of Deep Lake. From there it is a well worn trail to the Homasum Lake turn-off, a nice cable bridge crosses the Ash River here for those going that way. We wanted to stay on the North side of Ash River, and to my amazement there was a nice trail heading up that way. The trail follows close to the river as it winds its way up the valley, passing by some untouched marsh lands. I'm not sure how far up the valley this trail goes but we turned north once we came across a bunch of orange flagging heading up into the bush, in the direction we wanted to go. This section of the trail was going to be the crux of the route, if we can get up this with no problems the rest would be done in the open alpine. Hats of to who ever flagged the route, there was only a few spots we had to keep our eyes peeled, other than that it was a steep grunt up semi open forest with nothing more than low lying bush and one small cliff to tackle. I was sure glad we were hiking the bush section before the sun showed herself, it would have been hellish in the heat of the day. If I had one thing to bitch about it would have been the bugs, man there were gross when going up the bush section. It was not until we reached the sub-alpine high on the ridge at 1450m that the bugs started to disappear thanks to the breeze. We took a short rest here to snap of a few pictures and grap a bite to eat, before heading up the South Ridge to the start of the climb. Hiking up the ridge was very scenic with breath taking views from all angles. At 1712 peak we dropped down to a small Col and head left off the ridge towards the West side and heading up to the oblivious Saddle 1824m next to the Base of Red Pillar East Face. Once at the Saddle we took a short break to scope out the area and look for an obvious route up to the summit. This was not as easy as I first thought, we could see a bushy ramp going up which then switch backs towards a couple of steep gullies but from there it was a guessing game until we got there.
The climb starts off by scrambling up short rock bluffs on the left side of the main scree slope off the South/East face. We first passed by a huge boulder on the right side of us that was just precariously sitting there just waiting to come crashing down. A couple more short scrambles and we reached the bushy ledges, following the bush up we ended up on a low angled scree slope. From here we headed up towards the base of a large rock pinnacle. From here we had two ways to go, the first I discovered on the descent seemed to be an easier way of the two. For this one hike left at the base of the rock pinnacle and follow the rock face down until you can hop over a lip and climb down 3m into a rock filled gully "not sure what it would be lie if filled with snow" which headed easterly up to a small notch. The second way is you can go right and round the corner of the pinnacle and then climb westerly up a shorter but steeper more exposed gully to the same notch. Once at the notch we headed North West and then climbed a some what easy 4m rock face "lots of nice holds" this was to get around a large choke stone which had blocked the chute. Now on top, depending on you're climbing abilities some might to choose to go online here for a short distance. This was due to a narrow ledge which had to be crossed to reach yet gully. Down climbing into the gully we descended 10m and climbed up the lower of the two chutes as this one looked the easier of the two. From here there was a short climb around choke stone then and after that we headed north and all that was left was a scramble on loose rock to the summit cap. It surprised both of us when we checked our time and found out it only took 6hrs to reach the summit from Deep Lake trail head. I was expecting our time to be in the 7/8hr range, so this was cool because now we could take a nice long break on The Red Pillars summit. After signing the summit register I looked down, way down onto the Kookjai ridge to the spot where I first laid eyes on this awesome peak, this gave me a good feeling. We ended up spending more than an hour an half on the summit before heading back down. The descent off the mountain went down without a hitch ah ah! Reaching the Col below 1712 Peak it was time to re-fill the Camelbacks at a very refreshing looking stream which poured straight out from the snow field. Before heading down into the bush we took another rest at the end of the ridge top in the shade of a grove of trees, trying to cool down some what. The bush section ended up being a real knee cruncher and we were both glad to see the big cedar tree at the bottom. Once reaching the valley bottom I took a quick pit stop to cool down by wading in the Ash River for a while, Steve choose to just sit back and catch his breath. This proved to be a benefit on my part further on down the road. The valley bottom temperature was probably 15 degrees warmer than on the ridge top. It was like walking in a humid desert, you could even taste the heat kind of like entering a sauna that just had water poured over the hot rocks. Once back at the truck my objectives were to get the boots off, sandals on then jump into the truck to get the air going. Having the blast of cool air blowing in my face and over the feet felt so good that I just had to lay back and closed my eyes for a while. Checking the time it was now 4:45pm and having left at 5:15am our return time ended up being 11.5hrs, not too shabby for a couple of middle aged old farts. After 20 min. of driving down the logging road I turned off the air to open the windows for fresh air. Bad mistake on Steve's part, It took only 30 seconds of hot air blowing in his face and he was sweating from the neck and doing the twitch. I asked him if he was OK? and his responds was I can't see!! Ohhhh??? I stopped the truck quickly rolled the windows up and proceeded to give him the full blast of air to see if that help. 2 minutes later he was sitting back up and his colour was coming back, we both came to the conclusion that it was a slight attack of heat stroke. After that there was no more excitement both getting home safe and sound. Man the Pizza sure tasted good that night.How to get To There??
Starting from the Port Alberni Info Center to "Oshinow" Deep Lake Trail Head (1.5/2hrs - approx. 40kms)
Drive down Johnson st hill to River rd turn right and cross over a small bridge, veer right again just before the Petro-Can now drive north west for 18 kms to the far end of Beaver creek rd. follow through the right turn onto Sommers rd and stay on it for 2 kms then take a left onto a main logging rd. Stay on this main line for 9kms and follow the road left crossing Lanterman creek. Drive for another 5 kms down staying left the whole time on branch 105 until you come to a T intersection, turn right here. Now stay on the Ash River Main Line first passing Turnbull Lake on the left then Elsie Lake on the right, after that you'll cross over the upper Ash river. Stay on the Ash River main line for another 8.5km before it turns right. If you cross over the Ash River again heading up the Gretchen main line you've gone too far, so turn around and take the first left. Here the road narrows and bushes in a bit, approx.4km turn right onto branch 110 from here the road get rocky with steep sections. This would not be recommended for low clearance 2 wheel drive vehicles, 4x4 is preferred. 2km further up take a sharp left onto branch 110H there might still be a small sign nailed to a tree saying " <-- RDPIL " drive the last 5km to a slide which buried the road in 2003. The trail starts on the other side of the slide. "You can also come in from Great Central Lake road but when writing this report the logging activity was quite active in that area. The Beaver creek route cuts off 12kms of active logging at least."
Hope you enjoyed reading this report and stay tune in for more adventures at Island hikes