Mount Albert Edward, Strathcona Park
I backpacked to Forbidden Plateau in Strathcona Provincial Park on a very hot and dry August weekend in 1992, a week after doing the West Coast Trail. That story will be told one day, but I’ll just say that when I came off the WCT my car wouldn’t start. That necessitated a late tow back into Sooke and a very late arrival in Victoria, followed by a trip home to Vancouver to get the part and then back to Sooke to get it fixed. Following that, I drove up to spend a night at the Nicol Street Hostel in Nanaimo, then to Courtenay and up to Forbidden Plateau.
Mount Albert Edward is the one on the left.
With Van Morrison’s “Enlightenment” playing on the car stereo (what is it that makes someone remember details like that over twenty years later?) I drove up the road to Mount Washington ski resort, which in those days was unpaved and looked and drove like a reasonably good logging road (which it essentially was). We drove up it again a few years later after it had been paved, and I think I liked it better before.
It’s a fairly easy and mostly uninteresting hike to Kwai Lake where I set up camp. It was the August long weekend but the area wasn’t busy, and my only neighbours were a few families with young and noisy kids. Somehow I learned that they were from a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Courtenay or somewhere nearby. I’d never really considered whether they’d be the outdoors type but I guess why not. And at least there wouldn’t be any wild partying.
From the lake I walked through Paradise Meadows, a scattering of other small lakes. As I recall, it was something less than paradise when I hiked through, but I think that was mainly because of the extreme dryness and heat. The trail brought me to the base of a short but steep and rough headwall, which was pretty well the hardest part of the trip. From the plateau it was over 900 metres climb to the 2093 metre summit, a steep elevation gain but a walk-up and one of the easiest scrambles I’ve ever done.
During the two years we lived in Victoria I experienced how difficult it can be for a mountain lover to live there. The Olympics are staring you in the face to the south and Mount Baker to the east, but both are tantalizingly out of reach without a long and expensive trip involving ferries and border crossings. The landlubber alternative is several hours driving up island to Strathcona. This hike is worth it as this is alpine territory as good as any on the mainland. Most of the trails go straight up from low elevation so none of the alpine country here is easy to get to, but here at least you can start high.
Mount Albert Edward was named in 1914 for the then Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. Depending on who you talk to it’s somewhere between the fourth and sixth highest peak on Vancouver Island.