Date: April 17, 2021
Participants: Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger
Report: It’s been a quiet year so far for adventuring, with the lack of coordinated activities for the kids sapping everyone’s energy. Nonetheless, I had Friday off from work and the sun inspired me to find a way to get out for a day trip. I only have about 13 of the 103 hikes from the last Jack Bryceland edition still to hike, and in a moment of late afternoon inspiration, decided to find a way to do a trip to Mt. Hallowell.
We drove up the Malaspina substation road early in the morning, turning left just before the substation, and right at the next intersection, meeting the “trail” (i.e. road) a few hundred metres ahead, where we turned left and rather than stop, kept on driving. In our stock Nissan XTerra we drove up the road and parked at a switchback at ~450m, beyond which the road rapidly deteriorated.
We left the car at about 8:20, and made quick time up the old road, past a major washout ~10 minutes from the car, and up towards the peak. We hit soft & slushy continuous snow at ~850 metres, and put on our snowshoes. The road from here was much more challenging than it would normally be as the meltwater created a creek running down the centre of the road and we were constantly climbing down to cross over from side to side to avoid the deep pools and vertical snow walls carved out by the creek. Nonetheless, by 10 o’clock we’d reached the high point of the road, where flagging guided us left and towards the summit of Mt. Hallowell.
The 30 minutes it took to get from the road to the base of the summit block were the most challenging of the trip. I’m sure this is no problem (albeit a bit bushy) in summer, but with soft snow, very spaced out flagging, and lots of alder, the routefinding was quite a challenge, and we had to frequently rely on our GPS to find our way across the terrain to the base of the summit block, which we reached a bit past 10:30.
Luckily for us, as soon as the trail steepened, the snow conditions were very easy, the bush disappeared, and the flagging became frequent and easy to follow. We worked our way up the face, along the ridge, to the base of a steep snow slope ~30m below the fire lookout and summit. Here we followed the flagging steeply up then left across a mildly exposed and sketchy traverse that was out of character for the trip. On the way down we avoided this by descending much more moderate snow about 50m climber’s left of the flagging and would strongly recommend anyone else climbing Hallowell on snowshoes or microspikes to take that advice and wander around to the left for a ways rather than head straight up to the ridge.
Reaching the old rickety fire lookout (exposed nails everywhere!) before Brittany I took a couple minutes to wander over to the view-less true summit that is perhaps 1m higher than the lookout, before returning to where the lookout is located. At a couple minutes past noon we sat down for lunch and to enjoy the expansive views. Total ascent time ~3 hours, 40 minutes.
After 30 minutes on top we started our way down. In the mushy steep snow it took us almost as long to descend the summit block as it had taken us to go up, but from the base had it easy following our tracks back to the road and down to the car, which we reached just past 3pm, for a total descent time of 2 hours, 30 minutes.
It’s hard to read a trail description and look at a map to guess whether or not a route will be suitable for current conditions. Just a few weeks ago I got turned around below the summit of Mt. Amadis due to running into a steep exposed traverse covered in slush. Nonetheless, we made the right call on Mt. Hallowell. It’d definitely be easier to ascend without snow, but at the same time is a very good snowshoe or shoulder season trip, with easy access, nice terrain, and good views.