Mount Killam

April 9, 2022


Gambier Island, BC

Mt. Killam is one of the handful summits on Gambier Island in Howe Sound. The access of this island is from Sunshine Coast via some smaller ferries. To successfully get onto this island one needs to do some homework about the logistics. Thankfully I had previously been there two months ago to ascend Mt. Liddel/”Gambier Peak” so I knew what exactly to expect. The weather forecast for this past Saturday was not the greatest and we also had some major snowfall events a few days earlier. The area with the highest probability of sunshine was to the north and west of Vancouver, so I suggested Mt. Killam as an option. Alex and Vlad agreed with the plan and Marius joined the team at the last minute.

The three of us grouped somewhere along Boundary Road in Burnaby and made to Horseshoe Bay at 7:10 am in Vlad’s brand new electric Vogswagan. We each bought our own passenger ticket to Langdale as the Gambier Island’s tickets had to be purchased in cash on the small boat. About an hour later we arrived in Langdale and immediately hopped onto the small ferry. There were at least 15 passengers all looked to be hikers. We had some concern that the small boat might not be able to take everyone, so basically ran from the main ferry to the secondary terminal to get some better positions in the line-up. Thankfully most of them were actually going for Keats Island meaning we were the only group hiking on Gambier Island on this day. The short ride to Gambier Island was fun and was actually the first highlight of the trip.

Soames Hill from the main ferry to Langdale
The peaks by Port Mellon were still soaked in
Vlad and Alex were stoked to be in this smaller ferry out to Gambier
Mt. Killam loop traverse. GPX DL

There are two ways to approach Mt. Killam’s trail and we decided to take the eastern option staying lower near the coastline. The other option had about 1 hour of walking on logging roads each way. Near Whispering Creek we picked up a well-constructed trail that sneaked into the woods beside someone’s private property. About ten minutes later we came across some trail junctions that were rather unsigned. It seemed to me that the easternmost option was the most direct even though it involved about 20 m of descending at the start. This trail stuck fairly close to Whispering Creek on the west side. Higher up we followed the trail hopping across the creek and ascended onto the proper Mt. Killam’s trail. This trail was well flagged and easy to follow (as least up to around 700 m) but the quality was nowhere as good as lower down. The ascent was rather boring so I stayed back in the team to kill time. Vlad did a great job setting the group’s pace and then Alex found some bluffs at 700 m simply by looking around in the forest. A short detour later we came to the first of the 3 viewpoints in this trip. This first one was a pleasant surprise as there’s no reference on the internet.

Gambier Island would be a cool place to live if you want to be away from the world
A properly constructed trail that runs beside someone’s home
Wooden ladders that none of us was expecting
The trail does a bit of descending while traversing towards Whispering Creek
Vlad travelling through a stretch full of moss-covered trees
Onto the main Mt. Killam trail now
Marius and the trail marker
The going was quite steep near 700 m
Mt. Elphinstone from the first lookout
The Langdale terminal is visible from this spot
Me at the first lookout at around 680 m

The next short while had some steep ascending but then we came across the second viewpoint at around 730 m. This one was to the south of the trail and required about a minute of cross-country travel in the forest. The views felt even better with open vistas towards south and the North Shore Mountains. The rest of the plod to the summit was rather boring and the summit had no view whatsoever. The four of us spent a few minutes looking for the Bagger Challenge’s whiskey bottle but to no avail.

Marius down-scrambling back to the trail
The trail was steep with some annoying dead-falls
The vast islands from the second lookout at around 730 m
Bowen Island and a travelling BC Ferry
Me posing at the second lookout
Marius traversing towards the true summit
Our group shot on the summit of Mt. Killam with no view…

One thing worth noting about Gambier Island is the ferry’s pick-up time. As soon as one steps onto the island one’s committed for the day. The earliest return ferry to Langdale is 3:20 pm but then the next one from Langdale to Horseshoe Bay is 5:25 pm and that’s the earliest possible time of returning to Vancouver. For us there’s no point in finishing the hike earlier than 3 pm so we might as well do something else. I suggested that the NE sub-summit of Mt. Killam had gained an unofficial name of “Amigos Peak” thank to Bagger Challenge group so we should make a loop. The traverse between Mt. Killam and “Amigos Peak” was mostly off-trail with some bluffs to scramble through. The deep chasm at the saddle between the two bumps even held some snow. The top of “Amigos Peak” had some glimpses of views towards the west but nothing really worth mentioning.

Crossing the cold chasm between Mt. Killam and “Amigos Peak”
We must be off-route here as we dealt with some annoying bushwhacking
Alex ascending steeply up the SW slopes of “Amigos Peak”
There’s some views looking west towards Mt. Liddell/”Gambier Peak”

We then picked up the flagged path descending the north slopes of “Amigos Peak” and at some point Vlad suggested to take a peek at the next viewpoint on the Gaia’s map. None of us had read anything about it so we were curious. The map suggested about 50 m of elevation regain if following the trails but we decided to take a short-cut by descending directly towards it. The result was some serious bluffs that required tricky route-finding and at least one or two class 4 moves on mossy rocks. Our strategy did work in the end so we did save about 50 m of elevation gain. This viewpoint proved to the finest among the three discovered in this trip, so we were pretty stoked about it.

Vlad wanted to short-cut descend to the 3rd lookout and here we go…
Alex just finished the first bluff while Marius was still in it…
Alex down-climbing the second bluff, crux of the trip
Vlad posing at the 3rd, best lookout on the flanks of “Amigos Peak”
Mt. Artaban in the foreground with Mt. Strachan etc. behind
The meandering Howe Sound with peaks in Squamish soaked in clouds
West Lion zoomed-in view
Leading Peak on Anvil Island in the foreground

After this detour we picked up the flagged path again and descended to the Gambier Lake’s trail. Now following this trail southwards we soon made to Mt. Liddell’s junction and the rest of the descent was on my familiar ground. The final 1-hour road walking was as boring and tedious as two months ago. The roads weren’t even flat with at least 2 or 3 major uphill stretches. The round trip distance was about 18 km so this was also not as short as one might expect.

Again, lots and lots of dead-falls to negotiate even on trail
Back to some flooded stretches in Mannion Creek valley
I remembered this lake from my visit in February
Me descending into a massive clear-cut with Mt. Elphinstone behind
Back to the logging road with the forested Mt. Liddell behind
Alex and Marius marching out
It was like this for about an hour…
Active logging in the area
The general store looks cool, but was closed…
Back to New Brighton harbour waiting an hour for our ferry

We finished the hike at 2:30 pm meaning that we had to sit and wait for 4 hours before being able to walk onto the Langdale-Horseshoe Bay ferry. There were two consecutive rides from Gambier to Langdale, at 3:20 pm and 4:30 pm. We opted to take the first one and then spent 2 hours exploring the beaches at Langdale. Eventually we got back to the mainland at 6 pm, but there’s some major traffic delays on Highway 1. I eventually stopped in one of Surrey’s Tasty Donair for dinner and did not get back to White Rock until 9 pm.

The ferry eventually came to pick us up
Alex and Marius in the boat
Looking back towards Mt. Liddell (L) and Mt. Killam (R) on Gambier Island
It’s beach time at Langdale as we had another two hours to wait…
We found a starfish…
Alex and Marius with Mt. Killam behind