Mount Albert Edward

July 31-August 1, 2021


Vancouver Island, BC

Mt. Albert Edward is the 6th highest on Vancouver Island and also the easiest of the greater peaks on the island. The ascent is entirely a “walk-up” albeit a long one from parking lot near Mt. Washington ski resort. The fit parties usually do this peak in a single day while most opt to camp at Circlet Lake. This entire area on Forbidden Plateau is in the Strathcona Provincial Park and is very busy such that booking a camping permit at Circlet Lake is usually not an easy task. I had thought about to make this a single-day ascent but I also wanted to grab the nearby summits such as Jutland Mtn., Mt. Frink and Castlecrag Mtn. and to do all 4 in a single day would be impractical for me. I also thought about to make Mt. Albert Edward a snowshoe ascent as this is very doable in the winter conditions but weather is fickle in winter and I did not end up getting that perfect window. In the end Alex and Vlad joined me to make the 4 peaks into a loop traverse (43 km) with a overnight stay up high on the ridge.

The decision to hop onto the island was a last minute one due to the weather and the smoke. We knew it’s August long weekend and we should avoid the ferry traffics but we also had to aim for the area with the best weather and the least amount of smoke, and that happened to be the northern section of Vancouver Island. I made the call to wake up at 2:30 am, grabbed Alex and then Vlad and eventually made to the Horseshoe Bay terminal at 4 am. We thought this would be more than enough to get onto the 6:15 am ride but we were wrong. We ended up getting onto the second ride at 8:40 am and eventually made to the trail-head at 1:30 pm. I was already exhausted from the waiting and the driving and the weather was clear, but exceptionally hot thank to a mini heat wave.

A loop traverse across Mt. Albert Edward etc. GPX DL

There’s a maze of trails near Mt. Washington ski resort and the most logical one starts from Paradise Meadows trail-head. We followed the most trodden path (mostly on wooden boards) and a few kilometers later we made to the shore of Lake Helen Mackenzie. From there we contoured around the lake on the west side with deteriorating trail quality (more roots and muddy sections) and marched up and over the broad pass between Mt. Allen Brooks and Mt. Elma. The next few kilometers of the plod towards Circlet Lake under Jutland Mtn. was decently scenic but very boring with some major up-and-downs. The heat had definitely taken a toll on us. We nailed finding the perfect source of water to load up the water bottles as there wasn’t a lot of options.

Me at the start of Paradise Meadows trail
One of the tarns that we passed by in Paradise Meadows
As you can see, the trail through the meadows is mostly on wooden boards
The trail continues onto undulating terrain beyond Lake Helen Mackenzie
Looking back at the forested Mt. Allan Brooks
Another tarn that we passed by. We saw one other group swimming in it
Finally made to Circlet Lake and it’s not that exciting to be honest

We did not bother to check into the campground at Circlet Lake and instead, kept plodding up towards the ridgeline about 500 vertical meters above. The trail became insanely steep at one spot but the steep stretch only lasted for 150 m vertical and then it was a steady ascent onto the ridge. The weather was deteriorating with more and more clouds and the mosquitoes had become insane that as soon as we stopped for a break I had to put on the rain coat as a bug shield. Upon reaching the ridge crest we ditched the backpacks and made a dash to ascent Jutland Mountain, which was much longer than anticipated. We even got hit by a brief thundershower on the summit.

Already above the steepest section of the trail..
Vlad and Alex gaining height
Looking back down towards the larger Moat Lake
The objective at this point was to gain the ridgeline in foreground
Our first sight of Mt. Albert Edward from the ridge
Alex and Vlad in front of Mt. Regan, after completing Jutland Mountain

We debated about where exactly to camp as we did not come here with a precise plan and it wasn’t very obvious where would be the best spot. We still had a few hours of daylight to kill so the decision was to carry onward towards Mt. Albert Edward and decide spontaneously. I was more interested in just camping at the col but reluctantly agreed to push further. In the end we did not find that “perfect spot” but the site we found wasn’t bad. We were able to pitch out both tents on a massive rock slab (albeit a little slanted), and found a tiny stream of running water under a large patch of snow, albeit with about 5 minutes of walking. The sunset scenery we got from this campsite was insanely good, partially thank to the lightly hazed horizon.

The late afternoon sun beams through the moistures after a shower passed by
Castlecrag Mountain would be our 4th objective in this trip
Alexandra Peak rises behind a stagnant tarn on the ridge
At last we found a decent spot to set up the tents
Vlad cooperated for some evening photography
Vlad in front of Mt. Albert Edward and Mt. Regan at sunset
Panorama from our campsite at sunset. Click to view large size.
My meal and the sunset
The sunset looks a bit more full-on with the light haze in the air
Alex filling up water bottles in dark

The morning of Day 2 we woke up at sunrise and finished the morning routine in under an hour. Once hitting that broad east ridge of Mt. Albert Edward we found a sheltered spot to ditch the packs and carried onward carrying nothing. I was surprised that the trail continued all the way to the very top of this peak. There were a few less defined stretches but for the most parts we were able to stay on the path. The ascent was as expected, just a massive plod with endless amount of putting one foot in front of another but the views were not disappointing.

Vlad and my tent in the early morning hours
Moat Lake from high up on the ridge on the morning of Day 2
A somewhat cool sunrise on Day 2
Alpenglow on Mt. Albert Edward
The ascent of Mt. Albert Edward was just a massively long plod
Me marching up the broad east ridge plateau on Mt. Albert Edward
Mt. Regan looks much more interesting but we opted out on that one
Just one microscopic section of the slog on the upper ridge of Mt. Albert Edward
Vlad almost on the summit
Looking back at Mt. Frink, our next objective
Partial Summit Panorama from Mt. Albert Edward. Click to view large size.
Partial Summit Panorama from Mt. Albert Edward. Click to view large size.
Looking south towards Comox Glacier and Red Pillar area
Mt. Regan now looks small, in the foreground
Alexandra Peak not far away to the north is another P1000m objective
Looking down into Ralph River valley with Syd Watts Peak on the right
Mt. Mitchell looks very rugged in the foreground with the Strathcona skyline behind
Vlad on the summit of Mt. Albert Edward
Me on the summit of Mt. Albert Edward
Our group shot on the summit of Mt. Albert Edward

We still had a long day ahead so didn’t linger as long as I had hoped for. In under half an hour we started the descent and another half an hour later we were at the backpacks. We continued dropping south on some easy but undulating terrain into the broad saddle between Mt. Albert Edward and Mt. Frink and continued the loop traverse with ascents of Mt. Frink and Castlecrag Mountain. I was feeling unreasonably tired but pushed on nonetheless.

Looking back at the broad summit of Mt. Albert Edward and the rugged Mt. Regan
Descending into the broad saddle between Mt. Albert Edward and Mt. Frink
One of the few tarns that we passed at Albert Edward/Frink saddle