Mount Joan

August 3, 2021


Vancouver Island, BC

Mt. Joan is the highest peak in Beaufort Range on the eastern-central Vancouver Island and subsequently boasts over 1100 m prominence. The peaks in Beaufort Range are all walk-ups and generally easy to access. Mt. Joan is accessed by driving about 14 km up Cook Creek FSR and the ascent is as mentioned above, a “walk-up”. Over the past few years I’ve seen some prominence peak-baggers from the mainland or even foreign countries coming here to grab this low-hanging fruit. This is also a popular hike in the local communities and can also be combined with The Squarehead and Mt. Curran to make a 20-km loop traverse. Alex, Vlad and I did Mt. Joan on the last day of our August long weekend island peak-bagging trip. We did not complete the full loop but we did grab The Squarehead as well.

This was already the 4th day so we were all very beaten and tired mostly because of the heat and the mosquitoes. We opted to drive to the trail-head the night before and set up the tents by 8 pm. The driveable end was pretty obvious right in front of a massive water bar. It’s possible that my Taco could handle this water bar but I was glad we did not push, as there were quite a few major ditches immediately after as well. We probably could have shaved off half an hour’s walking by pushing the vehicle further but there’s no point in doing that. It seemed like most hikers opted to park at this same spot anyway. The next morning we woke up at 5 am in the dark and started in under an hour.

Mt. Joan and The Squarehead hiking route. GPX DL

I was not feeling super motivated and as a result I managed to forget my sun hat as well as the two bottles of Gatorades that I planned to bring. Of course I did not notice that until much later. The first 5-6 km was nothing but plodding up the remaining of the logging road with deteriorating quality. There was one massive detour to cross a creek and that’s right after the Mt. Curran’s junction, and the last kilometer on this road was bushy and overgrown. We correctly located the trail heading up into the bowl under Joan/Squarehead col. There’s one major stream to load up the water bottles but we opted not because at this point we already made the decision to skip the traverse and come back down the same way, so we could use the stream later.

Our campsite at the trail-head.
Vlad marching up the initial wide-and-open portions of the logging road
Reaching Joan/Curran trail junction
This dry creek required some significant detouring but the trail is well-marked
The next creek had a neat foot bridge
The road/trail beyond that creek had become overgrown
Picking up the trail above the end of the FSR
We ascended into the bowl under Joan/Squarehead col

The ascent to the col was steep and hot and once onto the broad north ridge of Mt. Joan the going was not as straightforward as I thought. There were lots of micro-terrain but the route/trail was decently well-marked. Vlad as usual, opted for more scrambling while Alex and I decided to take the path with the least amount of resistance because we were both physically and mentally tired. Eventually there came the last dip and the true summit with a massive green dildo erecting on the top. I have to thank the dildo this time as that thing provided some valuable shades for us. This day was not as hot as the previous few, but still a major heat toll.

Looking back into the morning sun behind the Straight of Georgia
Steep grunt onto Joan/Squarehead col
Looking south towards Mt. Arrowsmith above the smoke layer
Vlad and Alex somewhere on the north ridge of Mt. Joan
Looking back towards The Squarehead
Me plodding up with my improvised “sun hat”
As you can see, the ridge walk on Mt. Joan had some micro-terrain
Vlad plodding up
Summit Panorama from Mt. Joan. Click to view large size.
The Straight of Georgia with the South Coast skyline in the background
The Squarehead in the foreground
A zoomed-in view of Mt. Arrowsmith
We could even see Port Alberni
Vlad reaching the summit of Mt. Joan
Looking SW into more typical island scenery.
Me on the summit of Mt. Joan
Our group shot on the summit of Mt. Joan

About half an hour later we leisurely descended the north ridge back down to Joan/Squarehead col. The ascent of The Squarehead appeared to be a really short diversion so we carried on.

Descending from the false summit had more expansive views towards north