Triple Peak

August 24, 2022


Vancouver Island, BC

Triple Peak is a classic on the island with easy access and quality climbing. The “classic” status is only by island’s standard as the approach is short/pleasant but not as short nor pleasant as some other areas. The rock quality is decently good but the climbing is not nearly as fun as some other areas neither. I figured if Triple Peak is considered one of the best peaks on the island then no wonder why few climber travel here to climb anything. I had planned to climb Triple Peak for years and I debated if this is a great objective to bring someone new to alpine climbing, but in the end I decided to just simply get the job done with an experienced climber. I’m only interested in the “standard route” of any peak and for this one, either the North Ridge or the SE Ridge offer similar difficulty. I received some recent updates that the moat situation on the North Ridge access is bad, so I opted for the SE Ridge which is literally the easiest route to the main summit of Triple Peak. The official grade is 4th class but I would call that “low 5th class”. Matt Lemke and I had climbed Warden Peak on the first day and this would be the second day of our island trip. At least a few spots on Triple Peak felt considerably harder than on Warden Peak.

Matt and I had a luxurious dinner in Campbell River and then drove southwards and then westwards past Port Alberni. The Google Map directed us onto the correct logging road and this road, though short, is considerably rougher than the one we took to Warden Peak. I think 4 wheel drive and maybe even high clearance is mostly likely required. I did not encounter any difficulty in the Tacoma but I did have to drive slow. Eventually after some steady elevation gain we passed Cobalt Lake trail-head and descended to the end of the road. The GPX file I was given started at Cobalt Lake trail-head so we had a pleasant surprise. Being able to drive to the road’s end saved at least 10 minutes of walking each way. We made to the trail-head at around 10 pm so we did get decent amount of sleeping that night. Again I opted to just sleep inside the truck for simplicity while Matt did his open bivy on the truck’s bed.

Triple Peak via SE Ridge. GPX DL

The trail quality is basically as expected. It’s impossible to get lost but this is also not an armchair-accessible trail like Garibaldi Lake trail neither. There’s even some route-finding involved as well as 3rd class scrambling. The annoying part was the beginning where we lost 50 m precious elevation that must be regained at the end of the trip. A few 3rd class sections were aided by batman ropes but we did not touch any as we wanted to climb the route by our own means. Once arriving at the lake under Triple Peak’s north slopes we took the first break, but the break wasn’t long due to horrendous mosquitoes. I had to put my jacket on for bug protection even though the air was smoking hot. It seems like every trip I did in this summer had been smoking hot so I didn’t even bother to complain.

Matt balancing across the log at the lowest point of this trail
A section of muddy trail
The first scrambling step on this trail.
Alpenglow on the lower parts of Triple Peak
The trail basically ascends beside a series of waterfalls
The first batman roped section
As you can see, the terrain is very steep and bluffy. Impossible without this trail.
Matt taking in the morning views from just another waterfall platform
One of the many waterfalls
We hopped across the main stream probably 10 times…
A cool tarn on another platform
We ascended far towards climber’s right to bypass this waterfall
More scrambling. I would call this approach a scramble rather than a hike…
Nearing the lake now, Triple Peak’s NW summit in view
The outflow of the lake
Matt traversing around the lake after a break. I don’t know if this lake has a name.

We then followed cairns and paths ascending climber’s left and a while later we faced the first snow traverse. The slope was not as steep as appeared and the traction wasn’t needed. We then scrambled up on a mix of 3rd class rock and 35-degree snow for a few hundred vertical meters until we were directly underneath the NW Peak and the true summit. The final snow slope leading to the start of true summit’s SE Ridge (climber’s left side notch) required me to put on crampons. Matt climbed some tricky slabs to avoid taking the crampons out but on the descent we all had to don the crampons. I picked a poor route and got stopped by impassible moats. Meanwhile Matt was already on the far side and instructed me to descend 20 m to find a better crossing spot. The crampons-on and crampons-off transitions of mine meant Matt had to wait for me at the col. Matt then scrambled a tricky step and he did not make it look easy. I was too stubborn to think about donning rock shoes nor harness. I got halfway up that step before having to switch footwear to rock shoes. I was literally balancing on a tree branch to do this transition so that took a while as well.

Traversing undulating terrain around the lake
One of the many tarns. What the picture doesn’t show is zillions of mosquitoes
The NW summit of Triple Peak is actually more impressive than the main peak
Looking down at that lake we just passed
Matt leading across the first snow field traverse
Matt ascending to the upper end of this snow field
The gully was unfortunately melted out, necessitating 3rd class scrambling
Looking back with Nine Peaks and Mt. Septimus/Mt. Rousseau massif on skyline
The true summit behind Matt
Onto the upper snow field now, looking sideways across the shear faces
Matt taking a break to study the final snow ascent
The NW summit from that spot where we took a break. I donned crampons
Matt was determined to not take the crampons out. This slab move looked hard.
After a long while and backtracking I finally got into this moat
We both had to squeeze through this section of moat
Matt then leading the first tree root step out of the col
Me finishing the first (bushy) pitch with a few tricky moves

We then scrambled through a tunnel passing the first rappel anchor. Matt said that he might want to rappel that step we just soloed, and I agreed. Upon trying the first few moves of the next step Matt made the call to take the rope out, so I gave him a belay. Matt only put in two cams as this was a very short pitch. At least one move was vertical with arm strength required so I was glad to have a top rope belay here. We then went back into the soloing mode and did one pitch of tricky climbing with slippery footings. We were both glad to have reached out some extended slings dangling from the rappel anchor above. The rest of the scrambling to the summit wasn’t difficult and we even on-purposely made it harder by climbing a direct crack up the summit block. We again got cell reception on the summit so spent over an hour there reconnecting with the society.

Me scrambling through the tunnel
Matt studying the vertical section ahead. The rope’s out soon
Matt led up the only pitch that we took the rope out for
Me about to follow up. Mt. Hall in the distance
Me being belayed up this vertical pitch
Matt then started the next stage of mostly scrambling
The green gully ahead turned out much harder than appeared
The first view of Sawtooth Peak
The scrambling was not hard but concentration was needed
More about the scrambling section
Matt pulling up the harder-than-appeared chimney
Traversing a bushy summit ridge
Matt soloing the summit block step
Matt on the summit of Triple Peak
Summit Panorama from Triple Peak. Click to view large size.
McKenzie Range in the foreground
Mt. Hall in the foreground
This is looking towards the Broken Island Group on the Pacific Ocean
Another view of Sawtooth Peak
McKenzie Range, Canoe Peak and The Cat’s Ears in foreground
5040 Peak in foreground with Klitsa Mountain behind
Me on the summit of Triple Peak

On the descent we down-climbed and then did 3 rappels using one 60 m rope and that got us down into the moat at the base of the route. We tried hard to find a route down the snow field that didn’t require donning crampons but to no avail. Matt didn’t want to downclimb his slab line, neither did I, so we just took the crampons out and walked down the snow field. We kept the crampons on and descended snow for as far as possible. There’s one melted-out section requiring down-climbing 3rd class slabby rocks. I don’t think that step is avoidable unless it’s earlier in the season with more snow. The rest of the descent was rather uneventful but very unpleasant in the heat and the humidity. The most pleasant thing of this trip was to take the wet cloths off at the trail-head. We eventually made back to Nanaimo at 4 pm but we faced two sailings’ wait. We were told that we might can get on the 6:15 pm ride but it wasn’t even close, so 8:30 pm ride and that’s it. Needless to say this was a very frustrating finish of the trip especially considering the 30-degree heat at the ferry terminal, but this wasn’t the worst I’ve experienced with BC Ferries so I’m not going to complain. I eventually got home at 11 pm and Matt had another 2 hours of driving back to Seattle.

We found an easier route to down-climb the summit block
The first of the three rappels we did
Matt then led us squeezing back through the moat
We tried hard to find a way to avoid putting crampons on…
The snow was icy and steep anywhere we could see, so crampons on…
Looking back towards the summit
That 3rd class down-climbing due to the gully being melted out
Back to the lake now and the air was smoking hot…
Descending the trail under the lake
We descended beside so many waterfalls
A cool rainbow formed by this waterfall
A group of girls showed up while Matt taking a swim in a pool…
That group of girls getting excited
That frustrating elevation regain at the very end…