Added by Chris Istace
This climbing trail begins in dense west coast rainforest, and passes through wild alpine forest and mountains with little human trace. Hike to views of the Pacific Ocean, Broken Island Group and Kennedy Lake, rewarding summit views of the South Central Mountains of Vancouver Island, and dramatic sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.
The mountains of the South Central Range of Vancouver Island that skirt Highway 4 leading to Tofino are often overlooked as in that region surfing is the big draw, while the larger peaks of Strathcona Peak call to others. I feel this spot is a true gem of the island, with unparalleled biodiversity and breathtaking views.
Mackenzie Peak is the tallest point of the Mackenzie Range, a jagged ridgeline of several peaks all offering varied climbing opportunities. The summit of Mackenzie Peak stands at 1426m according to my GPS.
This climb involves hiking through thick steep forest terrain until you reach the alpine at roughly 1000m where you will encounter class 3 terrain until you reach the col of Mackenzie Peak. The peak itself will be class 4 climbing with some low 5th moves depending on route selection, with dense vegetation impeding some movements. The total trip is about 11km there and back with total elevation gain of 1499m. This climb can be accomplished in 10hrs so pick a time of season that affords you enough light or enjoy a relaxed overnight like we did.
The trailhead can be found by traveling west from Port Alberni towards Tofino on Highway 4 for roughly 64km. You will cross the Canoe Creek Bridge and 2.5km after that you will find a small gravel pullout on the righthand side of the highway right along the river. The trailhead is across the road on the lefthand side prior to where you pulled off. The trailhead co-ordinates are N49 09.691' W125 24.691' at a starting elevation of about 38m.
The trail begins down an old overgrown logging road and eventually ends at a creek that you must drop down into and cross. On the other side the forested trail begins and you journey to the peak, hiking and scrambling your way through big trees, rocky bluffs and steep rooted slopes. The forest opens up to the alpine zone and navigation of boulders and class 3 scrambling will bring you to Perez Lookout.
Perez Lookout is a small sub summit sitting below the southwest face of the range. This location offers a perfect base camp to spend the overnight and plan your routes up the peaks. It also has magnificent views to the west coast of the island that are hard to beat anywhere.
From Perez Lookout you will see Mackenzie Peak looking upwards to the west. The peak has two routes possible, the right side ridgeline working to the left to grain the summit from the notch at the top of the col or a direct vertical bushy line working your way up about 1/3 of the way in from the left ridge of the summit block. The peak is classic Vancouver Island alpine with jagged fun rock with boatloads of exposure and the dense alpine negation acting as guardians trying to block your path to the top. Any route you choose up the mountain will be class 4 terrain and can easily find yourself doing low 5th moves depending on your route selection.
Once at the summit get out your notepad as you will be writing down the peaks you will want to climb next. Views of Canoe Peak, Cat's Ears, Triple Peak, Steamboat, Maitland and Hidden peak spoil you in all directions. The biggest treat is the expanse of the rugged west coast coastline that Vancouver Island has become world renowned for. from the Broken Islands of the Alberni Inlet, the shores of Ucluelet and even a touch of the northern parts of Tofino can be seen. Lastly, from the peak the views of Kennedy Lake are superb and you can appreciate the size of this inland body of water.
Once you have enjoyed the summit you can retrace your steps or follow the route we did. We worked across to the NW ridge dropping off the peak and then down climbing diagonally from north to south of the summit block working across ledges and "green belays" (using bushes and trees to lower yourself). We brought our climbing gear, rappelling from the summit isn't completely necessary but makes it much safer and of course in my mind fun.
Once off the summit hike back down the col to Perez Lookout and enjoy your well deserved supper and evening in camp. From the top of Perez Lookout sit back and relax to take in one of the nicest sunsets I have seen as the sun drops below the coastline peaks and the horizon of the Pacific Ocean.
The next morning you can hike out or extend your stay another night, possibly climbing the iconic Redwall massif as a second objective. If not, then the route out is a retracing of the path in. Be mindful of rain, which makes the hike out tricky as most of the alpine route follows a small waterfall path. Early spring and late fall frost/ice could add some technical difficulties as well. Always be mindful you are in the alpine and conditions can change at anytime.
As always with any trip, create a route plan and leave it with a contact with set check-in times. Do your research on the trip beta, understanding terrain and skills required to accomplish the goal. Take maps and electronic navigational tools. Lastly practice the Leave No Trace principles.
Have fun and get out there to do something Beyond The Usual.
- 10 Essentials
- GPS, cellphone and inReach Explorer
- Bear Spray
- Climbing rope, harness and helmet
- Bug Spray (if going in summer as they are nasty)
- 3 litres of water (fall/spring the tarns are full but summer this location dries up fast)
- Overnight equipment of your choice (we chose Bivy and tarp for weight saving)
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
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