( This is a trip report I wrote back in 2005 for the Alpine Club of Canada’s newsletter. The trip was hiking up Mt.Drabble, in Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island, B.C. I have restrained myself from editing it much, as I’ve just found it lurking in the depths of my external hard drive and thought it would be fun to post it. I <hopefully> use less adjectives when I write now… there are so many descriptive words in this! But, it conveys the trip well and reminds me why I love Vancouver Island so very much. Enjoy!)
Mount Drabble: a successful adventure in every sense of the word
October 1-2, 2005
By Ashley Robinson
Uvic Outdoors Club Secretary
It doesn’t matter whether its backpacking the steep rocky ridges of Pemberton, peak bagging some unknown mountain in the Purcell range, conquering a dayhike in the Cariboos outside of Prince George, or camping on one of the pristine mountains on Vancouver island. The outdoor enthusiast knows that challenge, adventure and comraderie at 1800 meters- surrounded by rock, trees, and earth, is far superior then anything found in the concrete jungle of society. They know that beneath all of societies struggles to be more successful, more efficient, and to constantly maximize their time while minimizing their efforts, everyone is missing the quality experiences. Persuits of the outdoors allows a small segment of people that rare chance to slow down, look around, shake off society and its expectations for a bit, and enjoy the earth around them. This may not be what society necessarily deems as successful, but a fortunate few know a little better.
For most people who I told about my recent Mt.Drabble excursion filled with snow, hard physical work and sleeping on the ground- success probably wouldn’t be the first word that came to their mind. Maybe I am getting ahead of myself though. The trip planning started two weeks prior, in the form of a Uvic Outdoors club meeting. Many of us were new hikers, and new members who needed an opportunity to meet the others- so the announcement of Sandy Briggs overnight hike up Mt.Drabble in Strathcona park was one of excitement. The feeling that only anticipation of adventure could bring started to well up inside me, and I ran over to get my name on the sign up list.
A couple of midterms later, I found myself unpacking my modest gear from the astrovan in a cloud of mist, on a gloomy Saturday morning. Among 14 other UVic Outdoors club and ACC members, we begun our journey to Mount Drabble from an obscure parking lot in Strathcona Park. Everyone was locked and loaded, complete with rain gear and trekking poles and we began our ascent. We travelled up a fire road of sorts, chatting to new-found friends, sometimes failing to gain footholds in the shifty gravel. Layers were shed, we left the open abandoned ski areas we were hiking, and entered the dense forest and the roller coaster that is the Plateau trail. As I fell behind the group, snapping photos of vividly coloured fungi, I took a moment to look around. Towering trees cast their shadows on the mucky earth underfoot, the variation in plant life intrigued me and the fact that everything was alive, green and soaking wet was vastly different then the falls hikes in Ontario or Northern B.C I had done. Such beautiful landscapes! I hurried to catch up with the others and we started the portion of the hike that Sandy lovingly referred to as the section where “you have to take your hands out of your pockets.” Otherwise known as a bit of a scramble. What followed was a series of steep rock steps and rock walls, very entertaining to scale with a 30 lb pack on- made all the more interesting by the slippery state of the moss covered rocks.
Once the rock walls were completed, we started to excitedly look for the top of Mt.Drabble. One of the more enthusiastic outdoor clubbers managed to spot a cairn and rushed to be the first to it. Once pictures were snapped of many of us by the official Mount Drabble sign, the sun began to peek out from under the clouds. We hurriedly set up camps, divided up tent buddies, and got to work cooking some well deserved dinner! The feast that ensued was shared by many, even the dessert (which consisted of a very burnt attempt at cookies-from-scratch ). After dinner one of the Outdoor clubbers decided to initiate an activity she had always favoured: appreciations. The kind where we go around to each individual and ask them what they are particularly thankful for at that moment. It was like thanksgiving, but with Mr.Noodles instead of turkey. Soon enough the sun began to fade, the rain started to set in and attention spans drifted from food to sleep. Eight of the rowdier Outdoor clubbers decided to huddle in a very cramped 2 person tent to play some cards, progressively getting louder and louder- competing against the howling wind. After figuring we were probably keeping the rest of the camp up with our incessant giggling, we all retired to our respective tents.
I believe it was roughly 8 am the next morning when I awoke. I ignored the slight dripping of water on my head, and huddled even further into my down sleeping bag. Then something caught my ear- the sound of howling wind outside, tent fabric flapping incessantly and voices. I wearily pop my head out of my protective sleeping bag and grumble. One of my tent buddies poked their head inside and informed me with glee, “theres snow outside!” Snow? On the island- isn’t that an oxymoron or something? Being new to this environment, snow is the last thing I would have expected in October from a place where they don’t own much more then a couple snow plows. After a huddled breakfast consisting of bagels and semi-frozen cream cheese, we packed the soaking wet gear into our now very heavy packs and started our descent. The first complication of the unexpected snow is that the cliffs we had come from the previous day were now too dangerous to go down. We had to find a way around them. There were a few confused moments about which way ‘down’ actually was, but soon the discrepancy was sorted out. The plod back to the parking lot was marked by frozen feet, alot of puddle jumping and of course, polka. Yes, polka. While waiting for the confusion of direction to be sorted out, we decided to fend off the cold by getting one of the ACC members to teach us a little polka. I was pleased to see everyone join in! After our brief dance lesson, complete with singing, we found our way back to the safety of the vehicles.
As I sat in the astrovan watching the miles roll by, now warm and dry with food in my belly- I recalled a story lent to me by one of the more experienced members of the ACC. At the top of Mt. Drabble, admist the foul weather and the grim faces of lads and lasses huddled around each other for warmth, he simply smiled and laughed. Curious, I asked him why he was so enthusiastic in such nasty weather. He told me that in his younger hiking days, this trip would have been a wash- expectations of sunny skies, breathtaking views and uninterrupted sleep dashed because of cold, wind, and snow. He would of grumbled about not using that weekend to do a myriad of chores, work, or projects he had waiting for him. These thoughts could have resembled the thoughts of missed schoolwork going on in the minds of us students. The smile and laugh of this ACC member was one of the knowing outdoors enthusiast, who doesn’t qualify success in quite the same way as society does- not in number of hours worked that day, or how many chapters read in an hour. Success is on a more intimate level for the ones who understand: it is an appreciation of the mysterious complexities and vast beauty of nature, even if just for a weekend. They know that any outdoors excursion – even the ones like Drabble that don’t go exactly according to plan – is never a wasted effort.