Mount Addenbroke (1,591m) is an extremely prominent mountain tucked away in the Discovery Island region of British Columbia’s Inside Passage on East Redonda Island. Almost the entirety of the mountain and most of the eastern half of the island are protected as the East Redonda Ecological Reserve.
It is one of the highest island peaks in British Columbia and one of the highest island peaks in the world based on circumference of the island.
“Addenbroke was long thought to be the highest mountain in BC not on the mainland or on Vancouer Island, but an unnamed peak on King Island [near Bella Coola] is now known to be 1,679m high.” – The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names.
Needless to say, it is quite steep – rising over 1,500m in less than 3 km – and offers commanding views over the surrounding country.
Due to the sudden height change, Addenbroke sits in the transition zone between five very distinct biogeoclimatic zones. These include Coastal Douglas-fir zone and the Coastal Western Hemlock and Mountain Hemlock zones, and all are protected by the ecological reserve. Most of the terrain is steep and rocky with thin soils. Dry, coastal douglas-fir, shore pine, and arbutus cling to steep bluffs in the lower elevations near the shore, while douglas-fir, western redcedar, and hemlock dominate in the higher elevations. The summit plateau is an impressive display of subalpine parkland vegetation and offers massive 360-degree views.
The water surrounding the Redondas are teeming with marine life and are some of the deepest on the Inside Passage and reach depths of more than 700 meters in some places. Complex currents and myriad of passages trap water in the Desolation Sound area and Pendrell Sound on East Redonda Island has recorded the warmest waters north of Baja, Mexico at 86-degrees Fahrenheit.
Mount Addenbroke is located in a truly unique part of the world.
For thousands of years the Klahoose and Sliammon people have lived and thrived in the waters surrounding the Redonda Islands. The First Nations maintained seasonal village sites around the island and up the inlets well past European contact in 1792, eventually being forced from the land into Residential Schools and Reserve Land. Pendrell Sound and Waddington Channel in particular offered warm waters and sheltered areas and were ideal for village sites – pictographs on the cliffs are testament to the thousands of years of this occupation. Mount Addenbroke was a sacred site where youth from the Klahoose and Sliammon First Nations would undergo spiritual quests during puberty.
After spending three summers exploring and working in the Discovery Islands, I was super keen to climb Addenbroke. It is visible from most of the islands and all the peaks in the area, and is clearly visible from Campbell River. Despite this, there is no information on the Internet I could find concerning hiking or climbing on Mount Addenbroke. The only information I could find was in the old Fairley climbing guide to SW BC, as usual Fairley underplayed the severity:
“From Pendrell Sound, climb overgrown logging roads to 950m. Ascend the valley here through timber, skirting the base of the cliffs to the col about 1 km NE of Addenbroke. From the col scramble up the ridge to the pleasant summit plateau. Picnic lunch recommended.”
Lindsay and I were looking forward to a bit of an adventurous hike. We would not be disappointed!
[This trip is part of a longer exploration of the Discovery Islands by sea kayak. Click here to read about our 8-day trip through the Discovery Islands and get some ideas for your own itinerary.]
Day One: The Road
Travelling time: 2.75 hours [4PM to 645PM]
From “research” I had done on the peak over the past couple of seasons, Lindsay and I determined that it would be best to follow the route presented in the Fairley guide and approach from the north-east; from Pendrell Sound. An old logging road system apparently reached 900m, from where we could begin our bushwhack. This road system is quite old, but is still somewhat evident on the satellite. It is, however, absent from most of the newer government maps. Based on the satellite and topography it seemed obvious where the road would come down to Pendrell and we were lucky to have a copy of a map that contained evidence of the old road system.
We left our camp at Gorges Islands in Walsh Cove at the north end of Waddington Channel quite late in the day – around 11AM. We were feeling lazy after a 40km paddle the previous day in the sun. A few hours of paddling down the stunning cliffs of East Addenbroke brought us to the entrance of Pendrell Sound. The water was stunningly warm and we were enjoying some of the best weather of the summer – a massive high-pressure system sat right above us and there was not a cloud in the sky – it was hot!
We crossed the entrance of Pendrell Sound and began to follow the shoreline of Mount Addenbroke. About halfway up the east side of Pendrell Sound, the shoreline turns to the east and opens into a broad bay. In the middle of this bay is the beginning of the logging road system. The road was overgrown in the 1980s when Fairley wrote his guide, so it must be nearing 50-60 years. In my experience when confronted with terrible second growth, very old logging roads can save lots of time and hardship.
Lindsay and I unloaded the boats, ate some food, repacked our bags, hung the rest of the food, and secured our boats. The old, overgrown landing at the log dump provided a great, flat place to camp the following night.
We left the boats at 4PM, heading up the very overgrown logging road. The first 20 min of walking we battled shoulder-high sword ferns and plenty of windfall, but eventually the old road gave way to large alders and maples and the ground cover was heavily foraged by deer. We easily weaved our way up the road.
At about 400m, the road crosses a major drainage for the first time. We got confused here as the road rapidly deteriorated before the drainage. We backtracked and took a second road, which ended abruptly in a dead end. Going back up the original road, we followed it to a massive washout, where no sign of any road existed. Bashing our way across the drainage, we were lucky to pick up the road once more!
We followed the road until it switched-back, and at 650 m ended abruptly at the same drainage. It was 630. We spent a solid 20 min searching for the road on the far side in vain, and ended up building a bed at the end of the road as the sun was setting. We hadn’t packed sleeping pads, and hemlock, ferns, and moss made up our sleeping arrangements.
We boiled up a quick dehydrated meal of risotto and had some hot chocolate. As we fell asleep, we noticed that the cougar or bear markings we had seen on all the alders along the road seemed to pass right by our heads. The night was clear and warm though, and sleep came relatively easy.
Day Two: The Summit
Travelling time: 12 hours [730AM to 730PM]
We were packed and moving by 730AM, electing to just take everything with us. We were travelling with a miniature summit-style pack and the 30L Arc’teryx Alpha pack. Most of the weight at this point was water.
From our camp, we headed directly up to the ridge. The terrain was incredibly steep second growth forest – very slippery needles coated the floor. We made great time, and at 9AM reached a band of cliffs protecting old-growth forest. It would take us 40 min to navigate this cliff band, finding a very fortunate log, which we used to climb through the cliffs.
[I think with more time we could have moved climbers left and bypassed the cliffs. The route through the valley, Fairley suggested looked difficult, and we never found the end of the road at 950m.]
Above the cliffs was a different world – a contrast that, unfortunately, must be experienced to be truly understood. Old-growth temperate rainforest giving way to subalpine ecosystems; up until this point it had seemed to Lindsay and I that the ecological reserve simply preserved dense second growth forest, but this area of the mountain was very special. Travel was also significantly easier.
The steep terrain had changed to rolling subalpine rocky knolls. At this point we could see the massive north face of Addenbroke, still holding snow even after our hot, dry summer. We had come up at a great point in the ridge and only had to navigate two sub-summits – one small, one large – before the true summit.
As we hiked the views increased and the terrain continued to allow easy travel. At the first col between the two bumps on the ridge, we encountered some exposed terrain, but nothing that was not easy to navigate. The second bump on the hill was also easily navigated, and featured the first of a series of gorgeous tarns.
The final section of the ridge to the summit plateau finally gave us pause. I never know how to class things – I would put it in the “I would have enjoyed a rope” category – but it is quite subjective. Wet conditions would have done us in, or a lack of blueberries to pull on. Either way, we found a way up to the summit plateau snacking on blueberries all the while and in the end it wasn’t too bad.
The broad plateau is one of the most gorgeous places I have been in the Coast Mountains. Views from the southern Gulf Islands to the Broughtons reached out in front of us, while behind, the big peaks of Toba Inlet, Desolation Sound, and Powell River stretched out forever. We were lucky to have such incredibly clear skies – in 40 hours, the smoke from California would reach BC.
A massive cairn greeted us on the summit, but no register – we were hoping to read about the easy picnic lunches Fairley mentioned! It had taken us almost exactly 5 hours to reach the summit from our camp.
We lingered, naked, on the summit for nearly an hour, swimming in tarns and staring off into the distant mountains. The beauty was hard to leave and we considered sleeping on the summit, but the day was early and we had other beautiful places to be in the next couple of days.
After feasting on some cheese, meat, and crackers, we began heading back down the ridge with great views of Toba Inlet and Pendrell Sound before us.
We managed to find an easier route further to skiers right descending the first section of the ridge to the final tarn. From there, the ridge was straight forward, with the crux being the intense sun. We were both feeling the elevation at this point, having climbed nothing higher than peaks on Read Island all summer (about 500m!).
With the help of the GPS, we managed to find our savior log again and down climb through the cliffs. Travel from here got difficult though – very steep terrain covered in slippery conifer needles. We took nearly the same amount of time to descend this section, but eventually we popped out on the road at our campsite. It was 530 and had taken us 4 hours from the summit.
It was already starting to get dark, so we blasted off down the road in hopes of setting camp and eating before dark. What had taken us 2.5 hours uphill (with some detours) took us 1.5 hours to descend, but it was still nearly headlamp time when we reached our boats.
We both jumped in the water, but it was so warm that it was barely refreshing! From there it was a mad scramble to set up camp and cook some food. A copious amount of chocolate was eaten before lounging out for a well deserved sleep.
Addenbroke was a great adventure in an amazing part of the province. It offers a glimpse into the heart of the Coast Mountains and an amazing view of some of the inlets, passage-ways, and islands that make up the Discovery Islands. It should be a classic trip from Lund: kayaking Desolation Sound and then going for a wee hike.
Its funny that Denman remains a classic yet Addenbroke appears to have no visitors, aside from a few small pieces of red yarn occasionally found marking the logging road route. If you have a boat or a kayak, go give it a try – you are sure to have a great wilderness adventure! Take note: A rope might be nice to rappel the cliff band in the forest or up higher on the ridge close to the summit.