Thursday, August 9, 2012

3 Peak Challenge: Kayaking & Climbing

On July 28-29 my running buddy Banafsheh and I joined Bowen Island Sea Kayaking for their "3 Peak Challenge" tour. The tour was a two day, one night trip that included paddling to 3 Howe Sound islands, Anvil, Bowen and Gambier, and climbing the highest peak of each, complete with with a campout on Gambier Island. The three peaks that were climbed were Mount Gardner on Bowen Island (727m), Leading Peak on Anvil Island (765m) and Mt Artaban on Gambier Island (615m). On Saturday night we camped on Gambier Island at Halkett Bay. The tour was an excellent way to get a taste of sea kayaking in the Howe Sound while breaking up the paddle with some hiking. The days were long (10-12 hours of activity) which made for a bit of an endurance test, but in a fun and challenging way.

We started our adventure at 6am on Saturday morning with a drive to Horseshoe Bay to catch the 7am ferry over to Bowen Island. After a quick, 20min sail we walked down to the  Bowen Island Sea Kayaking shop to meet our guide, Lisa and our two other kayaking buddies, Peter and Lisa. All three of them were residents of Bowen Island. We spent the next 90 min or so organizing our gear, driving over to our launch point and packing our boats. At exactlty 9am we were off!

We started with a 16km paddle to Anvil Island. We lucked out and had the current and wind heading in our direction. Combined with calm waters, we had a very quick and uneventful 2 hour paddle to reach Pebbly Beach at Anvil Island.  The paddle was beautiful and interesting as we passed sea lions and various sea birds plus enjoying great views of the Howe Sound islands from the water.There was one are near a bird sanctuary where we stopped and watched the sea lions surround and show off their swimming skills. very cool!

Once we reached Anvil Island we beached our boats and got organized for our first hike, Leading Peak, which is the highest peak in Howe Sound. The hike was about 10km round trip with 765m of elevation gain and took us about 2.5 hours up and 2 hours back down.  The hike was quite steep most of the time, but had some areas of reprieve.  It was a fun trail with a bunch of little scrambling sections along the way and some nice scenery of Howe Sounds, a small lake and an impressive viewpoint where you first get a glimpse of the steep and pointy summit tower. The summit tower looks quite daunting, and although it is a steep hike the trail does a good job of switch backing and winding its way up some ledge systems to avoid any serious scrambling. On the Summit of Anvil you are rewarded with 360 degree views of Howe Sound and nice a wooden "patio" (aka Heli pad) to have a snack and sun tan. On a nice day you can see from  the Lions all the way to Black Tusk. It's absolutely stunning!

Once we got back to Pebbly Beach we rested for a few minutes and then packed our boats to head out to Gambier Island.  While we had been hiking the tide came in and unfortunately for us, the beach that we landed on was basically submerged.  We managed to fight the waves and launch our boats with minimal beach space, but not without getting a good soaking in the process. Luckily it was hot out!

The next segment of the trip took us about 2 hours to paddle about 10 km from Anvil Island to Halkett Bay on Gambier Island. We were fighting the waves and wind this time and it made for some challenging paddling. Along the way we say eagles and some tiny baby sea lions that were awfully cute! Once we got to Halkett Bay we staked out a camp site and enjoyed an Ocean side dinner of pasta and salad, complete with wine and cookies for dessert.

The next day we got up at 7 am to tackle our 2nd hike of the trip.  After a leisurely breakfast of oatmeal, fruit, yogurt and coffee we headed up Mt Artaban.  The hike was significantly less steep than leading peak with some nice meandering sections mixed into the climbs.  The hike took us about 2 hours to get to the 615m high summit where we enjoyed the views of Howe Sound and had a snack. The full hike took about 3.5 hours round trip and covered approximately 10km through some scenic creek beds, along rock walls and along some soft, mossy trails.

After a quick lunch back at Halkett Bay, we broke down camp, packed our kayaks and headed Gardner Landing on Bowen Island. The Paddle was about 10km long but took us a little over two hours due to high winds and "washing machine" like wave conditions which made the paddle someway slow and challenging.
Once we reached Bowen Island, Martin from the Kayak shop picked up our boats and we said goodbye to the kayaks, completing the paddling portion of the trip. Only one more Peak to go to complete the challenge! Lisa and Peter had said goodbye to us at Halkett Bay and opted to paddle home so it was just Lisa, Ban and I for the trek up Mt Gardner. We decided to rock it off in a speedy fashion, so we left all extra gear (i.e. weight) with Martin and headed out for a light and fast trip to the top of 727 m high summit.  It took us about 1hour and 15min to cover 6 km to the summit with steady climbing the entire way. Think "Bowen Islands Grouse Grind".  We reached the top just before 5pm and opted to relax and take in the view of the Lower Mainland and Howe Sound for a while before heading back to Snug Cove. The to Snug Cove took us about 1 1/2 hours from the summit and covered about 10km of trail.

36 hours later and our challenge was complete! We collected our gear, said our goodbyes to Lisa and after a tasty burger at the pub we boarded the 8pm ferry to Horseshoe Bay to begin our journey home.

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