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Mount Cain - Summit

Justin Lynch
In October 2008, I joined Justin Lynch on my first visit to Mount Cain, near Woss, Vancouver Island. On Saturday 9th July 2011 we returned, this time with Jon Carter. Our target birds were Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch and White-tailed Ptarmigan, though the main focus was to reach the summit of the west ridge.
Justin and Jon - Campbell River
We departed Nanaimo just after 06:00pm on Friday, to drive the 290kms to Mount Cain. We made a quick stop in Campbell River for food and arrived at the ski area about 10:00pm. As all the accommodations were empty, we pitched our tent and bivi under a covered deck next to one of the cottages. After sorting out our gear, we were all ready for bed. The noise of a thousand Tree Frogs (probably about 20) was extremely load, so sleep didn't come easy.

Ski lodges


We all got up at 05:20am and after some oatmeal and tea we began our hike. Our first bird was a female Common Goldeneye on the small lake behind us. Within twenty minutes we snagged a few birds including Gray Jay, Sooty Grouse and a stonking male Pine Grosbeak!

Common Goldeneye

Pine Grosbeak

Sooty Grouse
 After about four hours of hiking we stopped on a small plateau where we rested and ate. Here we spotted two nice alpine birds: American Pipit and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch; the finch being a lifer for Jon. We did, however, pay Kudos to this bird by using our new birding slang (invented by Ryder Lynch): "You've just been LIFED!"


We were all feeling very optimistic about locating ptarmigan, as we had noticed lots of sign; pellet and small white feathers. After resting, we stashed our backpacks and began ascending to the summit. It was nice to be out of the snow and scrambling over rocks. We carefully checked each area for ptarmigan, as we made our way up, but came up empty handed on each attempt. 

Ptarmigan sign

Jon and Justin at the Summit
One rock added:)

Rich, Justin and Jon

The views from the summit were spectacular and Jon actually used the word 'awesome', a word not thrown around lightly by Mr. Carter! The only thing missing was a small white grouse. Unfortunately we never did connect with this alpine specialty. After a little more searching back on the plateau, we began making our way back down. This, however, was a lot more challenging than going up, as we descended some really steep snow runs. Jon slipped on one particularly long steep run; slipping for some 100 metres! Luckily, he was ok, though a little shaken and scratched up.

Jon's long ride!

Justin made his way down to Jon, before I attempted to 'heel' my way down. After a few steps, I too slipped and found myself in the exact same predicament as Jon. Though I dug my hiking pole hard into the ground, I could not stop the momentum. I finally came to a stop after Jon used his pole to stop me. Jon mentioned that it would have been nice to get that on video? Justin pipes-up; "yea, I only got the last 97%!!"

Click below:


  1. Great account of a spectacular day Rich. Oh, and that video is priceless...!


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