Rooster's Comb 1937:
From the diaries of Geoffrey Capes
Sid Williams, Roger Schjelderup and myself left Courtenay about 7 a.m. on July 18, 1937, in Roger's old Model T Ford truck. First, though, we had weighed our packs - Sid's nearly 60 pounds, Roger's about 35 and mine 50 pounds. Arriving at Sutherlands on Upper Campbell Lake we got a boat and rowed up the lake reaching the start of the trail to Buttle Lake at 11:30. On Buttle Lake we rowed to a beach two bays beyond Wolf River and camped at 8 p.m.
We left next morning early in perfect weather: calm, with lifting clouds and sunshine. After about 2 hours' row, we landed at Philips Creek and followed blazes up the creek. Soon we had to climb a steep ridge, but the going was good; not much underbrush, and few mosquitoes.
We came across the surveyors' Camp 2 across the river, 6 miles from Buttle Lake, where we made a 2-hour halt for lunch. The going continued good, with a steady and easy ascent, now traveling more or less west. At 6:40 we met two of the survey party packers returning from Camp 3. At 7:30 we decided to descend to the creek for a suitable camp spot. All the way down, the ground was covered with windfalls, then we struck terrible thick bush along the creek. There was no gravel bar or any spot at all for camping. A few yards ahead on the other side was a large open space on the mountain slope, with patches of snow. Crossing the creek on a log we immediately struck terrible traveling - almost impenetrable bush interlaced with long, outward-growing alder branches, and no visibility. Sid finally climbed a small tree and we found a way out. It had taken 2¼ hours to go no more than probably 200 yards. We finally made camp at about 3000 feet on a heathery uneven slope alongside a brawling stream. A full moon lit up the country.
Next morning we descended to Phillips Creek, crossed and found the blazes without trouble, and at 10 emerged onto a small bluff. Hearing a shout we saw through the glasses a man rapidly descending from the top of a 1000-foot pass ahead. Sid has a yell that can be heard for miles and for a time we had a yelling match. We went on, coming out towards the head of the valley with mountains on all sides. After crossing the creek on the remains of an enormous snow slide that covered it, we knew we had to go over the pass but had lost the survey markers, so waited for the man, who turned out to be one of the packers. He pointed the way, so we went on, crossed a rock slide and snow patch, then for 400 feet, the blazes led us through brush and timber up a mountain side. We came out onto a wide gully of rock and snow. It was quite an arduous climb to the top of the pass, reached at 1 p.m.
Below us the valley in which lay a string of lakes, the source of the Burman River, which empties into the West Coast. Here we lunched. On a mountain top (Burman) across the valley we spotted two men, who turned out to be [Alfred] Sloclomb and Robinson, surveyors.
Just after 3 p.m. we started along the top for a short way, then made a steep descent through timber and brush for about 500 feet to a lake [Carter Lake]. At the far end, staring by itself over a wooded ridge showed the "Rooster's Comb". At the other end we saw a tent which was the surveyors' Camp 4. On the lake floated cakes of snow, broken off from the snow patches surrounding it. We followed along the shore to camp, where we met Slocomb and Robinson and made use of their fire for supper.
Later in the evening we spotted a figure at the other end of the lake, who turned out to be Jones, assistant engineer for the City of Victoria. We had made space in the small tent for five of us; now we had to squeeze in six, where there was room only for three. It became very cold with fog all around us when we turned in.
It rained in the night, but by morning showed signs of clearing. We left Camp 4 at 9 a.m., Mr. Jones accompanying us. A small lake just above the camp was still more than half covered with ice and snow. We topped the ridge and came down on a fairly large lake [Schjeldrup Lake], the source of Wolf River. The clouds were lifting but the Rooster's Comb would not clear. After waiting over an hour for a photo we did at least get a glimpse of the top.
Our route lay around the left of the lake across three fairly large and steep snow patches, where a slip would have meant drowning. From the end of the lake we looked down the length of the Wolf River valley. We descended steeply 300 to 400 feet, crossed over some flat ground, then had an uncomfortable traverse along a bush- and timber-covered mountainside. The route followed a short way up a small gully, which we left to emerge onto a ridge of the Rooster's Comb in open country.
Above to the right we could see the top camp of the survey party at about 5000 feet. Following the ridge tops we reached their Camp 5 about 4:30 where we found [Norman] Stewart, the head of the survey party, and his assistant, [Dan] Harris. They informed us they had that day (July 21) climbed the Rooster's Comb. Stewart offered us Harris as a guide for our attempt next day.
July 22 dawned a perfect, cloudless morning with a film of ice on the little lake by the camp. Harris led off at 8. We crossed an easy slope, then a wide scree and snow field until we reached a rock face, where we roped, although there were foot and hand holds. Next we crossed a few-feet-wide steep snow patch and then had more rock climbing. About 100 feet from the top we discarded the rope and made our way over broken boulders to the summit reached at 10.35. The "Rooster's Comb" (now officially Golden Hinde) is 7219 feet, the highest point on Vancouver Island, and very nearly at its centre.
We stayed on top for over an hour, examining the surroundings and photographing. We put our names in the small cairn that Stewart and Harris had built the day before. We could see some of the survey party on the big peak of this mountain, away from the three-peaked summit we were on. We reached camp at 1:15.
Starting homewards at 3:15, we arrived at the meadow at the top of Wolf River valley just above the waterfall by 5;15. There were a few ducks on the lake just above the falls. Three of us got to Camp 4 about 7:15; I dragged in some half an hour after. In full moon light we all squeezed into the little tent.
The next morning we spent en route to the survey party base camp, which we reached after a forced halt over night. The cook treated us royally with a whopping breakfast. The rest of the day was lazed away in 82 degrees temperature.
On the morning of the 25th we started down the lake in perfect weather, with the cook at the engine. Arriving at the end of the lake at 11:15 we lunched, said good-bye to the hospitable cook, and started up the trail to Upper Campbell Lake. Seeing no boat at the cabin at 3:55 we of necessity continued on the trail, reaching Sutherlands at 5:15. As seen from the truck, the logged-off rolling country to Camp 8 was a purple mass of blossoming firewood. We had clutch trouble, but reached Courtenay by dark.