West Coast Trail


Publiziert von tomhiker , 4. Oktober 2010 um 22:42.

Region: Welt » Canada » British Columbia
Tour Datum:12 Juli 2010
Wandern Schwierigkeit: T3 - anspruchsvolles Bergwandern
Zeitbedarf: 5 Tage
Strecke:75 km

The West Coast Trail – The Naked and Illustrated Truth

 
If you’re reading this, you presumably fall into one of the following three categories:
 
a) You have already done the trail (congratz!!!!) and cannot resist the urge to share your experiences with like-minded travellers
 
b) You are probably (frantically) trying to get hold of any kind of valuable tidbits of information on how to tackle the trail – in which case I do hope you’ll find this helpful
 
or
 
c) You belong to a small minority of personal relations who have been sent the link – in which case you may skip the tedious writing and move directly on to the pics.
 
At any rate feel free to use the info provided here in any way you see fit. Comments are always welcome as long as they don’t add insult to injury – as in blistered feet, numb fingers and sore muscles.
 
I have tried to structure this report by dealing with matters of a more organisational nature first before plunging headlong into an account of our personal experiences later. So, again, if you’re only interested in the visual material here – and no offence understood – spare yourself the laborious reading.
 
A          Before You Leave the Trailhead
 
1.         Getting there
 
a)            Travelling to Vancouver Island from Outside Canada
 
Wherever you might be travelling from, I urge you to be well aware of the Customs and Immigration form you are going to have to show the respective officers, you will probably tick the box which says that you are bringing food (especially meat) into the country. If you do this, expect long delays, veritable hassles with the officers and to be stripped of your precious source of protein. This becomes all the more annoying if you are on a tight schedule since the possibilities for stocking up on food are rare and far between once you leave either Vancouver or Victoria.
 
If we had to do it all over again, we’d fly into Vancouver or probably directly into Victoria, spend one or two days there to supply ourselves with food and gear – the Mountain Cooperative is a very good address in both cities – prior to setting out on the trail. You must be aware of the fact that neither trailhead offers any of the gear you might need on the actual trail. So unless you are a seasoned liar unfazed by any possible consequence you simply don’t declare such items in order to enjoy a more speedy and less costly customs clearance or you don’t bring them along in the first place.
 
Once you’re through customs, the combined skytrain, bus and ferry ride to either Nanaimo or Victoria is a real piece of cake.
 
b)         Getting to the Trailhead
 
This can really become a tedious logistical challenge, all the more so if you’re travelling on a tight budget. So far, I have encountered two schools of thought:
 
i. The perfectly organized, who due to prior arrangements needed to arrive at the trailhead on a certain day and were thus dependent on what the few (well, actually only one) transportation companies had to offer. – no offence intended, but I found the fares shockingly high and I do not recommend taking the bus.
ii. The less perfectly organized who just arrive on the island use public transport (the genuine variety) as far as possible, hitchhike the rest and then apply for one of the five day passes that are held back and distributed on a first-come-first-served basis.
 
Again, in hindsight, we would probably try to get a flight from Vancouver to Ucluelet or anywhere near one of the trailheads and then take a taxi from there to the trailhead. If you are a large group, it might be well worth considering the option of renting a car, transporting the group members to one of the trailheads, have one person return the car and travel the distance ocne more by bus (the expensive one, this time) and do the same thing in reverse order once you finish the trail.
 
c)         Your Last Night in the Fangs of Civilisation
 
Both Port Renfrew and Bamfield struck us as rather bleak, forlorn and uninspiring. Now yachtsmen, anglers and other enthusiast may beg to differ, but if for some reasons you are forced to stay in either of the hamlets, think limited possibilities in terms of food, equipment and accommodation. There is a handful of decent B’n’Bs in Bamfield, but you’ll have to make a reservation long in advance and Port Renfrew boasts a hostel and a budget hotel – not having been there I can only take an educated guess as to their quality. Then again both feature rather primitive campsites, which means that if you’ve been yearning for that shower for the entirety of the trail, prepare yourself for a major disappointment. But then again, since you’ll be roughing it for at least five days in a row and provided you do have enough supplies, my advice would be to spend your last night on the campsite and try to arrive at the other trailhead early enough so that can travel back to either Victoria or Port Alberni / Nanaimo on the same day.
 
d)            Departure Day
 
Before you leave, you will have to attend the orientation session, pay for the ferry crossings and sign some papers in which you waive the right to sue Parks Canada for anything untoward that might happen to you on the trail. The information is useful, but in preparation for the trail you will have heard / read most of it before.
 
There were, however, one or two disappointments. I personally think that the tide tables you are given are just a big hoax. You can get hold of fare more accurate information by accessing either http://www.dairiki.org/tides/daily.php/rnf  or http://www.lau.chs-shc.gc.ca/cgi-bin/tide-shc.cgi and compiling your own tables which will then look something like this:
 
2010-07-12 (Monday) Port Renfrew 2010-07-12 (Monday) Bamfield
Time Height Time Height
PDT (m) PDT (m)
00:46  3.4  00:47  3.6 
08:13  0.1  07:45  -0.1 
14:43  2.4  14:11  2.9 
19:25  1.4  19:34  1.2 
 
 
Port Renfrew
  00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
2010-07-12 3.3 3.4 3.2 2.7 2.1 1.4 0.7 0.3 0.1 0.2 0.5 1.1 1.7 2.1 2.4 2.4 2.3 2.0 1.6 1.5 1.5 1.7 2.0 2.5
2010-07-13 3.0 3.3 3.3 3.1 2.6 1.9 1.2 0.6 0.2 0.1 0.3 0.7 1.4 1.9 2.4 2.5 2.5 2.3 1.9 1.5 1.4 1.4 1.6 1.9
2010-07-14 2.4 2.9 3.2 3.2 2.9 2.4 1.7 1.1 0.5 0.3 0.3 0.5 1.0 1.7 2.2 2.6 2.7 2.6 2.2 1.8 1.5 1.3 1.3 1.5
2010-07-15 1.8 2.3 2.7 2.9 2.9 2.6 2.2 1.5 1.0 0.6 0.4 0.5 0.9 1.4 2.0 2.5 2.7 2.8 2.6 2.2 1.8 1.4 1.2 1.2
2010-07-16 1.4 1.7 2.1 2.5 2.7 2.6 2.4 1.9 1.4 1.0 0.7 0.7 0.8 1.2 1.7 2.3 2.7 2.8 2.8 2.6 2.2 1.7 1.4 1.2
2010-07-17 1.1 1.2 1.5 1.9 2.2 2.4 2.3 2.1 1.8 1.4 1.1 0.9 1.0 1.2 1.6 2.0 2.5 2.8 2.9 2.8 2.6 2.1 1.7 1.3
2010-07-18 1.1 1.0 1.1 1.3 1.7 1.9 2.1 2.1 2.0 1.7 1.5 1.3 1.2 1.3 1.5 1.8 2.2 2.6 2.9 2.9 2.8 2.5 2.1 1.7
 
(all indications in metres)
Another thing I found quite hilarious was the idea that should you fail to synchronise your bowel movements with the sighting of an outhouse, Parks Canada would expect you to do your business at least three bus lengths away from the trail. Which is of course possible if you don’t mind dragging an axe, a machete and a chainsaw along with you in order to bushwhack your way through the underbrush. If that idea makes you feel uncomfortable, try using a laxative with your morning tea / coffee.
 
2.         Your Pack and Gear
 
Weight matters – so does size. Many outfitters will try to dissuade you from buying a backpack that accommodates more than 75 litres, telling you that it will only entice you into taking more unnecessary things with you. Our experience is that we would have gladly taken the bigger pack in order to stow away a bigger, possibly cheaper and more easily pitchable tent that would probably have added another kilo to the overall weight, but would also have meant much less hassle otherwise. Another thing that you shouldn’t underestimate are the temperature drops at night. If waking up in the middle of the night freezing because the comfort zone of your sleeping bag – and thus yours – is at the end of its tether, then again, buy something that is made of synthetic material. It’ll mean more volume and more weight, but it’ll keep you warm and dry much more easily. It translates roughly into another 800 grams added to your pack, but it’s money and energy well spent.
 
On the other hand, you can spare yourself a lot of hassle weightwise if you buy freeze-dried food – which I have to admit has really grown on me ever since I first tried it. Different companies offer a variety of meals catering to every taste and palate. Using freeze-dried products will also help you reduce the number of gas cartridges because you’ll only need to boil a small quantity of water (around 500 ml) and there you are.
 
3.         Water
 
Which brings me to the next point. All your water should be treated. Even though the rangers might drink directly from the creeks, your own digestive system might not be up to that kind of challenge. I found the MSR filter system extremely helpful – despite the fact that it will add another 700 grams. The water, though, will taste so much better compared to using Micropur. As a general rule try to get your water from fast running or waterfalls as they are usually the least polluted. If for some reason you need to rely on some of the rivers, take it from as far upstream as possible – especially if the river is tidal – and at all cost, avoid the Cheewhat. It is always a good strategy to stock up on your water supplies wherever you chance upon a good source and to take with you as much as you can carry.
 
B          The Trip
 
Day 1    Pachena Bay to Klanawa River (23 km)
 
After having spent one last night in the relative luxury of one of the Bamfield B’n’Bs we set out on the trail on Monday, July 12 2010 at 9.00 a.m. Departing early requires attending the orientation session the day before, but gives you a good headstart. With us were a Canadian couple we’d befriended at the B’n’B. The question which of the routes (North to South or vice versa) should be preferred over the other will probably never be answered conclusively. If you’re reading this you might be aware of the two schools of thought, one suggesting that you’ll get accustomed to the trail and its potential pitfalls more easily if you start from Pachena Bay, while at the time lightening the burden on your shoulders, whereas others hold that starting from Port Renfrew is the psychologically more viable option since the hardest part will be behind you on day 2. I personally don’t think that it really makes much of a difference. The rescue teams, though, much prefer the ones that start from Port Renfrew because evacuations can be conducted much more easily on that first stretch.
 
Anyway, the first kilometres from the Pachena Bay trailhead are really fairly easy walking, there are some ladders and bridges, but they are really only a tepid foretaste of what’s to come later. Most of the trail, including the boardwalks, is in excellent condition and you’ll be treading through primeval forest on ground so soft that the question might occur what all the warnings were about. You’ll also soon learn to appreciate the work done by the park wardens in the spring season as it will have made the actual passage much more viable.
 
As you keep walking you’ll notice a trail branching off to the right shortly after km 9. I highly recommend taking the short walk down to a precipice from which you can see a colony of sea lions basking in the sun – leave your packs on the ground before you start to lose altitude on the slope.
 
Pachena Lighthouse is a good spot if you want to rest your feet for a while, grab some food and drink some water.
 
The official map issued by the park will highlight a number of shipwreck sites – after all, the trail was originally intended as a rescue passage for survivors of shipwrecks – between km 12 and 20 and they are really just plain to see on your way, so I won’t be going into them. At some points you will have to choose between the beach route and the forest route. Our experience was that the forest route, though often hillier, is also much less strenuous.
 
Valencia Bluffs at km 18 are another excellent point if you wish to take in the splendour of it all. The old donkey engine at km 19 is just one of the relics of times long past.
 
If you decide to cover the same distance on day 1, you’ll have to make sure that the tides are favourable because the last 2 km between Trestle Creek and the Klawana are only passable at tides below 2,7 metres. If Trestle Creek hasn’t dried up, it is also advisable to get your water from there rather than from the tidal Klawana. Also, after seven or eight hours of walking you may find trudging along the beach rather demoralizing. Once you’re there, however, you’ll find good camping underneath the trees, an outhouse and plenty of driftwood to start a fire and keep it going.
 
 
Day 2    Klanawa River to Dare Point (19 km)
 
Another long day, primarily so because the time spent on Spartan personal hygiene, having breakfast, doing the dishes, deflating the mattresses, pulling down the tent and stuffing everything back into the packs in my experience never falls below 120 minutes. Notwithstanding all these minor technical and organisational details, this part of the trail features a couple of extremely attractive initiations:
 
a) The first cable car ride across the Klanawa has its own merits. And there is no reason to be afraid – it’s a free ride for the first half of the distance and then a not too strenuous pull towards the ramp on the other side. Just make sure that everything is securely strapped to your pack, as diving for lost items is not really an option.
b) Tsusiat Falls are another highlight. At any rate I would recommend you take the long series of ladders down to the beach, enjoy the luxury of a shower and get your water from there. Once you’ve regained your original altitude the trail stays relatively flat. You’ll pass an Indian Reserve between km 29 and 31 before it winds down to the shores of
c) Nitinat Narrows, which also marks the first ferry ride. Make sure you arrive there in good time to catch the ferry because otherwise you’ll have to backtrack a substantial part of the way before there is any viable camping. Once you’ve taken the ride across you should have enough money to allow yourself a prestigious dining experience and
d) feast upon fresh crab (20 $) and sip on a can of beer (6 $). Given the atmosphere I do not find this excessive as it is also a way in which you can support the First Nations.
 
Even though hospitality is great and this place might one day become the location of the first B’nB on the trail (I know that this is the language of the outdoor heretic, but I also know a number of people who would appreciate this option) you will still have to allow for at least another two hours of hiking, the first of which will lead you over a succession of boardwalks across dreamlike but extremely swampy and thus mosquito-infested scenery. You will also need to cross the Cheewhat – and no, don’t drink its water as it is colloquially known as the River of Urine.

Once you’re past km 36, there are numerous beautiful spots on the beach which are ideal for camping. We, however, were forced to keep walking because of a cougar sighting in the area, which is basically the reason why we didn’t stop until we arrived at Dare Point. Camping is good there and if you arrive early enough, you might be able to secure a spot that is practically sheltered by some random driftwood structure.
 
Day 3       Dare Point to Walbran Creek (14 km)
 
Soon after you leave Dare Point you will become increasingly more aware of the challenges and realize why people are awestruck when you mention your WCT exploits – the terrain becomes more rugged (if only slightly), the ladders occur in greater numbers, some of the boardwalks are better left unexplored and you’ll begin to spell mud with a capital M, possible followed by two more capital letters. So expect both the quality and the challenge of the trail to be a bit more diverse.
 
Whole sections of this part of the trail can only be done on the beach, so plan well ahead in order not to be surprised by the tide. “Beach” here is a portmanteau word comprising all varieties of sand, limestone, shelves, rocks etc, some of which tend to be rather more slippery than others, so watch out.
 
Carmanah Lighthouse is probably the most prominent spot, but you’ll only see it shortly before you get to it. From there it is fairly unassuming striding along the beach, sprinkled with the occasional wildlife sighting, the cutest of which was definitely a baby seal, deposited on the beach by its mother only to be picked up later.
 
Chez Monique is another culinary treat that awaits you once you get past Bonilla Point. The place itself is in a shockingly derelict condition, more reminiscent of a slum dwelling than anything. You’ll find yourself approached – well, a euphemism for “attacked” – by a dog whose bark is luckily much worse than his bite, only to be accosted by a slightly behaviourally imbalanced young lad (aged 5 or 6) by the name of Damian, who won’t listen to anything any of his senior relatives tell him, but who is all the more fascinated with anything you might be carrying with you. To us it all looked like a tragic or even farcical decal of what Nitinat Narrows has to offer. Once you’ve taken a seat, though, placed your order, sipped your beer, waited for about half an hour, the food, when it finally gets served, is delicious. I suggest you adopt some kind of tunnel vision and enjoy the burgers (priced between 15 and 17 $).
 
Shortly before you get to Vancouver Point (around km 51) you are going to have to make up your mind as to whether you want to stay on the beach – which implies fording the Walbran – or hitting the forest route, which you’ll probably find rewarding because it offers another cable car ride. If you are pressed for time and unless the Walbran is flooded, our advice is not to use the forest route here, since it is much longer, involves laborious and tedious scrambling and doesn’t really offer anything new.
 
Once you arrive at Walbran Creek you’ll also have to get accustomed to a much more touristy variety of the trail. The campsite there is often crowded, which might somehow diminish the experience. In our view, it was a bit of a travesty, really, and in memory compares rather unfavourably with the two previous campsites.
 
Day 4      Walbran Creek to Camper Bay (9 km)
 
Yup, only 9 km. And it didn’t even feel like a rest day, not one bit, the main reason for the slow progress being steep ascents – in some cases facilitated by a system of ladders, in others walkable only on all fours (well, if you count your pair of hiking poles) – and extremely muddy terrain, and, more often than not – a diabolical combination of both. At any rate, you’ll be gaining and losing altitude much more often than you might have wished for – unless, of course, body toning has long been on your agenda.
 
The trail , in some parts, is hardly visible, so densely is it covered by the underbrush. You’ll soon get the feeling of venturing through a veritable jungle – and again, the three bus lengths rule of thumb is just a big hoax here. More often than not it will also be just a question of an inch or so that will decide whether your hiking boots will be sucked down into the mud – with the accompanying squelching sound – or whether you manage to keep your feet relatively dry and your boots relatively clean. In not just a few cases you are going to rely and branches and smaller trees for additional support on your way up or down.
 
Cullite Cove (km 58) – sounds a bit like cellulite, doesn’t it, I keep wondering why …. – is a nice spot if you want to take a break, get fresh water and don’t mind sitting on the rocks.
 
The next four kilometres will again remind you of why the trail is notorious for untoward hiking incidents and the ensuing evacuations. It offers some of the less inviting combinations of steepness and slipperiness, boardwalks are diminished in breadth to simple trunks with the top layer sawn off.
 
Camper Bay, then, is quite aptly named and won’t figure on our list of desirably camping destinations. If, however, you’re looking for company and possibilities to socialize, it is the place to be. If, one the other hand, you want to avoid all this and have enough stamina left to tackle another three kilometres, Beach Access A would be our recommendation. Even though none of the guidebooks mention it, it is a near perfect spot for two or three tents, provided you’ve taken enough water with you.
 
Day 5      Camper Bay to Gordon River (13 Km)
 
All the really grim stories you might have heard about the trail will have issued from this part. Here the beach route, with its surge channels, its moon-like craters, not to mention the boulders is certainly the more spectacular though at the same time the more challenging and time consuming one. Some of the surge channels can be rather tricky and involve some well-calculated leaps across the crevices. Once you get to a surge channel that looks like the end of the world as we know it you’ll be relieved to find a way around it further inland.
 
The boulders represent a completely new encounter with what nature ahs got to offer in terms of obstacles. Forget about using your poles and rely on your sense of balance and, should that fail, on all fours. Also, keep in mind that what looks like an easy enough way across, through or over them for the person in front of you might turn out to be your personal Waterloo, simply because your arms or legs aren’t long enough. Sounds a bit like natural selection, but make no mistake, we’re drawing on a lot of experience here.
 
Once you get past Owen Point and a dreamlike system of caves, the boulders become increasingly smaller, but are still a bit of a drag. As you keep going, spectacular vistas of the Olympic Peninsula come into view and you can almost feel the tentacles of civilisation.
 
If you want to put off leaving the trail for another day or two, you’ll find that Thrasher Cove exudes just that degree of hippie charm that would make you want to stay a bit longer.
 
If you keep going, brace yourself for the hardest, steepest, most treacherous part, where “steep” in some cases means almost vertical, where the terrain becomes rocky and so precipitous that you’ll want to stick close to the friendly side of the mountain as you appreciate anything that might offer you some kind of handle of foothold.
 
As you will be approaching km 75 you’re bound to make an interesting olfactory experience. You’ll realize that the ones coming from the opposite direction still smell as if they had just left the shop of one of the more expensive Parisian perfumers. At the time, I didn’t probe into their perception of the more seasoned (literally and metaphorically) hikers, but if this explosion we felt in our sense of smell is anything to go by, then those poor bastards must have been in for a nasty surprise.
 
And then, all of a sudden, without further ado and much less fanfare, you reach km 75, where a bunch of fellow travellers might already be gathered, waiting for the ferry. And this last ferry ride also marks your rite of passage, your elevation into a new sphere of existence: You are now a member of an elect group that has managed the WCT any you’ve got every reason to be proud of it.
 
In conclusion, I have to say that had we not been so lucky with the weather – not a single drop of rain in combination with two and a half days of brilliantly clear skies – the whole experience might have turned out quite differently. And then, again, this spell of perfect weather had been preceded by a five week long drought, which meant that a substantial part of the trail was almost dry and even though the muddy parts remain muddy in all conditions they might have been less slippery and treacherous than otherwise experienced. We must also say that, much to our chagrin, we lost our two Canadian friends on day 2, due to unsustainable pain in the knee – so keep in mind that evacuations do happen on an almost daily basis and that you wouldn’t want it to be you.
 
If you’re interested in doing the trail and your hiking experience has so far been limited to day trips in mountainous terrain, don’t hesitate. I’d absolutely urge you to go ahead with your plans- Apart from the fantastic experience you’ll be the focus of admiration among the not-yet-initiated. For us, it has been a once-in-a-lifetime-experience for which we are extremely grateful.
 
 

Tourengänger: tomhiker


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Kommentare (1)


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Kris hat gesagt:
Gesendet am 5. Oktober 2010 um 00:19
really beautiful impressions, but I don't like all of these wood stairs - without this, you probably would feel more close to the nature and your way across it.

greetings from germany ;)


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