Adder Mountain north aspect
Only one paved road crosses Vancouver Island from the heavily populated east coast to the open Pacific on the west. Year round, thousands of cars stream along Highway 4 bound for Long Beach and the ever-popular resort towns of Tofino and Uclulet. Once over Sutton Pass, however, few stop along the way or wonder where all those gravel roads might lead to or what might be beyond those steep forested hillsides. Climbers on Vancouver Island are grateful for such a dearth of curiosity because up those roads lies access to an empty, pristine and expansive alpine area that offers unparalleled hiking, climbing and especially skiing opportunities.
Directly to the south of and almost 1400 metres above Sutton Pass lies the north aspect of Adder Mountain. A benign, domed summit in summer, Adder is a different prospect in early season when a typical winter’s snow accumulation makes road access difficult, hides a wealth of hazards in the forest and results in huge cornices that threaten any significant slope with a northern aspect.
Adder Mountain can also be climbed from the east via the Nahmint Valley.
Adder was not named for any reptiles that may be found there, nor for a mountaineering mathematician. The mountain is named for the Northern Adder’s Tongue fern, Ophioglossum pusillum,
which is apparently prevalent on the lower slopes. I have to admit that I’ve never seen any.
Summit views are excellent with Klitsa Mountain, Nahmint Mountain and 5040 Peak
in an arc to the east and Pogo and Steamboat Mountains to the west as the nearest neighbours. Distant views encompass the southern ranges of Strathcona Provincial Park to the north and Mt Arrowsmith to the east. Directly south of the summit and 700 metres below lies lovely Louise Goetting Lake.
The summit of Adder has a well established cairn and a summit register in a brass canister jointly administered by the Alberni Valley Outdoor Club
Alpine Club of Canada.
Various publications (including the summit register) refer to the mountain as “Adder Peak” or “Mt Adder”. These names are not correct. The only official name of the mountain is as given above.
Adder Mountain east aspect
Vancouver Island can be reached by air from Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, Calgary and Edmonton to Victoria, Nanaimo, Comox or Campbell River and by ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria on
The Coho and on
BC Ferries from Vancouver to Victoria or Nanaimo. Public transport on the Island is notoriously poor and anyone arriving by air would be advised to rent a car.
Access in this case involves steep, rough, de-built logging roads with deep water bars. A 4WD vehicle with high clearance is essential in order to reach the very top of the roads that give access to the alpine. Chains may also be required if the roads are still under snow. This can occur well into May.
From Parksville or Qualicum Beach on the Island Highway 19, take highway 4 west towards Pt Alberni and Tofino. Pass the Mt Arrowsmith
access road just after Alberni Summit and proceed down into Port Alberni. Go all the way down to the bottom of the hill and turn right at the signal light following signs for Tofino.
The approaches for the north and east side routes diverge soon after making the turn for Tofino. Refer to the individual route pages for detailed approach directions
Adder Mountain summit ridge
Summary of Summit Routes
View down N face
N Ridge route in profile
The longer of the two options known to the author. Approaches from logging spurs directly off Highway 4 just west of the summit of Sutton Pass which may be driven to ~ 550 metres elevation.
A relatively long climb through a brief phase of logging slash and a longer one of old growth forest above to exit onto the open north ridge at ~1,000 metres elevation.
Thereafter, lovely ridge hiking to the summit. Cornice hazard may bar access to the summit ridge in some conditions.
E ridge route
View down E ridge route
A much shorter, more direct and more straightforward route than the North Ridge/Face. Approaches from the Nahmint Valley via the south shore of Sproat Lake. A long and somewhat unpleasant drive from the Port Alberni area on badly maintained and finally deactivated (read 4WD necessary) logging roads to a starting elevation of 640 metres.
A brief phase through logging slash is followed by an equally brief one in old growth before emerging onto open ground at only 850 metres elevation.
Thereafter, wonderful open ridge hiking to the last steep climb up the summit block.
Probably the best choice when cornice hazard threatens the North Face Route.
None. You're on crown land leased to a logging company.
Make sure that you have left a detailed trip plan with someone responsible. The RCMP and the appropriate SAR agency will respond in an emergency but it is up to you to have the mechanism in place that will initiate the call-out process if it becomes necessary.
Camp at the top of the north side approach road
Adder is usually a day trip objective. However, for an early start you may wish to camp at the respective trailheads. This is eminently possible at the top of either of the logging road approaches or anywhere else on the mountain you care to pitch your tent.
Fires are strictly prohibited, so you must pack a stove. Bear and cougar frequent the mountains and forests of Vancouver Island, so proper back country methods – hanging food bags out of reach, cleaning up all cooking scraps, good toilet practice etc – are essential. Giardia is well documented throughout the Island, so boil or treat all water.
Nearest points current conditions and forecast.
The best map for this trip is BC Topographic Maps 1:20 000 map sheet 092 F024, “Adder Mountain”. Copies may be purchased from Cloverpoint Graphics
(telephone 1 888 457 2724) and are sometimes available in good bookstores and outdoor stores throughout the Island. The usual 1:50 000 sheet is likely inadequate for this trip.
Island Alpine – A Guide to The Mountains of Strathcona Park and Vancouver Island, Philip Stone, Wild Isle Publications, 2003, ISBN 0-9680766-5-3 and/or visit Island Alpine Climbing Guide
Summit view west
Louise Goetting Lake
Summit view N
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