The Red Pillar is situated on British Columbia's Vancouver Island and in the southern section of Strathcona Provincial Park. It is ranked as the island's 13th highest peak and boasts an impressive view of many of Strathcona's highest peaks, as well as several glaciers. On a clear day one can see the Georgia Strait to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
There appear to be several approaches through the Strathcona back country from the north and east. The author is only familiar with the southern approach from Oshinow Lake.
Driving to Oshinow Lake requires good navigation skills and many kilometers of driving on BC logging roads. It is advised to carry a back roads map book at all times. Leave Port Alberni on highway 4 and follow for approximately 4 km. Turn right on Great Central road and follow it for approximately 7 kilometers. When you read Great Central and the Ark Resort, make a sharp
right on the unpaved logging road, Ash River Road.
Following Ash River Road will require some navigation to choose the appropriate fork at many places. After approximately 38 kilometers, you will reach a left hand spur that goes to a canoe launch site. One can either choose to canoe the lake (and thus avoiding a few kilometers of hiking logging roads), or continue up Ash River Road and look for spur 110H which will lead you to a trail head on a washed out logging spur. If you choose the canoe approach (highly recommended!) drop the canoes at the end of the end of the lake slightly up Ash River. There should be access to the Ash River trail around 49.466699, -125.360364.
Southern (Oshinow Lake) Approach
From Oshinow Lake, follow the Ash River Trail. After several kilometers the trail will enter a grove of old growth cedar. Shortly thereafter, it will turn sharply uphill and begin ascending the ridge towards Esther Lake. While the trail is steep
, it offers a rare and beautiful ascent through native growth hemlock forest.
After several more kilometers and approximately 900 meters of vertical climb, you will reach an alpine area with numerous tarns and devoid of vegetation. This makes for a good camping spot if you do this as a multi-day trip.
From here the trail becomes essentially non-existent, but the approach route is obvious as long as visibility remains. Generally one can just follow the ridge line north toward the Red Pillar. Peak 1712 can be skirted to the east to save some elevation change. Descend into the col to the north of 1712 then work your way up the slabs on the west side of the ridge to the saddle directly below the summit block.
Ascending the summit block is probably a 3rd-4th class scramble with a little route finding involved. The route is mostly straightforward as long as you explore your options and follow the paths that continue.
Start by ascending the two ramps, the first one which is mostly scree which runs from right to left facing the mountain from the south. The second ramp (running from left to right) is a shallower angle (almost just a traverse) which brings you to a vertical slot between a detached pillar and the main mountain. Scramble up the slot to a mini-col and continue the climb (3rd-4th class) to the right, up a slot of fairly solid rock.
At the top of that climb, traverse to the left around the west side of the mountain, descending slightly. Here you have the option of scrambling up a scree filled slot, or drop 10 meters to the left and climb the next slot for more solid rock. At the top of either slot, it should be an easy ridge walk to the summit.
Drawing showing the route that our party used to ascend the summit block.
External LinksStrathcona Provincial Park
Beyond Nootka (Red Pillar)