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Vancouver Island Backbone

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Hiker on the Beaufort Range

Hiking Guide to the

Vancouver Island Backbone

ISBN 0-9680766-1-0

Out of Print
available electronically

Climate and Seasons

Vancouver Island lies along the mountainous west Pacific coast of North America. As such its climate is heavily influenced by the meeting of moist Pacific air and drier continental weather systems. Across the Island there are wide variations of weather, in particular in the amount of rainfall. Annual precipitation varies from over 400mm on the west coast to around 150mm on the rain shadowed east coast. During the winter months, this precipitation comes as huge snow falls at alpine elevations (over 1200m/4500ft). A spring snowpack can be as much as 5 metres, taking well into August to melt completely. Summer snow cover can make travel on the Backbone easier in some respects, filling in rocky scree slopes and making fast glissade descents possible. But snow does require some extra equipment, ice axe, gaiters, heavier boots, etc.. Check with local stores for advice on the current snow cover and other questions to help you get around.

Generally the best combinations for visiting and travelling on Vancouver Island are; May-June for ski-touring (depending on annual snow cover) and river paddling and, July-September for hiking.


The wildlife on Vancouver Island is unique. Dependant as it is on the animals' ability to cross from mainland British Columbia, the Island has developed a strange and unique blend of mammals. There are no Grizzly Bears at all on Vancouver Island nor Chipmunks or Moose. There are some populations of introduced rabbits in and around the larger communities but rabbits are not indigenous to the Island.

There are however numerous Cougars which are the largest predator and main source of concern for the backcountry traveller. Black Bears are common as are Wolves, Roosevelt Elk, Black Tailed Deer and Pine Martens. Rare sightings are made of Vancouver Island Marmots, an endangered species and the mythical Vancouver Island Wolverine.

Should you encounter a large, apparently aggressive animal the best policy is to remain calm and act with a deliberate and confident air. Do not at any cost run from a Cougar, they can confuse this with the actions of their normal prey, deer, and may act accordingly. Hike with a stout stick or ski poles. Cougars occasionally attack domestic dogs and if you plan on having your canine companion accompany you give this serious consideration. Putting things in perspective however, Cougars are very rarely seen. Local hikers, covering countless miles across the Island report only a handful or no sightings at all, over many years.

Problems with Bears are also infrequent, the Island's forest provides them with an abundance of natural food and they rarely have cause to approach people for food. However this will only remain the case if backcountry travellers take precautions not to attract them in the first place. No fish or meat carried or cooked is a good starting point and always hang food high in a tree- never in your tent. The most likely scenario to encounter a Bear is by accident. In thick vegetation, especially berry bushes, make some noise to alert them to your presence.

Island wildlife is generally shy and elusive if you are fortunate to have a sighting, treasure the moment and remember that you are a visitor in their domain.