Departing Campbell River at 7 pm, headed to Kweishun Creek, we made camp by 9:30 pm beside our vehicle at the trailhead of Kweishan Creek. Our objective was a day trip to Mount Harmston, and a redemption for Brian Nesbitt from a previously foiled trip to the mountain a week prior.
With alarms set for 4 am, we hunkered down, hoping to salvage a few solid Z’s. Deprived of coffee, we saddled up, bringing some essentials, including bivy gear, turned on the headlamps, and made our way towards the trailhead. Sparse flagging led us through an overgrown cut block and into the forested section soon after. Despite a few small wrong turns in the overgrown alders in the dark directly before the cut block, we were happy with our time.
Just before dawn, we emerged into the meadow and traced Kweishun Creek west up towards Mirren Lake.
The dried creek beds made fast travel right to the waterfall below the slabs leading to Mirren Lake. By 7 am, we had reached the base of a waterfall. Golden rays broke, headlamps were stored, and by 8 am, we were skirting the southern sides of Mirren Lake.
At the center of Mirren Lake, we gained 500 m up a scree slope with the Comox Glacier hanging above us. Scree gave way to grass, crested out, and we gazed forward to Milla Lake and the journey forward down from the col, around the lake, and towards the granite boulder gully ahead. From here, we meandered down to Milla and traversed the western side to the base of Argus/Harmston col using crampons on the hard snow.
At 11:30 am, we reached the gully and started our steep 300 m ascent. With a few short 5th class steps, we breached the col, with the shoulder of Harmston to our right and North Cliffe Glacier center stage. Wind was howling at the top of the gully, but the sun warmed our faces as we trekked up the remaining 400 m to the summit. Scree on Harmston sounded like clanging metal in a medieval battle.
We reached our primary goal at 1:30 pm - signed the registry and feasted! At 2 pm, we started our descent - it was a race against daylight we were sure to lose. Using the small rope we brought in the gully, we made it as far as the slabs near Mirren Lake before nightfall hit and had an interesting journey down the side of the waterfall leading back into the meadows.
Questioning our choices and discussing our many epic journeys of the season so far, our remaining hike included 4 hours of dark travel that seemed more obscure than the first pass.
Darkness can surely slow your progress. After some GPS issues, we had one final duel with Devil’s club and downfall in the cut block where we elected to make a straight line bearing directly to the logging road, as the trail was almost impossible to find once we took one wrong step.
Back at the start of the trail, we slowly slithered our way back to the car. 18.5 hours had passed! We broke camp and headed to McD’s, yapping about how beautiful this Island is and how we can’t wait for the next adventure. Happy to have helped Brian finish his #7 IQ on what may have been the last warm weather window for Harmston this season!
After over an hour of picking thorns from our hands the following day, in retrospect, this may not have been the greatest decision; however, Harmston as a day trip was quite the accomplishment for us and our biggest trip together to date!