Mount Bishop

Mount Bishop summit has been eluding me for a few years now, but not for the lack of trying. On our last attempt (#3) we got REALLY close but had to retreat because we were running desperately out of daylight. And that happened because after having biked all the way to the Seymour Hatchery, the obedient citizen Chris refused to trespass over a newly constructed Bear Island bridge (which was like 2 days before an official opening), so we had to backtrack aaaaall the way to the Hydraulic Connector, loosing 1.5 hrs of daylight in the process? Well, no hard feelings there but it left me with an urge to get to up Mt. Bishop for real.

This hike is stiff, long, demanding, rooty, bluffy, gnarly… In other words, typically north-shore. However, don’t be put off by the difficulties as there are very few better places which offer this kind of big mountain solitude so close to the city. You will need a bike to do this as a day trip and even with that budget a 10-hour day. Timing of things is important here: the parking gate locks at 9PM (summer months) sharp so you want to be back at your car and out by then. Start at the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve parking lot. Take the paved Trailway to salmon hatchery and the Bear Island Bridge, 10 km total (see the map HERE). Once on the other (east) side of the river, push bikes a very short uphill until you come out again on a wide gravel road. Turn right on the road and bike about 200 m downhill, just before the first sharp turn in the road. From here, look left for flagging and a trail starting in the forest. Stash your bicycles here.

Stashing bikes in the forest. It’s hiking from here on.

After short 15 mins of hiking you will come to a pair of giant old cedars, standing next to each other like a lifelong couple, the General and his Wife. They are truly remarkable living creatures. Please hug them for me if you go. From this point on the trail offers only one direction to go – up. And up it goes, over the roots, rocks and slabs. Luckily, the steepest sections have a fixed rope to hold on to and they are of great help. The trail is well marked and fairly easy to follow. However, when in doubt, do stop and look around for the next flagging to make sure you’re still on the trail, it will save you tons of trouble should you veer off the route. 

The trail is steep.

The steepness doesn’t ease off until you emerge out of the forest and into marshy meadows holding Vicar Lakes. Some of the lakes are just mere ponds, shallow with muddy bottom but the main lake is a fair size with a small nice rocky peninsula on its southern end, suitable for pitching a few tents and diving into the cool water.

A small bog in the alpine basin before the summit push.

However, if you are just heading for the summit, you will bypass the lake on its northwest side (your left) and enter the forest for a short while again. Here, flagging will eventually lead you to a rocky basin below the Mt Bishop summit. This is where an obvious route ends and it is up to you to pick your line to the top. We aimed for an obvious broad “gully”, shown in the center-right on the picture. It is an easy scramble all the way to the summit although there is a 2 m section, just before you pop at the top, where you need to push through some bushes. And voilá – you have made it to one of the toughest little peaks around here. Enjoy the 360 views!

Ascend to the summit via the broad gully in the centre-right.
Views en route to the summit.

An intriguing variation: There is another way of getting to Mt Bishop and that is from Mt. Seymour parking lot, following a trail & flagging towards Mt. Elsay, dropping to Elsay Lake (there’s an emergency shelter the lake) and up through an old growth forest (a little bit of bushwacking and route finding) towards Vicar Lake. This option, while still flagged, requires more route finding and an overnight backpack. I haven’t done it myself but more information can be found on bivouac HERE (paywall).

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