The Mount Hkusam Trail is a wild and rugged 23 km loop heading up and over Mount H’Kusam and down the Stowe Creek watershed. Starting at sea level, hikers pass through some of the most spectacular scenery on Vancouver Island, with views of mountain peaks and the Johnstone Strait as they negotiate their way over the well-developed trail. While the trail is open for year-round hiking, an organized event is held once per year on the summer solstice. The Kusam Klimb draws participants from around the world, hoping to conquer the mountain! We have a saying about this trail. Are you tough enough? Well, are you?
I had a total knee replacement a few years back and after a year of recovery, I decided to give this new part of me a test run by hiking the H’kusam trail solo. I left around 8 am and proceeded to travel up the trail. As I hiked up, I was totally taken by the incredible views. The higher I got, the more I could see. Checkpoint 1 was easily reached and the route to checkpoint 2 was pretty easy to traverse but after this, the trail began to get steep, and I was quite happy to see that ropes were in place to help me with getting up.
I was thoroughly enjoying the hike and spent time taking any side trails that went out to viewpoints. These viewpoints are well worth the hike to see, and I suggest that you also take time to visit them. By the time you are close to reaching the top you find yourself walking in a beautiful sub-alpine forest where there was an abundance of birdlife including many sooty grouse. As you reach the pass that leads to the far side of the mountain you will see a side trail that will take you right up to the peak of the mountain, I did not at this time take it but plan on going back to hike this trail.
From the pass you can hike out to the top of a bluff that overlooks the Sayward Valley, this is a must-see. As you sit on the edge you can look down to a bowl that has a beautiful little alpine lake sitting there like a blue jewel and beyond this is the view of the valley located 1500 meters below you. The lake is used by rough skin newts as a mating area, and sometimes you can them in the thousands swimming here.
After hiking down to the lake, you hike the trail that takes you around the lake and then back up to another pass that leads you down the Stowe Creek watershed and eventually back to the bottom of the trail. This part of the trail is about 15 km and uses old roads and soft forest trails where you have a good chance of seeing black bears, elk, deer, and lots of birds.
The whole journey took me 9 hours as I was taking my time. During the official Kusam Klimb, the runners and yes I mean runners as the lead racers indeed do run the trail, take between 2 and 3 hours to complete the race, the record for men is set at 2 hours and 13 minutes, the record for the fastest female is set at 2 hours and 43 minutes. These racers are top-of-the-line participants who train year-round for this race.