What a nice way to spend my 1st weekend in my 50s! The YYJ50 was a self-supported (no caches, contact or support) duathlon challenge to 50 summits near Victoria BC. The stats are: 207.2mi 33,899’ total in 38h18m49s from Oct 1-2 1:08a - 3:27p.
runs/hikes per GPS: 47.3mi, 17,933’, 15:51 moving (per Strava), 3mph
bike stats per GPS: 159.92mi, 15,906’ 14:23:28 moving (per Strava), 11.1mph
How was it? It feels like a big success personally and there isn’t much I’d change about my choice of route or my preparation. I didn’t feel super-tired even on the 2nd night of no sleep, and never did really pass through any terrible lows. The gas station food I picked up worked surprisingly well. Mostly it was accepting that I was going slower than anticipated, especially towards the end as my knees hated me for all the downhill running. That said, I came prepared enough to feel present and experienced a flow state where hours flew by, and really enjoyed a lot of beautiful nature.
For the backstory I use my bike a lot as a ‘trail bus’ to get to our local Victoria trailheads, and a few years ago this got me thinking about a linkup using the bike to connect a bunch of my favorite trail runs. My first idea was to use my commuter bike to access about 8 local 500-1000’ peaks via about 70mi of cycling, a plan that would fit in the daylight hours without much need to hurry. This early iteration of the route I had all drawn up by 2019 but I never quite found the right day to do it.
And then the pandemic struck and expanding this route into something more ambitious suddenly gained a lot more appeal — like a lot of people I abandoned all existing plans especially for anything elaborate involving travel, and instead focused on what’s right in my backyard. In the midst of lockdown I began homeschooling my then-7 year old son and we found refuge in therapeutic scouting hikes (often bribed with a donut) and enjoying gorgeous spring days in the woods away from a world teetering on the brink of panic. Meanwhile I obsessed over designing the route, pouring over maps to find more peaks and optimize the cycling routes in between. Two unexpected things from the pandemic: becoming a 3rd grade teacher, and the list of peaks growing to 50. As of this writing my son has been up 30 of them so far and been a tremendous help gathering the beta on the route.
In October of 2020 under the working title ‘The Pointless Self-Powered Single Push to (50) Salish Peaks and Summits’ aka PSPSPSPS I put in an attempt that lasted about 7hr and 14 peaks. In hindsight my preparation, route, fitness, etc were okay, but I failed from a seemingly minor problem plus a major one: the minor one was stepping on dog poo on Mill Hill, so I used up most of my precious water washing my hands after touching my shoes, ruining a lot of my gear and leaving me too grossed out to eat and drink enough after that. (This year there was poo on this same trail again, luckily this time I avoided it!). And since this is a story about an old guy running, of course there are injuries involved. My nasty bout with high hamstring tendinopathy started the previous month and got worse that day, flaring up with pain and yaddayadda. There isn’t much to say about my ensuing yearlong bout.. try not to get injured and if you do, get a good physio and be sure to do all the rehab exercises.
Since then I discovered some big holes in my plan that could have hindered me a lot: not planning to bring enough water in the remote parts, inadequate headlamps and batteries, and my last couple unscouted peaks that would have proved tricky at night with my old phone which would suddenly die when I turned on GPS. Reflecting on this now it feels meant to be, since I wouldn’t have been 100% satisfied with that route like I am now — Observatory Hill was closed for COVID-19 so I opted instead for a tiny knoll in Beacon Park as a placeholder, and counted Little Mt Douglas (which I still visited twice but don't put in the list) instead of the more legit Highrock Cairn. So that attempt was doomed and in a somewhat poetic way: it was 48 summits (plus 2 that seem like a stretch) while I was then 48 years old. Also my target was around 26-27hr which I learned is a huge underestimation for someone at my crap level of fitness.
I didn’t expect to come back for another crack at the route maybe ever, so I faced this year’s effort with tremendous gratitude and determination not to quit. Many contributing factors made the 2022 effort tidier and more satisfying, the main one was coinciding with my 50th birthday a few days before. Also having the water spigots on the bike paths being turned back on (ending a COVID policy) made a huge improvement logistically and lowered the total bike weight. And inevitably the route, my bike + gear, and beta became more optimized from more time invested, on top of countless hours invested in 2020.
Bike notes: for this go I improved my setup with the Porcelein Rocket bikepacking seat bag and Vlirka shoe bungee, which were great for carrying the running shoes. I was happy with 700x28c Gatorskin tires for this 84% paved course. Of the dirt sections, most of that is the hardpacked converted rail trails of Lochside/Galloping Goose commonly ridden on road bikes every day. But as I optimised my route to save time I did add a couple miles of ‘underbiking’ on legal, MTB-style trails at Veitch Creek and above Durrance Lake. This worked out fine and I didn’t have any mechanicals. I had a 34x32t low gear which was ok but on the inadequate side -- I had a plan to go 34x42 but it didn’t happen in time. I’d encourage bringing the least possible amount of bling and carbon on this one, since my preferred plan is to stash the bike in the woods unlocked most of the time. For example the Manuel Quimper traillhead has bike racks but I rode a few hundred meters past those up the trail to a hiding spot in the trees. I brought a 69g combo lock but only used it once, at PKOLS where fortunately none of my stuff got stolen off the bike. I hid my Garmin out of sight and always took my phone with me.
Important water stops: Galloping Goose especially at Luxton - drinking fountain, Manuel Quimper TH - spigot (filled 8 liters), Caleb Pike homestead - hose by the shed; also the many drinking fountains along Lochside. My food stops: E Sooke General Store, the Shell by Goldstream, and the food truck on Lochside by Harvest rd. I did regret not stopping at Red Barn on W Saanich since I spent Day 2 a bit too hungry.
Why these peaks? Do they all deserve to be included? Are there others? I wanted to grow the list to a nice round number and settled on these after lots of scouting and research. Each one has worth IMO. An example of an “executive decision” I made is including the sublime lookout at Phyllis Park while ignoring the nearby “Viewpoint Park” which is surrounded by condos and oddly lacks any view. Some I scouted weren’t enough juice to justify the squeeze: Layritz, Horth, Knockan. Others are closed: Blinkhorn. Others are omitted for having no name or no trail. There are lots more in the Sooke Hills but I feel these were good/challenging highlights.
This is all on unceded indigenous land belonging to the First Nations of the Songhees, Leukwungen, Wsaanac, and Coast Salish peoples. Please don't forget this! This area has thousands of years of continuous/ongoing history so there’s no reason to keep using names like Beacon Hill instead of Miqan, Mt Douglas instead of PKOLS, and John Dean instead of tau Wellnew.
Why did I start and finish at our hockey rink (AKA the Save-On Foods Memorial Centre)? I was looking for a spot that makes a case for itself and I liked that the rink has a mini bike museum with Ryder Hesjedal’s Giro-winnng bike and a couple 100 yr-old track bikes. Plus there are many years of mojo hanging in the air from Prince, Ozzy, Snoop Dogg, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Weird Al, Elton John, and Victoria’s own Nelly Furtado. And for me personally there are the happy memories of hockey night with the family. Lastly you can see this building from a lot of the peaks including distant ones like Mt Manuel Quimper and Sugarloaf Mtn. (My 2nd choice was Thunderbird Park at Douglas/Belleville, and 3rd would be the Terry Fox statue on Dallas rd.) Anyway those interested in this route should pick a start/finish wherever it makes sense for them, and same goes for the order of peaks and the direction CW vs CCW.
Thanks Barnhart and fkt.com!
Here are the tracks for the peaks on foot:
1. Smith Hill 66m 2. Peacock Hill 61m 3. Highrock Cairn 78m 4. Seymour Hill 141m 5. Mill Hill 203m 6. Miniskirt 311m 7. Skirt Mountain 342m 8. Happy Hill 157m 9. Triangular Hill 220m 10. Mount Helmcken 313m 11. Metchosin Mountain 183m 12. Mount Ash 220m 13. Montreul Hill 189m 14. Mount Matheson 285m 15. Mount Maguire 268m 16. Babbington Hill 230m 17. Mount Manuel Quimper 546m 18. Malcolm Mountain 403m 19. John Stick Peak 405m 20. Mount McDonald 439m 21. Mount Braden 479m 22. Plateau Peak 426m 23. Castle Peak 454m 24. Townsend Hill 309m 25. Sugarloaf 363m 26. David’s Delight 256m 27. Tony’s Triumph 229m 28. Alan’s Alp 252m 29. Mount Wells 352m 30. Flatty Hill 265m 31. Mount Finlayson 416m 32. Mount Stewart 266m x2 33. Scafe Hill 232m 34. Holmes Peak 329m 35. Jocelyn Peak 439m 36. Lone Tree Hill 364m 37. Mount Work 449m 38. Cole Hill 266m 39. Partridge Hills 295m 40. Little Saanich Hill/Observatory 226m 41. Bear Hill 220m 42. tAu WELNEW/Mount Newton 305m 43. PKOLS/Mount Douglas 225m 44. Christmas Hill 108m. 45. PKAALS/Mount Tolmie 120m 46. Phyllis Park Viewpoint ~70m 47. Anderson Hill 40m 48. Gonzales Hill 60m 49. Fairfield Hill 40m 50. Miqan/Beacon Hill 39m