The West Coast Trail (WCT) is a breath-taking 75-kilometer hiking trail located on the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The trail is often referred to as a true and iconic backcountry trail. And it winds through old-growth rainforests, along rugged cliffs, and over sandy beaches. You have the opportunity to experience the rugged beauty of the Pacific coastline. The trail finds its origin as ancient paths and paddling routes for trade and travel, while in the early 1900s it was used to aid shipwreck survivors.
We are excited that Andy agreed to share his experience on the trail with us! Let’s dive into it to explore more of the West Coast Trail and what you can expect along the way.
To start, would you be able to tell us a bit about yourself?
Born and raised in a small town just outside of Edmonton, Alberta. I played almost every sport growing up, and still play volleyball and baseball to this day. My girlfriend and I like to escape to the mountains every couple of months, either to go hiking, or just a get a way for a weekend.
How did your passion for hiking and the outdoors start?
Growing up in Alberta, we are lucky enough to have the Rocky Mountains, Jasper and Banff National Parks, just a 3- or 4-hour drive away. My family was never an outdoorsy family, but somehow my sister and I got the bug for the outdoors. One of the first hikes I remember doing was when I was in Jasper for a camping trip, and I was around 14. We hiked up the Whistler Summit to where the Jasper Sky Tram is located.
You hiked the West Coast Trail; what a fantastic achievement! It is an iconic backcountry that follows some very challenging paths. And we would love to hear how your experience was on the trail?
The West Coast Trail was the most difficult hike I have ever done, but equally the most rewarding. The feeling of euphoria when my group got down the last ladder, was unlike anything I have ever felt before. I will forever be recommending this trail to anyone who is thinking about going. The views while hiking, the amazing campsites, the comradery around the different campsites and on the trail can not be beat.
We finished this bucket list hike in 6 days / 5 nights in July 2022 and I still, to this day, find myself looking back on the pictures reminiscing.
How did you discover the West Coast Trail- what was the reason to hike this specific trail?
The West Coast Trail has always been a bucket list of mine from the first time I heard about it. My friend and I talked about how cool backpacking trip like this would be a year or so prior, and when I mentioned the West Coast Trail, we instantly started planning and we were lucky enough to book a spot on the stressful Parks Canada booking day!
The West Coast is known for providing some challenging weather at times and is often dominated by wind and rain. How did you deal with the various weather conditions your encountered on the trail?
We had the Weather Gods looking out for us during our week on the trail. The week before we got on trail was torrential downpours for five days in a row leaving knee deep mud bogs, and the week after us was a heat wave with temperatures in the high 20’s degrees Celsius. The week that we had on trail was perfect. It was between 17-24 degrees Celsius every day, with mostly sunny skies. The mornings, naturally, would be layered with fog and mist from being on the ocean, but we had once in a million weather for the West Coast Trail. There was a running joke after we finished the trail that we did not get the true West Coast Trail experience since we did not have any precipitation at all.
With the trail being so remote, how did you manage your food and supplies during the trail?
A backpacking trip such as this is hard to pack for, as you must carry everything for the whole duration of the trip. Prior to this trip, I had done a couple one-night backpack trips, but nothing of this magnitude. I ended up bringing WAY too many snacks than I needed, so that was just extra weight that I did not need. Luckily, we had an early morning / relatively short day 5, so there was more time to relax and eat some snacks.
I had each day divided into a large freezer size Ziplock bag. Each day had a couple packs of oatmeal, a bag of dehydrated fruits, a Cliff Bar, a small bag of pepperoni sticks, an Alpine Aire meal, and a chocolate bar. Each morning while we were packing camp up, I would take out the food for breakfast, as well as the Cliff bar to keep in my pants pocket for a quick snack while moving. When we would get to our next campsite after 8-10 hours of walking, we would set up the tents and then boil water for our dinner. I would save my chocolate bar for around the fire after dinner, but the pepperoni sticks and a lot of the dehydrated fruits did not get ate until our shorter day 5 hike. That just added extra, and unnecessary weight to my pack.
It is said that the trail certainly has some challenging logistics and especially very unique terrain with at least 100 ladders to climb and many more man-made bridges to pass, beach hiking and climbing over boulders - how did you prepare for the hike?
Our trip was at the end of July. I mostly prepared by doing stairs in the River Valley system in and around Edmonton. I was able to get to the mountains a couple times prior to leaving to try and help build up my legs.
Even though you prepared well for the trail, did you come across any (major) challenges that you would never have thought of beforehand? And how did you tackle these challenges?
I did not account for the weight of the full pack when I was training. When I would train with my backpack, I would fill it with some items and would usually come in around 25 or 30 lbs. At the Ranger Orientation meeting day zero, my pack weighed in at close to 50 lbs. Obviously you have to persevere through the hike with the weight, but I do wish I would have either trained with a heavier pack, or done more exercises to build up my back / shoulders / neck.
What is your best memory of the trail?
Other than the stunning trail and campsites, the memories that stick out the most are of friendships that we made along the trail. It was originally my best friend and I signed up for the trail, but on the West Coast Express bus from the South Trailhead to the North Trailhead, we met a couple groups of amazing people who we gravitated to at each campsite. My friend and I have always been more like others, and this journey through the trail with him has made us even closer I feel.
Before starting on the hike, you must have probably gone through your gear checklist a dozen times. In the end, did you take any gear with you that you eventually felt you could have done without? Or was there any specific gear that you wished you had with you on the trail?
I made my list, and checked it at least 15 times before we left. My friend and I each carried our own two man tents, and each had our own camp stove (MSR / Jet boil ). Looking back, we said we could have done with sharing one tent, and only bringing one camp stove.
I can’t think of anything I wish I had, other than a lighter pack!
After this amazing achievement and crossing the West Coast Trail off your bucket list, do you have any other trails on your bucket list which you plan to hike in the (near) future?
There are a couple backpacking trips that I have on my list to do soon
For all those inspired by your story and experience on the trail, what is the one tip you would like to give them?
Leukotape is a saviour! Had a blister formed on my heel on our first day which was less than ideal. I had to keep popping that bad boy and cleaning it daily, and then covering it with band aids that always fell off. On the fourth day around the fire, one of the new friends we made had me try this tape, and it stayed on my blister for the rest of the trail, and the next couple days for the drive home. When I got home, I instantly bought a roll to keep in my first aid kit.
Lastly, when our hiking-lovers want to know more and follow your adventures, where can they find you on social media?
My Insta is readme3 … but I do not post that much cool stuff on there!
Andy, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with us, it was an absolute pleasure! Please let us know if you would like to add anything else.
Jay & Maud