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Mount Arrowsmith:
The Judges Route

by Lindsay Elms

Over the last thirty plus years one of the most popular climbing routes on Mount Arrowsmith is the Judges Route on the mountains western aspect. Of all the routes on the mountain this is the shortest and most direct route to the main summit. The trail has seen thousands of people of all ages climb the mountain in many different conditions and although there have been minor route changes due to erosion on the lower section through the trees the upper section of the route hasn't changed. Most people park at the little pull-out on the Pass Main opposite the P 32 logging road and then hike from there, however, a few have driven the rough road to the trailhead saving a twenty minute walk on the old logging road. Times to the summit have ranged from under one and a half hours to, on an average, four to six hours. It is one of the few trails on the island that have had climbers wondering were the name for the route originated, as many are descriptive or are named after the valley they follow or mountain they ascend. On a lucky day it is still possible to meet the person on the mountain who the trail honours as he regularly climbs the Judges Route. Here is the story on the Judges Route.

In the fall of 1974 Nanaimo's mountaineer and lawyer, Ralph Hutchinson, was asked by the then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia if he would accept an appointment to the County Court in Prince George. Not a decision to be made lightly, Hutchinson asked for a week to consider the offer. At that time he practiced law in Nanaimo as a partner in the firm of Heath, Hutchinson, Taylor and Shabbits. Jim Taylor joined the firm in 1969 and Jim Shabbits in 1973. Hutchinson had introduced both of them to the pleasures of climbing prior to 1974 and both had climbed the Nose Route of Mount Arrowsmith. The offer to go to the Bench was tempting, but the firm had several major cases going through the Courts, and one was scheduled to be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada in 1975; Jim Taylor was Hutchinson's junior on that case; Hutchinson was the lead Counsel in the firm then and his departure from the firm would have stopped the many plans they had for expansion which included building a new office.

On the weekend following the offer Hutchinson decided to prospect the route on the west side of Mount Arrowsmith that his friend Bob Tustin had suggested. To discuss the ramifications of the offer he suggested to Taylor and Shabbits that they come along on the climb. Hutchinson had already discussed the proposal with his wife who was unenthusiastic at the prospect of leaving their home in Nanaimo though she said she would accept the decision if he thought it was for the best.

They found the route straight-forward and enjoyable. Every year thereafter Hutchinson used to take the firms articled student up that route as a term of his or her employment. They would also take those members of their staff and their families who wished to come along, usually totaling ten to fifteen people including children. They always called it the Judges Route, despite the fact that the decision to go to the Bench then had been negative.

In 1980 Hutchinson finally accepted an appointment to the County Court in Prince Rupert. After stints there and in Vancouver he came back to Nanaimo in 1987 and remained on the County Court until merger with the Supreme Court in 1991. Ralph Hutchinson retired in July 2002. Jim Shabbits was appointed to the now merged Bench in 1992 and Jim Taylor was appointed to the same Bench in 1995. Kathy Downs, who had been his articled student in 1978, had to climb Mount Arrowsmith via the Judges Route before being called to the Bar was also appointed to the Bench in 1995.









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