A giant Douglas fir in the Elred Valley has caught the interest of Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) executive director Ken Wu.
The tree is a one-hour and 45-minute drive northeast of Powell River and located at the base of the West Main Wall, the Eldred's largest rock feature at 85 metres tall, according to local rock climber Evan Guilbault.
Guilbault and climbing partner Zoe Manson said they have measured the circumference of the tree at approximately 7.9 metres.
“Essentially, all of the forest beneath the main wall has been logged other than this little strip that runs along the base,” said Manson. “We thought this tree in particular was massive so we took out our cordelette, which is six metres long, and we wrapped it around almost twice.”
A cordelette is a rope used in making rock climbing anchors.
“It’s a big tree,” said Guilbault. “When I’m 120 metres up the wall the trees are just beneath me. They're huge.”
Wu plans to investigate the tree, the Eldred and Powell River’s backcountry in September.
“I haven't seen it directly but if it's that big certainly it would be one of the biggest in the province,” said Wu.
Most of the big Douglas fir and big trees in general are on Vancouver Island, according to Wu, so the Eldred Douglas fir is significant.
“It should be noted that, in general old growth, Douglas fir on the coast are incredibly scarce now,” said Wu. “There's about one per cent of the original extent of old-growth Douglas fir stands left on the coast, so it sounds like this is a very significant area.”
Much of ARA’s work has been done on Vancouver Island.
Wu said he has visited Powell River several times but not the Eldred Valley.
“I know that old growth, proportionately, is the most valuable in that region because you've lost so much of it,” he said. “Your remaining stands are all vitally important for immediate protection.”
The provincial government can do that through a cabinet order or a land-use order, according to Wu.
Manson and Guilbault speak of the tree with almost mystical reverence because it honours a friend and rock climbing pioneer from Powell River, Rob Richards, who died recently.
Richards illustrated local author Christie Dionne’s climbing guidebook, Powell River Rocks.
Richards and Christie’s husband Colin Dionne, who died in 2011, discovered the Eldred for climbing. Since their first routes and climbs, word has spread throughout the climbing world about the Eldred and, in the last few years, Daniels Valley, as destinations rivalling Yosemite National Park in the United States.
The day Richards died, Manson and Guilbault were set to climb a route Dionne and Richards had set 25 years ago; no one has climbed the route since, according to Manson.
“We were under this wall, inspired to get on his climb that no one had attempted; he died that day and we were standing next to the tree,” said Manson.
They have nominated the tree as Rob’s Fir for University of British Columbia’s BC Big Tree registry.
“It sounds like this area is a first-rate recreation area,” said Wu. “To have these giant climbing rock walls with ancient Douglas firs by their base, what in the world is more amazing and as beautiful as that?”