Group hauls fallen cross back up Cowichan’s Mt. Tzouhalem

After the iconic cross on Mt. Tzouhalem fell over last week, a group of Cowichan Valley residents – mostly young folks – took it upon themselves to hoist it back to its original location on Tuesday.

Warren Spencer, a computer science student at the University of Victoria, home during reading break, spearheaded the effort "We found it in a gully right next to where it had been standing," Spencer said. "It was about 30 or 40 feed down; pretty far down."

The cross is believed to have fallen from its ledge high above Cowichan Bay during last week’s windstorm that wreaked havoc on the Valley.

Spencer said it took him, his father Dale and mother Claire, and friends Michael Fransen, Kieran Hartford and Amoray Aloisi about an hour and a half to lift the cross back up, not including the hike up and down.

They first helped Dale down the gully to where the cross lay. He tied a rope to the cross, and the rest of them pulled it back up to its original location. They left it leaning on a rock face near where it had long stood.

"We didn’t actually mount it," Spencer said. "It’s on the side of a cliff, and kids like to climb on it, so it should be professionally done."

The Nature Conservancy of Canada, which acquired the cross’s location when they purchased the Chase Woods property in 2009, had yet to decide what to do next, although they applauded the efforts of Spencer and his crew. "At this point, we’re still trying to sort it out," spokesperson Lesley Neilson said. "It’s fantastic that those guys and girls dragged it up. It’s gratifying to see that people are that invested."

Neilson noted that the Nature Conservancy is consulting with the group that initially placed the cross on the mountain.

The original wooden cross went up in the mid-1970s, and was replaced by a welded metal version in the 1980s. Jack Pearce was part of the team that mounted the metal cross, and would like to see it raised again.

He has his doubts, however, that the weather was responsible for the cross’s demise.

"There is no way the wind could blow that thing over," he said.

The cross was installed in concrete, using 12-inch bolts, Pearce pointed out.

"Someone would have had to have a sledge, or something else good and skookum to knock it down," he said.

He took exception to statements that the cross had fallen into disrepair.

"All it needed was a paint job," said Pearce, who was at the cross this past Good Friday.

Regardless of how the story plays out, Spencer will have a good story to tell, one that was well-documented with both still photos and video, which had been making the rounds on Facebook.

"It was a fun way to spend a Tuesday afternoon," he said. "It was a good adventure."