Monday, 11 August 2014

Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area - Needle Peak

Me and my Dad decided to try hiking in the Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area a few days ago.  This area isn't particularly well advertised, so I didn't even know it existed until a few months ago.  The hike that had caught my attention was the hike up Needle Peak.  I didn't really know what to expect, but from the pictures I had seen, it looked like there were some very nice views from the summit.

As we were distracted and tired, we missed the exit we were supposed to take the first time.  We managed to find a spot to turn around a few minutes later, so it wasn't a big problem.  I did find it funny that, outside of a sign at the trail head (which was sort of out of the way) there were no signs at all to indicate that there was a hiking trail here.  Unless you knew the trail was here, you probably would not even notice it.

At the trail head

The start of the trail

My primary concern was that the trail would be poorly marked or non-existent.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the trail was as good as any of the trails in Manning or Cathedral Park.

The trail climbed up through the trees, with the occasional teasing view of Yak Peak.  It didn't take too long before the trees began to thin and we appeared to be on top of a ridge.

View of Yak Peak
The trail got a bit rocky in places, but it wasn't any thing unmanageable.  After some more fairly moderate hiking on the ridge, we were given our first glimpse of Needle Peak.  I did half-wonder for the first time just how exactly we were going to climb the last bit of the summit.

The first glimpse of Needle Peak

The trail continued to climb up the ridge, eventually climbing almost completely out of the trees, entering an area covered with granite.  The granite was coarse enough that it wasn't too difficult to walk over.

The trail began splitting at a number of points.  I had read that it never matters which direction you take, as the branches of the trail always meet up again.  From what I experienced, I would say that was fairly accurate.  We never had any issues figuring out where we were supposed to go.

Snow in August

Looking back down the ridge

Closer to the destination

The terrain gets rockier
A little while later, we entered an open meadow area.  We could see our first good climb, and it didn't look as bad as I had anticipated.  Basically, the route from the meadow climbs up onto the ridge of Needle Peak, which leads to the final climb up the summit.  Both of these climbs are described as being easy Class 3, which means a climbing rope is not necessary, and falls are not always fatal.  I hadn't really branched out into this kind of thing, but this seemed to be a popular enough hike that I couldn't imagine it being too bad.

The first scramble was pretty easy.  There were a number of rock shelves that I climbed up and I didn't have any difficultly.  There was one spot that gave me a bit of trouble, since a rock overhang jutted out and my backpack got caught on it.  I eventually made it beyond this point, but not without getting the overwhelming feeling that I was about to fall.

The top of the first climb

Looking back down the first scramble

On top of the ridge, the pyramid shaped summit of Needle Peak loomed ahead.  I was a little intimidated, as I couldn't see a clear route up the summit.  I hoped very much that I hadn't picked a hike that was beyond my ability.

Needle Peak at the end of the ridge
A pond on top of the ridge

Looking back down the ridge

After a short break, we ditched our packs and began the final ascent.  At first, I thought the first scramble was actually going to be the hardest.  While there was a more intimidating drop off on this climb, there didn't seem to be very difficult footing anywhere, and I didn't end up needing to use my hands.

Then I got to this climb:
The drop off from the climb
I came pretty close to chickening out at this point.  I was not too sure of the hand and foot holds, and the granite rock suddenly seemed a lot smoother than it had earlier.  I spent a bit of time debating whether or not climbing to the top was worth plunging to my tragic death.  My Dad encouraged me to not go if I didn't feel safe, but I eventually decided to try to make it.  I had come this far, I didn't want to quit now.  I found an easier route that cut out part of the climb, but I wasn't in the clear yet.  I got to another part that I couldn't figure out, so my Dad recommended that I go ahead so that he could give me a boost if I needed it.  Sure enough, as I began climbing, I started to feel myself sliding down.  I don't know what would have happened if my Dad wouldn't have been there, but luckily he was, and he was able to boost me to the top of the climb.  Being manlier than myself, he made it up the climb unassisted.

The rest of the climb was smooth sailing, though I was feeling pretty weak in the knees.  I'm not necessarily acrophobic, but I do have a healthy respect for heights, and this climb seemed perhaps a touch disrespectful.  There were nice views at the top, but I think I was too terrified to properly enjoy them.  I was still worried about the climb down.

A very terrified person on top of Needle Peak
A very not terrified person on top of Needle Peak

The climb back down wasn't as bad as I had thought it would be.  There was a crevice that we managed to climb down that didn't have the terrifying drop off that the climb up had.  It would have been difficult to climb up this route as there was a pretty big drop from the ledge of the top to the crevice, but going down wasn't too bad.  After this it truly was easy the rest of the way, though I think I had vertigo for the next day and a half.

I enjoyed my first hike in Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area.  It was an exciting experience, and the reward was well worth the scary sections.  It felt good to have challenged myself and not backed down, but I think I may need to buy a new pair of hiking pants.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Cathedral Provincial Park - Day 2

You can read about the first day of my trip here.

My original plan for day 2 had been to climb up Lakeview Mountain and then hike out of the park.  I felt physically able to do this, but the thing that ended up changing my plan was how tired I was.  Doing close to 30 km of hiking on absolutely no sleep had really taken a toll.  I woke up at 5 am, but I really didn't feel like getting up, so I slept in until 7.  I realized my original plan wouldn't work now, so I opted to hike the Diamond Trail around Scout Mountain, then hike out of the park.

I might have slept in a bit longer, but right around 7 I saw a couple of goats wandering through my campsite, and they seemed quite interested in my tent.  I heard that they could be a bit of a nuisance, so I decided not to give them a chance to try to get into my tent.

It took me a while to pack everything up, but I was starting around 8 or so, which is what I had been hoping for.

The trail from Lake of the Woods to Quiniscoe Lake was pretty easy.  I refilled my water at Quiniscoe and headed up the Lakeview Trail.

On the Lakeview Trail again
The turn off for the Diamond Trail that I wanted was only marked as the "Centennial Trail" and "Rim Trail", so I walked right past it the first time.  I got quite a ways further before I realized that was where I was supposed to go.  I'm guessing most people hike the Diamond Trail in the other direction, since the other trail head is properly signed.

The climb up was strenuous, but fortunately it wasn't too long.  It didn't take more then a few minutes before I was rewarded with some nice views of the park.

Looking back down at Quiniscoe Lake

The top of the climb
The trail leveled out on a bit of a plateau that went past Scout Mountain.  I got to where the Rim Trail branched off and continued on to where the trail descended again.

On top of the plateau

The trail did a short descent where the Centennial Trail split off.  It then worked its way along the backside of Scout Mountain.  There was one little field of rocks that I had to be careful going over, but otherwise the hike was relatively easy.

Looking back at Scout Mountain
The trail began climbing up, around the other side of Scout Mountain.  In a meadow area, I half fell asleep on a bridge.  I didn't get jarred alert until more hikers showed up.  Clearly hiking on as little sleep as I had the day before had not been a particularly brilliant idea (then again, I'm not known for those).

The trail joins the Lakeview Trail again
I got back onto the Lakeview Trail, and after having a quick lunch, I headed down the trail.  The climb down, particularly from the clearing, was a lot steeper than I had remembered it being.  My knees got worn out quickly and it felt like I would never make it down.

I eventually finished the trail and got back to my Jeep.  It had taken me a touch over 4 hours to hike down it, but it actually felt harder on the way down than on the way up.

Approaching Noisy Creek on the Lakeview Trail
I enjoyed my first experience in Cathedral Park.  I wish I would have had more time so that I could have properly explored the area, but I'm glad that I found the time to go this year.  It is definitely an area I will return to in the future.

I don't actually regret hiking into the park and will probably do it again next time, though I think I'll try one of the other trails into the park.  I heard a lot of good things about the trail from Wall Creek.

I returned to Princeton exhausted, but my traditional post-hike milkshake made me feel better.

You can find more information about Cathedral Provincial Park here. 

Cathedral Provincial Park - Day 1

I decided to make my first ever foray into Cathedral Provincial Park and Protected Area earlier this summer.  I had been meaning to make a trip to this park for a while, but I never seemed to find the time.  I had already put the trip off twice this year, once because there was too much snow in the park, and again because of a bad thunderstorm (which in the park was apparently a blizzard).

Being so close to such a popular hiking destination and having never gone to it, I was pretty heart set on finding the time to explore Cathedral Park this summer.  I had taken time off work to go, but that was the week of the blizzard.  I didn't want to try to get more time off, so I decided to try to cram my 4 planned days of hiking into 2 days.  I was pretty sure I would regret this.

Most people take a shuttle into the Cathedral Park core area.  I opted against this for a few reasons.  For one, I'm quite a cheap individual, and didn't feel like coughing up the money to take the shuttle.  Also, it would have restricted my schedule on the second day.  Finally, I felt like I needed to sweat and suffer a bit if I truly wanted to appreciate the park.  For those reasons, I decided to take the 16 km Lakeview Trail into the core area of the park.

I got off work at 11 pm the night before I was going to leave.  My plan was to leave Princeton at 3 am, so I didn't really get any sleep.  I left at 3 as planned and got to the Lakeview parking lot around 5 am.  I saw 2 other cars in the parking lot, while I saw a very full lot at the shuttle parking.  I could tell this was not the popular way of getting into the park.

The start of the Lakeview Trail
The first bit of the trail followed the private access road, eventually breaking off for good about 2.5 km in.  The grade climbed up very steadily, giving me a good workout early on.

After a good 5 km or so through the woods, I came to a little clearing where the trail began to climb very steeply.  I struggled up, eventually getting on top of a ridge.  I could see some of the features of the core area of the park in the distance.  It was a nice tease of what I would see up close later.

The trail followed the ridge for a little while and the grade got a bit more reasonable.  As I got back into the woods, I began to encounter many spider webs.  I hoped that whoever hiked the trail after me would be grateful for all of the webs to the face I took.  It actually got bad enough that I had to put my jacket back on.  The feeling of the webs dragging along my arms was really starting to weird me out.

I ran into a kilometer that was pretty much solid mud.  Try as I might to not get my pants filthy, I ended up stepping in one or two patches of mud that were much deeper than I anticipated.

After a while I crossed into the core area of the park.  I was hoping I would maybe start to see a bit more scenery.  Other than the one little clearing I had crossed, my views for the day had been trees and mud.

Entering the core area
The trail eventually entered a little meadow, and I soon ended up at the height of the climb.  I began the descent into Quiniscoe Lake, encountering a few hikers along the way.

The meadows, with Scout Mountain in the background

At Quiniscoe Lake I had my lunch of hummus and crackers.  It occurred to me that I had done what most people considered a full day hike, and I still had another full day hike to look forward to.  It was about 10 am, so the trail had taken me 5 hours to complete.  I was hopeful that making good time would put me under less pressure for my next hike: the Rim Trail.
Quiniscoe Lake
I had heard that there were a couple of groups doing the Rim Trail in the same direction as me.  I doubted very much that I would run into them, but I was fairly certain I would run into at least a few people doing the hike in the other direction.

I decided the hike to Glacier Lake and climb up to the rim from there.  I climbed up into another meadow with patches of alpine larch trees.
The trail worked its way to Glacier Lake where I began the rocky ascent to the rim.  I was glad I went up here instead of down here; it would have been very difficult to climb down all of the loose rocks.
Glacier Lake at the base of Pyramid Mountain

The ascent from Glacier Lake
I got on top of the rim and was immediately rewarded with some amazing views of the Cascade Mountains.  I could see a number of mountains in Manning Park that I had climbed, as well as other mountains in the area that I was familiar with.  It was kind of interesting to see an area I had spent so much time in from a different angle.
Up the rim

After stopping to rest up, I continued along the rim.  After the ascent the rest of the hike was pretty easy.  I took lots of pictures and just kind of meandered along at a slow pace.  The sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion were starting to set in, and I found that I had next to no energy left.

I passed by Ladyslipper Lake and continued on to the Devil's Woodpile, a basalt rock formation.

Glacier Lake

Ladyslipper Lake

The Devil's Woodpile
From the Devil's Woodpile I hiked to Stone City.  Along the way I ran into a number of interesting rock formations, before getting to the city itself where there were piles of boulders as big as houses.

I ended up running into both groups that had been doing the rim and spent a bit of time hiking with each.  I hadn't been expecting that, but it was a nice surprise.  Given my exhausted state, it was nice to let somebody else do the route finding.

I left my pack around Stone City and hiked to Smokey the Bear, a rock formation that forms the silhouette of the fire fighting bear.
Smokey the Bear
I continued on to the Giant Cleft, losing the trail numerous times.  I ended up doing a bit of unnecessary rock climbing on one such occasion, as I was too stubborn to turn back and find a better route.

The Giant Cleft was larger than I had expected it to be.  I was impressed at just how straight the split in the rocks was.

The Giant Cleft

I returned to Stone City and got my pack, beginning the long descent to Ladyslipper Lake.  I saw a couple of mountain goats along the way.  I saw even more goat droppings along the way.  Fun times.

Ladyslipper Lake
From Ladyslipper Lake I continued on to the Lake of the Woods, where I intended to camp for the night.  As I got close to the campsite it began to lightly drizzle.  From what I could see, it was raining pretty hard in the distance.  I think I ended up hiking right around the boundary where the rain stopped.  I was really hoping I wouldn't get one of the infamous sudden changes of weather I had heard plagued this area.  I didn't want to have to pack up a soaking wet tent and carry it in my backpack for a full day.

I set up my tent at the campsite and fell asleep almost immediately.  I still had another full day of hiking ahead of me, and I needed all of the rest I could get.

You can read about the second day of my trip here.

Lake of the Woods