EC Manning Provincial Park Hikes
By Apryle Craig
This weekend we wanted to keep Zach’s mileage under 15, in preparation for his upcoming IMTUF 100, but we also wanted to see some more of the alpine before snowshoes are required to do so. After considering a trip to Icicle Ridge near Leavenworth and another visit to the Pasayten, we settled on a run up Frosty Peak in E.C. Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia. Frosty Peak was described as a 22km roundtrip and we did not have to travel any high-clearance dirt roads to get there.
The forecast looked bleak for Friday and we packed our camping gear and hoped the rain would taper off by the time we arrived. The 2.5 hour drive from Tonasket, WA to E.C. Manning Provincial Park was windy and beautiful. Upon arriving at Lightning Lakes Campground, we reserved one of the 5 remaining sites and sat in the car watching the rain.
During a break in the clouds, we suited up and headed out on the Skyline Trail I. Although neither of us had expectations of doing much more than the fastest out-and-back we could put together, we soon found ourselves ascending the switchbacks and discussing the counter-clockwise loop. The Skyline I Trail popped out of the trees a few times before reaching an alpine ridge. The rain soaked my gloves and my capris absorbed the water of the grasses we ran by. Up higher, the wind cut through my light clothes. We paused only briefly at what we assumed were spectacular overlooks, now obscured by the dense clouds of autumn. No views today.
We descended quickly and were soon running by Lightning Lakes, which signified the bottom of the Skyline, I trail and the end to our drenching. Instead of quesadillas in the rain, we opted to try the restaurant at the lodge, where I changed out of my wet clothes and we got a huge plate of nachos.
Arriving back at the campsite, we put up the tent and crawled inside. The rain was finally subsiding and we looked forward to Saturday’s good forecast to run Frosty Peak. The campground was packed on Labor Day Weekend and our noisy neighbors kept us up late.
In the morning, the white puffy clouds were rolling in and out across a blue sky. We packed our gear, made some breakfast and drove to the Lightning Lakes Day Use Area to start our main objective – Frosty Peak. This trail started out similar to yesterdays with switchbacks through a forest. We were soon looking down at the lakes. The clouds rolled through, brining intermittent rain and up higher, snow! Although it was not accumulating, it snowed on us for most of the time above tree line.
Nearing the mountain, the clouds hung around the peak obscuring our final ascent route. As we neared the base of the mountain, Frosty Peak looked more formidable than imagined. The final approach to Frosty Peak cut switchbacks through a talus slope and followed a talus ridge to the summit.
As we made our final ascent, the clouds swirled in the cirque and the sun broke through the fog. We had a small weather window at the summit with blue skies and just enough rolling clouds to increase the drama of the already dramatic rocky scenery. Amazing views! We were tempted to do the full loop via the Windy Joe Trail, but unsure of how many additional kilometers we would be adding we instead opted to return the same way we came up for a 22km day.
As we began our descent, I noticed a pain in my lower shin on my right leg, which eased up if I did not heel strike. With 1km to go, I stepped on a rock – not unlike the hundreds I had most certainly already stepped on that weekend – and pain shot through my leg. I walked the final km down to the Lightning Lakes Day Use Area.
Maps & Elevation Profiles