Date: June 7, 2014
Participants: Sergii Bogomolov, Geoff Zenger
Difficulty: 2/3 (Short sections of moderate scrambling)
Report: Hiking the Lightning Lakes trail in Manning Park out to Thunder Lake has been on my list for some time, but Manning Park always seemed like a long ways to go for just a lake hike… Luckily, a couple years ago I noticed a peak called “Lone Mountain” in Beckey’s guidebook to the north Cascades, and I decided that any trek I did out to Thunder Lake should include an ascent of Lone Mountain, located on the SW side of the lake. I posted a trip a while ago on the BCMC schedule and had some interest from a few people, but by the date of the trip, everyone had bailed except for Sergii, and on a nice Saturday morning we met up near my place in New West and drove out to Manning Park. In the end I’m glad that there were only a couple of us and not a larger group because the trip would prove significantly more strenuous than expected.
We started out from the Spruce Bay parking area around 9:45am, and moved quickly along the lakes trail, reaching Strike Lake camp at about 11 o’clock. After a quick snack break we continued on towards Thunder Lake. There was some snow on the trail in sections here, but the going was quick and we reached the end of the official trail at Thunder Lake a bit past 11:30. We followed a little used path around the northern side of the lake up towards some waterfalls coming down from Snow Camp Mountain above the outflow of the lake. From here we bushwhacked down the little creek to the outflow from Thunder Lake where we were happy to find a thick logjam in the river that was easily crossed, and on the other side at a quarter to 1 we stopped for a full lunch break.
There is a large talus field perhaps 100m along the lake shore from the outflow of Thunder Lake that we wanted to take up towards the ridge, and so we trekked diagonally upwards through the bush to hit it. The dirt slopes and bush are ridiculously steep on this section, but we found our way to the talus slope and followed it upwards until it became a steep and exhausting scree gully. The heat and scree made ascent slow, and we eventually bailed out of the scree gully to the right (north), which in retrospect was a great decision because it brought us back to a firm, open talus field that led up to the ridge. From the topo map and Google Earth I had expected the ridge to be an easy walk, but it proved to be an alternating sequence of bushy thrashing and steep dirt, with a couple short scrambling moves thrown in. Luckily there isn’t any serious exposure, and we eventually made our way up to where we hit snow, perhaps 100m below the summit. The snow line was surprisingly high, but I guess it’s a big cooking bowl around Thunder Lake that traps heat.
We reached the summit of Lone Mountain around 2:45, and sat down for a long break. The view of Hozomeen from the top is amazing. There is probably no better vantage point possible of the group and all three peaks are visible. There are also good views over to the Skyline trail that crosses from Lightning Lake to the Skagit River, but otherwise the summit is quite unremarkable as it is lower than almost everything else in the area. Tired and out of water, we departed the summit a bit before 3:30 to thrash back down to the lake.
We were back down at the lake at about 4:50, and after a quick break, decided to bushwhack horizontally along the lake edge to take the lower trail along Thunder Lake back to the main trail. Big mistake! It took us 40+ minutes to thrash through the thick alder and other foliage. We really should’ve just followed the creekbed back up to the upper trail. Nonetheless, we persevered and made our way back to the main trail, where we eventually found a good creek that we could refill our water from, and made the long trudge back to the car, which we finally reached at 8:20. 10.5 hours round trip!
In the end, am I glad I went to Lone Mountain? Yes, I am. But I am definitely never going back there again. After doing the trip it’s clear why it’s rarely done… it’s a long ways with a lot of bush, scree, and sheer exertion to reach a very minor summit. Regardless, it was a great trip and I have to thank Sergii for his great companionship on this mountain trek!