October 3-7, 2018

Golden Larch Trip:  Cathedral Provincial Park (British Columbia)

Lakeview Mountain (8622′)
Quiniscoe Mountain (8369′)
Red Mountain (7772′)
Devil’s Woodpile Peak (8400’+)
Stone City Mountain (8570′)
Ovis Mountain (8300’+)

——————– Trip Report Summary ——————–

Region: Canadian Cascades

Campsite: Quiniscoe Lake Campground

Hike 1 – Lakeview Mountain Summit Loop:  North Ridge to South Ridge

Starting & Ending Point: Quiniscoe Lake Campground

Way Points: Lake of the Woods & Pyramid Lake & Lakeview Creek & Lakeview Mountain summit & Boxcar Saddle & Goat Lake & Lakeview Creek Meadow (hike)

Summit: Lakeview Mountain (ascent via North Ridge; descent via South Ridge)

Hike 2 – Quiniscoe Mountain Summit Loop:  Glacier Lake to Scout Lake

Starting & Ending Point: Quiniscoe Lake Campground

Way Points: Glacier Lake & Glacier Lake Saddle & Quiniscoe Mountain summit & Quiniscoe Lake Saddle & Red Mountain summit & Red Mountain Arm & Scout Lake Bowl & Quiniscoe Creek (hike & scramble)

Summit: Quiniscoe Mountain (ascent via South Slope; descent via North Slope)

Summit: Red Mountain (ascent via Southwest Ridge; descent via Northeast Slope)

Hike 3 – Stone City Mountain Summit Loop:  Glacier Lake to Ladyslipper Lake

Starting & Ending Point: Quiniscoe Lake Campground

Way Points: Glacier Lake & Glacier Lake Saddle & & Devils Woodpile Peak summit & Devils Woodpile & Stone City Mountain summit & Stone City Arm & Ladyslipper Lake & Pyramid Arm & Pyramid Lake (hike & scramble)

Side Trip: Smokey the Bear & The Giant Cleft & Ovis Mountain summit (hike & scramble)

Summit: Devils Woodpile Peak (ascent via Northwest Ridge; descent via Southwest  Slope)

Summit: Pyramid Mountain (ascent & descent via Southwest Ridge)

Summit: Stone City Mountain (ascent via Northwest Slope; descent via Northeast Ridge)

Summit: Ovis Mountain (ascent & descent via West Slope)

Approximate Total Stats:  25 miles traveled; 8300 feet gained and lost.

——————– Full Trip Report ——————–

For this year’s Golden Larch Trip, Kevin K, Maria, Janet, Steve L, Fay, Eileen, and I spent several days at Cathedral Provincial Park in the Similkameen Mountains.  This park is situated immediately north of the Washington / British Columbia border, approximately halfway between the Cascade Crest and the Okanogan Highlands.  The park features a half-dozen beautiful sub-alpine and alpine lakes—collectively called Cathedral Lakes—as well as numerous peaks and ridges above 8000 feet.  An extensive network of hiking trails and marked paths connects most of these mountain attractions.  Access to the core area can be made either by a 10-mile trail or (for about US$80 per person) by a 1-hour shuttle ride.  During our spell of cold but dry weather, we completed three delightful loop hikes and tucked in seven easy summits.

Day 1 – Home to Quiniscoe Lake:

We all met at the Cathedral Lakes Lodge staging area alongside the Ashnola River Road at 1:30pm.  From the Seattle area, this was a 5- to 6-hour drive (excluding stops), depending on the route taken.  Soon after, a lodge employee loaded our bodies and gear into a beefed-up Suburban and drove 10 steep miles up to Quiniscoe Lake.

Quiniscoe Mtn From Quiniscoe Lake

We then walked 100 yards around the lakeshore to a spacious campground with tent platforms, picnic tables, food lockers, fire rings, and pit toilets.  This became our basecamp for the next four nights.  Throughout our stay, nighttime temperatures hovered near freezing, and there was a skiff of fresh snow on the ground.  Firewood was available for purchase at a nearby ranger station, and we made good use of this amenity to take off the chill.

Basecamp At Quiniscoe Lake

Day 2 – Lakeview Mountain Summit Loop:

Our first day hike of the trip was a 10-mile loop over the summit of Lakeview Mountain.  It was a crisp, sunny morning, and all seven of us headed eastward on the Centennial Trail, passing Lake of the Woods and Pyramid Lake in the first hour.  Fresh lynx tracks led us down the trail for more than a mile.

Hiking Out Of Camp On Day 2
Lake Of The Woods View
Grimface Mtn From Pyramid Lake

We dipped down to cross Lakeview Creek before starting a long ascent of Lakeview Mountain’s north ridge.  The high alpine tundra here is characteristic of the entire park.

Cathedral Rim From Lakeview Mtn
Hiking Up Lakeview Mtn

We reached the desolate summit in the early afternoon (4.9 hours + 2550 feet from camp).

Reaching Summit Of Lakeview Mtn
Group On Lakeview Mtn Summit

Being one of the two highest points in Cathedral Provincial Park, Lakeview Mountain provides a good—albeit unfamiliar—view of the Cascade peaks to the south and west, as well as Okanagan and Okanogan peaks to the east.

Grimface Mtn & Matriarch Mtn From Lakeview Mtn

To continue our loop hike, we descended the mountain’s south ridge to a broad saddle below an elongated, blocky ridge called “The Boxcar.”

Descending Toward The Boxcar
Traversing Below Lakeview Mtn

At the saddle, we turned west and dropped down to Goat Lake (7.4 hours from camp).  Grimface Mountain and its subsidiary crags could be seen towering above the lake.

Matriarch Mtn Above Goat Lake

We followed the Goat Lake Trail along Lakeview Creek until intersecting the Centennial Trail, then we followed the latter trail back to camp (9.6 hours + 3100 feet total loop).

Larch Band On Lakeview Mtn

Day 3 – Quiniscoe Mountain Summit Loop:

Our second day hike was a 6-mile loop over the summits of Quiniscoe Mountain and Red Mountain.  As had been forecasted, the weather was cloudy and calm, with occasional snow sprinkles.  Janet and Maria elected to stay in camp or hang out at the nearby lodge, while Kevin, Fay, Steve, Eileen, and I headed out on the upper Glacier Lake Trail.  We passed above Glacier Lake, which exhibited an unusual swirl of ice.

Ice Sheet On Glacier Lake

Steve turned back here, whereas the rest of us continued hiking up to the Glacier Lake ridge saddle on Cathedral Rim (1.7 hours + 1400 feet from camp).

Glacier Lake From Cathedral Rim

At the saddle, we turned northward on the Cathedral Rim Trail and proceeded up to the summit of Quiniscoe Mountain (2.2 hours + 1750 feet from camp).

Eileen & Fay & Kevin On Quiniscoe Mtn Summit
Pyramid Mtn & Devils Woodpile Peak From Quiniscoe Mtn

Continuing northward on the Cathedral Rim Trail, we crossed over the top of Red Mountain (3.7 hours + 2050 feet from camp) and descended to the east.

Hiking Over Red Mtn
Descending Red Mtn Arm
Fancy Cairn On Red Mtn

On the ridge above Scout Lake, we intersected the Centennial Trail and then followed it back to our camp at Quiniscoe Lake (5.5 hours + 2100 feet total loop).

Hiking Thru Cathedral Lakes Resort

Day 4 – Stone City Mountain Summit Loop:

Our third day hike was a 7-mile loop over the summits of Devil’s Woodpile Peak and Stone City Mountain, with some interesting sidetrips thrown in.  It was another calm, sunny day, and noticeably warmer, so everyone joined in.  We headed back up to Glacier Lake, variously following the upper and lower trails.

Glacier Lake Larches & Water

We continued up to the Glacier Lake Saddle, then followed the Cathedral Rim Trail southward.  The route is well-marked with cairns, some of which are quite large and artistic.

Glacier Lake From Cathedral Rim
Rime Ice On Cathedral Rim
Hiking Along Cathedral Rim

Eventually, we reached the summit of Devil’s Woodpile Peak (3.2 hours + 1700 feet from camp).  Scenic Ladyslipper Lake shimmered in the sun below us.

Lunch Break On Devils Woodpile Peak
Ladyslipper Lake From Devils Woodpile Peak

Fay made a scrambling ascent of nearby Pyramid Mountain, a distinctive point on the ridge between Glacier and Ladyslipper Lakes.

After a long summit break, we hiked a short distance over to the Devil’s Woodpile proper.  This interesting geologic feature consists of well-exposed and highly curved basalt columns that sweep into vertical and horizontal orientations.  Such curvatures are fairly common in the upper “entablature” portion of a basalt flow (in contrast to the lower “colonnade” portion), and it has been theorized that they form where lava flows into a bowl-shaped depression.

Basalt Columns At Devils Woodpile

Moving farther to the south, we came to Stone City Mountain (4.4 hours + 1950 feet from camp), a local high point that exhibits hundreds of eroded granite outcrops.

Prowling Around Stone City Mtn Summit

Through a combination of physical erosion (wind-blasting and freeze-thaw) and chemical erosion (acidic rainwater), these outcrops have been shaped into fascinating spheres, pucks, dumplings, and tables.  Such features are called “tors” or “hoodoos” in other parts of the world.  There were also some stone animals.

Weathered Granite On Stone City Mtn
Giant Pika On Stone City Mtn
Weathered Granite On Stone City Mtn

Several of us made a sidetrip over to some of the park’s other geologic attractions.  The first was a granite tower called “Smokey the Bear” for obvious reasons.

Smokey The Bear

The next attraction was a large, parallel-walled chimney called “The Giant Cleft.”  This chimney was created by erosion of a vertical basaltic dike that previously intruded into a granite tower.

James And The Giant Cleft

Eileen and I continued traversing over to Ovis Mountain, a local high point at the southern end of Cathedral Ridge.  Although not a notable summit, Ovis Mountain gives a good view of nearby Grimface Mountain, the topographic centerpiece of Cathedral Provincial Park.

Eileen On Ovis Mtn Summit
Stone City Arm & Ladyslipper Lake From Ovis Mtn
Grimface Mtn From Ovis Mtn

By the time Eileen and I returned to Stone City Mountain, it was late in the afternoon and everyone else had already headed back to camp.  We followed the scenic trail down a rocky ridge, across a broad arm, and down through larch groves to reach Ladyslipper Lake (7.8 hours + 2850 feet from camp).

Ovis Mtn & Smokey The Bear From Stone City Arm

We deemed Ladyslipper Lake to be the most beautiful of all the Cathedral Lakes.  A prohibition on camping here helps to keep the shoreline pristine.

Pyramid Mtn Above Ladyslipper Lake
Cathedral Rim Above Ladyslipper Lake

We arrived back in camp minutes before dark (9.0 hours + 3100 feet total loop) to find our comrades contentedly sitting around a crackling fire.

Evening Light On Lakeview Ridge

Day 5 – Quiniscoe Lake to Home:

We awoke at 7:00am and were packed up before 9:00am, in time to catch the first Suburban heading down.  Because another party of three campers was heading out on the same shuttle, Kevin and Maria graciously agreed to take a later shuttle.  Eight people and gear managed to squeeze into the Suburban for the 1-hour trip down to the Ashnola River valley, where our car awaited us.


——————– Route Map / Sketch ——————–


——————– Photo Gallery (click to enlarge) ——————–