Snow Camp Mountain (Manning Park unfinished business #2)

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Skyline II to Snow Camp Mountain via Despair Pass (Manning Provincial Park) in July 2015 with Bengul, Daphne, Mandy, and Ron.

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The spring and summer of 2015 was mostly hot and dry, with record low rainfall throughout most of British Columbia. However, this day was mostly cool and cloudy, which gave me fears about history repeating itself. During the 2014 summer camp, the first week was mostly hot and dry but a few of us hiked to Despair Pass on the last day which was wet, overcast and cold. On this day we were lucky enough to have a mainly cool day with showers interspersed with sunny breaks.

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A small group of five of us piled into one car at my house, after some time trying to find the middle seatbelt in the back seat, made our way to the highway. Immediately on the Grandview onramp we ran into a police roadblock; Ron at first thought it was an accident and tried to drive around it before the officer pulled us over and gave him attitude for driving on the shoulder. She asked if he’d been drinking anything, to which he honestly replied “coffee”. Yep there’s lots of carloads of drunks going around at 7am dressed in hiking gear. Of course we didn’t actually say that, at least not to her. She wasn’t amused regardless but let us go on our way.

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The rest of the drive was uneventful and we made it to the Strawberry Flats trailhead, where we were met by a female grouse and two male Pine Grosbeaks.

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This hike starts out flat but quickly rises at a steady but comfortable pace to slopes above Despair Pass. At the trail junction, where Skyline I goes back toward Lightning Lake, there is a great view down to the upper Lightning Lakes valley. The trail actually drops down to Despair Pass before climbing back up to Snow Camp; it looks like more of a drop than it is but the 80 metres you drop to get to the pass needs to be regained on the way back.

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This cool day made hiking much more pleasant, with enough sunny breaks to give good views. Snow Camp Mountain is an easy walkup on a short side trail from the main trail, and we found a pair of Columbian ground squirrels at the summit, along with one small lonely Saskatoon bush. Chipping Sparrows and Mountain Bluebirds were around the summit, and from our lunch spot in a hollow out of the wind we watched a Northern Harrier followed by a Golden Eagle.

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As everywhere else this year, most of the flowers seemed to have come early. One floral surprise not far from Strawberry Flats was monkshood (Aconitum delphinifolium).

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