On Top of Frosty Mountain (Manning Park Unfinished Business #3)

October 2016 with Janet S, Daphne, Bengul and Murat, Helen G, Deanna, Azarm.

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I’ve done the hike to the Larch Meadows six or seven times, but for various reasons never made it past the last larches. Last time it was wind and snow, and we were prepared for both this time. But we lucked out with good weather and a good group of reasonably strong hikers – it’s a big climb but just needs a steady pace to get to the meadows and a bit of willingness to get hands-on when you get onto the ridge. And wind resistant clothing doesn’t hurt.

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Is it Mount Frosty or Frosty Mountain? Supposedly the convention is that if a mountain is named for a place or a person it’s Mount Strachan, Mount Logan, Mount Columbia etc, while if it’s descriptive it’s Black Mountain, Pyramid Mountain, Flatiron Peak etc. So unless the highest peak in Manning Park is named for a guy with a corncob pipe and a button nose, it’s properly called Frosty Mountain. But most people seem to call it Mount Frosty so there you go.

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But if it’s not a “mount” does the proper name rule change? Like Harris Ridge, Ha Ling Peak, Franchere Peak (I’ll leave it to the reader to look up where all these are).

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It’s a stiff hike to good views and is good all summer, but most people save it for the last half of September through Thanksgiving when the western larches are in full colour. I will go out on a limb and say that the larches in the Rockies, in places like Lake O’Hara, Healy Pass and Larch Valley near Lake Louise, put on a more spectacular show. Meadow Mountain and Monica Meadows in the Selkirks are pretty amazing too. But this is pretty special. And lots of people go.

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This is one of those places where, after you’ve been there enough times, when you get to a certain spot you think “we’re here already?”. Most of us had a brief half lunch in the larches, though one person was more driven and kept going. One decided that the meadows were enough for the day and the rest of us followed on at our own pace.

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The trail gets a bit steeper through the last larches then turns into a steep rocky route. Seen from a distance or from certain angles it looks scarier than it is, but I wouldn’t want to do it in rain or snow. It mostly levels out at the junction with the trail from Windy Joe Mountain (or should it be Mount Windy Joe? and who is this Joe person anyway?). Speaking of windy, this is where I decided it was time to put my sweater on. I haven’t been to Windy Joe (maybe it’s Unfinished Business #4 except I’ve never started it) so cannot attest to the climatic conditions there, but it was quite windy enough here.

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The summit ridge from the Windy Joe junction

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The Three Brothers look like little bumps way off there.

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Frosty is the highest peak in the park but the actual summit is out of reach for anyone without wings.

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Daphne and the others were waiting and she welcomed me to the summit. She’d been to Frosty three times before and had only missed out on the summit once before, on our snowy 2014 hike. Either she’s just had better luck than me or she’s been hiking with more determined hikers than I have.

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Photo by Azarm

Windy, yes. We huddled in this little rock windbreak and had the rest of our lunch.

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Azarm and I were the last ones to come down from the summit, apart from a young French Canadian couple who were probably the last ones there for the day as nobody else was coming up past the larches by then.That was a relief because we were already concerned about getting back to the trailhead before dark (though we had no trouble) and I’ve been on too many hikes where we’ve seen people starting up a long steep trail while the sun was on its way down.

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There weren’t any birds or critters to speak of on this trip. Just brilliant larches, spectacular scenery, a good hiking team and a great feeling of finally getting to the top of Frosty. Whatever its name is.

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Mandy had driven with us but spent the day wandering around the lake shore. When we got back to the trailhead, we were surprised to run into Rosemary and Paul who were stopping off on their way back from the Rockies. Larches? Been there, done that. But for me this was still far and away the best day hike of the year.

 

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