“Mr H and four days in a lookout”
Windy Joe Lookout (5974')
Windy Joe Summit (5987', p8xx’)
Manning Provincial Park New Year’s Lookout Trip
Dec 29, 2012 – Jan 1, 2013
Carla Schauble, Susan Ashlock, Charlie Hagedorn and Franklin Bradshaw
Weather: Sunshine, valley lows to 8F, summit lows to 22F, Winds, slight to none
Come again New Years Eve. Some interested were sick. Seems a nasty flu making the rounds. Carla, Susan and Charlie decided to join for this year’s four day trip. Most location options would have good weather. Key would be a lookout or a hut we could pretend was a lookout. Of the choices our pick would have the least straight out ski laps, but we figured the least population. Windy Joe it would be. Next year we’d have the other savory options. Earlier in the fall I’d made a trek from the next trailhead west over Frosty to Castle Peak. A stunning trip, I’d hoped to come back and see Windy Joe. No idea of how good the ski prospects would be, but knew it would be a new adventure/location for each of us.
Cold, snow, and up all the way
Even though we left Seattle early, we were leaving the trailhead after 12:40p. The border crossing went well enough with only a slight entertaining delay. We did have warning ahead of time, so no surprises. Passing Hope (B.C) the stories were flowing. This would start as a Rambo (First Blood) theme, but luckily not carry on with that them. Even though the elevation was only a hundred feet +/- above sea level, the roads started to have snow covering. Clouds obscured views, but the stories kept us occupied. A mere 204 miles and a stop at the Manning Park Lodge (motel) for the last warm facilities for the next four days. A right onto Gibson Pass Road toward Silver Lake and Gibson Ski resort (Manning Map, trail maps). Shortly just over the Similkameen River bridge we parked in the south side pullout. Somehow I’d managed to fill my largest pack to the brim and then some. I managed to get the pack on my back, but looking at the others, I wondered what I’d missed on leaving stuff behind. The other packs looked so small.
The trailhead was well marked to Windy Joe. Starting on the Similkameen Trail (12:40p) Mostly flat, over the river on a snow pillowed bridge. One switchback with a drop to keep things excited. Pass a few snowshoers. A trail to the right was well marked with a sign decorated for the season with pillows of snow. The river trail kept going forward as we went right starting uphill –the route to Windy Joe, Mt Frosty and the PCT (1:15p).
The gal at the “lodge” told us the trail was easy to follow being wide. It proved to be wide and an easy pitch, it was a low angle road. It was one of those more closed in feeling days. Trees on all sides, low clouds leaking white flakes of snow, a trail ahead… By the time I passed it was well trod with Susan strongly leading the way. Hmmm, this would be nice having a strong trailblazer. Seemed hours, only a couple turns and signs of a past set of snowshoers having been this way. On and on, slowly gaining elevation. In the middle of the trail stood a sign post (2:35p).
Our route would be east and left, while the trail to the PCT kept going forward. The snow shoe tracks would disappear as the snow increased with depth. A few fallen trees that tested our agility, a few switchbacks to help us gain elevation. The trees looed fairly dense. We’d yet to see anywhere to get easy turns, heck, the trees were dense enough all we could see were the trees and the trail/road. For those coming this way, the road would be very easy to drag a sled. More switch backs and a few spots looking to be skiable. We must be getting near the top. I thought I could feel Mr H kicking wanting to get out. On our left the first glimpse of Windy Joe Lookout. We spiraled around counterclockwise, past a sign to the outhouse, still wrapping around in a circle till we stood on the flat treed top with beautiful Windy Joe Lookout in front of us (8974’, 3:40p, 3 hours and 8 km from the trailhead).
Mr H meets Windy Joe
We’d accomplished our task of the day –get to the lookout before dark. The days are very short with a mere 8h 14min between sunrise and sunset. We had no idea what to expect of the lookout, except no heat. I was a little surprised opening the door to look into a bare –as in totally empty room. The only objects were two low log benches and a stair ladder in the middle. We knocked the snow off our boots, dropped our packs and bundled up. Tonight there were no views, just clouds and light snow that seemed to be stopping. Back inside Mr H had made himself at home. We fired up both stove and started melting water and making dinner. Tonight the temperatures were suppose to drop to 14F, a hot water bottle would be the nice.
A venture upstairs to see the sighting tool that filled the middle of the small room. If needed a few people could sleep up there. We wondered if Niko would try to catch up with us. Maybe he got a late start? Maybe he was still feeling sick. It was now dark. The lantern giving the room a glow. I thought I was seeing a reflection of our headlamps on the windows when I realized it was the flash of headlamps approaching from the trail. How many could this place hold? We planned on three nights, how crowded would it get. Mr H isn’t into crowds, and we didn’t want a feisty sock monkey on our hands. Lucky for us, it was a father and son coming up for one night. They socialize a little and decided to camp upstairs. Sleeping was sweeping snow from a spot on the floor and crawling into the sack with a hot water bottle. Eyes closed, I had no problem drifting off.
Day 2, trek to Frosty
We slept in, waiting for daylight, maybe hoping it would be warmer. It didn’t get warmer, but the skies were clear.
Sunrise at 8:05a. Mornings orange light glowing on the frosted windows. Outside there were trees, all around trees. Not a full blockage, but not the un-obstructed views I’d expect from a lookout. I’d read that the trees on top had been thinned. Standing there I could imagine Joe, camped out on the summit in his tent. The warm tone of morning sun peeping between summit trees and stretching low across the snow. The top was flat with only a slight slope for some distance before dropping off. Walking north a good view to Manning Lodge and east and great view.
Castle Peak Mt Frosty to the west
From the summit high point we had peak-a-boo views of Mt Frosty and Castle Peak.
Skis patiently waiting Windy Joe, Charlie and Mr H Mr H inspects a binding
We’d talked plans a little. A trek toward Frosty seeing if we could ski some of the SE slopes and scout out some I’d seen last time in on a north aspect. Little did we realize how far a trek on such a short day to get to Frosty. Seemed we had plenty of time, forgetting momentarily how short the days are we clicked in and started our trek to Frosty at 9:50.
We short-cutted from the summit due west a few turns to the road. Followed it to another cutoff. The snow was light, though in the trees, not as deep as we’d experienced at home. I had to remember we weren’t in the bountiful coastal mountains. Back on the road a downhill left, over a tree obstruction and at the right turn switch we proceeded straight down through the trees. The trees were snug, but allowed turning and log hopping. Below the 9” of fluffy snow was a harder crust. I hoped this was just a local occurrence. We veered left looking for the lower trail, but never saw it. A little venturing and up a bump to come back down to the low saddle between Windy Joe and Frosty (10:35a). So far my morning trekking skills were leaving a bit to be desired. The low point had a slight clearing. From here a fairly steep treed pitch to switchback up. Once above this it was a gentle low up through thick trees. We knew it was sunny, but didn’t see any of it til we popped through branches into a soccer field sized meadow. Heading west Susan lead on, out of the field, back into the trees and rising up a knob. Looking at the map we could figure where we were. The iso lines on the Canadian side of the map were at 100’ intervals, a little disorienting with being used to 40’ intervals. We dropped from the knob and soon found the obvious trail. Sweet, the way back we’d follow it, maybe a little easier. The trail lead us slightly down to another low saddle. This one appeared to have a small pond on the north and maybe a camping spot to the south. We lost the trail, so just headed up through the trees. Again at a little knob we took a short break before dropping the 40’ and continuing in the thick trees picking what we hoped was the easiest route west. At first it seemed we’d found the trail again, then lost it. Not problem, west it was. Rising up slowly then the woods started having small openings for another break. The pitch was now flat and the next opening provided warmth of the sun and great views to Winthrop (12:55p).
Open views and the Ridge
Oh, the sun felt so good. My spirits lifted. The snow was light and felt soft and deep. Setting track was easy and the open glades dropped far out of sight. There looked to be some promising skiing here. About 1:20p we were on the south side going up the ridge passing through a glade of burnt trees, yumm, good skiing…
After that the pitch increased as we finally started up, gentle then steeper. Enough to warrant a few switchbacks.
Susan kept us going a nice track and plenty of moments for shutter delay. We discussed progress and return options based on what we were seeing. It was becoming apparent we were not summiting Frosty today. Sunset was around 4:20 or so and we needed to be at least to the lowest saddle before dark. Going up is okay in the dark, but skiing tight trees in the dark was not on or list of things to do today.
Our 2:15 turn-around stretched out to 2:30. That got us up what proved the best part of the ridge to see the remainder of the route to the summit ridge and also stunning views SW to Castle Peak. The ridge above looked windswept. Possible to get up, but windswept didn’t promise great skiing. To the NW we could see to the flat larch meadow north of Frosty. An inviting slope with SE exposure lead back the way we’d like to go, but not in the plan for today. We took in the views and sunshine, ate, drank, ripped the skins and gave a last good look around.
Looking east to the Pasaytens and Winthrop
Looking NW –just above the ridge is the long larch meadow the Frosty trail passes through from Lightning Lake
From sun to dark
The high ridge proper had wind packed areas and powder deposits, Nice to be skiing and looking up, the views were stunning. The valley below looked inviting to ski to, but the day was growing old and we needed to head back. Down and left, down and left. Traverse a ridge and down, more trees, fluffy snow, big smiles and some hoots. Now lower angle and openings, then trees, the openings well past the burn area. Hmmm, I’d like to ski that burn. Seemed too short we were back at the flat of the ridge where we’d had a lunch’/snack break. I was feeling bad about the ratio of touring to sliding. What would we do tomorrow. Not the most turns for all the work, more a sightseeing adventure. My mind thinks too much at times. I snap out of thought. Charlie is there, but where are the others? The last couple hundred feet were pole pushing slightly up. They’d stopped to put on skins. In a north facing opening, sans sun the temps were dropping. After waiting I started the thicker tree shallow toboggan style descent. From open glade into trees. Fast reflexes at times, a pinch tree a little tight for comfort (and too much speed). I veered off trail right and left as much as possible to get extra fluff turns. Not prime open terrain turns, but turns, log drops, oops where’s the trail… No more down, I side stepped up the 30-40’ to the top of the knob we had a short break on and waited for the others.
We still had a long ways to get to the lowest saddle. Again a slight downhill in the trees, interesting the creative up-track to follow that spit us out of the trees at the saddle were we’d lost the trail (pond on the north?). Time to skin up. This time we followed the obvious trail gradually uphill. We passed our tracks coming off Pt 5640 (?) that we had topped on the way in. Pretty nice being flatter going around. This could make for a fast approach tomorrow. At a point somehow we lost the trail. No biggy, still light and we just kept heading east on the ridge as the trees became denser. Daylight was fading on us and darkness would soon enough follow as the slope finally dropped away to the low saddle. Not really skiable with the cluster of logs, crust and trees. Safe at the low point we pulled out headlamps and donned skins again. On our way up the first pitch we found the traverse of the trail. Sweet, tomorrow we’d try following the trail to bypass a little of the more “interesting” approach. Something about staying on a summit and a lookout several days. You pay for the morning downhill with the end of the day being up. For us it was a 900+’ up, and now in the dark. I like it in the dark, proves we didn’t waste any good daylight turning time. My mind wandered again. Would we have guests again tonight? Would Niko catch up today? Where the heck are we going to find turns tomorrow? Another cold night and another day left of the year, glad such good people to share the last turns of the year with. Slide, step, slide, slide, look up, slide, huff, huff… We basically followed our down tracks, crossed the road a few times and followed it to the lookout with shortcuts we found in the morning.
The stars were coming out and the lookout was dark. Skis stowed, down parkas, stoves blazing and hot drinks and food. Seems everyone had a good touring day. We discussed options for tomorrow. Ski the east side of Windy Joe, go back toward Frosty… From my memory, I remember that there was much baby love. That is we all had hot water bottles to warm. Stuffed in our coats like a hot baby. Maybe you had to be there.
Mr H has a thing for chocolate and…
Mr H didn’t mind the cold. He was busy building his chocolate stash. Being small he was fascinated by the large chocolate bars and finding it easier to roll the round chocolate balls. Hey Mr. H, we did notice you… Well into the dark (7:30p) we ventured out for night shots.
The moonrise, brilliant stars and wisp of faint clouds made for stunning night scenery hardly catchable with camera. Not sure how cold, at least low 20’s. It was a don’t take the gloves off too long, but not a the nose gets too cold kinda’ night. Never the less, we hung out til late and got to sleep sometime around 9pm –what a bunch of party hounds…
Last day for 2012 turns
It wasn’t a pop-up before light morning for me. More a, how can I stay warm morning. We were up by lantern light, breakfast taken care of, packs loaded and heading out as the sun rose. We followed our route from yesterday with corrections. We found the trail just above the low saddle and followed it to the low saddle (8:45a). In the middle of the woods, snow silently falling and trees surrounding, no apparent trail, just looking to be in the middle of nowhere stood a sign post.
Today we found the trail to save us some of the more “interesting” tree dodging.
A change of garb for the uphill and this time we followed the semi obvious, soon to be obvious… or you’d think obvious obviously trail to the left of our yesterday routes.
MR H and a Hare trail And Barney covered in snow
A nice gentle side hill up. Mr H came out today to lead us on. He was of mind to follow the numerous Snowshoe hair tracks, “they know where the trail is”. That worked for us. The hare prints disappeared and the trail flattened as we came to the point we lost the trail last night. At least tonight we’d have an easy trail to follow back. Past our tracks on the left coming off Point 5640, then I couldn’t resist a nasty cutoff. Oh well… Oops, the others followed –sorry guys.
Trail markers every Km following the Mt Frosty trail
The slight downhill brought us again to the saddle with pond on the north. Rather than our yesterday’s trail we found the not so obvious trail just south and followed it to the 40’ bump, then back in yesterday’s ski track, skinning up in the trees again. Seemed longer than yesterday as repeats always seem to be for me. The trees opened, topped out to the flat of the ridge, past the north facing clearing to the larger clearing with the grand view SE.
A tasters choice of turns
I was Jonesing for turns and this looked like a good spot to taste test the conditions. De-skinned I glided down the left side of the glade. Almost flat with powder rolled off to a nice comfy pitch. I dodged the trees on my left and stopped waiting for the others. They took a more west route, conditions looked different. I traversed west for photo ops (10:45a). The surface out of the trees (S-SW facing) had a slight sun crust. Not hard, but it had an effect.
Carla and Charlie… finally getting in a few turns
We dropped another pitch with snow conditions more effected by the sun. Below the next pitch steepened. Inviting for some challenging skiing, but not the fun we wanted if the surface was like we had. A traverse east didn’t show more promise. Across the gulley the next ridge west looked to hold some promise. Time to skin and head back up. Our sunshine had changed to gray skies and light snow.
Up the south side checking out the north side
Back at the ridge we found a spot out of the wind for a food break and figure were to go next. Talk of north side was inviting for non-sun baked snow. Charlie took a stroll that way, but looked like thicker trees than good skiing. We headed west, thought of the other south ridge, and hoping to find a nice line on the north side. The trees were slightly open for a gladed feel. Susan went downhill (southside) a bit to look at the pitch. We ripped the skins and followed.
Back to heading west, up the ridge in the small trees, And the burn area
Passing her the trees opened to the burn area I’d been jonesing for yesterday. Beautiful and magical. The slope was just SE facing enough to have great snow texture and gentle enough for little chance of sliding. Turns were easy dodging the tall grey skeletons. I stopped to video the others passing. They appeared and disappeared behind gray spires, dust flying and settling, silent except the occasional hoot.
Susan disappearing in the burn Charlie trying to blend in
We traversed SWW looking for more down, but again it looked like we had milked the best turns of the day. Time to go back up the ridge. The turns seem to have energized Susan. I headed up while the others were stowing skins. Not long, Susan passed in a shot dragging the rest of us back up the ridge.
Now where? Browsing again to look at the north side, Carla and I found what looked like promising pitches west and ahead. I went back and lured Charlie and Susan further up the ridge. Like the bait of happy turns just out of hands reach. I almost felt bad leading them on as we passed pitch after pitch that looked like tasty lines and good options, but little red flags kept us moving on. Always seemed to be “just around the next close ridgelette”.
Carla heading out of the burn Mt Frosty, a pitch will be just around the next ridge…
The ridge and Windy Joe in the background
The snow had stopped the trees thinned, views all directions (1:40p). The best view was looking down NW, a long wide gulley easy skiing, no really challenges. Looking back Charlie was still coming. He was the only one working his way uphill sans skins. Why put them on when it’s “just a little further”?
Last glory turns of the year –is it safe
We discussed options, our opinion of the slope and descent strategies.
Rip…. Click… Watching first skier descend…
Charlie went first. The wind had cleared the upper saddle area. Once into the pitch a few turns the snow softened and deepened. My turn, smooth turn, another, another and more…
Franklin finding the goods…, Image by Susan Ashlock
This was definitely what we were looking for. Susan and Carla painted nice lines as Charlie and I waited off to the far east side. We took another leap frog pitch finding a steeper spot to add a little thrill. Now at the bottom of the gulley the pitch was a gentle skiable pitch southside of the creek. It was nearly 2pm and we didn’t have time left in the day to re-ascend for a lap –bummer. Our choice was back up and follow the ridge out or follow the creek a mile and regain the ridge. For better or worse we chose the creek route. Gentle down gliding, then it looked like a lot of negotiating trees, logs and gulley. Skins on I lead up. It took some creative route building and was not an easy gaining of the ridge. We found our way around some cliffy areas, up deep snow through tight trees, dodged walls of fallen logs partially buried and finally the light of day (still) on the ridge (2:50p).
The “open area” going up. Just doesn’t look as steep as it was in person
As it was I was just happy to be back on the ridge. We took another short break, ripped skins and started our way back following are now well packed ridge trail. A little more familiar, we slid through the ridge glades to the flat. A little walk up and then into the tightly treed toboggan course. All together this time. I tried following Carla with the video camera in my hand. Seemed more fun trying it than he video turned out. We landed at the pond saddle with no casualties. The trail had saved us some time, now two more skin ups and we would be home. Along the route, I’d marked on the trail about the location of the top of the up. We stripped skins and slid well with a few poling areas. The trail back went quick, a few logs to go over/around and a last down landed us at the low saddle sign. Charlie was last coming in hot, good thing we were all clear, well almost. We’d made good time, it was still light as we re-skinned and followed our route back –all now familiar.
We arrived in time to watch the sunset from the lookout today. Nice how at te end of the day the sun can dip under the clouds.
Light at the end of the day
Back to the water melting and dinner prep. Did I mention the water bottle babies. As the sunset the temps began to drop. So much for the solar heating of the lookout. End of the year, days short and over seven hours til midnight celebration. One idea was take a nap then wake up to celebrate. Sounded pretty good to me. Not what happened though. Tonight we heard the chilling tales of the Pooporinos and the headless alpine toilet goat… Much conversation to take our minds off the cold. Some outside visits, and it really was colder out there. Carla put her iPod to use for tunes, that soon lead to name that tune. A bag of chocolate balls soon became prizes for naming the band. Surprising enough time passed by.
Last dinner of 2013 Moonlight and stars
Manning Lodge area Moonlight and Windy Joe Lookout
What about the Pooporinos and the headless alpine toilet goat? Well, we’ll save you those stories. Treat Carla to a hut trip and maybe if you are persuasive she’ll share the stories and mysteries with you.
Mr H wins some prizes Then we caught him sneaking a look at tune titles
More hot water, drinks, time outside for photo-ops. Something about bare snow angels??? Might have been the whiskey.
11:55p, Dec 31, 2012… time to wander north on the flat top for a view down to Manning Lodge and the hope of a little celebration.
On cue a few little fireworks –okay, nice enough. BOOM!!! FLASH!!! Oh, yeah. The real show started. Lasted a minute or two, hard to remember it was so cold. Short enough to easily miss if you weren’t there. Fireworks or not the moonlit view was stunning. I lingered a bit, then left Charlie and Susan to enjoy the view. More photo-ops. I was cold and too lazy to use a tripod, so was hand holding all the shots.
A short firework display at Manning Lodge area
I lasted a while longer, but not long. Before 1am I was snuggle in my sleeping bag with hot water bottle, dreaming of a relaxed and all downhill in the morning.
2013!!!! Bright, sunny and COLD
No Alpine wakeup for us. I think Susan made it out early enough for sunrise photos. Morning was cold (again), in the low 20s. Still warmer than the forecast and the sun made for a great departure day. Being in no hurry we checked out the views, the sighting equipment in the cupola and delayed with many photo-ops. The windows had an impressive mesh of crystal forms and the snow surface outside looked like small feathers (Hoar frost).
Just the normal views… Castle Peak. Summited in October with Dave and Milda –looks intimidating to me
Charlie checking out the Hoar Frost (Feathers)
Crystals on the window glass Charlie checking out the finder
More views Lookout clean and ready to leave.
Our plan today was (if we could get the energy up) the very short jaunt up to the true Windy Joe summit (5987’) to the south. Then as much tree/glade skiing as we could get with hitting the road for the glide out. Down the road and past the outhouse we headed up through the trees. Topping out the summit was tree covered, but sparse enough for a picturesque break.
What? Going uphill, I thought it was all downhill today
A nice Carla mug shot The true summit of Windy Joe
Leaving the summit and sun took a while. I would have hung out there much longer if the views were better. West down through the trees with full heavy pack (ugh), traverse to find the road. Every opportunity we took shortcuts for a few powder turns and then land on the road/trail and look for the next shortcut opportunity. One nasty log over the trail was highly entertaining. I’ll have to try to put together video on it. Carla watching the whole proceedings decided it was smarter to just take off the skis. Good choice, but not entertaining like the others passage.
A nasty log cross Carla being smart and taking off her skis to cross
One last skin up - Carla and Charlie showing how it’s done
We’d come to the end of gliding with the short uphill switchback. Last time to re-skin for this trip. I was feeling cold, it felt like it was very cold out, colder than earlier. Maybe I needed food or? My cheeks were cold, my nose really feeling it. I slowed pace to not sweat, maybe I was out of blood sugar? A little bit added a layer and kept moving. Snowshoers had packed the trail in abundance the past few days, the pillowed bridge over the creek was packed out and the trailhead sign signaling the end of the trek. The car was still there and covered in cold frost. The wetness of Seattle had frozen the locks. Susan managed to heat them up to unlock. Next time we’ll remember to get winterized diesel, this time we were lucky to get a start. The thermometer showed the temperatures in the single digits F as predicted. Thinking of it, I was so glad the summit was warmer.
Frosted Beard Frosted Bear Frosted Car
After four days with no respite from the cold, it was a pure luxury to step inside the heated and lusciously warm Manning Lodge. Charlie found the best seat directly under a heater, sweet….
The restaurant was packed from a local hockey match and understaffed. Our stomachs would wait til Hope. More stories, Rambo recollections and a nice little food place across from the river in town.
Our adventure was not over yet. Almost leaving town, out of the corner of our eyes we spotted an attraction we needed to visit.
Which one do you like best? I like Charlie’s and Susan’s expressions.
I liked both the pictures, you pick your favorite
Not sure what Carla was thinking… She’d been talking about First Blood on the trip…
We make it back into the country without issues. If I did Frosty again, I’d trek up from Silver Lake, camp north of Frosty in the Larch meadows, then a day or two skiing slopes, last night trek to Windy Joe Lookout and ski out last day making a nice loop
Thanks to Carla, Susan and Charlie for the great trip, even without as much downhilling as I’d like. Made it having good people to share it with.
Thanks for reading, and happy trails,
Day 1: 4.8m, +2170/-30
Day 2: 10.2m, +3585/-3555
Day 3: 10.3m, +/-4177
Day 4: 3.8m, +165/-2273
Total: 29.1m, +10097/-10035
Gear: Ski, BC, Avy gear, lots of gas and warm clothes
Copyright 2013, FWB, all rights reserved