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Lightning Ridge

Difficulty: 
Easy Winter Scrambling
Elevation [m]: 
2470
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
26.0
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1464
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
1752
Tripdate: 
Friday, February 22, 2013

For the second part of our Grande Cache weekend, Eric, Steven, and I headed up to the area around Lightning Ridge (the original plan called for a more ambitious trek to Turret Ridge but the weather wasn't cooperative) with a bivy near treeline. After doing a fair bit of frontcountry winter camping this was my first time winter bivying in the backcountry which does make for a different winter experience (not having the mental comfort of a car to go warm up in worst case scenario). Loading up our packs and setting out from the well signed trailhead ~3km in on a sideroad just north of Grande Cache we followed the normal trail (which thankfully had been snowshoed somewhat recently helping with trailbreaking) up for a few hours while the sun set and a nice bright full moon rose. The moon was bright enough that we could navigate without headlamps and we eventually broke out of the trees into the open meadows beneath Mt. Stearn and after finding some nice trees for windshelter set up our camp. It took a little over three hours to travel the ~6km to the camp but with heavier than normal packs it sure felt like a long ways.

Sleeping overnight made for quite a frosty experience and the lightening sky in the morning was quite a welcome sight! Following a roundabout path over to the climbers left ridge of the "Big Hill" lead to some dense bushwhacking but fairly soon we were back out in the open and onto the slopes of the "Big Hill" and had gained most of elevation up to Lightning Ridge. Once on the hill the wind came at us in its full frosty fury (with sufficient strength at times to knock you over if you weren't careful) which made snowshoes unnecessary and strengthened our resolve that the full traverse to Turret Ridge wouldn't be in the cards today. Its pretty much impossible to get lost at this point, just follow the ridge up (and down a bit to a col) until the summit mailbox is in view. Given the intermittent near whiteout conditions on the way up summit views were surprisingly good (still no means great) and on a clear day would make for a nice sight. After hanging around on the summit for a bit taking in the sights (and Eric trying to get his Passport for Lightning Ridge stamped to no success) we headed back down the way we came to camp (via an alternate descent with some fierce bushwhacking to avoid elevation re-gain), packed up our gear, and rambled back down to the car (once again navigating by moonlight). Not the greatest of views in our conditions and kind of a sloggy approach but still a good time overall, always nice to get out to a new area.

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