February 26, 2022
~ submitted by Brian Flemming, photos by Brian Flemming and Matthew Lettington
I joined the Island Mountain Ramblers recently to branch out a bit, meet some new people, learn some new things and participate in some safe group activities and hopefully summit a few mountains I wouldn’t be able to do alone.
Today’s snowshoe was a good example of a hike that I wouldn’t have done alone because of the weather.
A group of five of us left the Raven Lodge Parking lot at around 7:15am, aware that there was a weather warning in effect and there was supposed to be a good amount of snow throughout the day. At 7:45am it started to snow lightly and picked up quickly. We were walking across Helen Mackenzie Lake sometime around 8:15am. The wind was driving the snow into our faces, visibility wasn’t the greatest and things didn’t improve!
Most of us started off using microspikes, and sometime after Helen Mackenzie we put on our snowshoes. There was some sort of path at one point as most of this trip was following a trail to Circlet Lake, a summer and winter camping spot, but at this point everything was buried in snow again.
Eventually, we jumped off-trail towards Strata Mountain. The first way we tried to go up proved a little too steep. We made our way back down and found a slightly less steep path up the hill. Crampons would have made this a lot easier.. or shorter snowshoes at least. We made it to the top a bit before 12 and hid in the trees as best we could from the wind for a quick snack.
One of the guys took up a Ham Radio to the top and set it up to make a quick call out. He is participating in a project called Summits on the Air. The goal is to make radio to radio contact from the summit of specific peaks to other HAM radio operators. He was the first person to make a call out on a HAM radio from Strata Mountain. He was super excited about it and it was cool to see.
We set off back down from the top, and found that our trail was already difficult or impossible to follow. The snow had filled everything in already. After we were off the mountain and back near the main trail we would end up following what we thought was our old path just to end up off course following a different route elsewhere so we ended up following a looser path back.
The walk across Helen Mackenzie was worse the second time around, the wind still blowing in our faces. We made it back to the parking lot around 4:30pm. There was no snow on the ground there when we left in the morning and there was around 12″ around my truck by the time we were back.
Super stoked I got out for this one, even with the stormy weather. It was a great experience, I learned a few things, met some new people and it’s another mountain off my list!