Distance: 11.5 km
Elevation gain: 815 m View map Download GPS track
I had very little information on the conditions after the warmup and rain of this past week and so left the house this morning with several objectives in mind, figuring I’d travel west until things started to look suspect. As I drove west from Longview, however, the brightening skies revealed that once again the Environment Canada forecast of sun was complete bullshit. The forecast models had predicted low cloud and flurries and that was exactly what was occurring. This severely limited my choices and made a short ascent of an obscure ridge north of Junction Hill look unusually attractive. Named StonyCat Ridge by Gillean Daffern after the drainages the ridge separates, I figured it might be far enough east that it would escape the “sunshine” further west.
I parked in the pullout where an old warden station once stood, a few hundred meters west of the south ridge of Gunnery Mountain and right where hidden Stony Creek crosses under the highway. After I geared up, however, I discovered that I should’ve parked 300 m further west at a gated road, but rather than drive there I just followed a short road, crossed Stony Creek, and bushwhacked the short distance to the actual trail.
The trail was in excellent shape with just a bit of packed and icy snow and I was able to make reasonable time as I ascended along it. A few kilometers from the road I encountered the tracks of a large cougar that had been hunting along the trail in the past day or so, then caught up to a couple of friendly deer hunters. They assured me I wasn’t messing up their hunt, and so I continued up the steepening trail.
Unexpectedly, the trail ended at a nice lookout about 3 km from where I’d parked. StonyCat Ridge was visible ahead, but a deep gully separated me from it. An old road running along the eastern flank of Junction Hill headed in the direction I wanted to go without losing elevation, however, and after a short backtrack and bushwhack I reached the road and continued towards my destination ridge.
Eventually I left the old road, descended a short distance to a drainage, then hiked steeply up the southeastern slope of StonyCat Ridge. I made a bit of a navigational error here and hiked along a nice grassy ridge instead of immediately gaining the highest point, and when I realized what I’d done I needed to do a bit of very steep easy scrambling to gain the actual ridgecrest. I’d expected the ridge to be open and mostly grassy, but it was rocky and had several small bumps that made the going tough. Exhausting me further was the foot of snow with a crust that couldn’t quite support my weight, making each step arduous and a bit unnerving as I never knew how far I’d be sinking, if at all.
While the weather had been fairly nice at the beginning of my trip, by the time I reached the summit it was completely overcast and snowing to the west and north, obscuring what would have been some very nice views to the west. I made a small campfire and had a relaxed lunch, then made my way back to the truck. Today the weather made it a rather dull hike, but this is an area with so many possibilities for exploration that I’ll be back one spring day in the future!