unt Manson
After camping the previous night at a commercial campground near Marysville, British Columbia, Eva B., John Bence, Parry Loeffler, Rob Maybury, Eva Nagyova, Zosia Zgolak and I drove deep into the backcountry on 3 September 2016 along St. Mary Lake Road.  We originally made plans to backpack near the Continental Divide, but the unsettled weather forecast forced us to head further west into the Purcell Mountains at the suggestion of Eva B. and John.  Although we were armed with trail descriptions from Janice Strong's Mountain Footsteps: Hikes In The East Kootenay Of Southeastern British Columbia, we were still a little uncertain about where to go at the start of the day, but in the end, we decided to try and visit Manson Col and possibly scramble up Mount Manson at the southern boundary of St. Mary's Alpine Provincial Park.

Following Strong's driving directions, we were only able to drive about two kilometres up a 4x4 exploration road after turning off the main Dewar Creek Road at an unsigned junction.  We began our hike about three kilometres short of Strong's suggested parking spot which is located at a fork in the road.  The left-hand fork leads to Manson Col while the right-hand fork leads to Jurak Lake, another destination described in Strong's guidebook.  Before reaching the fork, we passed a well-maintained yurt at the Mount Patrick Recreation Site.  The yurt was surprisingly unlocked, and we noted it as a possible place to camp if the weather turned really sour.

When we reached the fork in the road, we noticed a lot of fresh snow on the surrounding ridges, and Manson Col did not look too inviting.  As a result, we switched our plans to try and visit Jurak Lake instead.  We hiked up the right-hand fork and took shelter in some trees during a brief shower before following a flagged route up an avalanche slope beyond the end of the road.  While Eva B. and I climbed directly up the slope, the others found a trail which gained elevation more moderately through trees further to climber's right.  We all eventually reached the crest of the ridge overlooking Jurak Lake albeit in different spots.  We had another lengthy discussion here about where to go next, and we eventually decided to drop down and camp at a smaller unnamed tarn located just southwest of Jurak Lake.

Snow-covered rocks made for slippery conditions as we descended the other side of the ridge, but we all managed to get down safely to the unnamed tarn.  The ground surrounding the tarn was wet from recent snowfall, and it was very challenging to find dry spots to pitch our tents.  Once we got settled into our camp, we ate a quick dinner before spending the rest of the evening huddled around a nice fire built by Rob.
Nice yurt! The group checks out the Mount Patrick Recreation Site's yurt.
Except for the mice... The inside of the yurt is generally clean and well-maintained.
We're still not sure where we will be staying for the night at this point! Zosia follows the rest of the group up the access road.
There's actually a trail further to climber's right that ascends more moderately. Eva B. climbs up a steep and slippery slope.
The yurt is still an option at this point! Here is an aerial view of Jurak Lake and a couple of smaller unnamed tarns.
Sorry, the yurt is now out of the equation! Rob picks his way through a boulder field as he descends toward Jurak Lake.
Beautiful. Too bad it was too wet to camp here. The northeast outlier of Mount Patrick is reflected in the upper unnamed tarn.
Well, there are certainly worse places to camp... Rob carefully descends a rubble slope leading to the lower unnamed tarn.
So many unnamed features; I wish we had stayed at Jurak Lake! An unnamed peak is reflected in the lower unnamed tarn.
It's about a 250-metre drop from the ridge to this tarn. The group's descent route from the ridge is visible here.
Stinky but yummy! Running out of food, the group resorts to cooking their socks and leather boots for dinner.
On the morning of 4 September 2016, we had a quick breakfast and packed up camp before hiking up the ridge to the northwest.  Getting up to the crest of this ridge was not as straightforward as we were expecting because the terrain is more complex than it appears from a distance.  Once we gained the crest of the ridge, we climbed up to a nice viewpoint where we took an extended break to consider our next step.  The ridge appeared to be too technical to continue on, and the west side of the ridge is guarded by numerous cliff bands.  I had spotted a weakness in some slabs near where we first crested the ridge and thought that it might be feasible to get down into the next valley that way.  Meanwhile, Eva B. and Parry had spotted a steep couloir higher up the ridge and were strongly considering descending there.  I was not enamoured with the snow and the loose rocks within the couloir especially given our large group size.

Before we made any decisions, Rob dropped back down the side we came up and quickly disappeared from sight.  Unable to come to a unanimous consensus about which route to take, the rest of us decided to split up here with the understanding to meet at the yurt in case we became totally separated.  While Eva B., John and Parry descended the couloir, Eva N., Zosia and I descended my slab route lower down the ridge.  With some difficulty, the three of us slithered down steep slabs by sticking close to some trees interspersed with strips of dirt.  After getting through the most difficult sections unscathed, we still had to descend a lot of rubble to reach the valley floor.  From there, we turned southward and climbed up to Manson Col where we reunited with Eva B., John and Parry.  They had descended the couloir without too much trouble and reached the col well before us.

At this point, Eva B. suggested climbing up Mount Manson, and although the rest of us would have been quite content to return to our cars, I eagerly offered to accompany her.  A quick check on my GPS unit showed that the summit was about one kilometre away and would entail an elevation gain of about 300 metres.  This information seemed to convince the others to join us, and we all dumped some of our gear before climbing up Mount Manson's east ridge.  As it turned out, the east ridge is a bit more complicated than I was expecting; some moderate scrambling and even some route-finding are required.  Eva B. did a nice job of breaking trail through the snowy sections below the summit, and we all agreed that the views from the top were well worth the effort.

After retracing our steps back to Manson Col, we collected the gear we left behind and descended open slopes to the south.  Lower down, we reunited with Rob who had returned to the yurt via our route of entry and came partway up to Manson Col to look for us.  Together, we worked our way down through the forest to the Manson Col trailhead and enjoyed an easy hike back to our cars in growing darkness.  Returning to the Dewar Creek Road, we drove toward the trailhead for Dewar Hot Springs until we found a suitable pullout along the way to have dinner and camp for the night.
The ridge is more complicated than it looks from here. The group makes their way across rubble slopes aiming for the low point of the ridge at upper left.
Eeeeeep! A pika is displeased by human intruders.
Zosia made the mistake of following me up this not-so-great route. Zosia tries to get over an awkward tree branch while scrambling up a very steep chute.
We're not even sure if we can go down the other side of the ridge at this point! The group climbs up another boulder field to gain the ridge.
It's kind of a shame that we didn't even visit Jurak Lake! This is looking back at Jurak Lake and Mount Patrick (far right).
These are just the tip of the iceberg with respect to the numerous lakes located within St. Mary's Alpine Provincial Park. More unnamed tarns lie on the other side of the ridge. how do we get over there?? Zosia and Eva B. get their first good look at Mount Manson
John is on a scouting mission further along the ridge. The group takes a break on the ridge.  Manson Col is visible at right.
Decisions, decisions... Rob, Eva B. and John look down the couloir while Eva N. looks down the other side of the ridge.
Hang on to those larch trees! Eva N. and Zosia scramble down Sonny's slab route.
Great job, ladies! Zosia smiles knowing that she is past the most difficult sections of Sonny's slab route.  Eva N. follows behind her.
Nailed it! Here is a more comprehensive view of Sonny's slab route.
Beautiful, every which way! Mount Manson and Zosia are both reflected in another unnamed tarn.
It's a grunt but not bad. The route to Manson Col is steep, but the rocks are generally stable.  Note the figures at the col.
And that should be it for going uphill, right?? Zosia and Eva N. climb up to Manson Col.
John doesn't look so enthusiastic... John climbs up the east ridge of Mount Manson.
It's still easy scrambling, but it's no cake walk. The east ridge of Mount Manson is more complex than expected.

There is much to explore here...

A couple more unnamed tarns dot the landscape to the north.

Keep on grindin'! John follows Eva N. and Zosia up the ridge.
But the summit is further away than it looks! Eva N. and Zosia can see the summit.
For tarn-lovers everywhere! Some more tarns sit on the southeast slopes of Mount Manson.
The snow made these rocks very slick especially on descent. Eva N. and Zosia scramble up the last few rocks before the summit ridge.
Is Rob going to show up soon? On the summit of Mount Manson (2737 metres) are (L to R) Eva B., John, Parry, Zosia, Eva N. and Sonny.
Ski season already? A large snowfield sits below the northwest face of Mount Manson.

I wonder how many people ever get down there for a closer look...

Another lake and numerous tarns dot the landscape to the north.

Rob is probably somewhere down in the valley right now! Across the valley to the southeast is snow-clad Mount Patrick.  Manson Col is at far left.
Oddly enough, we were all running low on water at this point. Zosia descends from Manson Col into the valley below.  At upper left is Mount Patrick.
We reunite with Rob here! Parry, Eva B., Zosia and Eva N. walk alongside a reflective creek partway down from Manson Col.
And it isn't even possible to drive a vehicle here either! Parry arrives at the Manson Col trailhead.  Oddly enough, there is no established trail to Manson Col from here!
No worries; I'm used to hiking out in the dark! Evening alpenglow lights up the sky as the group hikes out the road in growing darkness.
Zosia and her other 'Sista'! Eva N. and Zosia share some wine after dinner at an impromptu campsite beside the forestry road.
How to turn a 1-day scramble into a 2-day trip! Total Distance:  22.1 kilometres
Total Time:  32 hours 49 minutes
Total Elevation Gain:  1800+ metres

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