Lightning Strike and Monk Peak
Stagleap Provincial Park is renowned for backcountry skiing, but there is also a summer trail that dips along Lightning Strike. Ridgeline hiking is always a good choice, and this trail doesn’t disappoint with panoramic views of the mountains around Kootenay Pass.
Trailhead: Bridal Lake, Stagleap Provincial Park
Distance, Round Trip: 9.4km (Lightning Strike), 12km (including Monk Peak)
Elevation: +393m (Lightning Strike), +759m (including Monk Peak)
Parking at the top of Kootenay Pass to access the backcountry is a real treat – no Forest Service Road, no waterbars, no washouts! Just highway driving!
Once you’ve parked beside Bridal Lake, you must (carefully) cross the highway and begin following the old gravel road leading south.
This road switchbacks for 2.3km, and then a signed post on the right marks the start of the trail.
Lightning Strike and Ripple Ridge are used interchangeably to refer to this ridgeline which is confusing. The proper Ripple Mountain looms far in the distance and isn’t connected at all to the ridge.
Walking Lightning Strike
The trail lifts you out of the forest and onto an alpine ridge, smothered in dry meadow and pale bedrock. The views open up to low mountains on all sides.
The big Bear Grass blooms had withered down into scratchy stalks, but it was a great time of year for huckleberry picking. As we walked along, Cornice Ridge became visible to the north with the highway winding far below.
After about 4.7km, Lightning Strike ridge comes to an end and the trail fizzles out above large bluffs. This is a great spot for a break and a nice turnaround point on a moderate hike.
However, we were out with the Kootenay Mountaineering Club and that meant we had a more lofty objective: Monk Peak.
Ascending Monk Peak
We bushwhacked down a steep slope to reach the saddle beneath Monk Peak. Then we eyed up the summit and discussed the best approach. Straight up.
About half-way up the ascent, we hit a massive field of boulders which slowed me down quite a bit. The boulders wrapped all the way up to the summit and required a lot of physical and mental energy.
Monk Peak Summit
The view from the summit was stellar, though windy and cold! We had a relatively clear day, but wildfire smoke was still bluing the distance peaks and making sun rays in the sky.
Little Monk Peak
After a quick rest, we headed down a different route towards “little Monk Peak”, a smaller summit at the base of Monk Peak.
I was a bit slow coming down the boulders on Monk Peak, so I missed the group that dashed up to the summit of the Little Monk. The rest of us hunkered down in the saddle and tried to have lunch out of the wind.
We hiked along the base of Monk Peak to bushwhack back over to Lightning Strike. This lead us through some interesting mounds of conglomerate rock.
And then back up to the trail on Lightning Strike! Trail hiking is so easy compared to bushwhacking and boulder hopping – we were home in good time!