Climbing Mount 5040 via Cobalt Lake, Bare and Beautiful!

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Vancouver Island’s weather often is incongruent to which weatherman forecast. Sunday, February 22 was an exception, we were promised an amazing day and that is exactly what we got! Sunshine, warm breeze, excellent visibility and dry conditions, it was like hiking the alpine in late June! The perfect day for a my first summit of Mount 5040, located in between Port Alerni and Kennedy Lake.

Mount 5040 is like most peaks and is hiked by multiple routes, we approached via Cobalt Lake . Accessing the 5040 trailhead is done via Marion Creek FSR. It’s in reasonable condition.Between the road and the the trailhead there are around a dozen cross-ditches, none of them is extreme. I was able to maneuver my Subaru Outback through them with careful navigation. The road slowly gains altitude, my vehicle had no issues with power up hills and there are no steep hills.

GPS route to Mount 5040
View GPS route with photographic annotation

Horizontal Distance: 6.7 km
Starting Elevation: 610 m
Maximum Elevation: 1538 m
Elevation Gain: 950 m
Time: 5 hours

Phil planned our route and it looked like we would be able to do the return trip in under 5 hours. The Cobalt Lake route trailhead is marked with a wooden sign labelled 5040; around 9.5 km from highway cunning right!? Even as we approached the trailhead I was blown away by the view. Marion FSR cuts through a valley, on the the south side of the Triple Peak and Cat’s Ears, on the north mount 5040.

By 8:45 we were ascending the first portion of the trail, through a replanted cut-bloc. The trail shows evidence of recent maintenance, there are plant clippings on the well booted trail. In comparison to the descent from Mount Tsable last weekend, the hike up to Cobalt Lake is a dream!

Thought the route is clear, well booted and marked it is still not for the faint of heart. We were fortunate that the hiking conditions were so favorable, warm, sunny and dry. The route is filled with wood, roots, and slab rock. In rain or heavy frost, the route would be treacherous as it climbs steeply.

a few little sections like this on the way to Mount 5040
a few little sections like this on the way to Mount 5040

We made it to Cobalt Lake (1150 m)  just after ten, about an hour and 20 minutes from the car. Cobalt lake lived up to its name, a deep blue. Made even more special by the patchy sections of ice on the surface. We rounded the south edge of the lake and started climbing toward 5040. Hiking beyond the lake, there is no shortage of views. Phil was able to point out the peaks in the distance, including Pogo and other peaks in the Mackenzie Range. Because the day was so clear, we could even see between the western mountains to see the Broken Group Islands.

Cobalt Lake iced over, the summit of Mount 5040 on the left
Cobalt Lake iced over, the summit of Mount 5040 on the left

The route from the lake is well marked but it becomes more challenging to follow as we started to hit the first patches of snow, we relied on flagging and footprints to guide our way.  The route climbs  through the rock and compacted snow but we didn’t need snowshoes. As we traversed the west face of 5040 we made the decision to tackle a more direct route to the summit, rather than rounding the south end of the summit massif and wrapping around to the west face before ascending.

Shot from above Cobalt Lake, Mount 5040
Shot from above Cobalt Lake, Mount 5040
I’ll be honest, don’t follow my route to the summit, It becomes very steep quickly. Before long, we were hauling on the branches of the hemlock and low lying plants to insure we didn’t slip on ice and dead grass.   Eventually our route did rejoin the more common route that wraps to the west face.  From this point, it was very easy to pop over to the summit. We arrived at the summit (1534 m) at 11:20, just under two and a half hours (remember Phil and I are both quite long-legged). 
Phil with Triple Peak in the background, shot from the west face of 5040
Phil with Triple Peak in the background, shot from the west face of 5040

At the summit we took our sweet time enjoying the view. We could see Mount Klitsa, Mt. Adder, and more!  I am definitely inspired to do more traversing in the region.  I suspect sometime this summer I will return, maybe with Kim and Hemingway and do a wander across the entire Coblat Ridge. We spent close to an hour scanning the distant mountains and talking. We were looking at Triple Peak, scanning to spot some hikers that went up as we were coming up 5040; they were driving in front of us as we approached the trail head (as it turns out, it was Jaime Crucil, someone I’ve hiked with in the past). From the summit, we could hear the sounds of rocks falling, it took us some time to realize that it was a few hikers at Cobalt Lake throwing rocks onto the ice.

Phil Jackson with Triple Peak in the background shot from Mount 5040
Phil Jackson with Triple Peak in the background

Matthew Lettington with Triple Peak in the background shot from Mount 5040
Matthew Lettington with Triple Peak in the background

We descended to Cobalt Ridge via  the more common route. As I mentioned in the beginning of my post, the weather was stunning, on the summit the temperature was likely 15 degrees. The warm temperatures brought the whole world out to hike!  On the descent we passed several groups of people, likely about 24 hikers in total.

We made it back to the car at 1:45 and made our way home.  A good day hiking often leaves me instilled with a sense of satisfaction and inspired to plan more hikes. This was a great day.

See full album of 28 photographs….

Cobalt Lake showing her colours
Cobalt Lake showing her colours

Vancouver Island mountain ranges, shot form Mount 5040
Vancouver Island mountain ranges, shot form Mount 5040

Broken Group Islands, Shot from Cobalt Lake
Broken Group Islands, Shot from Cobalt Lake

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