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- Distance: From parking lot to summit is about 4km, with 900m of elevation gain
- Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult, steep trail up to Cobalt Lake, then moderate-difficult route to the summit. A few minimal-exposure scrambles required on the way to the summit.
- Hiking Time: About 1.5 hours one-way from parking lot to Cobalt Lake. About 1-1.5 hours from Cobalt Lake to the summit. Great as a day hike but it would also be really nice to stay a night at Cobalt Lake and spend more time up there.
- How to get there: Follow Highway 4 west of Port Alberni towards Tofino. At the very top of Sutton Pass, reset your odometer. About 5km after the top, you will see a logging road on your left, which is Marion Mainline; the main access to this area. 6km down Marion Mainline you will get to an area that has 2 bridges in a row. This is where the NorthWest Approach to 5040 starts (not described). This is about as far as youíd probably like to go if you have a low-clearance 2WD vehicle because after this the road has lots of water bars and is pretty rough. To get to the Cobalt Lake route follow Marion Mainline for another 3.6km. You will arrive in a valley that has been clearcut and will see a small pullout on your left (room for only 2-3 vehicles). Park here and the trail is flagged on the left just before the pullout (GPS-N49 10.935 W125 18.142)
- This trail is probably best in summer and early fall, as there is considerable snowpack until late July/early August. The route can be taken in winter, and is apparently a pretty good winter summit but avalanche safety must be considered. The weather can deteriorate quickly at higher elevations. Always dress appropriately and watch the weather carefully.
- There is no cell service anywhere in this area, so make sure you leave a detailed trip report with someone in case you were to get into any trouble
- If youíre not feeling up to hiking all the way to the summit, the views from around Cobalt Lake are still great, and itís only about an hour and a half from where you parked.
- Water is easily available from the river and up to Cobalt Lake. Water should be carried up after Cobalt Lake as there arenít many sources higher up.
- Keep in mind that you will need a 4WD vehicle with pretty good clearance to get to the trailhead. Iím not too sure on the conditions of Marion Mainline in winter.
Have you ever driven Highway 4 out to Tofino on a clear day and noticed all the great peaks looming above the highway in all directions? And have you ever wished you could get a spectacular view of these mountains without having to bushwack for hours or climb up some class 5 faces? Well, 5040 may be your answer.
5040 peak gets its name from its summit elevation, and was named before Canada converted to the metric system (1532m, 5040 feet). It is a great mountain to climb on a clear day because it is surrounded by some of the most rugged peaks on the Island and can be reached via a great trail without too many steep or exposed sections. Some have described it as having the best views on the Island, even when compared to the Comox Glacier and the Golden Hinde.
The Cobalt Lake route was built in 2006 by the Alberni Valley Outdoors Club, and is still in great shape in 2011. The trail begins as a flagged route through the logging slash, and slowly makes its way up to the steep old growth forest above. The trail through the forest is quite steep, and makes its way over to follow the river that drains Cobalt Lake. Once the trail nears the river, it basically follows the river all the way up to the lake. Along the way, the trail starts to break into the more open sub-alpine and there are a few rock bluffs where you can follow the small cairns. There are a few small waterfalls before you reach the last stretch where you head north right up to the lake.
When we did this hike in Sept 2011, Cobalt was still almost completely frozen over, and there was lots of snow evident in the route to the summit. I wouldnít normally expect this in September though, as 2011 had a big snowpack and a cool summer.
The view from Cobalt Lake is great, as you look straight across the Effingham Valley at Triple Peak and Cats Ears Peak. I think it would be really fun to camp at the lake if there were less snow, although lugging a big pack up that steep trail would not be fun.
To continue towards the summit, you follow along the lakeshore and cross at the mouth of the river that flows out of it. Continue along the trail that heads up a forested slope and onto a big open ridge. Once on the ridge, you now have a great view of Steamboat Peak and Pogo Peak, as well as a clear view of the summit approach.
As you approach the bowl just below the summit there are two possible routes; one is to head straight up a steep gulley with some exposure, and the other is to veer right (east) towards the saddle and then turn left (NW) and follow the ridge to the top. We opted the saddle/ridge route as it was less steep and we did not have crampons or ice axes for the steep snow up the gulley.
The summit provides absolutely spectacular views. You look across at the mountains mentioned earlier, as well as Adder Mountain to the north, Klitsa and Nahmint, Mt. Hall, and even Mt. Arrowsmith way off in the distance. There is a summit register to sign before heading back down.
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