Howe Sound Crest Trail June 6, 2015

06:00 we were off with two cars, one destined to stay at Porteau Cove and the other at Cypress Mountain. The typical Howe Sound Crest Trail thru hike arrangement. Once at Cypress we did one last check of our gear and started off on our first overnighter of the season.

After a later start than we wanted 09.35 ( somehow missed a marker on the HSCT-E ???) we were back on track to St. Mark’s Summit. The trail is hard packed gravel and fairly easy going to start, but quickly turns to a well worn, well marked rooty trail. At 11:02 we reached St. Marks Summit, Elevation 1371 m. and coming from a guy that does a lot of hikes mid-week, the crowds up there were not my cup of tea. The weather was great, so it brought everyone out. We found a “quieter” spot, took a bit of break and we were off again. Cypress Provincial Park

St.Marks Summit

The next accent on the Howe Sound Crest Trail is Unnecessary Mtn., Elevation 1548 m. It is a steep climb and definitely a bit of a grind. The rewards though are worth it as the Summit, the highest on the trail offers 360 degree views. We reached the the South Summit at 14:30 and The North Summit at 15:20. From this point on the hikers thin out, and the trail starts to feel like you are truly “getting away from it all”. Also a note, looking at our time, I realize how much slower our pace was with overnight packs. Our breaks weren’t the shortest and our packs definetly not the lightest. (Not a surprise when your hiking partner is carrying 8 litres of water and half sac of beer, haha)Lions Fron Unneccesary Mountain

We pressed on, next stop  “The Lions”. To me there is something really magical about the Lions,  especially up close. We all stare at them from the city, these two prominent icons so visible in our daily lives, but to be up close to them is something really special. Howe Sound Crest TrailEast LionThe trail basically traverses the Lions and skirts you along them as you scale between them. I will add that at this point, that there have been multiple sections on this trail that are quite challenging and especially with a heavy pack, quite dangerous. A lack of attention, a slip, or going unbalanced would prove to be very unfavourable or worse.

We had ever intention to proceed onto Magnesia Meadows for the night but factoring time, it was now 17:30, the hike ahead and the fact that we were starting to concern ourselves aboHowe Sound Crest Trailut the lack of water and how much we had already drank. We stopped. That decision proved to be valuable for more than one reason. Not only did we find a super sweet spot to camp, but we were also able to find snow to melt and treat to replenish our water supplies. More importantly to set up camp, eat a nice meal, replenish and relax while still daylight. Also once around the Lions and seeing Thomas, James and David Peaks left to do, we were thankful we didn’t carry on! Camp would be the col of the Lions. With the city views, the Lions right in front of us and the upcoming day behind us, we picked the perfect spot to stay the night!!

Howe Sound Crest TrailHowe Sound Crest TrailHowe Sound Crest TrailThe next morning we were in no real rush. The only thing that remotely had us moving were the bugs. The mosquitos were horrendous up there and unrelenting, but aside from that, a spectacular place to wake up and have a solid breakfast and coffee before we broke camp. Before leaving though, we filled a 10 liter MSR bladder with snow and would treat it as we went along. I still had 1.5 litres of original water and while Keith was already on treated snow. I knew at this point that packing a Lifestraw with me, would prove to be essential.

The Lions

View looking back at camp along base of Thomas Peak.

 

Howe Sound Crest Trail

James Peak

09:30 we started our decent toward Thomas Peak, it was alrHowe Sound Crest Traileady hot and we knew it was going to be a scorcher. The trail basically skirts along the bottom of Thomas through scree and boulders until you start your accent to James Peak, 1466 m. James is steep and although our packs felt a little lighter, every movement needed to be well planned. We stopped briefly at the top of James and proceed to descend James only to ascend David’s Peak. Descending James was not easy with lots of  steep gnarly sections. David Peak for me felt tougher than James, maybe it was the heat or maybe running out of fresh water was playing on my mind and I was conserving my original 1.5 litres. Either way the slog to the top of David was a bitch. 1496m. Once at the top we signed the book up there and pressed on.

Howe Sound Crest Trail

View from David Peak

David was steep up and especially down. You learn quickly that down is not easy, I’ll go up all day long, but downhill sucks. Either way, still worth the price of admission. Anyday!!!

After off of David, the trail becomes quite picturesque, we likened it to being  “the sound of music looking”and it really was. We are so blessed to live where we do, when just around another corner is “somewhere else” that blows your mind for one reason or another.

Howe Sound Crest Trail

At this point it’s now 11:45 and we are on the cut block on approach to Magnesia Meadows. The southern exposure isn’t doing us any favours and I’m thirsty. I basically bare down and try to get off that exposed cut block as fast as possible and the whole time all I can think is “when I get to Magnesia, I’m going to Lifestraw the @#$% out of the first waterfall I find!”.

LifeStraw

Magnesia Meadows

Magnesia Meadows is beautiful and it’s here we see our first hikers of the day. After drinking through the first stream I find, we stop for a well deserved lunch. (Note: this was the first water on the entire hike other than the little snow that was available.)

Magnesia Meadows

During our break, a small group of runners stopped by and chatted with us. Most people you find on the trails locally are friendly and it’s so refreshing to be out there and meet people with similar interests. Carrying only no more than 3 or 4 l with them, I asked “what about water” and the  one of the responses was “Lifestraw”. As someone who had used it literally for the first time ten minutes earlier and admittedly a little concerned, this was the answer I was looking for!

Pressing on from this point forward was going to be uncharted for the both of us. I love that feeling of not know whats ahead, what surprises we’ll encounter.  I’ll say that it did not disappoint!Howe Sound Crest Trail The approach to Brunswick Lake is stunning and as you progress further gets increasingly beautiful.

At 16:00 we reached Brunswick Lake,  stopped again and took it all in. The waterfalls, the beautiful tree line and rock were absolutely spectacular. After another quick snack and more water, we continued

Enroute to Brunswick LakeSmall lake on trail to Brunswick Lake

Brunswick Lake

Crossing between the two Lakes Next stop Hanover (middle) Lake and lastly Deeks lake. There are a lot more opportunities for water for the remainder of the trail and I definitely took advantage of the run off with my Lifestraw after Brunswick Lake.

I’m not gonna lie the last portion of the trail was a slog and felt endless. Certainly not for its lack of beauty, but for its incessant downward slope and seemingly forever lasting path. Add to this a 4 km final stretch down a logging road, that we thought was only going to be 2km. At 20:20 we were finally done. A long day, but gratifying to say the least.

In hindsight, I feel doing it the opposite way would be a lot easier, but either way it’s an unbelievable trail with so much rugged terrain and natural beauty. We who get to explore this ‘backyard’ of ours are truly blessed.

Howe Sound Crest Trail, check!

Howe Sound Crest Trail

 

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