Mountain double act

Gratuitous mountain view for Mountain Monday – Brunswick and Harvey, a superb double act of Howe Sound summits. Which do you prefer?

Brunswick and Harvey, often mentioned together in conversations about the peaks of the Howe Sound Crest Trail (a backpacking trip I’ve yet to tackle), and two of several tough hikes that begin in Lions Bay. From what I’ve read, Brunswick – being the higher, slightly tougher, and more technical – seems to have the majority mindshare among hikers. I don’t disagree that it’s an impressive peak, and the summit is a fantastic area, but personally I prefer Mt Harvey because the approach is more pleasant (or less unpleasant depending on your point of view!), and I really liked the closer view of the Lions.

Both hikes are hard, involving over 1450 m of elevation gain at an average gradient exceeding 20%. Brunswick has the additional excitement of some scrambling and tricky terrain to negotiate (with some exposure too), whereas Harvey has only a few places near the top where hands are helpful. But for me, the hike up to Brunswick is just awful: over 2 hours of logging road followed by a direct line up the mountain through scrappy second-growth forest. Only once the trail hits the Howe Sound Crest Trail does it become interesting and fun. By comparison, the hike up to Harvey passes through more pleasant forest (even though a lot is second-growth), and winds its way up the steep slope in a more manageable fashion.

Maybe it’s only because I only recently saw the view from Mt Harvey for the first time, but, at least for now, I’ll take the less exciting summit with the more interesting approach!

And that was my 400th post on Instagram. It’s only taken me two years 🙂

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A view from sea level

Last weekend we were up on one of those peaks; this week we’re happy to admire them from sea level. Howe Sound summits as seen from Deep Bay on Bowen Island.

Much as I wanted to get back up into the mountains this long weekend, part of me just wanted time to kick back and relax and not do battle with traffic getting back into the city. Hence we ended up on Bowen Island for a couple of nights for a bit of relaxation, visiting with friends, and maybe a hike up to Mt Gardner so we didn’t feel totally lazy!

This afternoon, after hanging out at one beach, we ended up back in Snug Cove where we wandered out to the Causeway to look for birds (lots of geese and a few common mergansers) and to take in the view across the water towards the peaks of Howe Sound that we’d seen at much closer quarters only a week ago. If we couldn’t be in the mountains, it was nice to be able to at least look at the mountains 🙂

The path ahead

Still some snow along the ridge towards Mount Harvey. Saturday was a beautiful day to be up high, and the snow was a welcome cooler! Full trip report on LiveTrails.

The last (and only other) time I reached the summit of Mt Harvey, the only view we had was straight up through the clouds to blue sky above. All around us was heavy cloud that refused to lift or burn off. I therefore wanted to wait for a clear day to repeat the long, steep climb, and Saturday was perfect. (Well, nearly: it was probably a bit too hot for hiking, though we were in shade for most of the ascent and there was a nice breeze at the top.) And it was worth the wait: the view is incredible, and I think I prefer it to that from Mt Harvey’s taller neighbour, Brunswick Mountain.

Of course, it was never far from our minds that this was the place where five snowshoers died back in April, and we met a Korean hiking group at the summit who were there to remember their friends. This part of the ridge shows the remnants of some of the cornices that form during the winter, and even though they are a shadow of their former selves, we were careful to ensure we kept well back from their edges.

Mud, glorious mud!

It’s what hiking boots were made for, right? Plus trekking poles are great for checking mud depth before committing 🙂 Good things to have for classic North Shore trail conditions.

I’m always trying to think about contributing a post for Leave No Trace Tuesday on Instagram, and this struck me as a good one to talk about given how the popularity of the trail to St Mark’s Summit has increased with the rise of social media. So many hikers do not wear footwear that can deal with these conditions, instead often decked out in light runners (trainers, as we’d call them). In turn this means people will try and skirt around the mud, often forging a new trail which will eventually get just as muddy. For years I’ve tried to set an example by walking through muddy sections – usually picking my way over rocks and/or bits of wood – but it doesn’t seem to be catching on.

Alas there were no views from St Mark’s today – the good weather in the forecast was a few hours late!

Mist in the trees

Sometimes you just have to take whatever views you get

This is my contribution to Instagram’s plethora of misty tree shots 🙂

The forecast looked promising: a cloudy start clearing to sunshine by noon. Alas it was wrong, and we got nothing but a great view of the clouds at St Mark’s Summit! Of course, by the time we were driving back over the Lions Gate Bridge we were in glorious sunshine.

Cornices

Cornices on show on the West Lion and the three peaks of Unnecessary Mountain

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we hiked part of the Howe Sound Crest Trail from Cypress Bowl to Lions Bay last June. The section that traversed the three peaks of Unnecessary Mountain (on display in this photo) was some of the loveliest sub-alpine terrain we’d hiked. Just beautiful country.

If anyone wants to discover this view for themself, head up to Artisan Square on Bowen Island. Good chocolate and treats up there too 🙂

A sea of mountains

View from the stern – peaks of the Howe Sound Crest Trail on a lovely sunny afternoon

After our quick trip into Lighthouse Park, the sun came out for us as we took our bikes over to Bowen Island to meet up with friends. Since the bike racks were at the back, we were the last to offload so we hung around and admired the view across the water. We’d hiked that line of mountains on a muggy day in June last year, something we’d wanted to do for a few years. Beautiful hike, but not to be underestimated!