The long way round

There are two main approaches to the Lions. The most popular route starts in Lions Bay and climbs up 1300 vertical metres to reach the base of the West Lion. Alternatively, follow the Howe Sound Crest Trail from Cypress Bowl, over St Mark’s Summit and the well-named Unnecessary Mountain. It’s more scenic, but nearly half as long again. On this occasion back in June 2015, we decided to combine the two: hike in from Cypress Bowl, and then descend to Lions Bay where we’d left one of our cars earlier in the day.

The hike can be broken into three: Cypress Bowl to St Mark’s, St Mark’s to the Lions, then the Lions down to Lions Bay. The first section is a hike we’ve done many times, and obviously the third leg is just the descent of the route from Lions Bay. The middle part is what we were most looking forward to, and it didn’t disappoint, treating us to some of most enjoyable hiking near Vancouver.

1. Howe Sound views from St Mark’s Summit.

Howe Sound views from St Mark's Summit #hsct #hiking #explorebc #howesound #stmarks

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This is the classic view of the rocky outcrop by St Mark’s, one of the most common hiking photos of the Lower Mainland on Instagram. For many years, the trail to St Mark’s was a truly awful mess of roots and rocks. Upgrades began a few years ago, but they weren’t done yet so we had to endure a little bit of old-time misery. Eventually we made it to the viewpoint and admired the sheer drop down towards Howe Sound, while trying to ignore the scampering chipmunks and swooping whisky jacks on the hunt for unattended food.

2. Vancouver from the Lions.

#Vancouver from the Lions #hsct #thelions #hiking #cypressprovincialpark

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The Lions are a distinctive landmark and visible from many parts of Vancouver. So it makes a nice change to be able to admire the reverse view, looking down the Capilano River valley towards the city and to the Fraser delta beyond.

3. The Lions from Unnecessary Mountain. Classic.

The Lions from Unnecessary Mountain. Classic. #hsct #thelions #hiking #explorebc

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OK I’ve saved the best for last. As I mentioned above, the section of the trail over Unnecessary Mountain to the base of the Lions is some of the best hiking in the area. Gorgeous open subalpine rambling through a green-and-grey landscape. This was our favourite part of the trip and had the best views, such as this one. The route ahead is clearly visible along the ridge top.

We could have sat at the top of Unnecessary Mountain and stared at this view all day.

Would we do this hike again? Not sure – it ended up being one of our longest days on the trail at nearly 11 hours. Somehow we just need to get to that magic middle section…

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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 🙂

Lions in a frame

The Lions, framed at the north summit of Black Mountain.

Last Wednesday was a gorgeous blue-sky day and I couldn’t resist getting back out in the snow with my camera. The wind that greeted us at the north summit felt almost as cold as that in the Coquihalla at New Year and we quickly retreated to a nearby bump that retained a view of the Lions at least. And that’s when I saw the picture: the famous twin peaks were framed neatly between two snow-laden trees, and I had a nice foreground of smooth sunlit snow. Even the existing snowshoe tracks serve to frame the Lions.

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a fun festive season!

A sunny Christmas morning, and the only chance to get out in the snow all week. How could we refuse? We made an early start (at least by our standards) and enjoyed a peaceful wander up to the summit before heading back home to catch up with family on Skype (showing them some of the photos from the morning’s expedition) and then enjoy a lovely Christmas dinner with friends. A good day, for sure.

Rays of pink

A few pink rays over the Howe Sound peaks

Another perspective on last night’s incredible sunset. As the saying goes, as you’re watching a sunset (or sunrise), don’t forget to look behind you. I really liked the pink rays of cloud over the deep blue cloud-capped peaks along the Howe Sound Crest Trail.

Edgemont Village

The Lions through the seasons, as interpreted in Edgemont Village.

After hiking up to the top of Hollyburn, we called in at Edgemont Village to grab some lunch from one of our favourite places, The Bakehouse. Sadly, we learned that it had closed this location (its original) as a result of unfair taxation policy of the district of North Vancouver. We had to get lunch elsewhere (and it wasn’t as good), and it seems that Edgemont Village is changing character, going more upmarket than it used to be with new developments being built. On the positive side, though, they had these banners hanging from lamp posts and I couldn’t resist making up a diptych of the two pairs of seasons. Very colourful!

West Lion

A different view of the West Lion – taken from the trail up to Black Mountain at the end of March 2010

The Baden-Powell trail up to Black Mountain from Cypress Bowl used to be a leisurely ascent via an old logging road before entering old growth on the summit plateau. It was an especially pleasant approach in the winter meandering past (or over) frozen ponds and gradually climbing up to the south peak. As part of the preparation for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Cypress Mountain ski resort expanded its ski runs on the east face of Black Mountain, wiping out the old trail in the process, which was re-routed up the north side of one of the ski runs turning it into a boring miniature “grind”.

Boring, yes. But the saving grace of this more direct route is that it makes getting up to the summit of Black Mountain easy on those lighter spring evenings, taking barely 45 minutes. And so after work one day I headed across to the North Shore and headed up to the top to catch the sunset. Alas I was too late to catch the sunset itself, but I did capture this gorgeous soft light on the west Lion, all newly bedecked in the metres of fresh snow that fell immediately after the Olympics…

One other thing I noticed that evening was that I was alone – no one else was venturing up on snowshoes, and I had the entire hike to myself. It was so still and quiet, especially after the ski lifts shut down, that I could hardly believe I was so close to the city. Really, quite a magical moment and well worth doing, even if I did take a wrong turn on the descent and ended up coming down on one of the ski runs…

I put up a set of photos on Flickr if you want to see what else I took that night.