There are trails in BC that every runner in Canada knows about such as the Baden Powell and West Coast Trail. However, it wasn’t until after moving to BC that I learned about the Howe Sound Crest Trail.
The Howe Sound Crest Trail is a (short!) 29km mountain trail that goes from Cypress Mountain to Porteau Cove. It is a net downhill with only 1,830m of elevation gain. Sounds simple, right? In 2016 I attempted it solo on a hot August day and after 11km and 3 mountain summits (St. Mark's, Unnecessary, North Unnecessary) I made the decision to turn around and head back to Cypress. I was dehydrated, I grossly underestimated the difficulty of the terrain and knew there was no way I was making it to Porteau Cove alive.
This week I returned to Cypress for round 2. I started solo at 6am on yet another hot August day. By starting early I was hoping to avoid the heat and spare my asthmatic lungs from the midday smoke from the raging BC forest fires. At 7:30am I was on the summit of St. Mark's. I was happy about the time, but already drenched in sweat and guzzling my limited supply of water.
On the approach to Unnecessary I accepted the fact that I wouldn’t make it to Porteau Cove today. My new plan was to get past the West Lion and to Magnesia Meadows, summit Brunswick and Harvey and exit down to Lions Bay. Objectively this would still have been a successful day in the mountains.
|Before things went wrong|
After summiting North Unnecessary and heading toward the West Lion I finished my last gulp of water. It was 9am, 30 degrees and I still had 5km of treacherous terrain to make it to water at Magnesia Meadows. I was determined to push through into new territory. Then I got to the Lions….
|The West Lion|
Those in the Vancouver area know that people have died falling off the West Lion. The Howe Sound Crest Trail goes around the peak and does not summit the mountain. After accidentally starting to ascend the West Lion I realized I was on the wrong trail and corrected my path.
With record breaking snow this past winter there was still a significant snow bridge across the valley between the East and West Lion. I spent most of June summiting snowy peaks on Seymour, the Lynn ridge, and around Cypress, however this was different. Slipping on the snow would mean shooting down into a valley of boulders. However, my main concern was the snow bridge collapsing and burying me alone in the valley between the Lions.
After 10 minutes of searching for a safe way across the valley I determined that it was time to turn around. A successful completion of the Howe Sound Crest Trail would have to wait for another year. I retraced my steps to North Unnecessary then instead of returning to Cypress I evacuated down the 1,500m descent to Lions Bay. This seemed to be the best choice, but in reality my knees were already knackered and not prepared for the 35% grade descent.
|The downs are so much worse than the ups|
When I return to the Howe Sound Crest Trail for round 3 perhaps I will finally make it to Porteau Cove. After a 2017 of 14 mountain summits, 100km in Black Canyon and 25 ascents of BCMC / Grouse Grind the allure of finally finishing the Howe Sound Crest Trail still beckons as I gaze upon the smoky North Shore skyline.
|Happy to be off the mountains|