Another hike without Maria – that makes a few this year, a most unusual situation. She was down in Seattle with the rest of her rapper sword dancing team learning some new moves. The original concept of this hike was a pre-Stein `get to know your fellow hikers’ trip, though it didn’t work out that way with Maria in Seattle and Christian elsewhere. That left Merewyn, Su-Laine and myself so we decided to top up the numbers by calling it out as a Wanderung trip.
Seven of us made our way to the trailhead in Lions Bay and we were lucky to get parked only 10 mins down the road instead of all the way down the hill at the school (the trailhead parking for this hike is small and the local residents are understandably not very keen on cars being parked all over their grass). At 9.30 on the dot we passed the yellow gate which marked the official start of the trail and began the steady march uphill along the logging road. We made good progress, though it did feel like it went on for longer than I remembered (we last did this trail in September 2005). After a few turns the old road headed uphill alongside Harvey Creek before descending to the creek and across on a sturdy bridge. Remarkably, almost half of the elevation gain has been achieved by this point and it’s a good job because now the hard work really begins!
Once over the creek the trail headed steeply uphill and for the next hour or more we slogged back and forth on many switchbacks. Or at least, it would have been that simple had it not been for the large quantities of deadfall blocking our path, which required that we crawled under or clambered over numerous trees. In several places it was not possible to find or follow the original trail and new routes had been tramped down through the debris. At one point we were able to get a great view up to the face of Unnecessary Mountain (see photo above). It was hot, slow and grubby work and we were all extremely glad to break clear of the trees onto what I think is an under-rated feature of this hike. The trail approaches steeply from the west and turns south along a fairly narrow (though flat) ridge. It’s a steep drop on the east side of the ridge, which is more like a cliff, and the ridge ends abruptly a few dozen yards north with an equally impressive drop down into the Harvey Creek drainage.
Time to pause for a breather and get our first glimpse of the west Lion. The first time we did this trail I was both awed by the sight of the steep talus field and cliffs on the north side of the Lions, and disheartened to see how much further we had to go to reach the end of the trail. This time I was prepared for that and just enjoyed the view. Moving on, we now left the shade behind and emerged into the scorching mid-day sun. But the trail here goes through beautiful subalpine meadows, with red & white heather in bloom along with purple mountain daisies, yellow arnica, partridge foot, and saxifrages. Well it’s not a trail so much as a route over lumps and bumps of granite, following a creek bed in places. Then there were the stunning views down onto Lions Bay and Howe Sound.
On such a scorching hot day we were glad of any respite we could find, and we were amazed to find (and thankful for) a few remnant patches of snow to roll around in and cool off. What bliss! Unfortunately the cooling effect wore off within minutes of leaving the snow behind. Fortunately there were several snow patches. Crossing the last one, we reached the ridge of the Howe Sound Crest Trail and turned left (north) towards our lunch spot near the west Lion. The trail here was just on the bare rock, and involved the use of hands here and there on a couple of steep spots but it’s quite gentle and a lot of fun. Within a short time we had reached the final ledge before reaching the west Lion and the scary scramble to its summit. Well, I’m not into that and everyone was more than happy to find a comfortable spot to have lunch, and take turns at scaring ourselves by peering over the cliff-edge.
Views, beautiful views and more. It really is a glorious landscape of grey and green and blue. What you don’t get is a good view of the Lions themselves. The west Lion is considerably fore-shortened by being so close, and the east Lion is completely hidden. We really need to do some of the other Howe Sound Crest peaks to get good views of the Lions. Unnecessary would be a good place to start. We took the obligatory photos, including a group shot, before heading back the way we had come. The snow provided welcome relief again on the descent.
Steadily, steadily we made our way back down through the meadows, back into the trees and down, down to Harvey Creek where several members of the group took advantage of the cold water to cool off their feet (and other parts!). Then it was back to the (s)logging road and the never-ending trudge back to the cars. After what seemed like an age, we reached the cars and headed off to Horseshoe Bay for well-earned sustenance (ice cream!). On the drive home I couldn’t resist pulling in to Queen Elizabeth park to catch the spectacular moonrise. A fitting end to a great day out. Home, unpack and a long refreshing shower :-)
Distance: 16 km (+1 to get to/from the cars)
Elevation gain: 1300 m
Photos on Flickr