Coliseum Mountain, 12 Jul 2009

Coliseum has been on our to-do list for some time. From most of the North Shore peaks, its flat open summit area taunts us with the possibilities of hours of rambling and exploring. Finally we made the time to do it, and opted for the route described in Matt Gunn’s Scrambles book: cycling 9 km up the Seymour Valley Parkway and then tackling the shorter, steeper ascent from the east side. The conventional route follows Lynn Creek to Norvan Falls, at which point all the elevation is yet to come.

Coliseum Mountain, 12 Jul 2009   Coliseum Mountain, 12 Jul 2009

Six of us (Maria and I plus Andrew, Merewyn, John and Steve) made our way to the car park near Rice Lake, while Anne, Adib and Susanne started from Lynn Valley. The hope was that we’d all meet at the summit. We strapped our boots (and our new camera) to our bikes and headed off at a leisurely pace along the roadway. It took us about 40 minutes to reach the trailhead, on a gravel road that cuts sharply left just after the 9 km marker. We locked and stowed our bikes and found the flagging which led into the forest.

Within a few metres the trail steepened and duly set the tone for the day’s hiking. On and up we went, sometimes steeply, sometimes very steeply with a few scrambly bits over boulders and trees just for fun. The trail was obvious but not over-used: for the most part it was barely a few boots wide. Sure it was steep, but it was not too difficult and we kept up a steady pace. After about an hour and a half we reached the Seymour Lookout where we were greeted to fantastic views all around, including a good look at the cliffs and bowl on the east side of Coliseum. It was great to get a new angle on Mt Seymour too.

From here we had to lose elevation (groan) before climbing steeply again for a short while. In places the trail was little more than a route along a stream bed – nice. We crossed a little snow patch, which was put to good use cooling us off, and headed up a steep slope through berry bushes. We came to a small boulder field under the cliffs of Coliseum and turned south to reach the pass where the trail from Norvan Falls joined. There was no sign of the others, so we turned right (north) and headed up towards the summit of Coliseum.

Coliseum Mountain, 12 Jul 2009   Coliseum Mountain, 12 Jul 2009   Coliseum Mountain, 12 Jul 2009

A steep climb here, a drop or two there… Despite feeling very close, it took us almost another half an hour to reach the summit. Very deceptive. We kept looking out for the others but there was still no sign. We pushed on and reached the summit, 4 hours after leaving our bikes. Yup: it’s a tough hike all right.

Now we had the summit plateau stretched out before us, with Mt Burwell tantalizingly close. A short distance away was a small tarn, still half-full of snow. Of course, Merewyn and Andrew went for their customary swim (July’s lake), and they were joined by John. A new recruit for the challenge, perhaps? :-) We were content to watch and take photos as usual.

Coliseum Mountain, 12 Jul 2009   Coliseum Mountain, 12 Jul 2009

We rested and ate a late lunch, before exploring the area a bit. We were carrying our newly-acquired camera (our first digital SLR), so we were keen to test it out and take photos. We soon grew fond of the wider angle lens… From here we looked over towards Hanes Valley – another hike on our to-do list – plus Goat and Crown Mountains. It was fabulous to be up there and looking back at all the spots we’d admired Coliseum from. It’s just a pity that the weather wasn’t better, as it had clouded over and turned quite dull after our sunny start.

We eyed up Burwell and reluctantly decided we should leave it for another day. It was time to turn back. We returned to the summit of Coliseum for a group photo among the blackflies before beginning our descent.

Coliseum Mountain, 12 Jul 2009

There was still no sign of the other group and by now it was far too late to expect to see them. We soon reached our descent route and carefully made our way down. We made much better time and were back at the bikes in two and a half hours. Yay! We were done. Except not quite… we still had to cycle another 9 km back to the car. I think that everyone enjoyed that ride back, except me – my legs did not want to know and complained loudly at every hill. It took me ages to get back, the longest 45 minutes of my life! It’s a good job we didn’t take any longer as we packed up and pulled away with only half an hour to spare before the gate was locked. We finished the day with a well-earned burger and beer at the Marina Grill, underneath the Second Narrows Bridge. A grand day out, and a hike I would definitely do again.

Distance: 10 km hiking + 18 km cycling
Elevation gain: 1330 m

Photos on Flickr

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