I’d put off this hike for years thinking it wasn’t worth it; 900 m of elevation gain in the trees with only a partial view at the top doesn’t sound like a good return for your energy investment. But a funny thing happens over time when you spend long enough in one place: you find yourself wanting to explore it all. It’s no longer enough to just tick off the hikes in the guide book, you want to really get to know your proverbial back yard. Plus, back in 2005, we hiked another trail in this area to the upper cascades on Mosquito Creek and I’ve been wondering if I could re-discover that route. And so curiosity finally got the better of me and I teamed up with Andrew to go find out for ourselves what Mount Fromme was all about.
We parked at the top of Prospect Road and headed for the Baden-Powell trail. Our first stop was the waterfall over the old dam in the canyon of Mosquito Creek – another reminder of how rugged the terrain can be on the North Shore. We picked up the B-P trail heading east as informed by a sign to pick up the Cascade Trail up the slope. As North Shore trails go, this is definitely one of the nicer ones. Sadly it’s all to short and soon we were surrounded by the dismal trashed second-growth forest. We weren’t entirely sure which series of trails we were supposed to take, and we picked what seemed the most likely route at each intersection. We came to a mountain bike trail that we believed to be Dreamweaver and followed it up towards the Old Grouse Mountain Highway.
As we reached the top we saw that it was actually a different trail but no matter: it popped us out onto the old road pretty much where we wanted to be. Andrew recognized where we were on the road having explored it a couple of weeks earlier, and we picked up the Per Gynt trail as we had planned. Up through more second growth we went and met the road once more higher up. Up the road to our left was a gravel pit but the trail continued straight across back into quite hideous post-clearcut new growth. In this stretch we encountered vast amounts of fallen trees and following the trail became an exercise in spotting the next orange marker and tackling the tangle of tree limbs in the best manner possible.
After a while the forest changed, and for the better. We were now in the old-growth section and despite the now-continuous snow cover, our travel was much more enjoyable. Thrushes warbled in the trees, grouse boomed away. Spring was in the air, but winter was still on the ground. Normally I would be hesitant to find a route through the trees in snow but the trail markers were always obvious and we had no problems staying on track. We came to a shallow dip in the terrain which we knew meant we were now at the base of the final climb to the summit.
The slope steepened initially as we climbed but soon levelled off again and within a few minutes we sensed daylight and emerged onto a small flat opening that marked the summit. Immediately I found myself thinking that it was a worthwhile hike: the summit had unique views into Lynn Valley, overlooked by Coliseum and Burwell, not to mention the intimidating peaks of the Needles. Mount Seymour was nicely framed between the trees. After a few minutes taking pictures we sat down and ate lunch. We’d seen only a handful of people including a couple of mountain bikers, and we shared the summit with one other person.
When it was time to move on we had a choice: re-trace our steps or find a way over to the smaller north summit? A couple of minutes’ exploring and we had our answer. We picked our way down a not-quite-so-steep snowy slope into what must be a meadow in summer, probably with a small tarn judging by the lay of the land. We found some crampon tracks leading in the right direction (plus the occasional trail marker) and within five minutes we were perched on the tiny outcrop that marks the northern summit. I have to say it felt a little hairy since the ground dropped away precipitously either side of the outcrop, and we had to cross a small patch of snow to get there. I didn’t want to think about what might happen if one of us slipped. But that was undue worrying and we wedged ourselves into a couple of suitable dips in the rocks to take in our new view.
It was totally worth it: we had a great view of the east slope of Grouse Mountain and the ski slopes, something I’d never seen before. In front of us to the north lay Thunderbird Ridge and beyond Goat Mountain and Ridge. What was I saying about getting to know your back yard? Yeah, definitely worth doing.
On our descent we lost the trail markers and ended up contouring around to the south side of the mountain to pick up the trail again. Except we picked up a different and much steeper trail, which was a little tricky thanks to the rotten snow. A little tricky, he says? I have to say in some spots I feared for the integrity of my limbs and at one point I broke through the snow up to my thigh, scraping and bruising the side of my knee. But that was the worst of it, and eventually we left the snow behind though that meant we were now on slippery roots – not really much better. Thankfully that section was short and we dropped out of the trees onto the old road once more, and followed it back down to pick up Per Gynt down again.
Along the way I spotted some coltsfoot, which I always wanted to see as it was the favourite spring flower of a friend who died a couple of years ago. As ever, first I spotted one plant, then two and then more than we could count. They’re unusual flowers but it was a treat to find them. Further down the road we heard frogs croaking and a grouse calling for a mate. The grouse stopped us in our tracks as it seemed like it must be right next to us. We came to the edge of the quarry and peered between a few trees to see a dark brown bird about the size of a chicken with gaudy yellow patches on its sides: our first live sooty grouse sighting! Looking it up later I found out that they used to be called blue grouse, but that’s a generic catch-all term for two very similar species. Grouse Mountain is named after the sooty grouse.
Here we were a little bit naughty and relied on the grouse’s desire to just keep calling. We gently corralled it into a more photographic location and we spent a couple of minutes taking some photos and recording some video. The grouse didn’t seem to mind too much as it never stopped, and with our memory cards suitably filled we left it to its purpose. To our amazement, within 50 metres we saw another one! Eight years of hiking in the Lower Mainland and we see two grouse on one hike!
With that it was time to duck back under the trees and we followed Per Gynt steeply down, down and more down until we picked up a trail we recognized from the morning. And what do you know? There was a sign pointing to Mosquito Creek Cascades. Next time… We re-traced our steps and were back at the car in good time.
Maybe we did it on the right day, but it was a fine mix of cardio, route-finding, views and flora/fauna sighting. Best of all it was peaceful having seen barely anyone all day, which made it a positively meditative experience. All in all, I’d definitely do this hike again.
Distance: 11 km
Elevation gain: 900 m
Photos of Flickr