Howe Sound Crest Trail

This report contains 2 reports in one, I figure that because both trips are on the same trail I would share them both.

DEEKS LAKE July 2005:

Anyway, to add a bit of background information of myself and the trip. I've hiked up to Deeks Lake several times with my father in the past. He first introduced me to the trail when I was around 8 years old. I always used to remember it being a sanctuary all in itself up there and when I got older I've always had an itching sensation to go back. So after talking to my friends about hiking in a normal college social event, I interested three of my friends to go with me in late July 2005.
The plan was to hike up the first day, camp for 2 nights, and come back home on the last. I warned my friends about the rapid elevation gain and we packed our packs accordingly.
The trail starts from Highway 99 about 10-15 minutes past Lions Bay, just before Porteau Cove. The first 40 minutes of the trail will take you through a rocky trail with shin-high leafy plants on either side. If you like cold creek water more than bottled or regular tap water, like I do. Bring an empty bottle because your first oppurtunity to fill up is about 5 minutes from the trail head. There is a rocky area in the first section that provides a nice view of Anvil Island and Howe Sound.

After this, the trail comes out to a gravel road, turn right. To stay on track, keep left at all forks in the road. This is where you start realizing the significant climb that you chose to embark on, for this logging road is not flat by any means. With 30-50 pound packs between the 4 of us we took a small breather and tredged along the road. If you have binoculars keep an eye out along the ridgeline to the north . There is a brief moment where there is enough exposure to look closely at the cliffs for Mountain Goat.
We then reached the end of our journey on the road. The trail forks off to the left and climbs like crazy into the woody forest. From what I understand this is a new portion of the trail, the original kept following the road and then you had to traverse 2 land slides and then walk up to the woody area from a lower elevation. Anyway, keep an eye out to your right for a chance to see another lookout, a place to rest, and photo opportunity.
May I add, you will have more than enough water opportunities on this trip so do not worry.
The trail climbs for a bit then levels off for a ways as you walk toward Deeks Creek. Deeks Creek Falls known as (Phi Alpha Falls), is a site to see and a nice place to rest before the final trek up to the lake.

By this time, my friends were very tired and I could tell at times that they wanted to wring my neck at this point. But a little encouragement goes a long way and when we reached the lake they stood in awe. we continued along the trail to get around the lake and just before the trail cuts up the creek feeding Deeks Lake we descended towards the lake and crossed the creek to our campsite.

Looking across Deeks Lake at Brunswick Mountain in the left picture below and Rich posing in front of Gotha Peak in the right one.

The lake through the trees from the trail that goes around Deeks Lake.

When we finished setting up the tents it was time to catch dinner, they are small but delicious and a good reward after hiking all that way.

After dinner and relaxing around the camp fire it is time for bed and we all get a kiss good night well Rich looks on awe-struck as usual, lol.

Up bright and early next morning looking for firewood and then having breakfast and coffee.

After breakfast Rich and I head over to the rock slide that the trail passes through going around the lake and used charcoal and fish skins to write and perserve drawings on some rocks at the top of the slide. If you catch yourself walking along this wide open area, look up and you might be able to make out these black markings.

The girls were tired and decided to stay at camp. While my buddy and I trekked up the Howe Sound Crest Trail further to see Little Deeks Lake, (also known as Hanover Lake now), and Brunswick Lake. This was a first for me, up until this point I had never been past Deeks Lake. There is a log jam where the water exits Hanover Lake and you can get a nice picture of Brunswick Mountain. If you walk further you come across another waterfall. The trail follows this creek all the way to Brunswick Lake. When I saw Brunswick Lake for the first time I was blown away by its deep blue colour. We then noticed and concluded that there were indeed fish in these two lakes.

Going up the trail to Little Deeks Lake or also called Hanover Lake I believe.

Very shortly we got to the next lake, Hanover Lake. We pose for photos on the log jam at the mouth of the creek.
Closer view of Mount Brunswick in the clouds.

On the trail beside the lake and then the trail climbs sharply beside this water fall.

Beautiful Brunswick Lake.

The emergency shelter above Brunswick Lake.

We had some more time so we trekked further, past the emergency shelter and then walked off the trail towards the lower rock slides on Brunswick Mountain where there was snow and we took these pictures below.

Looking back where we came from Deeks Lake.

Rich and I doing a war dance. I got his scalp and he is nifted.

Rich sees something and wants to go over there. I have to scratch my head and think about this.

Rich was pointing at this snow cave. He's checking out his lighter to see if it will stay on if he goes into the dark part of the snow cave.
This was as far as we went. We figured the girls would be wondering where we were so headed back to Deeks Lake, packed up and then hiked out going to our homes.

This hike is a great cardio and leg workout. Its rough on your knees and thighs on the way down so take your time. It took 4 hours and 15 minutes to hike up with packs and 3 hours to hike down. All three lakes and all streams are ice cold all year round and provide some nice swimming opportunities if you are that type of person. There were signs of bear along the road and up near Brunswick area. My buddy liked the place so much, he suggested doing the whole 30 kilometer trail from Cypress next year.

So the last 4 days of August 2006 we decided to do it.
I've never been to Cypress or the Lions before in my life so I had to research this trail. After researching this trail here are the stats that I found.

HOWE SOUND CREST TRAIL August 2006:

-Trail head is at Cypress Bowl and Highway 99 near Porteau Cove.
-30 km distance.
-Pass through The Lions aka. Twin Peaks.
-No water resources from Cypress to the Lions.
-Indications of snow being there in the summer.
-Bear Warning!
-A 30 foot exposed stretch.
-Unecessary Mountain, Mt. Strachen, Mt. St. Marks.
-For experienced hikers only.
-Magnesia Meadows Emergency Shelter.

I could not find any information about Magnesia Meadows or much about after the Lions. I wasn't sure whether or not we would encounter snow, or where the first water resource would be. I knew that there was a trail from Lions Bay that came to the Lions but I thought it came from the Vancouver side, not from the north side.
So here was the plan, 2 2-Liter bottles of water, ( 1 for each of us ).
We decided that the Lions would be a reasonable goal for our first Location to camp. Then to camp at Deeks Lake for the second, and then come down on the third. We tacked on an extra day just in case something happened or we fell behind. We also decided that once we crossed the 30 foot exposed section there would be no turning back.

Day 1:
We started at 12:30 pm. parking at Cypress is simple, leave a note saying what trail you are doing and that you are back-country camping. Indicate the time you left and what day you expect to return. List your names and buy 1 ticket for each day that your car will be parked there. So 3 days = 3 tickets.
Head up past the Ski Pass Hut and start walking on the Yew Lake Trail. Follow the signs to the Howe Sound Crest Trail. Once you make it onto the actual HSCT, you are rewarded with some nice peeks of the Howe Sound.

See there's the peek at Howe Sound..

There is where we are going.

Another peek.

We didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. Our packs were about 40-50 pounds each. We started our ascent to Mt. Strachen. It is steep and the trail markers will make you go in circles if you do not pay attention. We reached the summit in an hour and a half. Where we were rewarded with flat ground, incredible views of Horseshoe Bay and Howe Sound, and 2 Whiskey Jacks, (Grey Jays), that followed us from Mt. Strachen to the Lions. Views toward the south and west.

Rich says is that a Mountain Goat down there? I think he is seeing things.

We kept track of Anvil Island because we knew that our exit from the trail was not far beyond it. That's about all we knew while we were on the trail. We soon experienced the rugged descent from Mount Strachen onto the ascent of St. Marks which was a more woody climb and steeper. We reached the summit of Mount St.Marks by the third hour. Again awarded by views of the Sound, Anvil Island, and some peeks of the Lions. Views toward the north and NW.

We ate some food and trekked on to Unnecessary Mountain. We took our time, we were both tired by this point and were running very low on water. However it did not dampen our spirits at all. We finally reached the top. Again with views of the Sound but we decided to snap some pictures toward the east and of the Lions from afar.

After Unnecessary you descend onto the ridge line that eventually gets you to the base of the West Lion. The trail basically consists of you climbing up and down rocks, there are one or two sections with ropes, USE THEM WITH CAUTION! Some pics from the ridge line and the Lions.

We did not climb to the peak, it was getting late and we were tired by this point. The trail goes along the bottom of the West Lion and then ascends onto the hump in the middle. We made it! Our first goal of our trip met. You could see all of Vancouver and Capilano Lake. We set up camp and had a quick snack.

Our day wasn't over yet, we had no water. Rich spotted some snow packs behind the Lions so we grabbed our bottles and stove and hiked our way down to one of them. We melted ice to have water for cooking the next day and for the long journey ahead of us.

While filling our bottles we noticed the sun was setting along the ridge line, we snapped a picture and then headed back to our campsite, where we were welcomed with the lights of Vancouver. The picture is a little mangled and it doesn't do the view justice. I would almost be willing to hike up to the Lions and stay the night there specifically to see the lights.
We popped a couple of Ibuprophen and went to bed.

Day 2:
The next morning we woke up in the clouds. It rained a bit during the night and was trying to while we were making breakfast. Corn and Mr. Noodle to warm us up and we packed up and left. Our tent and some of our gear was wet by this point but the cool air was nice to hike in. We did not take too many pictures because you could not see 20 feet around you. This made the trail difficult to follow. I had my buddy, (less experienced), walk ahead of me so he could learn to spot the markers and trail while I followed. We got turned around a few times before we reached the hairy part.

The 30 foot section was a heart stopper. The clouds covered the huge drop down either side of the ridge with only a rope or chain to either catch you or for you to grab on to on either side. We made it across, thinking it was all gonna be easy from there on.

About 100 yards after we lost the trail again. The trail looked as if it went 3 ways. an old stream bed which looks like the trail we thought went between 2 rocks onto a platform which looked over a ridge. It looks as if the trail must go down into the gorge but it doesn't. Sorry I don't have a picture of the gorge.

Don't make the mistake we did and go down, we had to rope our packs down and climb down 2 of the 3 ten foot drops. On the third we had to use our rope to swing down.
We lost our rope for the trip as we tied it to a rock to get down. However, we were not the only ones who went that wrong route. We picked up a water bottle that was at the bottom.
We were lost for a short while. Once you go down the first drop you can not go back, it's difficult. If you make it down without getting hurt head to your left and climb over the ridge and you will see the trail again.

At this point, we were ready for anything. We started descending and hiking about 800 feet above Enchantment Lake, still no water. The trail consisted of rock slides and forest. You will find yourself skipping from rock to rock. We then began to climb to get over the ridge and start our trek to Magnesia Meadows.

We were almost at the top when we decided to take a breather.

We were chatting and we heard something on the trail ahead of us. We both looked up and saw a fully grown male Black Bear! It was only 15 feet away from us and was staring directly at us. We then instinctively turned around and casually started walking down the trail. The bear looked like it was expecting us and even seemed to move several feet off the trail to let us pass. We did not want to take any chances and we hiked out on to one of the rock slides.

It was our first ever Black Bear encounter and our hearts were pounding. We figured that we would be able to see the bear coming if it decided to follow us, thus giving us a chance to drop our bags and move more easily away to try and avoid it. Luckily it was munchin on berries and going toward the second lake in the valley. My buddy wanted to go back to Cypress but I urged him to go on. I was to startled to take a picture, but it was beautiful, the blackest fur coat I ever seen. When we climbed over the ridge we realized that the whole ridgeline that we had to walk was a giant blue berry, wild raspberry, and salmon berry field. I thought for sure we would see another bear in this area but we didn't.

We then reached Magnesia Meadows where we saw the shelter. Another 500 meters we found water. We knew now that the rest of the trip was going to be simple, so our spirits were high.

We saw tracks and scat along the trail that were not from the bear we saw earlier. We also saw that this animal had a grouse or some kind of bird for dinner. After comparing scat and tracks on the internet it seems as though the signs we saw were from a couger that was in the area. They were fresh, probably from the afternoon or morning. We didn't know what they were at the time so we moved on.

We crossed over onto Brunswick Mountain and descended down to the Lake, from here on it was all familiar territory that we hiked the previous year.

We make it to Deeks Lake in about 20 minutes and set up camp. We were so happy by this point because we were on schedule and could relax at the lake for our last day.

We were almost out of food except for some Mr. Noodle soup by this point but we weren't worried. We had fishing rods and we caught dinner. Night was coming upon us and things were going well until I looked up and saw rain clouds, which turned into a tarenchel down pour and it resoaked all the cloths we were drying.

We quickly threw everything in the tent, we then realized that a large puddle was forming on the ground where our tent was, we moved it with all our gear to a better higher spot and finally settled in. We both got no sleep that night, another puddle formed on my friend's side and our cheap tent wasn't exactly water tight and was leaking every where. We couldn't tell at the time if we were getting soaked from the rain or sweating but our extremities, feet and arms were freezing all night.

We woke up the next day and got some more Mr. Noodle and fish down our throats. We decided to trek down the mountain early and get a ride back. Well hiking through the open area around the lake we looked up and could see that our black markings were still on the rock we made the year before.
We were not expecting any bad weather as the weather news report looked good for those days but just goes to show that Mother Nature doesn't care about weather news or you in anyway shape or form. However, I guess thats why we like it so much. we made it down the mountain to the Porteau Trail Head in 2 hours and 20 minutes. We were proud that we made it. It was our first full out backpacking trip and a lot of other firsts during the trip.

We were picked up by one of our friends, She looked like heaven that day and she is a regular backpacker of the Heather Trail in Manning Park.

The trail over all was challenging, it tests your endurance and strength most. After a couple of days recovery I felt like going out and doing it again. We saw a man and his dog, and then a mother and son on the whole trail. We went during the week which made for a better experience over all and less people on the trail. There is no snow to worry about in August and even in July I am guessing that there is a way to walk around it. We brought metal studded cleets just in case but we didn't need to use them.

The trail is very well marked for the most part. To get away from bugs use "Bug-Off" lotion not spray and they stop eating you completely, even in Magnesia Meadows. The only other things I recommend is topography maps, compass, a rope, and to be physically strong and fit.


Here are the times it took us with packs:

Cypress to Lions: 12:30pm - 6:30pm = 6 hours
Lions to Deeks: 10:30am - 6:30pm = 8 hours
Deeks to Highway 99: 9:30am - Noon = 2.5 hours

Total 16.5 hours