We hiked the Howe Sound Crest trail with kids on July 23-24, 2016 and scrambled up Brunswick mountain summit on the way. Although, this is a well traveled route, I decided to post a few comments and pictures here for those who plan to hike it this summer.
First, you have to arrange for car pickup at the end point, as the HSCT starts in Cypress parking lot and ends Porteau Cove parking lot some 30 km farther down Sea-to-Sky highway.
The trail is ~30 km long but do not expect to hike it one day unless you are a superman and prepare to camp for a night. The cumulative elevation gain is ~ 1,800 m gain and elevation loss is ~ 2,600 m not counting ascent of West Lion, Brunswick, Harvey mountain and other peaks along the way.
The HSCT is famous for its scenic views of Howe Sound and North Shore mountains. It offers amazing views of the Lions.
It was mostly foggy and soggy on the first day clearing in late afternoon, but the second day was sunny and we enjoyed breathtaking views from the Brunswick mountain summit.
The first part up to St. Mark's summit is relatively easy, but past Mount Unnecessary and around the Lions the HSCT is becoming increasing more challenging and technical with quite a few vertical chained and roped ascents and descents and some exposed scrambles. There are large patches of snow still along HSCT past Mount Unnecessary and near the Lions.
The biggest shock for us was an icy steep snow patch on the way to West Lion which was not there last summer. It looked really sketchy to walk without ice crampons, but it was only about 10 meters wide.
This was the scariest part of the trip... We trod carefully across icy snow patch towards West Lion side and scrambled up wet slippery rocks to the col. We did not see any volunteers to scramble up West Lion's summit on that day, as it was foggy and soggy.
The HSCT trail bypasses Thomas peak via a large snow field overlooking Enchantment Lake and goes through James' and David's peaks, which both have some vertical descent and ascent sections and exposed traverses.
I heard that there is a bypass around David's peak via protected water reserve area, which is technically illegal, so we did not even attempt to find it and followed the markers up David's peak aka "Red Mountain". We wrote our names in David's peak's registry. Although the HSCT is generally well marked all the way, we did get lost a couple of times on extended James' and David's peaks following visible paths without markers in the wrong directions. We were able to quickly retrace the HSCT but still lost time and decided to camp in the mountains within less than a mile from the Magnesia Meadows camp site.
On the second day we enjoyed a sunny warm weather and the trail got easy around Magnesia Meadows.
We decided that we could make a short detour to scramble up the Brunswick mountain summit. Leaving our backpacks behind on the trail and taking a water bottle along, we scrambled Brunswick summit in about 40-45 minutes and were rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views:
The descent was much easier than ascent and took us only 20-25 minutes. Brunswick Mountain summit scrambles was actually the best part of the trip. The exposure on the summit is quite manageable of you follow orange markers. We never considered scrambling farther to an alternative summit, as it is not worth the risk. We were lucky to be the first on the summit that morning followed by several large group of hikers, as Brunswick summit is a very popular destination.
We descended and stopped for lunch at a beautiful Brunswick lake, which made our day:
The trail from Brunswick Lake via Hanover Lake to Deeks Lake is literary an easy walk in the park followed by a steep rugged ~1,000 m descent to FSR and Porteau Cove parking lot.
The HSCT offers several peak scrambling opportunities long the way: West Lion, Brunswick, Mount Harvey etc. You may want to budget 3 days instead of 2 days if you want to scramble all the peaks on the HSCT.