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post #1 of (permalink) Old 08-04-2016, 04:27 PM Thread Starter
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Default Howe Sound Crest trail & Brunswick

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.


Last edited by Lenagen; 08-05-2016 at 03:47 PM. Reason: peak names correction
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 08-04-2016, 07:32 PM
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St. Marks is St. Marks, but James, David and Thomas I have never read of as sanctified before this?
Great pics tho.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 08-04-2016, 09:23 PM Thread Starter
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St. Marks is St. Marks, but James, David and Thomas I have never read of as sanctified before this?
Great pics tho.
Ha-ha, i guess I sanctified them as they were hard to tackle with large backpacks. OK, I will remove St. from their names. Thanks for noting!
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 08-04-2016, 09:53 PM
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Re David Peak bypass: That is actually the official route, although in the watershed indeed. Switchbacks down a little (2-3 short switchbacks?), long descending traverse left over old rockfall, close under the steep face of David, up the bushy valley to the col. Also has the best hope of water between a tarn north of the East Lion and Magnesia. Also not far down to Enchantment if water is a priority. Over is shorter, less elevation, better views but the descent can be unpleasant with big packs on and there is worse exposure. Not crazy in the least as you saw, but it's there.

And yes, it's often done as a long hard day hike! It's great.

Last edited by alexcanuck; 08-04-2016 at 09:55 PM. Reason: Grammer
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 08-04-2016, 10:39 PM Thread Starter
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Re David Peak bypass: That is actually the official route, although in the watershed indeed. Switchbacks down a little (2-3 short switchbacks?), long descending traverse left over old rockfall, close under the steep face of David, up the bushy valley to the col. Also has the best hope of water between a tarn north of the East Lion and Magnesia. Also not far down to Enchantment if water is a priority. Over is shorter, less elevation, better views but the descent can be unpleasant with big packs on and there is worse exposure. Not crazy in the least as you saw, but it's there.

And yes, it's often done as a long hard day hike! It's great.
Some hikers that we met warned us that bypass via watershed is illegal. We have not seen anyone - and we met about a dozen hikers on the way, who was going to complete it in one day... I had also entertained the idea before the hike, but when I saw those verticals past the Lions, I changed my mind. It could be possible with bypasses though.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 08-05-2016, 03:53 PM Thread Starter
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A word of caution. I know there are a lot of top notch superheros on this forum who can run the HSCT in 9 hours or less, you can ignore this note. This note is for other non-superhero hikers - if you come unprepared for camping with two days food and potable water (filter) supply, you may end up stranded in an emergency shelter at Magnesia Meadows without adequate water and food supply. This happened to our friends last summer, who are physically fit, but they had decided that they could hike the HSCT in one day with a 9 y.o. kid with light day backpacks. Note that the emergency shelter is very small with wooden floors and nothing else to accommodate you for the night and it may be taken by someone else.

Last edited by Lenagen; 08-05-2016 at 04:00 PM.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 08-05-2016, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Lenagen View Post
A word of caution. I know there are a lot of top notch superheros on this forum who can run the HSCT in 9 hours or less, you can ignore this note. This note is for other non-superhero hikers - if you come unprepared for camping with two days food and potable water (filter) supply, you may end up stranded in an emergency shelter at Magnesia Meadows without adequate water and food supply. This happened to our friends last summer, who are physically fit, but they had decided that they could hike the HSCT in one day with a 9 y.o. kid with light day backpacks. Note that the emergency shelter is very small with wooden floors and nothing else to accommodate you for the night and it may be taken by someone else.
What? No big screen TV at the shelter? Screw that, i`m not staying there!
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 08-05-2016, 07:24 PM
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Great job with the kids. That's has to be so cool to see them doing this sort of stuff already. : )
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 08-05-2016, 09:14 PM
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Bypass is actually longer. Somewhat easier, if someone is excessively slow on difficult terrain it could be faster but I find it slower.

Technically, anytime the trail veers over to the righthand (south to north travel) of the ridge past the Strachan/St Marks col you're in the watershed. I think the additional exposure and semi-sketchy descent over David persuaded the Parks staff to ignore the extra intrusion of that section of the trail.


"non-superhero hikers"
Please don't hate me for it, it's not my fault! If it helps, I use my powers only for good. I did a nice taping job once on some exhausted woman's nasty blisters sitting right where the David routes split. Carried her pack to the the bail-out route down to Lions bay. This was afternoon Sunday, they had started late Friday planning on being at Deeks lake by the time I saw them.

Very well done with kids. I love that trail, but it deserves a warning label for sure.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 04:39 PM
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"non-superhero hikers"
Please don't hate me for it, it's not my fault! If it helps, I use my powers only for good. I did a nice taping job once on some exhausted woman's nasty blisters sitting right where the David routes split. Carried her pack to the the bail-out route down to Lions bay. This was afternoon Sunday, they had started late Friday planning on being at Deeks lake by the time I saw them.
I am not a superhero at all, but I did HSCT from Porteau Cove to Cypress in one day. We had a slow/unfit hiker who returned via the "bail-out route". It's an old service road that starts somewhere between Magnesia and David, and joins the Lions and Harvey trail. Apparently it is completely overgrown, there are occasional tape markers and they had to use GPS (with map) to navigate it. It's good to know about it...
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 04:50 PM Thread Starter
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I am not a superhero at all, but I did HSCT from Porteau Cove to Cypress in one day. We had a slow/unfit hiker who returned via the "bail-out route". It's an old service road that starts somewhere between Magnesia and David, and joins the Lions and Harvey trail. Apparently it is completely overgrown, there are occasional tape markers and they had to use GPS (with map) to navigate it. It's good to know about it...
There is an intersection past Magnesia Meadows on the Brunswick mountain where we turned to the right to scramble the Brunswick summit, while down to the left was a "bail out" route to Lions Bay and straight ahead was HSCT (Brunswick Lake). As I said, the second day was much easier and enjoyable, so we actually decided to add Brunswick summit scramble on top of HSCT rather than taking a rescue route to Lions Bay.

We met a young couple near David's peak who budgeted three days for HSCT as they were going to scramble Mount Harvey and then Brusnwick and just wanted to enjoy the trail and relax and have some fun scrambling peaks along rather than run a marathon. This kind approach more resonates with me than trying to run the HSCT without ever looking up to enjoy the breathtaking views. ;-)

Last edited by Lenagen; 08-08-2016 at 05:04 PM.
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 08-08-2016, 04:55 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by hikeok View Post
I am not a superhero at all, but I did HSCT from Porteau Cove to Cypress in one day. We had a slow/unfit hiker who returned via the "bail-out route". It's an old service road that starts somewhere between Magnesia and David, and joins the Lions and Harvey trail. Apparently it is completely overgrown, there are occasional tape markers and they had to use GPS (with map) to navigate it. It's good to know about it...
We did not see a single hiker out of 12 on the HSCT on July 23, 2016 who was going to do it in one day. We did Panorama Ridge (33 km, 1700 elevation gain) and Black Tusk scrambles summit (32 km, 1850 elevation gain) as day hikes two years ago with kids, so we consider ourselves fit hikers. However, doing HSCT in one day seems a bit of an overkill to us due to the technical/vertical terrain prior to Magnesia Meadows and also a lot of icy snow patches on the trail this summer...

Last edited by Lenagen; 08-08-2016 at 05:06 PM.
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