When I was asked if I wanted to camp this summer I thought 'Yes!! That would be so fun'. Little did I know my previous experience was more 'glamping' rather than 'camping'. Needless to say I had no clue what I was in for with an alpine camping trip. To start off we car camped at a provincial park on Makenzie beach, Tofino BC. It has been a while since I've been to Tofino so I forgot how cold it gets in the evenings and overnight. The marine fog rolls in which increases the humidity and dampness. Luckily, small controlled fires are allowed on the beach to stay warm at night. Waking up in the mornings to everything damp and cold was a bit of a shock on the first day. Tofino is known as BC's cold California beach town. I love the endless beaches, surf and the amazing colourful sunsets. Since the sky is so open with no city lights around on a clear overnight the star gazing is spectacular. When the tied goes out you can walk for hours connecting from Cox Bay, Rosies Bay, North and South Chestermans Beaches. It is beautiful and a great spot to transition from 'glamping' to camping.
After this weekend we headed down to Mt Baker-Snoquamie pass in Washington USA. It was forecast to rain so we decided to stick to car camping to be able to bring more tarps and supplies for the weather. We arrived on a Friday evening and the weather looked good, overnight however, the clouds rolled in and started raining early in the morning. We waited out the rain for a few hours and once it cleared we took a drive up the mountain to the trailhead to go day hiking. It was a nice easy trail up to get to the lake, we fished, let the dogs relaxed and we ate our snacks. None of us wanted to swim as it was quite chilly. The next day we drove 30 minutes south to where the glacier ice caves were. The trail was short, only 20 minutes hiking. When we got there I saw that the ice was leaking and there were large blocks that had fallen off the roof of the cave on the rocks so I only walked in half way and decided to turn around. At that point I felt I could see the waterfall from where I was standing. I could also enjoy the waterfall vicariously though my friends instastories afterwards.
September alpine hike challenge was the Howe Sound Crest Trail. September long weekend we packed had everything ready the night before the hike to test out and weigh our bags. Mine only weighed 27 lbs. To prepare our bags we made both breakfast, lunches and snacks all easy wrapped up in light weight collapsable containers. We purchased a pack of dehydrated food to cook for a hot dinner as it gets chilly overnight. We had to also make sure that we had lots of water on this trip, enough to get ourselves and dog through the whole first day and morning of the second day. The hike through cypress until you get to the Lions does not have any lakes or streams to be able refill so it is crucial to bring enough water on this hike. Both my husband and I carried 3.5 litres each and it lasted us until we made it to the lake on day two.
The morning of the hike we had to leave quite early to meet our friends at Porto Cove (end point). Then all drove together in one car to Cypress Mountain (start point). We had a long day of hiking ahead of us and needed to make sure we had enough daylight to get to where we needed to set up camp.
The trailhead is just up from base of Cypress Mountain ski hill (note: to make sure if you park your car outside of the gates since they close after 8pm so when you finish the next day and drive back you can get out). Also for safety reasons you should always remember to leave a note in your car on the dash which hike you are on and when you are expected to arrive back. At the start of the hike we were all excited and kept a brisk pace on uphill switch backs (From previous hikes I've done there has always been a bit of a flat for a break on your legs and gluts but this hike just kept going up, it was a buns burner). A few hours pass and finally, we reached a flat were we could sit to have lunch. Even with the elevation we were not above the clouds, rather right in them so there was not much of a view.
We continued on hiking up first St Marks peak, then continued to Mount Unnecessarily South and Unnecessary North peaks. They really were completely unnecessary steep, challenging and technical. On the declines of the peaks was were I was most uncomfortable. Every step mattered and every shift of body weight with a 27 pound back pack could throw you off and go tumbling down several hundred feet on rocks. I was so out of my element and comfort zone of anything I have ever done before. I snuck to the back of our group of 5 friends and cried silently while thinking 'what am I doing and how did I get here'. This hike truly was an emotional rollercoaster for me. All I could think of was to take one step at a time and just get through the next challenge (up or down). It is a very technical hike and not for beginners. I also recommend to do it with a group, especially if you have a dog. We had to work as a team in many spots having the dogs and big backpacks. The scariest part of the whole hike we nicknamed the 'valley of death', which was the passage through the Lions 🦁. At this point we questions if we should go on any further or turn back. The hardest part of the hike was behind us but we just didn't know what lied ahead. The clouds were starting to move on and we could see down the cliffs. On each side of the 3- 5 foot wide rock was 1000 meter cliff drop (one missed step could be your last --> see photo below of our friend fearlessly crossing). If it wasn't for my friend Joey getting all three dogs across and then my friend Amber and Sarah made it, I would not have done it. My husband was so amazing and felt so bad he put in this situation where all I wished for was a helicopter to come pick me up. I knew that option was out of the questions and I just had to get across because going back the way we came meant scaling the mountain backward which I was not interested to do again either. After we all safely made it across and traversed down and across the backside of the Lions we came across a flat meadow and decided to set up camp for the night. The sunset was amazing and with the clear sky all the stars came out. Since we were so far up away from the city we could see so many constellations and the whole milky way.
The next morning, we had an early sun rise with clear blue skys. It was beautiful. We knew we had a long day a head of us so we started our hike early again. It started with Thomas Peak (which was a climb practically straight vertical) then down through a small meadow called Enchantment Pass which was so nice to have a bit of a flatter terrain (day two legs are so sore from the day before). We had one last peak climb up James Peak. At the top of James I noticed I was almost dry of water. Thankfully, it was a traverse across and down to Hanging Lake. We filled our bladder packs and water bottles with the glacier fed lake water (we brought the tablets to purify the water before drinking). It was perfect timing because after our quick break at the lake we had nought incline up David's Peak. We were so thankful this was the last big peak of the hike. There was still a lot of climbing up and down but more cross country traversing which was a nice change from the day before.
Brunswick Lake could not come any faster at this point. We were all very sweaty and wanted to jump in a lake so badly. From a distance we could see the crystal blue glacier waters of Brunswick, it was beautiful! We unpacked our lunches and jumped in the cold water. It was refreshing and just what we needed.
Continuing on the trail was a lot more pleasant and less cliffs. We passed a big waterfall near Middle Lake and then made it to Deeks Lake. The trail takes you around the entire half side of the lake, which is a lot longer then it looks. I was so ready to get back to the car, my left knee was pinching and my feet hurt. Thankfully it was all downhill from there. It was a very long decent down the mountain back to the car which meant more pressure on my knee and toes. Two hours later, some bruised knees and toes but we made it.
Overall my rate on this hike would be a double black diamond run... most difficult! The entire hike is challenging and technical. You must be in excellent condition to attempt this 2 day hike with pack. The views are breathtaking and spectacular (some of the most beautiful spots we did not want to risk getting ours phones out to take a picture since it was too risky to drop it). Would I do it again? Absolutely.... not. I am so happy I completed the whole thing without any major injuries but I can now say its done and do not need to do it again. I would however, start at Porto Cove and hike the opposite direction we went to camp at Brunswick Lake and hike Brunswick Peak. I would recommend this hike to anyone that is not afraid of heights and wants a challenging hike.
Hope you enjoyed my first alpine hiking adventure.