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A bit of an adventure

by Laurence Rowe published Sep 30, 2006 12:00 AM

Picking which hike to do seemed easy. The Howe Sound Crest Trail started very near to Vancouver and by a beautiful, challenging hike. I took a taxi to the ski parking lot on Monday evening and camped about a kilometre past the ski centre, after a bit of meandering on losing the trail in the dusk. Though it had been a very warm day there was a lot of dew after the sun went down. From my campsite I could watch the sun setting over the islands in the bay. Folding the tarpaulin over myself resulted in a rather damp sleeping bag by morning. Being in the shadow of the mountain I started the next day slowly. I found the trail again fairly quickly but lost it a few times in the thick forest. Getting higher route finding became much easier.


Reaching the peak of Unnecessary Mountain (really) in late afternoon and being in no rush I decided to camp near a couple of clear looking pools, water not being abundant on the next section, and giving my sleeping bag a chance to dry out. For the second night I tied one corner of my tarpaulin to a tree, attaching the other to rocks. I don't think that there was quite as much dew, but my sleeping bag was pretty much bone dry in the morning. Exposure to the morning sun helped too. At the base of the West Lion, half an hour's walk from my campsite I met the last person I was to see until I reached the highway the following day. Wednesday morning's section was half scramble, half trail skirting round the Lions' bases along sharp ridges. Ropes had been heplfully placed in several sections.


Sat in a glade having a break for lunch I realized there was no way I was not going to get off the trail unless I rushed and cut off the final section. Still being in mobile phone range of the city I cancelled my appointment at the university and warned my friend that I would be a day longer. An hour or two further on, unsure of which path to take I was sat quietly in another glade checking the map when I heard a rustling behind me...

Turning my head I saw a black bear not more than seven metres away. I looked at her. She looked at me, growling softly. I had my camera in my hand at the time, but not wishing to be another Steve Irwin I very slowly, very calmly packed the camera into my rucsac and stood up. The bear turned away and walked up one path, followed a few seconds later by her cub. The decision made for me I took the other path. Thankfully it was the right one.

The meeting was intense, but for some reason did not feel scary, perhaps only because no opportunity to be scared arose. It was over in a couple of minutes.

If the first peak was Unnecessary then second was accidental. Perhaps it was still thinking about the close encounter with the bear that I did not notice the trail getting steeper and beginning to average 60 degrees from horizontal. I did finally notice the sea was in the wrong place and put my pack down. With only a little way to the top I climbed up to see a wonderful view of islands in the sound and the obvious path behind me. I had reached the summit of Mount Harvey. The viewpoint did afford me sight of a mountain hut. Descending quickly as there was only another couple of hours of daylight remaining, it took only 45 minutes or so to reach the hut. Fortunately it was situated close to tarn. I had just drunk the last of my water. It was nice to sit in the hut and relax. I had felt pretty stupid on top of the wrong mountain.


The final day left only a couple of hundred metres of ascent before I dropped into the lost world of Deak's lakes. Sorrounded on three sides by steep slopes I descended to a plateau with a series of lakes. Just before the first one another bear must have heard me as I saw it bounding across a clearing into some trees close to the path I was about to follow. I decided to give it a bit of time so took a (very brief) swim in the blue waters. Refreshed, I stomped my way along the path, making sure that the bear would not be surprised by me. It was a very steep trek down to sea level passing several waterfalls along the way. Route finding was tricky again once I got down to a flatter section with forestry roads, but I eventually found the path and got to the highway, hitching a lift from someone who had walked a day section close ending at the same place as me. I got dropped off in a town on the edge of Vancouver to enjoy fish and chips with a beer.

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