After a bit of a “meh” week, weather-wise, we’ve been treated to a lovely weekend here in The Lower Mainland. On Friday evening, number 2 offspring came back from Montreal where she’s just completed her second year of studies at McGill. That put her psychologically 3 hours ahead, so she was up bright and early on Saturday. The weather looked good, so after a suitable delay to feed and walk the dog, we headed off to the hills. Cypress Mountain to be specific.
I’d pored over the free-to-download routable trail maps from OpenStreetMap in Garmin’s free-to-download BaseCamp application, and selected a likely looking circular route for a couple of hours in the fresh air. The beauty of using routable trail maps is that you can use your handheld GPS just like a car model, and it’ll let you know how close to any turnings you are, as well as re-routing you if you choose to detour for some reason. That said – I tend to only use it for areas I’m unfamiliar with. Though the major North Shore trails are well marked… there are many minor ones that are not. Our original intention was to do about 6km with some reasonable ascent up Black Mountain, to the west of the Cypress resort.
All things being equal, we expected to take in not only Cabin Lake, but Owen Lake, Theagil Lake and Sam Lake, all to the south-west of the Cypress resort. The original route was only about 5km, and even with elevation gain, I didn’t think that would take us very long, so I added a little more to the route by visiting Yew Lake to the north as part of the circuit. That made the expected route 6.2km, which seemed like a nice outing without being over-strenuous.
So off we went.
When we arrived, it was lovely and bright, but the altitude made it feel decidedly crisp and out came the “spare” jumpers immediately. The thing about circular routes is that you inevitably come down every metre you ascend. (Assuming you’re not on an inter-dimensional Möbius strip, of course.) That being the case, it doesn’t seem to matter which direction you go, so we opted for anti-clockwise and headed off to Yew Lake. This first kilometre or so is pretty flat and incredibly well maintained with a crushed rock surface. Yew Lake itself was quite still and picturesque and a foreshadowing of what we were to see at Cabin Lake. There were a couple of picnic tables and I can easily predict that with warmer weather this small 1km loop will be very popular with the great unwashed visiting Vancouver for a day or so. Pretty though it is, visitors that only take this loop trail would really be missing the best parts.
Not long after leaving the shore of Yew Lake, we came to the junction with the BP Trail which would take us up towards Black Mountain. Around about now I realised the folly of not actually checking the contours of the circular route.
Over the next couple of kilometres we encountered several parties of walkers and hikers. A statistically abnormal number of student-aged young women, in various party sizes, were amongst them. As is de rigeur in the Lower Mainland, they were all wearing Lululemon. There were a few couples, a selection of various dog varieties, elderly folk, a couple of fell runners. All though had one thing in common… they were coming the other way!
Yup – you guessed it: this was the steep way up! The route took a series of switchbacks up a well-defined but loose path. At each turn though, we had great views of the opposite hills where in season there are several ski runs.
After a while we came to some lingering snow on one of the runs. The snow-making machines were still in evidence, and I suspect this hard-packed icy snow was only there because it was the result of these machines early in the season.
The similar angle of the previous two pictures would imply that the switchbacks were almost perfectly above each other. This next part, up the side of the ski run was so steep that they’d actually built a full-on staircase out of hewn stone. The regular tread made it quite easy to ascend, despite the grade.
At this higher elevation we were treated to small patches of natural snow, still clinging on into May. Another small pond again showed the beauty of a mirror-like reflection.
We were pretty much at the top of the climb now, and we took the short 80m detour to Cabin Lake itself. It lies just off the main path, and it’s definitely worth the trivial detour. I could see no sign of a cabin so I’m not sure of the origin of the name. The scene was stunning though, and as we stopped for a bite of late lunch, we were possessive of the view, resenting the small number of other hikers that briefly joined us.
The surface was so perfectly still and polarised the blue sky wonderfully in the photos. I couldn’t help but try a bit of photographic surrealism…
By now, time was getting on a bit, so we opted to cut off the far south/west loop which unfortunately meant skipping a couple of the lakes we’d hoped to see, as well as the south summit of Black Mountain. These would wait for another day, and we headed back. After a pretty easy minor ascent we found ourselves at the top of the Eagle Express chair lift. This plateau gave us a view down the snow-covered run we’d seen from lower down as well as great views north over to Howe Sound and The Lions, and south to Vancouver.
From here, the descent was very easy, basically following the Panorama and Windjammer runs back to the lodge. This, it would seem, is why everyone else was going the other way! Though long, it was a steady ascent on basically an unmade road, as ski runs are, out of season. No complaints though – the views were spectacular. Unfortunately, Google Earth seems to only have winter satellite imagery of the North Shore Mountains, which kind of gives the impression we hiked in snow. There was the odd patch here and there, but it was certainly not as it appears below. The 3D imagery helps visualise the route we actually took though. Click on this, or any of the other images for a closer look.
Despite the short-cut we ended up walking 6.1km anyway, because of the route we took coming down Windjammer instead of the originally planned 3 Bears run which was a bit more direct.