Cabin Lake Loop

3 05 2015

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.

BaseCamp: Cabin Lake Loop intended route

BaseCamp: Cabin Lake Loop intended route

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.

Yew Lake, Cypress

Yew Lake, Cypress

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.

Runway, Collins and other ski runs

Runway, Collins and other 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.

Icy snow lingers on Maelle Ricker's Gold run

Icy snow lingers on Maelle Ricker’s Gold run

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.

Onwards and upwards!

Onwards and upwards!

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.

Snow in May - Cypress

Snow in May – Cypress

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.

Boardwalk to Cabin Lake

Boardwalk to Cabin Lake

Reflecting on Cabin Lake

Reflecting on Cabin Lake

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…

Beware of falling rocks

Beware of falling rocks

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.

No quick way down today...

No quick way down today…

The Lions in the distance and black runs in ski season

The Lions in the distance and nearby black runs in ski season

Oo - you can see our house from here!

Oo – you can see our house from here!

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.

Google Earth: Actual track we took to Cabin Lake

Google Earth: Actual track we took to Cabin Lake

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.

What goes up, usually comes down

What goes up, usually comes down

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These boots are made for walking

31 12 2011

It’s taken me a couple of days to put this posting together, and for that I apologise. Back on the 28th, three of us pachyderms went snow-shoeing up Cypress on the North shore mountains. We have a bit of a tradition of going on Boxing day, but it’s been particularly mild this winter (read: wet and rainy up top), and we were waiting for more favourable conditions. In the end, we decided to just “go for it” and made the journey on the off-chance. As we got closer, we could see the cloud just sat on the top of the mountain, which is not generally considered a good sign. Middle child made some facetious remark about Voldemort being at home, and we steadily drove up towards the murk, not encountering snow until almost at the turn for the Nordic area. There’s a viewing point half way up Cypress, and it gives amazing views over the city of Vancouver. This was below the cloud base and the views were stunning. We didn’t stop though, and headed up to the Nordic area for the snow shoeing.

I may be gone some time...

I may be gone some time…

I'm stumped

I’m stumped

We had an excellent hour or so’s hike despite the murk, taking the long way around to Hollyburn Lodge where we stopped to consume some of the hot tea (hot chocolate for offspring) I’d been lugging around, and some procured muffins.

Who's been wearing MY snow shoes?

Who’s been wearing MY snow shoes?

Hollyburn Lodge, Cypress Mountain

Hollyburn Lodge, Cypress Mountain

Unfortunately while we were there, the weather turned a bit more deliberate, and we left Hollyburn to a steady rain, the temperature hovering just above zero. Still lots of snow under-foot (reasonable but not great base of over a metre.) We decided the prudent course of action was to take a more direct route back to the base area, so unfortunately we didn’t get the full 2-3 hours walk we’d originally anticipated.

Thankfully, being now from BC, we’d dressed more for the wet than the cold, and on signing off the hill (safety check – they send folk out looking if you don’t sign back in), we were complimented on our “proper gear”. We had fun, and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. Sure it would have been nice to confirm you really could see Nanaimo from “Strait Lookout”… but they do wisely append “on a clear day” to the description. If you’re in the Vancouver area it’s well worth a visit, and snow shoes can be hired if you don’t have your own.

 

Cypress: Snowshoe Trails

Cypress: Snowshoe Trails

Cypress: Snowshoe Trails

 Snowshoe Trail Map (pdf)