Hiking up to St Mark’s Summit – Cypress Mountain

Now that things are a little more settled in my travels, myself and my housemates are making a concerted effort to get out of the city at every given possibility. This usually means the weekends.

The good thing about being in Vancouver is that there are copious amounts of trails with easy access to take on. I get all of my hiking ideas from Vancouver Trails. It’s perfect as it details all the hikes; the difficulty, the season, elevation, dog suitability . . .  plus directions. This weekend we head up Cypress Mountain, walking to St Marks Summit.

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Boys will be boys

Because it’s November, and because it’s Vancouver, it’s raining. We take the Jeep across town and make our way up the mountain. As soon as we get off Highway 1 and make the ascent, the clouds start to thicken. Although a new driver, I’ve driven in the fog / clouds quite a few times so it doesn’t make me nervous but today was slightly different. They were THICK. At one point you could only see as far as one dash of the central line. Driving slowly I managed to negotiate the switchbacks and on coming cars whilst keeping my passengers Sam and Arno calm. After about 5k climb (I look forward to cycling these hills in Summer) I suddenly realise that we are now in the car park – not the road. There was no way of telling in advance that this was coming up.

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Arno and his Lynx. Just look at how thick the clouds were!

Feeling like Dad, soon after breaking up a play fight between the kids (Arno and Sam) plus a pre-walking wee, we head up to the trail head. We follow the sign for the Howe Sound Crest Trail, for which St Mark’s is a part of. The first 10 – 15 minutes involve walking parallel to Ski runs, crossing well maintained gravel paths and a big green water tank. Soon though we would get into the ‘wild’ proper.

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I always prefer the exposed roots and rocks to a well kept gravel trail

Visibility was pretty low on the way up. This really did make the forest look beautiful. The clouds clung to the trees and for the most part were pretty still. You could see as far as necessary but the clouds were thick enough to create a mystical air about the place.

Because it’s rainy season, the colour of the trees and moss were a vibrant green. From afar they were low contrast, because of the clouds but as soon as you got close it jumped out at you.

We hardly saw a soul on this route. Maybe 2 couples. It’s the autumn season so the sensible people and tourists remain at home. This being said, it was still pretty loud. Although the rain wasn’t super heavy, we could hear the tap tap tap on our waterproof hoods. The rain would collect on the leaves, rolling off in larger globules than from the clouds. These would make a louder noise as it hit the floor and our heads.

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Sepultura’s “Roots” anyone?

 

There were numerous times that a stream would intersect the path, meaning that we would hurl ourselves over with a dramatic jump . . . or find a stone to step on instead (me). We only did this on the first half of our ascent up . . . whilst our feet were still dry. They would soon get wet (we were all wearing trail runners) so there was no point after that . . . apart from the challenge of course

As we pulled ourselves up the wet roots we stop to talk to a couple on their way down. The poor guy had broken his glasses as was blind as a bat without them. Who I can only assume was. His girlfriend led him back down as he literally follower her footsteps. As we came up to them, there was a big flash of brown to our right. None of us heard it approach because our hoods were up, insulating our ears from most sounds from the outside. It was a female deer hurling herself up the side of the mountain. We all stopped to let her pass on do her thing. Sam admittedly shat his pants with the thought of cougars in his head.

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Not much further on we saw a stag run up onto the trail. We were in it’s way forcing him to stop and think about where he had to go next. We didn’t hear him come, and the only reason we saw him was that he caught us on a switchback. Sam and Arno had their backs towards him, whilst I was staring straight at him. As to not spook him more we stopped again and let him do his thing. He again was huge and made up the side of the mountain with ease. Saying this he did look like he’d been running for a while, his tongue was hanging out and certainly puffing hard. I know how he felt.

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We carried on and we could see him a little further upwards. I tried to take a photo but I couldn’t get the camera out quick enough. So instead I have a picture of Sam and Arno looking for the stag!

About 20 minutes later we reach the top. And what an incredible place it was. We made our way to the edge and what we lacked in a view of distance,w e certainly saw the sheer drop down the side. A slip down there was a recovery not a rescue. It was easy enough to keep away from though. It was incredible how there was just a wall of cloud that we couldn’t see though it was like we were on the edge of the world.

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Spot the Stag

We turned around to see the stag walking around, somewhat catching his breath again. I managed to snap one photo although he’s pretty well camouflaged. As Sam and I were distracted by our new friend, Arno was still at the lookout.

“Guys, you’ve got to see this” he said in his strong Danish accent.

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Sam being careful – but you couldn’t see a thing

The wind was blowing pretty hard, so much so that there was a break in the clouds and we gone from the image above to seeing the Howe Sound (below). In a matter for a couple of minutes, the white wall had gone and now we were faced with an actual view! The timing couldn’t have been better! What a treat it had been.

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Finally a view from the top

We were getting cold so we started to head back down. As the clouds were clearing we could see much more of the forest. We could even see the ocean through the trees. So the hike down seemed like a completely different one now that we could see more.

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Just as the clouds were clearing, it was like a watercolour. The drops on my lens helped a bit!

We got back to the car and went through the usual routine of getting changed into dry clothes and sticking our hands on the heaters. A wholesome day’s hike for sure. It had only taken us about 3 hours but it was enough. The guide gives us 5 hours but I suppose they need to take longer and appear more difficult to appeal to the less frequent hiker. Now it’s about planning for next weekend!

Cheers, Scott

 
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