I remember a hundred lovely lakes, and recall the fragrant breath of pine and fir and cedar and poplar trees.
The trail has strung upon it, as upon a thread of silk, opalescent dawns and saffron sunsets.
In a summer spent playing on the mountain, including trips to Hanes Valley, Diez Vistas and Coliseum Mountain, the HSCT stands alone.
Our day began with a 5 am wake up call. I stepped out onto my patio and saw stars in the sky. The sun rose as we drove to Cypress at 6 am. We beamed as Bettie snapped a group shot at Cypress before we headed off.
HSCT was incredible: jaw dropping beauty and oh so tough and technical terrain, that at times I wanted to cry. Around every bend lay another stunning photo op, the “oohs” and “ahs” abounded. Time stood still.
Apart from the vistas, three words to describe HSCT: Rugged, remote and technical terrain. I thought I was prepared for the HSCT, but experiencing the HSCT took me to places mentally I have never been. It’s fair to say I underestimated the trail a bit.
On the HSCT, I came face to face with my trail running fears (falling off a cliff was one), navigating down hills littered with loose rocks, hugging ledges, narrow trails, and down hills I had to slide down on my rear.
One foot in front of the other, was our mantra for the toughest parts. I was also witness to incredible sights that had I not witnessed in person, I would not have believed existed. The mountains lay claim to your heart and soul, and don’t let go.
Our first stop was St. Mark’s summit with a stunning view of Howe Sound, a teaser of lay ahead.
Up until St. Mark’s summit (about 2 hours in), the trail had been what I called reasonable. I’d like to say I had a lot of time to reflect on my life during our long day on the trails, but the technical nature of the trail demanded our full attention. One missed step…
Some highlights: climbing up a rock face behind Rik– is this the right way??? Me: well, the others are going up this way, so must be? (I hope).
Belaying down huge slate rocks with ropes ( Hmmm…seems like parts of the trailrequired some mountaineering skill), and after the West Lion, using ropes and chains to cross St. James Peak.
Quote of the day: “Hmm…there seems to be a drop off – a cliff.” Me: thinking…that can’t be right. John (our resident downhill expert): “I could probably go down that.” No takers. We retraced our route and rejoined the proper trail that did not involve a cliff drop. Disaster averted.
Up and down, through mountain passes,over slate rock, in between crevasses. Belaying down rock faces. Like heaven opened up and swallowed me whole. I can’t adequately put into the words the beauty we encountered on the Howe Sound Crest trail. And to know we earned those views, so to speak, by climbing scrambling, edging precariously on ledges, holding onto trees and sliding down. Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the bushwacking through some bramble. Fortunately, there were no major falls, but lots of scratches.
My one moment of true panic. Nature called. I told one of the gang. When I came out from behind the bushes they were gone. Hmm, just a moment before they had been admiring the views. A wide expanse stretched before me. I looked to the left, and the right, and peered over the edge where I had last seen the others standing. I looked down and Bill yelled up. Yay, not alone in the mountains. (not that I thought for a second they would really leave me behind…)
I made my way down, not helping my cause by braking on the down hills (BAD idea) as small rocks skittered under me and I skidded. I mumbled something and righted myself. Par for the course.
Soon enough, I saw the others ahead, little figures making their way towards a ledge, where a fall would not be great.
Knowing my penchant for wandering off trail, Bill turned to me: “Kristine, this might be a good time to pay attention to route markers.” I laughed, but inside, was dying a little. I looked ahead, trying to figure how exactly I was going to get across. Rik pointed out a narrow strip of green vegetation. I grabbed hold of the wall of rock and placed my foot on the ledge. Julia was ahead of me, carefully making her way across. I cursed as I hugged the rock face and inched across. Luckily, there were limited opportunities to look down, but just over my shoulder, I saw a tiny gap and a narrow dirt path that was my goal. What have I gotten myself into? Oh well. Too late now…
Soon enough, my feet were on relatively firm ground (at least for the moment) and I breathed a sigh of relief.
I hadn’t really contemplated not finishing what I started, but there were moments on the HSCT, where, if granted an out, I might have taken it. My legs ached, I was hungry and tired. Climbing to the highest point, the sun beating down on us and on a narrow path ahead, I hit my low point. My ham and cheese bagel had melted into itself, and the thought of gels made my stomach churn. Then I looked up to take in the stunning landscape, my misery momentarily forgotten, and pulled out my phone for a photo.
The weather, in true alpine fashion, changed on a dime. Scorching sun beat down one minute, and in the next, I could feel a chill in the air.
I ran out of superlatives and adjectives to describe HSCT. The vistas we encountered were stunning, towering mountains and valleys, turquoise lakes, Howe Sound, the peaks of the Lions, views of Coliseum and the Black tusk. Lush vegetation, green everywhere, blueberries abounded.
Feast for the eyes…
If there was a downside to this spectacular hike, it was the scarcity of water. I carried a handheld in addition to a two liter hydration bladder. Re – filling water in Magnesia Meadows saved me. Also, I was rummaging in my pack for every last bit of food (so pack more food than you think you will need).
During the last 5km, I managed to down an entire sports chocolate bar (100 grams) which had re – solidified, and was chugging chlorine tinted tarn water (might have gotten a little too enthusiastic with the water purification tablets…) . Ahead of me, Terry goes, we have to be almost there now. Uh huh. 3.7km to the parking lot is far when you are tired. But we could also smell the finish. After an epic day….we were almost there.
The Howe Sound Crest trail, despite my attempts to describe it, defies words. Amazing friends and trail running partners, technical terrain and stunning vistas made for an unforgettable day. 10 + hours later, a group of tired, broken, and humbled runners arrived at Porteau Cove trail head. And thus ended a day which none of us will soon forget.