With summer flying by and us determined to cram as much adventure as possible into each weekend, this past Sunday morning found us tackling Brunswick for the first time.
Having passed on a Saturday opportunity to run Panorama Ridge with friends (we spent the day floating on a unicorn floatie in Golden Ears) I was determined to get in some trail time and the more vertical the better.
Initially, we had considered tackling a hike/trail run in the Squamish area, but being Ironman Canada weekend, we opted to stay off the Sea to Sky as much as possible and save Squamish for another weekend.
After several back and forth exchanges about what to do and where, we found ourselves en route to Lions Bay and Brunswick Mountain Trail head. Brunswick has been on my bucket list for some time; we had a short window of opportunity to tackle the hike and neither Jason nor I had previously done Brunswick. He also loves to scramble. Win win for both of us.
We got to the trail head shortly before 10 am and as expected cars lined the road a km plus down from the trail head (many of those being people who planned to hike the Lions – which shares the same trail head as Brunswick). We wedged the truck into the first spot we could find. I texted my sis our plans including what time we would be back. (Just in case, I told her).
The first few km were innocuous enough being gravelly/switch back type roads. Just past 2km, the road forks; to the right is the start of the Lions trail and to the left the trail to Brunswick peak The trail head starts to narrow and there is plenty ofunderbrush. There were several creeks and a log bridge to cross. All the uphill. If you haven’t tackled Brunswick before, you are in for a treat.
The last couple of km were steep & straight up through dirt trail and then the real fun begins.
On the first part of exposed sheer rock, I met a 70 plus year old gentleman (?!) coming down who told me that this was just the warm up and to have fun. That we had another hour or so to go. My heart sank.
Right around this time Jason announced he didn’t want to keep going because of the flies or mosquitos that are swarming us. Given that I am literally on the side of a rather exposed rock face one foot wedged in a crevice and two hands on the side of the mountain and we have climbed straight up for almost 2 hours, I ignored him and kept climbing. I told him we could decide when we got to a ledge. But I kept climbing. And so did he. (because he couldn’t find a lunch spot or a ledge to sit on he later tells me).
I am not afraid of heights, but I am not a mountaineer either and as the climb grew more exposed I could feel a knot in my stomach. I focused my eyes on the people ahead of us, and just kept climbing.
And then the vistas opened up and I could see the turquoise waters of Brunswick lake below us. I turned around and J. has scrambled up the side of an adjacent rock face and was peering over a cliff, waving.
My heart stops. Other hikers/runners who seem him gasped.
“Come join me” he says. Nope, I say, and keep climbing to the opposite peaks of Brunswick. There is nothing like scrambling up exposed ridges and sheer rock faces (some of it loose rock) to bring you to your knees. And yes, I was afraid.
I pride myself on being adventurous but I was particularly aware (as I scrambled on my hands and knees and butt slid) that the mountains are always in charge, and why carrying the 10 essentials is critical. Though our day went well, I could easily see how things could go sideways in a hurry. I wouldn’t want to spend an unexpected night on Brunswick mountain and definitely not unprepared.
We enjoyed a well earned lunch at the top of Brunswick which has spectacular vistas. On a clear day there is a 360 degree view of the Howe Sound, the peaks of the Lions, but even with some cloud cover it was beautiful. We loitered for a while but mindful of the fact that coming down would take just as long as going up had, we stayed less than an hour at the top. Jason was like a mountain goat on the way down. I was butt sliding (and maybe whimpering a bit).
“Stand up” he says as I am crossing the ridge. Nope. 2.5 hours after starting our decent (not including a half hour pit stop at the creek to soak our dirty feet and tired legs) we are back at the trail head. Tired but very happy campers.
Overall it took us about 4.5 hours give ot take of hiking time plus a couple of hours of loitering.
Brunswick is an incredible trail hike/run but if you are afraid of heights this might not be for you. More info on this hike can be found here: http://www.trailpeak.com/trail-Brunswick-Mountain-near-Vancouver-BC-1153
P.S. We carried extra food, water, fully charged phones, first aid kit, bivy, whistle, blanket, extra jacket, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, 4-5 liters of water between the two of us, extra shirt, salt pills (I confess, we forgot the headlamp – but I would highly recommend it even if you think you will be back in daylight). For a list of the 10 essentials click here: http://runningmagazine.ca/video-the-10-essentials-for-trail-running-and-backcountry-adventure/