Date: July 1, 2016
Participants: Steve White, Geoff Zenger
Difficulty: 2 (hands needed for a few short steps, easy snow)
Report: A promising forecast for Canada Day led me to post a trip on the BCMC schedule and look for some company to join me on an excursion up Capilano Mountain. I lucked out and Steve volunteered to join me, but we both ran out of luck when the forecast turned out to be dead wrong and we spent most of the day in the rain and fog.
The gate at the bottom of Phyllis Creek road is permanently locked, and so we parked in the pullout right below the gate at the edge of Furry Creek golf course, and by 8:10 we had our bikes good to go and started up towards Capilano Mountain. The road was easier than I remembered driving years ago, and we only had to push the bikes up two short hills en route to the turnoff to Downing Creek road, which would take us to the Beth Lake trailhead. Route notes: on Phyllis Creek road, take a right at the first fork and always follow the most well used path up to the turnoff, which is just before the 4km marker, not just past as Matt Gunn’s guidebook indicates.
About 100m after turning on to Downing Creek road, we crossed Phyllis Creek, and the road began to deteriorate as the alder encroached on the path. A few hundred metres later we started to encounter lots of small windfall, and about 500m from the turnoff we gave up on the bikes and left them in a ditch. This proved to be wise as the road became increasingly overgrown from this point and bikes wouldn’t have helped at on all the descent beyond this point. As a result, we had to travel the remaining 2.5km to the old Beth Lake trailhead on foot.
The first 0.5-1km of the trail up to Beth Lake is badly overgrown with a variety of bushes, including devils club and plenty of blueberries. Making matters worse, the skies had opened and by the time we reached the older growth above we were thoroughly soaked. We persevered nonetheless. At this time the trail is easy enough to follow, although it won’t be too many years until the trail becomes a challenge to hike unless someone heads up and clears the trail up to the old growth.
We reached Beth Lake at around 11:00, and as we stopped for a quick snack and drink, the clouds descended and we had our first experience with the fog that would engulf us until we reached our bikes again later in the day. From the lake, the trail is a bit of a mess for the first 10 minutes as it traverses onto the ridge to the west of the lake, but soon improves and until we reached snow at around 1300m it was in good shape.
Above treeline the route is fairly well marked with cairns and we had little difficulty following it until near the col west of the summit (south of Gordon lake), but as the fog became even more dense, we had to check a GPS route a couple times to determine the right way to proceed. The summit block itself was quite easy to ascend, mostly on snow except for a steep step near the summit where we moved onto the rocks and heather to the side of the gully. We reached the summit at about 1:50 and were treated to glorious views of fog and more fog.
In the fog we started down the summit in the wrong direction, but noticed our mistake quickly and found our tracks in the snow to follow back down. The descent down to the bikes was aided greatly by the snow and we were back down at the lake in what seemed like no time. From the lake down to the bikes was an annoying combination of bush and logging road walking, but once we reached the bikes, all was better. There are few experiences in life I enjoy better than coasting down a logging road on a bike at the end of a long hike, revelling in the thought that some poor souls have had to suffer the long logging road descent on foot. The bike descent was fast and fun, and soon enough we were back at our vehicle, just in time to witness the skies begin to clear.
Thank you very much Steve for joining me on this adventure. There were no views, and the conditions weren’t great, but at least Capilano mountain has been bagged at last.
Total ascent time: 5 hours, 40 minutes. Total descent time: approx. 3 hours.