Ascent of Crown Mountain on 2016-09-16

Climber: William Musser

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Friday, September 16, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Crown Mountain
    Location:Canada-British Columbia
    Elevation:4934 ft / 1503 m

Ascent Trip Report

Grouse Mountain via the Grind:

I got up early to drive from Vancouver to North Vancouver at the base of the Grouse Mountain Ski Resort. I had heard so much about the “Grouse Grind” which all the locals use to train on. A grueling nearly 3,000 foot gain of steps made of rock, dirt, logs, and boards. In about 1.8 miles it gains 2,800 feet. I got there in the dark and put on my headlamp. I started at 6:15AM and passed one local and that was the last local I passed. The hardcore get up early to beat the “tourists” like me and see if they can beat their personal bests. I would guess 20 to 25 people passed me on the way up. The internet says 90 minutes is considered a good time for a fit person and the record is under 30 minutes. I promised my wife and heart doctor not to push my heart like that again so I took a nice pace keeping my heart beating between 80 and 100 bpm and able to breathe most of the route through my nose. People passing me were breathing heavily through their mouth huffing and puffing and looking down at their watches! Hard core! I was pleased to see my time was 70 minutes – still very good since I did not want to over tax the ol’ ticker, and I had a full agenda ahead of me past this warm up exercise.

My big surprise, was all these early morning trainers, then either ran back down the BCST trail, or grabbed the Gondola and came down. I thought with all that traffic early sunrise and all I would have company on the next phase of my expedition but no – it was solo peakbagging after that. Sun had just come up as I hiked past the grizzly bear habitat pen and found a maintenance road up Grouse Peak. It looked so close but by the time I found the summit near the chair lift and was back down again, I was now approaching my 2nd hour since leaving the car. I note this as the folks that do the Grind are not on the summit. The Grouse summit for those that peakbag is off to the north of the Gondola.

The Grouse summit has some decent views but is cluttered with man-made objects. I started down the ski slope and then thought otherwise. Legal mumbo-jumbo signs were everywhere protecting the ski resort from dumb hikers and doing dumb things and they just started exercising the ski lifts for all the tourists to come up later in the morning where I was descending, and I could envision some security guy blowing a whistle, sending up an SUV with a flashing light and ending my day of fun so I took the conservative course of action and hiked back up to the summit and came back down the maintenance road. I figure, I was going to leave the resort area soon any way.

Dam Mountain via Ridge Trail:

Finding the backcountry kiosk, I signed in. I looked into the box and I was the only hiker that had passed through the backcountry so far. I see now, all those people that passed me on the grind where just there for timing their ascent and done for the day and for me, I was just getting started. There are essentially two trails that run along the backcountry ridge line on the way to the largest prize – Crown Mountain at nearly 5,000 feet above sea level and around 1,700 feet of prominence. That was my goal but I wanted to bag every peak in and around the route along the way. To do this you have to use the Ridge Trail options (stay left). The Alpine Trail (stay right) contours the subpeaks and is faster to the back country and returning back to the Gondola.

The first peak option is called Dam Mountain. Finally, a nice little sub-peak with a rocky top and nice views of the harbor, the wind turbine back at Grouse Mountain and a hint of peaks to come. Still no people in the back country but my hats off to the Canadian park service as the trails were in excellent shape and well-marked at each junction. Enough bear warning signs to make any solo hiker a bit wary as well. I confess, that I barked like a pack of dogs when I was heading around blind corners. I am not one for bear spray. I believe in giving warning sounds long in advance of trouble. I was still making good time and on the way to see Little Goat Mountain – another subpeak when I started to notice that the “Grouse Grind” had done some damage after all…my legs were starting to shake. I slammed some Gatorade and a cookie and kept going.

Little Goat Mountain via Ridge Trail:

Little Goat Mountain is also bagged from the Ridge Trail to the west of the Alpine Trail and is actually a little lower in elevation than Dam but now you get to the part of the ridge line where you have to make your choice of which more difficult summit you want to grab. Big Goat Mountain or Crown? I wanted both but my legs were still shaky. Then I noticed my peakbagging notes and both had over 1,000 feet of prominence. Ut oh! Sounds like a deep saddle or two ahead. The topo maps are horrible in this part of the country and in meters so I viewed the depth and steepness of the valley ahead and considered my options. Still alone in the backwoods with shaky legs, I better go grab the far easier, Big Goat and see how I feel. Returning with at least one 1000 foot prominence peak is not too bad in case my legs are not recovered to do the harder Crown.

Big Goat Mountain via Goat Ridge Trail:

There is some false saddles on the way to Goat but the connecting saddle from the Alpine Trail to the Goat Mountain Trail is not the col saddle that gives it the big prominence. That saddle is the on the trail to Crown, so you can get Goat without descending nearly as deep back down into the valley. Thus, you go down perhaps 300 feet and then ascend about 700 feet to the summit of Goat. The trail is wicked steep from the saddle up. The park installed some rope and chains for the ascent and it is not a class 1 hike. It is climbing. Class 2+ and some 3 grabbing on to rocks and roots much of the way. The rope and chain is not really needed in dry conditions but I would think after rain, the additional lines would be a blessing. The summit has excellent views. You can see Baker in Washington, the ocean and inlet harbor, Vancouver, the snow filled summits to the north, and of course, a great view of Crown Mountain and “The Camel.” The Crown and Camel together form a sexy twin paring of rocky mountain tops. With my legs still shaking, Crown continued to call out at me. I downed more Gatorade urging my mitochondria to start making some ATP and placing it back into the system. I had already experienced two calf cramps coming up the Grind so I wanted to be careful.

Climbing back down the steep Goat summit trail back to the junction with the Alpine Trail and the Trail that leads to the Crown, it was once again, decision time. Still nobody back here with me in the backcountry. Perhaps my bear retardant dog barking had scared all hikers away for miles?

Crown Mountain via Alpine Trail:

With all this subpeak tagging and the Grind earlier in the morning, I was over 4,000 feet of vertical for the day and now looking at a big drop down to the connecting saddle to Crown. The maps available up this way are far less detailed than what we get in the states to determine vertical distance. We are blessed with nice USGS maps in the States. I estimated that I would have to drop from around 4,300 feet to 3,700 feet before being able to climb the Crown which is nearly 5,000 feet. Thus, the ascent plus return trip to this juncture would be another 2,000 feet of total gain (around 1200 up the Crown and another 700 back to the junction where I was sitting).

I rested, then elected to head down to see just how low the col was. My altimeter continued to verify I was in the midst of a deep plunge but I expected that when I examined the steep cut valley separating the peaks. The downclimb is more class 2 to 2+ with chains and ropes to support if wet. On a wet day this section down would be quite a challenge. Today was relatively dry and I avoided the slick places the best I could. I found my legs feeling more strength and I down-climbed and then hiked to the col. I wanted Crown too but another 1,200 feet up and then 700 feet back plus add gain on the way back to Grouse was feeling very demoralizing,….but then… I heard some voices in the distance. Somebody was finally following me in the backcountry that skipped the alternate route over to Big Goat and had caught up with me. That gave me the morale bump I needed so I slowly started up the Crown. This is crazy hiking country. The Grind is not as hard as these sections up the Goat and the Crown. They are not as tall, but they are not uniform steps. They are as steep or steeper in section but they are a rock and root scramble in places. But very rewarding.

Once you have climbed about half the way up the 1,200 foot gain, you come to the first rock wall and it presents itself at a steep angle. My hats off again to the trail makers. They found a nice line across the face that is safe class 2+ to 3 that is marked easily. Then back to the straight up class 2+ root and rock. This is the steepest, long stretch of well-maintained trail I can remember having climbed. This is after and equally steep 700 foot downclimb and if I remember correctly, it is like 1.2 miles to obtain 1,200 feet. Then you have to come back do the 700 feet back again. Again, looking at the face of rock, you wonder how this route would avoid class 4 or 5; but the trail makers swing you around the backside and keep it class 2 and 3.

The Class 3 is as “classic 3” as I can remember. I do not recall a single crux move that was 3+ or 4. A beautifully laid out route. The summit is a handsome slab of steep rock with precarious edges that affords excellent views in all directions. As I enjoyed the summit, I heard voices coming up. Finally after hours by myself in the back country and having summited solo for the day, two young men appeared up the ridge. They had taken the Gondola up and had not summited the Goat or the other sub-peaks. My legs were tired again, so I enjoyed a little company and exchanged stories with the guys for a few minutes to rest my reserves. Then I headed back before them in case my legs gave out. Interestingly, the food and Gatorade kicked in by now, and my legs were not wobbly again on the way back. The guys never caught up to me again. I passed only 2 more couples on the entire return trip so even on a beautiful FRI in this well-marked and maintained trail system, I only saw 6 people between the Grind to the Goat to the Crown back to the Alpine area! Wow! You have to love Canada’ solitude.

I took the Alpine Trail back to the Gondola and once you get near the zip-lines then you start to see some tourists hiking up with guides to do the zipline. The Ridge Trail avoids the crowds apparently. It started to rain as I pulled up the swarm of tourists looking at the grizzly bears in the caged area. This morning as I shut down my headlamp there was not a person out. Now the ski resort area was filled with tourists. I decided to not hike down the trail to my car (another 2900 feet below in the rain). So I jumped in the Gondola and rode it down.

Combined Ridge Peakbagging Summary (5 peaks):

I ended up still, getting in a ten mile (10.1 mile) day hike; claiming 5 peaks; 2 peaks with respectable prominence, challenging myself with the Grouse Grind; and with all the additional gain and sub-peaks climbed over 6,000 feet. I left being very impressed with the nearby solid wilderness hiking and climbing opportunities so close to Vancouver and yet, with well-marked facilities and lots of solitude. A good day indeed.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1589 ft / 483 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4360 ft / 1328 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4 mi / 6.5 km
    Grade/Class:2,2+, and lots of 3
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1294 ft / 394 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 1254 ft / 382 m; Extra: 40 ft / 12m
    Loss on way in:40 ft / 12 m
    Distance:1.2 mi / 1.9 km
    Route:Alpine Trail to summit scramble
    Start Trailhead:Saddle between peaks  3680 ft / 1121 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4320 ft / 1316 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 4025 ft / 1226 m; Extra: 295 ft / 89m
    Gain on way out:295 ft / 89 m
    Distance:2.9 mi / 4.6 km
    Route:Alpine Trail to Gondola
    End Trailhead:Parking Lot  909 ft / 277 m
Ascent Part of Trip: Grouse-Crown-BC

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Grouse Mountain2016-09-16 a3252 ft / 991 m
2Dam Mountain2016-09-16 b626 ft / 191 m
3Little Goat Mountain2016-09-16 c198 ft / 60 m
4Goat Mountain2016-09-16 d976 ft / 297 m
5Crown Mountain2016-09-16 e1589 ft / 484 m
Total Trip Gain: 6641 ft / 2023 m    Total Trip Loss: 6644 ft / 2025 m

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