Howe Sound Crest Traverse
Ever since the October 1st 2017 Lions Bay Loop, I wanted to make it back up to the Howe Sound Crest in order to complete the traverse. After twenty-two months, the trip finally became a reality. I woke at 2:30 AM on July 12th as the house shook following a small earthquake. I then drove up to Everett to meet up with Abram Elwell, John Maxwell, and Kris Johnson and we took two cars up to the Porteau Cove area. We left one car at the parking lot and drove the other to Cypress Bowl Ski area to start our Howe Sound Crest traverse.
It was an ideal morning for an 18-mile run and we started on the trail at 7:54 AM. The opening two miles are on a rather wide gravel path that carves through a ski resort. The trail then becomes narrower, steeper, and more technical as it enters the forest. Tree roots create a webbing effect over the trail and all the recent rain made for a muddy, slippery ascent. We reached our first lookout near the base of Saint Marks Summit after gaining about 1400 feet from our 3000-foot starting point.
We slowly continued along the rocky ridgeline, absorbing the views of the sound to the west and tower-like peaks to the north. The next seven miles of the traverse waiver between 4400 and 5300 feet and offer a continuous panoramic vantage point. After about 5.4 miles of travel we reached our first summit – Unnecessary Mountain (5079 feet). Following the unnecessary summit we continued between the two Lions to Thomas Peak (5052 ft). We skirted along the sloping boulders of east West Lion. We reached a small saddle and spotted a black bear foraging on a steep talus field. We continued to descend about 700 ft before beginning the climb to Enchantment Pass. The trail then steeply climbed to the top of James Peak (4809 ft), even passing over a roped ridgeline section.
At 7.7 miles we were already 3.5 hours into the run, and the trail showed no sign of getting easier with the steep rocky descent of James Peak. After a very short time in a pleasant subalpine meadow, we began a tortuous forested ascent to our final peak of the day, David Peak (4908 ft). Following a muddy overgrown descent from David Peak, we reached the Harvey Creek Saddle and were sure to follow the HSCT, avoiding the Harvey connector trail. The trail continues past the col to a small stream crossing where the group refilled water around mile 9.3. We continued through the lush Magnesia Meadows, where we enjoyed our last glimpses of the impressive peaks and sound to the west.
The meadow trended slightly uphill before reaching the junction with the Brunswick Mountain trail. We passed along the southwest slopes of Brunswick Mountain and then re-entered the forest, ending our open viewpoints for the day. We descended to Brunswick Lake (mile 11.8) where the trail passed through the middle of the lake due to the increased water levels. From the lake we continued along Deeks Creek, crossing it twice as we continued to lose elevation. The creek tumbled off the cliff side forming an impressive waterfall into Hanover Lake and then down to Deeks Lake (mile 13.2).
After Deeks Lake, the grade increased drastically as the trail continued to parallel Deeks Creek. Finally we could begin to pick up the pace at mile 16 when we reached a wide gravel forest road. We reflected on the previous 6 hours and 20 minutes as we followed the steep winding road to the parking area near Porteau Cove. We reached my car near highway 99 in 6 hours and 38 minutes, but unfortunately, my key did not…
After a strenuous 18 miles and 7080 vertical feet on the Howe Sound Crest traverse we were unable to get into my car to begin the journey home. After debating our options for a potential solution, we decided that it was best if John and Abram went down to the highway to hitchhike back to Cypress Bowl. As it turns out they were able to get a ride in a limousine that brought them to the starting point. After a long trip back home I ended my day at 10:00 PM with my mission to complete the Howe Sound traverse complete.