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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Capilano Mountain - NW Route via Beth Lake, May 2021



Had this one on my mind for a while, alternating between it being a worthwhile objective that's relatively close to home OR an uninteresting and lowly summit that doesn't justify the effort of getting to. Having finally bagged it, I'm pleased to report the former is the correct description. Located between the Brunswick Group to the south and the Sky Pilot Group to the north, this is also an area of the North Shore Mountains I hadn't yet visited and therefore ripe for the picking. At about 26 km round-trip, it's no slouch of an objective mind you, but at least 14 km of that is biking up/down an FSR. This entailed some occasional steep sections, but nothing a fit mountain biker couldn't handle without the need to dismount and push. I ditched the bike just before a large washout, where the road narrows to a trail before resuming on the opposite side. The Beth Lake Trail, which is used by most if not all who attempt Capilano, branches off to the right a bit further along the FSR and is easy to spot.

Continued up towards Beth Lake, bit overgrown at times but generally easy to follow. I encountered continuous snow shortly before the lake, but boot prints and markers were easy to follow. A bit tricky crossing the lake outlet stream as the area was still flooded from snowmelt, but soon resumed the steep grind to reach a brushy cliff area above. Monkeyed myself up though here and found myself at the edge of a wide bowl shortly thereafter. Traversed this, trying to minimize elevation loss aiming for a treed ridge crest at left. I crossed over the other side and kept traversing across a short but steep forested section on the SW flank of Pk 1600 (same as seen from Beth Lake) reaching a wide-open alpine area with first views of Capilano just beyond. Took the path of least resistance from there towards the peak's SW Ridge, passing a bump along the way by contouring around its south side. Ice axe and crampons handy for some short steep bits both approaching the ridge as well as part way up. Wasn't much longer before finding myself trudging across Capilano's domed summit.

Nice 360-degree panorama from up there and not much nearby to block the views - think Island in the sky! I found the perspective on the Britannia Range particularly noteworthy. From nowhere else that I have yet been to can one appreciate the entirety of the range running south-to-north, its east slopes rising precipitously from the low footings of the Capilano River Valley. Had myself a nice long rest up there, soaking in the sublime views and was not in any hurry to head back down. It had taken me somewhere around 5 hours to get up there and like it or not I had to allow as much time for the unpleasant business of returning home. So off I go, back to where I had stashed my bike with just some annoying leg cramps followed by a fun, fast rip down 7 kms of FSR, encountering several parties laden with heavy overnight packs hiking up. It was after all the start of the May Long Weekend with Covid travel restrictions and park closures once again in effect, just in time to ruin everyone's holiday weekend plans of course. Well, except those determined souls tramping up to Beth Lake and Capilano Mountain; just around the corner...a million miles away!

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