With the summer season coming to a close and the winter season not yet upon us I undertook a mission to activate three summits in one day in North Vancouver. The plan was as follows: Hike up the Grouse Grind (853m vertical gain over 2.5 Km, 58% maximum grade) then proceed to Crown Pass (200m up, then 200m down) and then up talus slopes and third class trees to Crown Summit (VE7/GV-005), back into Crown Pass and up again to Goat Mountain (VE7/GV-010), before heading to Pipeline Pass via Thunderbird Ridge (500m down, 300m up over 5km) then up to Mt. Fromme (VE7/GV-008) and finally 900m of descent back to the car.
The Grouse Grind is well traveled test piece for local uphill athletes. On a busy weekend more than 1,000 people will throw themselves at it daily. The fastest athletes can make it to the top in 30 minutes or less, I did it in 55. You’d think this would be a quick time, but I was still passed by three senior citizens on the way up. In my defense, the only equipment they were carrying was a credit card for a snack and a ride down the tram. Suffice it to say I was the fastest hiker in the under-60 category that hour.
Once I reached the chalet at the top I filled my water bottle (ProTip: If there’s a water fountain at the top of the first climb, you don’t need to add an extra 1.5 Kg to your pack) and headed out into the fog towards Crown Pass. The weather forecast had not been encouraging, but I hoped to avoid the worst of it by starting a bit later in the day. Unfortunately the storm did not cooperate and also decided to sleep in, hitting me with a variety of precipitation during the day. Other than a skittish Mule Deer, I wouldn’t see anyone else until I was nearly above treeline.
The rain and hail hit as I was descending into Crown Pass. Everything got soaked, including my camera, so unfortunately there are few pictures of this section. With the prevailing fog there wasn’t much to see anyway. I made it to the top of Crown on schedule just after 2pm and hastily started to make calls on 146.52 MHz. Fortunately there were enough people following along that I was able to knock out five QSOs in less than 15 minutes, which was just enough time to get chilly. It was 7 degrees, hailing, and windy at the top so I postponed my lunch plans and headed down into the relative shelter of the trees. Amazingly there were 7 other people on the trail up to Crown, though three of them turned around at an exposed section of scrambling.
Goat Mountain was much more enjoyable than Crown, with a break in the rain and only light winds. It was a good chance to linger and chat with people on some of the local repeaters, as well as some enterprising operators in Washington State on simplex.
The trail along Thunderbird Ridge to Pipeline Pass is not as well traveled as other parts of the North Shore, which is to say that less than 100 people will do it in a year. It involves a steep descent through mature second growth to an open drainage where it joins an overgrown road used to lay an ancient water pipe.
This road climbs for 100m up to Pipeline Pass where you can either head to Mt. Fromme or back into the Grouse ski area. It is also the point where it joins the old Grouse Mountain Highway, which was long ago a major access route to the watershed north of Vancouver.
Mt. Fromme is not terribly impressive from the top. The summit is forested and fairly flat, so one has to walk south a bit to get a good line of sight into Vancouver and Washington. Being my last activation of the day I was surprised to hear Peter AE5TR in Anacortes, WA, calling me from more than 100 km away. Eric VA7NX, who had brought his 4 element yagi to work with him and had been working me all day, also came through from way out in White Rock. A big thanks to everyone who tried working me!
Getting off of Fromme isn’t terribly difficult. Most of the lower mountain is a grid of mountain bike trails and gravel roads, so as long as you’re going downhill you’ll make it back to civilization eventually. Getting out to a specific spot is a bit trickier. By far the best way to get off the summit is the Peer Gynt trail. If you look at the map at the beginning if this post you’ll see it…just to the right of the route that I took. This wasn’t a navigation error, I intentionally took the other trail (33% grade) in order to drop elevation as quickly as possible then ran 1.3 Km along the gravel Mtn. Highway road to get to the next steep grade. Once I’d gotten past the next major switchback onto the Dreamweaver trail I could run the rest of the way back to the Baden Powell trail and then the Power Line road to the base of the Grouse tram and my car. I wrapped up just in time to see the streetlights turn on.
Hikers seeking to climb Mt. Fromme would be well advised to start from the St. George’s Trail entrance on Saint Mary’s Avenue in North Vancouver, and return the same way.
Total elevation gain/loss: 2,642m
Trip distance: 22.4 Km
Moving time: 7:42h
Total time: 10:18h
Calories burned: 8,232