Crown Mountain

September 22, 2017


North Shore Mountains, BC

Crown Mountain, the highest peak dominating the backdrop of the famed Grouse Grind, is also one of the few iconic objectives visible from the city of Vancouver. The approach isn’t short but the access is super easy. This peak boasts at least half a dozen routes ranging from “hiking” (standard route) to multi-pitch mountaineering (Widowmaker Arete) as well as snow/ice climbing in winter (Crown Couloir). Most of these respective routes have since become the “local classics” although they don’t get discussed very often on the internet. The one particular route that interests me is Crown Couloir in winter but in the end I opted for just the standard route in summer conditions.

Upon seeing a brief high pressure system forming up towards the weekend Jeff Han and I had some discussions about the potential objectives. There’s lots of snow fallen on the high peaks but the local North Shore looked bone dry so I threw out the idea of making an ascent of The Camel. Even the easiest route on The Camel is rated 5.2 so this is one peak that catches everyone’s attention that in no time 5 of us were game for the mission. Getting to the base of The Camel requires ascending up and over Crown Mountain. This was towards the end of a summer climbing season so I was in a pretty good shape for rock climbing but I did not have much experience in handling a group-of-five especially not on technical terrain. To make sure we had enough time I set the meeting time at 5:30 am at the Grouse Grind parking lot. There’s no need to waste the valuable daylight hours on the Grouse Grind approach. The bonus – we didn’t have to see and “say hi” to 100 other people on this overly-crowded trail and that seemed like a decent plan.

It’s worth noting there’s actually a way to not pay a single penny for the Grouse Grind’s parking lot but I wouldn’t publicize it here. If you are curious then feel free to give me a PM via Facebook or email. It’s also worth noting that the “trail-head gate” was still closed at this morning hour but it’s easily bypassed on the side. There’s already a bypass path made by the early birds. There’s another fact worth noting that this is my second time ever hiking the Grouse Grind. The first time was back in 2009 when I did Grouse Mtn. as a Gr. 11 high school kid. This time the Grouse Grind felt much easier (of course) but I do believe there’s more stairs made on this trail. A total of 800 m elevation gain was shaved off in a mere 1.5 hours and then the top station provided a luxurious place to take the first break.

Ascents of Crown Mtn. The Camel and Spindle Peak. GPX DL

Among five of us I had the least amount of experience with this area. The only other time I went here was a snowshoe ascent of Goat Mountain in last winter but everything looks entirely different without the snow. Thankfully the others knew where exactly to go and in no time we were on the trail heading up Dam Mtn. There’s quite a maze of trails but the fastest summer option is to bypass the summits of Dam Mtn. and Little Goat Mtn. on the sides. This worked out pretty well although there’s some up-and-downs, and then were were looking at the 200-meter drop into Crown Pass. This stage was steep and very slippery thank to the wetness and the morning dew.

Beasty at the top of Grouse Grind. Photo by laowei

Hiking beside Dam and Little Goat Mountains

First clear view of Crown (L) and Camel (R)

The ascent out of the Crown Pass was just as steep but less wet. About 100 m up we got the first bits of sunshine and that’s a welcoming sign. There’s no break though.. About halfway up Crown Mountain’s south slopes the trail takes a leftwards traverse across and then ascend a series of ledges and slabs. This section is well marked but could impose some problems for averaged hikers. We aren’t “averaged hikers” of course so cruised across without much of a pause, and then we weren’t too far from treeline.

Not far up from Crown Pass we got this brief view

Upwards and onwards…

Kitty hiking up this steep trail

This is the ledge/slab traverse we had to do

Another shot of these ledges and slabs

Just another shot of the typical trail conditions

The views finally opened up. Beauty Peak (West Crown) in foreground

The summit of Crown Mountain is pretty much “right there” after exiting the forest. The views opened up in a sudden and the final rock arete came much sooner than anticipated. The normal route goes up the left side but I opted to scramble straight up the arete to warm up for what’s coming up later in this day. The scrambling was airy and challenging for a couple moves but very fun. And then we went down the east side a bit to check out conditions on our next objective. Among five of us I was the only dude who hadn’t done this peak before.

A view across the top of Crown Couloir

This is looking down into the couloir. In summer it’s better known as “Crater Slabs”

Jeff going for the summit

The final arete section. Looks very cool

Summit Panorama from Crown Mountain. Click to view large size.

Spindle Peak in the foreground – our 3rd objective

The Camel in the foreground with the Capilano Watershed peaks behind

The crest of Howe Sound Group – Lions, Harvey, Brunswick, Hanover

This is looking at the Tantalus and Sky Pilot Groups on the horizon

Cathedral Mountain catches ones attention from every angle

The Camel…

Exploring the summit areas

Me on the summit of Crown Mountain

This is looking back at Metro Vancouver

The money shot of the final arete on Crown Mtn.

After having enough of the views we turned out attention to the next objective – The Camel.