Hat Mountain

February 25, 2022


North Shore Mountains, BC

Hat Mountain rises one vertical mile above Lions Bay but is still overshadowed by Brunswick Mountain and Mt. Hanover in the immediate vicinity. I had climbed the taller neighbours years ago but never got around to do Hat Mountain. This peak can easily be done in summer taking advantage of the excellent trail system but I preferred winter as I believed in travelling on snow to be more efficient than the North Shore’s rooty and rocky trails. The tricky part of Hat Mountain’s winter ascent is that avalanche-prone traverse under the NW Face of Brunswick Mountain. At least one hiker had died in an avalanche in that zone so careful timing is required. Whenever a bomber window formed I usually ended up on other (bigger) peaks so that’s probably why it took me so long to work around to this obvious objective.

The last day of this week-long high pressure system seemed to be Friday but I could not shift my work hours to Saturday. I did not want to just cancel the day’s work as I couldn’t find a better objective to justify that. The condition was good but not the best with variable wind slabs and higher-than-preferred new snow in Fraser Valley ranges. There had been multiple reports of the North Shore Mountains that despite the fresh snow one could get by without snowshoes. After evaluating a few options I decided on Hat Mountain with a pre-dawn start to get home early enough to not miss a single hour of work. I sent a bunch of invites but nobody signed up. I woke up at 3:30 am and loaded the fat bike to my truck before proceeding the drive to Lions Bay. I eventually started the ride at 5:15 am after eating my pre-bought sushi breakfast at the parking lot.

Hat Mountain via Brunswick/Hat col. GPX DL

I could ride the first bits of the road but from the first switchback to Brunswick/Harvey junction I had to mostly push the bike. The grade was insane for a road and the surface was rocky and rough. I did ride the section from the junction to the foot bridge crossing Magnesia Creek. The more logical place to ditch the bike was here, but given how many tourists would be up there hiking Tunnel Bluffs I was afraid that someone would steal my bike, so I carefully pushed the bike across the foot bridge and proceeded past Brunswick/Tunnel Bluffs junction. The road quickly became more like a singletrack but I pushed the bike for another kilometer to 800 m elevation. A massive dead-fall blocked the road so I decided to ditch the bike there. It was still dark but the sky was slowly getting brighter. The morning horizon displaced behind me when I approached the road’s end at 1050 m but the FSR was too bushy for views.

Bike ditched high up on Brunswick’s trail and it was still in pitch dark
A few switchbacks later I hit continuous snow
Mt. Wrottesley and the morning horizon.

There were multiple sets of foot tracks and I picked the wrong set on the ascent, gaining elevation a wee bit too quickly. Thankfully this track rejoined the proper trail after a bit of traversing. The trail was actually not too steep and I managed the whole ascent to Brunswick’s shoulder at 1450 m without needing to don any traction device. I had brought the microspikes this time after learning from the experience a few days ago on Hanging Lake trail. It’s apparent that this Brunswick’s trail did not get nearly as much traffic as the other one, so it never became too icy. I donned crampons at 1450 m and made my own way traversing across Brunswick’s NW face into the bowl under Bruswick/Hat col. This section was just as steep and complex as what I remembered from a few years ago on Bruswick’s NE Couloir trip. The condition was definitely not as bomber as I hoped for, as I discovered endless wind slabs but none seemed reactive. Instead of ascending to Hat/Bruswick col I veered climber’s left post-holing straight up the south slopes of “Fat Ass Peak”. The amount of post-holing was greater than expected but generally speaking the going was tolerable without snowshoes. Had I brought the ‘shoes up I would definitely use them, but on this day I had left them at home.

A glimpse of Howe Sound and Sunshine Coast peaks from Brunswick’s trail
A glimpse of Mt. Harvey’s north face
Hat Mountain, my objective through the thinning trees
The start of the steep traverse across Brunswick’s NW Face
Looking back at my tracks dropping into the bowl under Brunswick/Hat col
Leading Peak on Anvil Island in the foreground
An unobstructed view of Mt. Hanover, a winter gem of the North Shore Mountains
Mt. Tantalus/Mt. Dione the tallest peak with Serratus Mtn. and Alpha Mtn. to the right
On the skyline one could see Five Fingers Group and Mt. Judge Howay
Bowen Island and Howe Sound
My tracks crossing the summit of “Fat Ass Peak”
My pack on “Fat Ass Peak” with Hat Mountain ahead

My first taste of sun beams was nearing the summit of “Fat Ass Peak”, which is rather just the false summit of Hat Mountain. I really do not like this unofficially-named “peak” with only 20 m prominence so it does not count as a summit in my personal count. However, I did log the ascent of “Fat Ass Peak” on peakbagger.com since this “peak” is included in the Bagger Challenge list… I took a long break on the top of this false summit before proceeding towards the main peak. I ditched the entire backpack carrying nothing but poles. The descent to Fat Ass/Hat col was harder than expected with some steep, 35-40 degrees rolls but I could still easily manage in just crampons. The ascent of Hat Mountain via the south ridge was quite scenic as the position was superb. I stayed for at least 20 minutes on the summit to take in various parts of the views. The summit itself was dome-shaped with an ugly dildo so I couldn’t get a satisfactory panorama without walking around the summit dome.

A wider view of Hat Mountain’s final south ridge
Bluffs on the south ridge that I must worked around
Looking back at “Fat Ass Peak” catching sunshine, with Brunswick Mtn. behind
Partial Summit Panorama from Hat Mountain. Click to view large size.
Partial Summit Panorama from Hat Mountain. Click to view large size.
In the distance are the group of peaks by Pinecone Lake
“Wettin Peak” is the forested ridge in foreground
“Gotha Peak” and “Coburg Peak” in foreground behind Hanover Lake
Mt. Tantalus with Mt. Sedgwick to the left and Alpha Mountain to the right
Mt. Garibaldi/Atwell Peak massif behind “Gotha Peak” and Mt. Windsor
Me on the summit of Hat Mountain
Me with Mt. Hanover behind
Me in front of Howe Sound on the summit of Hat Mountain
The north face of Mt. Harvey with The Lions behind
Leading Peak on Anvil Island in the foreground
Another photo of me on the summit of Hat Mountain

I then easily plunged back down to Fat Ass/Hat col and re-ascended “Fat Ass Peak”. I did not do any additional lingering on the summit of “Fat Ass Peak” but rather quickly went down the south slopes to that massive side-hill traverse. I followed my own steps entirely to re-ascend back to Brunswick’s shoulder where I met a massive group heading for the standard route of Brunswick Mountain. Several of them recognized me so we had some chats before resuming our own paths. I started the descent by wearing crampons but quickly decided to take them off as I could manage this grade and iciness without any traction. Whenever I could do that, it’s the most comfortable to just boot-pack. I mostly jogged the way down to the bike where I took the last food break of the day. The ride down to Brunswick/Tunnel Bluffs junction was a bit technical for me, but at this point I had already done 20-30 peaks with the fatbike, so I rode it down without a problem, albeit slowly and carefully. Pushing back across that foot bridge still felt sketchy but then I had a blast riding down the FSR while watching tens, if not hundreds of hikers struggling their way up. I assumed that all of them were going for Tunnel Bluffs. I finished the trip before noon am and got home in time for a late lunch. I then earned myself an hour’s sleep before the exhausting afternoon/evening work routine.

The massive bulk of Cathedral Mtn., with Mt. Robie Reid behind on the left skyline
One last look at Mt. Hanover
Descending the south slopes of “Fat Ass Peak” now
Looking back after the steep traverse under Brunswick NW Face
Group shot at Brunswick’s 1450m shoulder with the other group
The other group proceeding up Brunswick’s standard route
Descending back to the FSR now. A bit bushy here..
Another hiker took a picture of me crossing Magnesia Creek
Me really concentrating on this slippery log crossing…