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Hiking Trip: The West Lion, Vancouver

Hiking the West Lion, if I’m to be honest was a tale of hardship and ego. A beautiful hike nonetheless.

For those of you who are not familiar with the hiking offered in and around Vancouver, the West Lion is one of two peaks called The Lions, made up of, as you can maybe guess The West Lion and The East Lion.

I had been up here twice before but had never made it to the summit for different reasons. The East Lion is out of bounds as it is in a watershed and the West Lion is for experienced hikers / climbers only but the views are amazing from the plateau before the summit. I have let my ego get in the way before and gotten into dangerous situations while hiking so we were not going to attempt the summit unless it was safe.

We packed around 5 litres of water (between  two of us), sunscreen, a small first aid kit, bear spray and snacks. The first aid kit and bear spray may seem like overkill but they’re small, don’t take up space and could save your life. Just make sure you know how to use the bear spray and everything in your first aid kit and make sure your bear spray hasn’t expired.

 

It is a 15km round trip with 1,280m of elevation gain. If I ever do it again I would split it over 2 days as there are nice places to pitch a tent or just lie down with your sleeping bag.

We set out around 10 in the morning from the parking lot. Click here for the Google Maps location. We had to park further back at the elementary school as the parking lot was full. It is a pay parking lot, so bear that in mind.

We set out up a logging road, the trail is clearly marked all the way and it’s difficult to get lost, but I recommend using a GPS map on your phone like Topo Maps. It’s free and you can download the areas you need before you head out so you don’t have to rely on cell signal. Put your phone into flight mode and you should get most of the day out of it. I brought a battery charger just in case. Better still, know how to read a map and use a compass – people die every year in the local mountains and it is avoidable.

The trail generally gets steep after an hour or so and doesn’t really let up.

In the photo below you can see our destination, the flat, rocky outcrop to the right and the West Lion just left of that.

 

As you can see, once we got above the tree line, the views were spectacular, but that also meant that the sun was relentless.

We pressed on through the heat, making sure to take water breaks every fifteen minutes as it was approximately 31°C. We ate enough snacks along the way to keep the energy up.

 

Just before the approach to the plateau, close to the junction for the West Lion and Unnecessary Mountain (no point goin up there), after gaining around 1,200m in total the sun was taking its toll. My ego wouldn’t let me give up and I insisted that we press on. I wasn’t turning back but lucky enough after my next break I saw sense and we decided it was time to turn around.

Maybe we would have made it to the plateau, but I have found myself dehydrated, vomiting at the top of mountains before, with an unpleasant 6 hour hike down. We were taking no risks. It will be there next summer.

The journey down was long and slow and the flies were relentless all the way up and down. It was difficult to enjoy any rest. I remember at one stage, sitting on a rock with the sun beating down on me, covered in sweat and surrounded by flies. I didn’t even bother to beat them off as it was a waste of energy.

The fact that we managed to get through all of our water is a testament to the heat – Luckily there were numerous water sources available which were safe to drink.

It was not all bad, the views are absolutely amazing but be prepared for a long and challenging hike with lots of scrambling. Also, if you decide to do it in the height of summer, get up there early in the morning and beat the hot afternoon weather, or split the trip up into two days. I would imagine the views of the stars are amazing at night time. It is definitely on my list to spend the night up here.

Happy Hiking / Camping,

George

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