Sunset on Seymour, a Retrospective

It was an early October afternoon a few years back when Doug and I finally got around to doing something we probably should have done years before. What was that, you ask? Hiking to the summit of Mt Seymour to catch the sunset! When I originally posted the photos from this trek, a lot of people I know said “Is that the first time you’ve done that? I thought you guys did that all the time.” Truth is, as often as both of us had explored the remotest corners of Mt Seymour Provincial Park, we had never actually lingered over a sunset there. There had been, of course, many treks where we’d seen the sunrise, but it was high time to change that equation.

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Sunrises on Mt Seymour have been much more common for me. Here’s Simon watching the sun come up on our way to Mt Elsay years ago

So it was that Saturday evening Doug and I were headed up the mountain at about 5 pm, on yet another flawless autumn day. The plan was to scramble the south face of Pump Peak, then head over the shoulder below its summit, bypass Tim Jones Peak, then get to the summit of Mt Seymour well before the magic hour. The climb up was fun, with afternoon shadows providing a welcome respite from rays of sunshine that were unusually warm for October.

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Reflections on the pond below Brockton Point
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Late afternoon sun on Brockton Tarn

We set a decent pace uphill, reaching the summit by about 615 pm, where we soon broke out the cameras and refreshments. The sunset was an incredible show, and we had the place entirely to ourselves. Unbeknownst to Doug, I’d packed up four beers, some chocolate bars, and a sandwich, so we were well prepared for the show.

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A sea of mountains to the north and west of Mt Seymour!
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Setting up my Canon SX 40 as the light begins to change. I still use it for a lot of the big zooms I take

Although Mt Seymour is so close to the ever burgeoning metropolis of Vancouver, it is sometimes easy to forget that it is also the gateway to an expansive tract of wilderness. Few people find themselves on its summit at day’s end and fewer still venture beyond it, especially as darkness approaches.

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Looking west to Vancouver Island. Though I didn’t envision it at the time I now call “The Island” home!

The ever changing light was a delight to photograph, and we spent a good hour and a half savouring every moment. From the towers of Mt Judge Howay and Meslilloet to the glaciers of Mamquam Mountain and Garibaldi, from the city lights of Vancouver to the distant peaks of Vancouver Island, every mountain seemed visibly pronounced in some shade of vivid colour. I still recall it as one of the finer golden hours I’ve had a chance to see! Here are some of the more notable images I captured.

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Coquitlam Mountain, a real sufferfest for climbers I am told! I often wonder, when I see it from this angle, if anyone has ever ascended that prominent ramp all the way to the ridge . It is, of course, off limits, in the Coquitlam Watershed. It’s only 1583m in elevation but its west face is quite a dramatic sight!
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Mt Robie Reid, in Golden Ears Provincial Park, almost 2100m in elevation. If you look closely you can even see its radio repeater
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Looking over the east shoulder of Mt Bishop to the Mamquam Valley beyond. The Coquitlam Divide is at right above Indian Arm, which can’t be seen in this shot
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Meslilloet Mountain, elevation 2000m, and having the distinction of hosting the closest glacier to the Vancouver area, as the crow flies
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Mt Garibaldi, in Garibaldi Provincial Park, 2678m tall, and the closest volcano to the Vancouver area. It’s much closer, however, to Squamish
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The Fannin Range, of which Seymour is a member, also features neighbours Mt Elsay and Mt Bishop.  Meslilloet and Bonnycastle are in the background behind them
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Sunset begins to glow over Vancouver and company
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Crown Mountain and The Camel in evening silhouette
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Cathedral Mountain, at 1737m, is the highest mountain in close proximity to Vancouver, although it cannot be seen from North Vancouver where I used to live
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To the east again, this is the twin towers of Mt Judge Howay, 2262m, near the head of the Stave Lake. It’s prized by climbers as it’s a real ordeal just to get to it. That’s Viennese Peak at far right over in the Chehalis Range
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The monstrous icefields of Mamquam Mountain, 2588m, in the Mamquam Valley in Garibaldi Provincial Park
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The Sky Pilot Group, with Mt Habrich hiding out at right. At 2000m, it is the tallest in the Britannia Range, at the head of Britannia Creek

     I could go on and on about all of the things I love about Mt Seymour, but what I have always liked best is that you are in an alpine environment with unrivalled views of the city.

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Best city views by a mile, in my estimation!

There is no tram to pay for on the way down, for you must hike and scramble over rock, not staircases, and if you want beer you’d better bring your own, just the way I like it. When I moved to the Lower Mainland many years ago from Montreal, it was the first Coast Mountain I ever hiked. It is wilderness in every way, however, for those uninitiated, despite its proximity to civilization. Once you are above the ski runs and into the backcountry try not to forget that all the inherent dangers remain, along with all the potential for solitude and adventure.

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Untold miles of wilderness looking northeast of Mt Seymour’s summit, about as rugged as it gets!
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Sun begins to set in the west
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A closer look at the Sky Pilot Group. The second highest summit is Ledge Peak
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The Mt Arrowsmith massif on Vancouver Island is quite a landmark, at 1819m in elevation

With beers downed and photos taken, we packed up to head down via the standard parks trail. By the time we reached Tim Jones Peak the light had all but vanished, so then we were relying on headlamps, a GPS track, and our familiarity with the trail. When finding your way in darkness, the old route up the face of Pump Peak is somewhat harder to navigate, so we purposefully allowed more time for the descent. Hiking in the dark is in itself a skill, and not to be underestimated. For me, it’s something I don’t commonly do, but for Doug, as a North Shore Rescue member, it’s something he does all the time. It gives one a whole new sense of appreciation about what it takes to locate and rescue lost hikers at night. What was also interesting was that I discovered I really do know every inch of the Mt Seymour Trail, dark or otherwise. There are, by the way, always a headlamp and an extra set of batteries or two in my pack because lighting is never underrated!

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Light fading fast on the descent
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A parting shot: Mt Burwell, 1545m, at left beside Cathedral, with Sky Pilot and Garibaldi and others on the horizon

All told, it took an hour and fifteen minutes to hike up, about an hour and ten minutes on the summit, and less than an hour and a half to hike down in the dark to make it  three hours fifty minutes for the trip. Highly recommended, but only if you are very well prepared, have excellent navigational skills, and you know the mountain well. If not, why not camp on the summit? I think I’ll do that myself sometime!

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