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Since I’ve arrived in Vancouver, I’ve been hiking a couple of mountains, lakes and parks. What started as a touristy activity, fortunately became part of my new life-style, a real passion. I’ve found in nature the peace I had been looking for and in addition, the certainty that I’m always going to live a unique adventure as the challenges are always going to appear in different ways on the trails. Therefore, I’ve started searching for more challenging trails, instead of easy and mainstream ones. That’s when I discovered Crown Mountain, the hardest challenge for me so far.
What makes this trail so difficult is you have to hike down a very steep trail into Crown Pass before hiking up the steep side of Crown Mountain, then return the same route. The elevation change is therefore misleading compared to other hikes as you have to essentially hike the elevation change twice. (Vancouver Trails)
After two unsuccessfully attempts to reach the top of Crown Mountain, a friend and I decided we should try it once again. In both, we’ve supposed to be stronger than the nature trying to face a bad weather condition. But our third attempt should be a success, thus we thought about our mistakes in order to prepare ourselves better and waited for the day with the best weather conditions. There wouldn’t be anything able to discourage us to reach the Crown’s top. We had made up our minds and were focused on reaching that.
In order to save energy for the Crown trail, we ascended the Grouse Grind in 1h27m. An average of 20 minutes above the time we had done the last times. Then we stopped at the Grouse restaurant for a quick coffee and later on headed to the Crown trail. At the Grouse top, the staff were already making arrangements for the ski season, throwing snow with some machines and covering all the ground. The landscape and the environment were completely different from some weeks ago.
The trail was also looking quite different from our last attempts. There were ice and snow on some places, which turned the path slippery and a little bit dangerous. Some parts of the trail looked like an ice skating rink, we didn’t have another choice but slide over the ice from one point to the other. And when we were neither sliding nor walking, we had to climb. We often stopped for a couple of minutes staring at the frozen rocks and the water draining beneath the ice, trying to figure out a way to go forward on the blocked path on the trail. The risk of falling and rolling down the slope was imminent. The adrenaline is always inherent in the mountain.
Despite all the obstacles and risks presented on our way, we headed up on a good pace. That was when we got at the point we had stopped in our very first hike. From there on, everything would be new. We double-checked our map and saw that we were close to the summit. The anxiety increased after each footstep. The feeling of being so close of a tough conquer was relieving.
The last footsteps till the summit seemed the longest. The mountain somehow seemed to push me up, giving me strength when I had none left. And the summit’s sight preview was stunning. Every breath filled up my lungs with a cold and light air. The feeling of happiness was unique, generated by an incredible sight of the snowy mountain-tops and endless valleys full of trees.
Shortly afterwards, we spotted a crow on the summit. Our goal was to get to the spot where it was sitting, but it seemed to reign there, showing to be the mountain’s owner when it looked at us. As if it was saying to us that it gets there way faster and with a lot less effort than us, whenever it wanted. However, the king of the mountain was generous and flew subtly over a stone beside and conceived us some room, so we could feel like kings for a while as well.
Sitting on a stone at 1,504 meters high left me speechless. Any neglect or loss of balance could cost my life. There wasn’t anything below to hold me if I slipped down. A 360-degree spin gave me a real notion of how high we were. It was possible to see Squamish and Whistler mountain ranges northwards, the Coquitlam region mountain range and Chilliwack eastwards, the Vancouver Island westwards and even a couple of mountains from the USA border southwards. I didn’t know where to look at. At this point it became clear to me why the crow felt like the king sitting on that stone, privileged to be able to have that sight whenever it wanted.
I started counting with my friend the quantity of valleys that we could see eastwards and we count 8. Between one valley and another, there were mountains full of pine trees still green and some of them even with snow at the top. That sequence, whimsically sculpted by the nature, gave me the impression that the mountains were like the waves of the sea and were in constant movement taking us far away. However the most impressive was in fact the uninterrupted silence, that gave me a felling of being in another dimension. The silence would only be broken every now and then by the cry of a crow or the wind bypassing the mountain. It was a mysterious silence, that didn’t bother us at all. It seemed to have so much going on down there in the forest, but at the same time we seemed to be far from any living being. A rare silence full of peace, impossible to be felt in the city.
The English Bay ships looked like toys, as if somebody had put them with the fingers and left them there stopped for hours. The city buildings, trees and parks seemed a scene of the game The Sims, and for sure, as if I was there playing it. I saw the city but the city didn’t see me. I didn’t hear the city and nobody heard me as well. I was close to everything and far away at the same time. I was on the mountain, but the world continued to happen.
At a mountain-top, the sun is the only thing that makes us realize that time hasn’t stopped. And the autumn Sun always far on the horizon illuminated English Bay and the sea, reflecting the sun’s light like a mirror. The valleys located behind the high mountains shouldn’t had received a single sun light for days, and sure enough, will stay like this for the next few months. Its warmth, which almost didn’t reach us, wasn’t enough to keep us warm. Luckily there was no wind and we were well bundled up this time. Moreover, the temperature at the top of the Crown should be nearing 0° C. As the sun was going down, we remembered then that it was time to go, after all it was an autumn day and there was just over 8 hours of daylight. We couldn’t ignore the time, otherwise the descent in the dark could be even harder.
The way back wasn’t worse because we rested and relaxed our legs at the top of the mountain. We came back slowly, but in a constant pace, with that wonderful sensation of a conquered goal. Even though, between one climb and another on the trail, I would feel the thigh muscle pulling off and begging to me to stop. Of course that I would ignore it and kept on walking. However, some stops were inevitable so we could appreciate the beauty of the sunset, shyly shinning between the pines, with the city lighting up and preparing itself for the night. And before returning to the city, we still stopped for a while at the beginning of the trail to appreciate the last rays of sun on the horizon and the uncountable stars starting to show up in the clear sky.
The bigger the challenge, the bigger the will to conquer it. It might be a mountain-top or all the challenges that show up in life, we should never give up our dreams and goals, it doesn’t matter how many times we’ll have to attempt or how hard they’ll be, if we believe we can do it, so we really can. The Crown Mountain was one of the biggest psychological tests I’ve ever had in my life. However, it made me discover that I’m stronger that I thought I was. And such as in life, the mountain had set up rules and had determined tough obstacles to reach it. As if it was a queen and had given us a message: “I’ll make you think about quitting from start to finish, but if you persist you won’t regret conquering my crown.”. Do I still need to say whether it was worth it or not?