Brandywine-Fee Loop: Steep Trail and a Snowy Ridge

Our car overheated on the way to the trailhead, and we had to stop and wait, and then drove a bit more before it overheated again. While we were thinking what to do a jeep stopped and a guy came out to ask if we needed any help. We ended up catching a ride with them, which was pretty good as with the four wheel drive they could go much higher and saved us an hour of hiking in the forest.

Hiking along the summit ridge

After a short while we reached Brandywine Meadows, with some picturesque combinations of streams and flowers. Our route took us up talus slopes to a ridge that leads to the summit. Once we got onto the ridge there were great views of the Squamish Valley, Mt. Brew, the dark castle which is Mt. Fee, and the light grey Mt. Cayley with its broad glaciers. Quite a few groups passed us, but we were alone on the summit. Most people who scramble up Mt. Brandywine come for a day trip and head back the way they came. We had planned a two day loop, so we started making our way along the ridge leading to Mt. Fee. This was somewhat annoying, as we kept on having to go up and down to avoid obstacles, including some steep snow slopes and a glacier. We should have brought our ice axes and then we could have glissaded some of the slopes. At one point we had to downclimb a cliff beside a steep snow slope. Eventually we crossed the more difficult section and found ourselves facing Mt. Fee. We found a wind sheltered camping spot with great views. To get water I scraped away wet snow and ice off the edge of a nearby snow patch, which melted much faster than snow would have.

Mt. Garibaldi (right) and the Black Tusk (left) are on the horizon

Mt. Fee

The next day we woke up with the sun, had an early breakfast and then went for a very short walk above camp to see the views and our route. We were planning to get off the ridge to bypass Mt. Fee and go back up onto it on the other side. We made our way along the side of the ridge and up to a beautiful glacial lake where I took a (very) short dip. From there we hiked around the corner, up a moraine and onto the side of the glacier.

Long day

We hiked up on snow to the ridge, with some breathtaking angles of Mt. Fee. From there our original plan was to follow Robin Tivy’s trip report (on Bivouac) – they hiked along and down a ridge which took them to an overgrown road down in the valley. However, after rereading their trip report a few times, including the parts about steep slopes and “rappeling on alder”, and then severe bushwhacking, we weren’t so sure we wanted to go that way.Instead, we chose to go down a small side valley which looked good from above and from the map. In the beginning the going was easy, talus and then meadows with beautiful flowers. Just below treelines it was still not too bad, and we followed a small creek some of the way. Once we hit the clearcut, we were forced to make our way through shoulder high bushes, including some nefarious thorny Devil’s Club. The berries in this section were amazingly plump and sweet – we had Huckleberries, Blueberries, Salmon Berries and Thimbleberries the whole time. The going was very slow though, and we figured we’d try and make our way to some trees, since there the bushes were not as dense.

An impressive glacier and new lake

Eventually we reached a short steep slope leading down to the creek which had to be forded – the water reached our hips. From there we bushwhacked uphill roughly towards the road, and made good use of the GPS (finally). We used some bear tracks which were basically just trampled bushes, but made the going easier. I devised a faster way to progress than simply pushing through – by swinging my arms wide in front of me to get the bushes out of the way I could move faster. Finally we reached the road, and from there it was easy going to the trailhead. It was already 7pm and we were silently hoping to get a ride back to our car which were had been forced to park low down due to the overheating. The chances seemed slim.

Nice flowers on the way down

Just as we passed the trailhead and saw no cars there, down comes a group of three! Not only that, but Scott and Ann Webster from the VOC were there, and kindly offered us a much appreciated ride down to our car. Sometimes one gets lucky. Made a stop for a late dinner in Vancouver at Stepho’s, the excellent Greek Restaurant – there are usually lines but not late at night. The next day I discovered many thorns in my hands, a few of which are still there…

More photos

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