I’d like to tell you about another fun hike near Vancouver; Dam Mountain! This one is really easy to access with public transport. Dam Mountain is the next mountain along from Grouse Mountain, in the wintertime you can hike up with snowshoes (it is called the Snowshoe Grind.) The the summer, it is a short-ish hike from the Grouse Mountain Lodge.
The first time we visited, our plan was to climb Grouse Mountain, Dam Mountain, Little Goat Mountain and Goat Mountain. BUT after some epic slippage on snow (oops…don’t worry mum, I’m fine!) we decided to be safe and stop after Dam Mountain. Hopefully we can go back later in the summer when there is less snow because I think the views from Goat Mountain will be amaaazing!
Dam Mountain map
Dam Mountain – the basics
Distance: 6km from Grouse Mountain (9km if you include the Grouse Grind)
Elevation gain: 260m (1040m if you include the Grind)
Highest Point: 1231m
Time: 1.5-2 hours
What to bring:
Hiking poles (your knees will thank you!), spikes if there is still snow.
Loads of water
The 10 Essentials
There is water, toilets, shops and cafes at the lodges at Grouse Mountain.
If you want to bring a dog, you’ll have to hike up and down the BCMC trail.
How hard is it?
It’s a short, intermediate hike from the Lodge at Grouse. It’s much harder if you include the Grind.
Dam Mountain- Getting Started
So, the start of this walk was the Grouse Grind, which I already wrote about a few weeks ago. After I wrote that post, I found out that Grouse Mountain is the second most climbed mountain in the world after Mount Fuji! So I have now climbed the two most-climbed mountains, twice!
If you’d like to read about the first, knackering 1.5 hours of our walk, you can see my previous post about Grouse Mountain here. I didn’t take any more photos on the way up, but as it was the weekend, there were soooo many more people. The Grouse Grind isn’t the most fun walk though. You can’t really see the views so it’s just large steps-by-step workout with hundreds of other people. I think if we need to get up here again, I’ll try the other less-famous BCMC Trail. Anyway, the photo below is just after we reached the top of the grind. We both look slightly exhausted.
The path to Dam Mountain is at the back of the bear enclosure. Last time I came here, I hadn’t realised there were resident bears. This time we looked for them, but they were hiding, or asleep, or both!? At least now I know I am between the size of a sun bear and a black bear. I’m about half the height of a polar bear!
Anyway, the lumberjack show was taking place as we walked past so it was incredibly busy and loud (lumberjacks need lots of “whoops!”). However as soon as you get around the corner on the way to Dam Mountain, the whole mountainside quietens down and you start to hear the sounds of birds meeping and trees creaking! We were surprised to see some snow. At first we could step over it, or take a few steps over ice to avoid it.
Snow in the summer
It was the middle of July, and there was hardly any snow left on Grouse Mountain, but snow seems to stick to Dam Mountain and the peaks we could see further inland. The higher up we climbed, the more snow there was! We could hear streams of melting snow moving just a little below us, and a few times one of us would sink as an area started to give way. It didn’t feel hard going on my legs, but it did slow us down quite a lot!
Dam Mountain Summit
Still, it really wasn’t too hard to reach the peak of Dam Mountain. Right near the top, Marc scrambled right up a rock face, when I found a much easier route that had been hidden by a bush! If you climb up here, when you reach a cliff-like rock at the top, look right! There is an easier way!
The walk up Dam Mountain had taken much longer than we had expected. Meh- it was definitely worth it when we saw the views! You’ll have to click on the photos to see the detail; The massive peaks off in the distance look perfect with a sprinkling of snow. There was one huge mountain off in the distance that really reaches into the clouds, making the places I have walked so far look puny!
Anyway, I can’t think of a better place to eat an egg sandwich! I had made us two sandwiches each, but we decided to save one for the top of Goat Mountain. There was a bit of a dip, and then another climb awaiting us, but you can see Goat Mountain beckoning us in the photo (left) below.
After lunch we kept walking, this time down the other side of Dam Mountain towards Little Goat Mountain. The views just got better and better! Slightly further along the ridge we had a magnificent view of Crown Mountain. This is one of the peaks you can see from our home on Main Street. Well…you can’t actually see it from our apartment, there are too many buildings in the way; BUT you can see it when you cross the road on Main Street! This close up view was even better.
You can see why the second bump is called the camel! It looks like a giant camel sitting next to a mound. I hope one day we are strong and savvy enough to go over there! I have a feeling the views from Crown Mountain are also worth the effort!
I was being slightly careless because I was so excited about the prettiness around me that I took photos rather than just watching my step! The snow was even deeper on this side of the mountain. But we could see footsteps where quite a few walkers had been ahead of us. We also saw a “Danger area closed, keep out” sign. But it wasn’t very clear which area it referred to. As it didn’t seem too close to our path we kept going, just more cautiously.
Falling off a Cliff
The path between Dam Mountain and Little Goat Mountain was steep. You can see it in the photo below to the left. We had planned to walk along the ridge, to the Little Goat and then keep going along the next ridge to the Big Goat.
I had realised that my lack of stability mixed with this amount of ice might be dangerous, so I’d put down my camera and was holding my walking poles properly. BUT even trying to be sensible, I failed completely! One of my legs started slipping down the mountain and I just couldn’t stop it! I made a “squeeaaaahhhgh!” type sound as I slid down. My life didn’t flash before me or anything, but it was bloody scary! I couldn’t get enough grip to slow me down with my poles, so I aimed for those horizontal trees in the photo below on the right. I basically grabbed the trees to stop myself from falling the wrong direction down a cliff-edge-like slope!
Marc looked horrified! Once I’d used the tree to help me back upright, he declared that it wasn’t safe for someone as unstable as me. We always try to stay safe on Mountains, and even though I really, really wanted to see the views, the adrenaline from the slide had kicked in, and I was suddenly less keen to slide down the snow so close to cliffs.
So, we started to head back the way we came! We had to climb back up Dam Mountain, but neither of us minded as you can see different vistas facing this direction! The views were still gorgeous. I am very in love with the look of this mountain, even though I have no idea what its called!
After my slide down a slope, I was a little wary about zooming down the mountain. But Marc really got the hang of walking on the snow. He showed me how to walk with confidence and dig my heels in to make it slightly easier. The problem is, the snow seemed even less stable under the warm afternoon sun! We found a few places where the snow was starting to break off and give way to icy-cold streams. Sometimes our boots would sink right down to soggy mud!
It really is a lovely forest though. Between Dam Mountain’s trees you can catch views of downtown Vancouver, or out to sea.
Pretty soon we reached the lower part of Dam Mountain where we had to climb down a stream. The stream is fed by all the melting snow, so it was pretty chilly, and some of it managed to seep though my ancient hiking boots.
I really like my boots. I bought them before our hiking trip in Morocco in 2009, they were pretty cheap (from Decathlon in London). Even though I have worn them all around the world, and on loooong walks in the UK, they are still fine. That is, apart from the slight leaks that I started to notice this summer. I am not really looking forward to having to search for a new pair. Give me a shout in the comments if you have any good advice for buying new hiking boots in Canada!
We noticed another kind of lichen growing on the trees on the ridge between Dam Mountain and Grouse Mountain. It is hard to see from this photo, but there aren’t many branches low down on the trees, and the way the lichen grows, all spaced out really reminded me of men’s hairy legs.
Apart from my soggy feet, we were still full of energy by the time we’d made it back to the crazy crowds of Grouse Mountain. I even had plenty of bounce left for jumping photos! So we decided as we were so close, we should wander up to the top of Grouse Mountain too.
Last time I walked up alone, I could hear the strange grunting sound of a grouse, but I never got to see one. This time, I discovered that Marc is some kind of grouse-magnet! First we saw a lady grouse with her chicks. It’s not an amazing photo, but if you click on it you can just about see the little baby-grouse-chick to the left of its mum. Then, right near the top of the mountain we bumped into the resident grouse dude. He was obviously used to humans so was wandering back and forth across the path. Every so often he grunted at the humans who stopped to take photos of him. But I am pretty sure he was basking in all the attention. I think he needs a Canadian name, so I’m calling him Farley.
We stopped for a while at the top. There were some lucky people paragliding, with the perfect weather and visibility to see the whole peninsula! For some reason the reception at the top was much better than over by the Grouse Grind; So we managed to get through to Marc’s dad and sing happy birthday.
I still think it is funny how many people go all the way to the top of this mountain with the skyride and chairlift – there were a few ladies in heels! Later on we realized there was a wedding taking place on top of the mountain, so there were quite a few people dressed up for a party, rather than a climb!
On the way back, we stopped to look down at the city and attempt to spot our flat. As everything is laid out in a grid, it was easier than I expected. 🙂
We also stopped just above the Wild Bird Experience and watched the birds of prey while eating our second sandwiches. Grouse Mountain is such a strange mix of worlds. A tiny bird came and sat next to us while we ate, tweeting and chirping. Possibly he was hoping for our crumbs? But at the same time we could see hundreds and hundreds of people down below watching the falcon, vulture and owl show off their wings. In the middle of the resort a bride was being arranged by a photographer with all her bridesmaids, while a large group of groomsmen watched them. The whole area is like a carnival, perched on the edge of a vast wilderness.
All we had to do now was escape this mountain carnival and make it back into central Vancouver. We had plans to visit one of my friends for a wine, cheese an board game night. The problem was, now lunchtime was over, a few hundred other people were getting ready to descend too!
Just as we were getting ready to line up for the Skyride, the queue suddenly seemed to get longer. We noticed quickly and managed to join the line as it grew and grew and grew! Walking down the grouse grind is forbidden, so almost everyone here has to take the one-carriage to get down to the car park / busses. The ride itself only takes around 5 minutes, but
loading this many people into a small space takes quite a long time! By the time we made it close to the front of the queue, the line snaked its way all the way back to the large wooden carvings halfway into the resort! I wonder how much longer it can get before most people give up and go to find a beer to wait for the rush to leave!?
We did make it down the mountain eventually. My knees were happy not to have to walk down that steep slope for over an hour!
So apart from nearly falling off a cliff, it was a brilliant day!