Last weekend I went hiking through the clouds with a lovely group of Wanderung hikers. Our plan was to walk up to the beautiful Brandywine Meadows, and then continue with a scramble up Brandywine Mountain. It was a misty, cloudy day, and we could taste smoke in the air, so we didn’t get to see any views at all. Despite that, I had a fantastic time. And now I can’t wait to go back to climb Brandywine Mountain again on a clearer day!
Brandywine Mountain is pretty close to the beautiful Brandywine Falls that we explored in the snow last winter. However, the turn-off for the Mountain is a little further towards Whistler, on the opposite side of the Sea to Sky highway. There are two places to park; A lower car park which you can reach with a normal car, and an upper car park that you need a 4×4 (with high clearance) to reach.
Brandywine Mountain Map
Brandywine Mountain – the basics
Distance: 14 km (ish) or 10km if you start from the upper car-park
Elevation gain: 1268 m from the lower car-park, 860m from the upper car-park
Highest Point: 2213 m
Time: 8-9 hours (we took 8.5 hours, including about an hour at the top of the mountain)
What to bring:
Walking boots. Hiking poles. Bug spray(!) Plenty of water and food. The 10 essentials
You pass a car park with a loo on the way to the trailhead. It doesn’t have a door, but someone has taped up a bin-bag for modesty.
This trail is pretty dog friendly up to Brandywine Meadows, but the scramble up to Brandywine Mountain was pretty rocky and hard for paws. I wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing a doggo beyond the meadow.
How hard is it?
This walk is pretty hard. You don’t really notice it, because it is so interesting and beautiful, but there are some very steep sections and plenty of moments when you need to use your hands. The scrambling is not actually that difficult, but it is long, so you need to keep your wits about you for the entire time. There are quite a few steep drop-offs which could be scary if you’re scared of heights.
Baby deer and bear!
Our journey started with wildlife! We had to stop in the middle of the forest road, so that a young deer (still with slightly fluffy new antlers) inspected us. Then, after we stopped to use the loo, I spotted a cute young black bear as he climbed up rocks away from the car park. The bear was a bit too far away for me to get a good photo, but it was cool to see him slowly climb into the forest.
Brandywine Mountain – Getting started
We tried to make it up to the upper car-park, but the road was a bit too dodgy for an SUV! However, we made it about halfway, before finding a wide section of road that seemed like a safe place to park. From there, we walked for just under half an hour to the trailhead at the top car-park. It was a very misty day so the trees looked eerie and beautiful through the clouds. I could taste smoke in the air from the fires further inland, so I guess it was really a mix of mist and smoke.
The hike up to Brandywine Meadows does not take long at all! In less than 20 minutes we found ourselves looking into the lovely Brandywine Meadows, filled with streams and flowers. The Meadows are a hanging valley, surrounded on all sides by steep-sided mountains. It feels strange to be there without actually seeing the mountain peaks!
Alpine Flowers in Brandywine Meadows
This was a gorgeous walk even in the mist! Mainly because the alpine flowers were putting on such a spectacular show! There was a variety of orange to red paintbrushes, huge patches of fire-weed (pretty and pink!) My favourites were the large patches of purple-pink lupines. I’ve seen bunches of these near Elfin Lakes and the Gargoyles, as well as on the Skyline Divide trail, but never in such large numbers.
The meadows are also crisscrossed with pretty streams. Be careful to stay on the path, as these lovely meadows and waterways are very delicate. You don’t want to spoil them, even for a pretty picture. All of my images are right next to the path!
Waterfalls and streams
The route up Brandywine Mountain takes you through the valley so the sound of the water starts as a sweet trickle, and slowly increases to an impressive roar from the waterfall at the back of the valley. We couldn’t actually see the waterfall on our way up (it was too misty) but you can scroll down to see it at the end of our walk!
The streams are fed by glacial melt-water, so I think they must continue to gush water throughout the entire summer. You do need to cross this stream, so wait until you find a spot with good stepping stones, or a sturdy log!
Once you’ve made it to the far end of the valley, you need turn left and head up Brandywine Mountain! There are two possible routes. On the way up, we followed the mini cairns (with bright pink tape). However on the way back, we spotted an easier path through the heather. It’s almost impossible to see the heather path from the valley, and you don’t want to trample heather, so on the way up, it’s probably best to take the rocky option!
It was quite strange for us. The visibility was so bad that we could never really tell where we were heading! We very very glad of the pink tape that helps the mini cairns stand out!! Whoever left that tape is a true trail angel.
The hardest part of the climb to the ridge was the final 100m or so. It is very steep, with dry, sliding rocks and soil that gives way beneath for feet. We all sent a few rocks flying down the path behind us, so be reeeeally careful if you are walking in front of another group of hikers!!
Blood-like Watermelon snow
I’ve seen quite a lot of this watermelon snow in the last few weeks, but the snow on Brandywine Mountain has to be the brightest algae so far! It seems like a good setting for some kind of murder mystery! I mean, it looks like the snow is covered in blood! I did get close and smell it, but it smelled more like smoke than watermelon!
Brandywine Mountain Ridge walk
Once we passed the murder-like snow it was a hop, skip and a jump (and a few puffs) up to the ridge walk. This part of the hike was amazing! There was a huge glacier to our right. It was so misty that we could not tell where the snow stopped and the sky started!
In the other direction, to our left there were incredibly steep drops down into the clouds. You can see shadows of spiky rock formations further down the cliffs, but it was so strange not to be able to see directly down! This whole ridge-way must be gorgeous on a clear day! I can imagine we missed out on a view of so many beautiful peaks!!
The ridge-walk was challenging. It is a pretty easy as scrambles go, but you do need to use your hands quite a lot! There are quite a few bumps as you slowly climb higher and higher up towards the summit. The rocks keep changing colour, but you’ll know you’re near the top when you start to see bright lime-green lichen. The photo below is of the final peak.
Brandywine Mountain’s Summit
Okay, so I am aware that we missed out on the epic views BUT this was still a fantastic summit! We were sitting eating for around 20 minutes before we even realized that the cliff dropped down to an enormous glacier! Our world kept changing as mist blew past, giving us glimpses of the ridges and snow around us! If you click on the photo below you can see the huge cracks half way down the glacier.
Sometimes teeny glimpses of views are even more exciting than seeing the whole vista!
Well…I’ll say that until I come back here to see the real views. Then I’ll probably scare off the surrounding wildlife with my squeals of delight!!
This is our lovely Wanderung group. It’s Jutta, Stefanie, me and Ben.
We were hoping the sun would burn off some of the mist, and it did…well *some* of it. This meant we had slightly better views on our return journey. The wind might have also changed direction as it started to taste less smokey, even if the haze remained. I also discovered that Ben’s choice of clothes made him almost totally camouflaged on this mountain!
We may not have seen the views of the mountains near Whistler, but we at least got to see a little of Brandywine Mountain itself!
Once we made it back to the blood-like watermelon snow, the clouds parted a teeny bit, just enough to prove we really were in the middle of an epic landscape! We even saw the silhouettes of a few peaks!
The tough part!
Coming down this mountain was pretty tricky. The steep section we found hard on the way up, was pretty perilous on the way down, so we took a mini detour around some snow to add some switchbacks into our descent. I don’t have many photos of that section as I was trying to keep my wits about me and my ankles safe! Still, the view back up the mountain looks pretty impressive!
Once we’d descended down to Brandywine Meadows it was nice to see a little more of the surrounding cliffs. I would like to see it in winter, but it must be quite dangerous with such steep, avalanche-prone mountainsides in all directions!
The streams were looking gorgeous and we could finally see the waterfall towering above us!
Poor Ben ended up with soggy feet when we crossed the stream; But other than that, we all made it down to the valley safely.
Although the visibility around us was better, the smoke higher up must have been a little worse. The clouds still blocked out the sun and made the whole area look a little more dark and gloomy. I really love the way the sunlight lit up the mist/smoke.
This was my final dreamy view at the edge of the valley, before we followed the switchbacks down to the car.
Jutta the watermelon star!
On our previous walk on the Skyline Divide trail, Jutta mentioned that some Korean hikers had left a watermelon in a cooler in their car, and shared it with her at the end of a hot hike. We had all agreed that it is a brilliant idea! Well, Jutta remembered that conversation, and brought a perfect ice-cold watermelon for us all to share at the end of the walk! It was sooooo good! I might have to copy this for future walks as it was sooo refreshing after a long walk!
Although my photos look like the smoke was terrible last weekend, it did not feel too bad.
However my lungs are burning this week! Large patches of forests are on fire in B.C at the moment. Although the fires are a long way away from Vancouver, smoke travels a long way, so we have been treated to beautiful hazy sunsets with a bright red sun. If you have seen the news about these terrible fires, and want to help you can donate to charities to help the people who have been evacuated. If the smoke is this bad in Vancouver, it must be truly terrible for people closer to the fire and for those who have been evacuated.
It is so sad that this seems to have become an annual nightmare for people and animals in BC.