Cathedral Mountain – Highest Church on the North Shore

This one has been on the list for a long time. When I heard that Doris and Avery were doing the Bagger’s Challenge this year, I knew I had to tag along on their trip to this alpine sanctuary. For those who don’t know of the Bagger’s Challenge, it’s an annual challenge to bag as many of the North Shore peaks as possible. There are various additional points that can be collected for each peak, such as doing it self-propelled, starting from sea level (a water bag), or performing trail work along the way. Both Avery and Doris have had a stellar summer of bagging so far, giving up smooth singletrack trail runs in favour of steep knee-destroying bushwhacks up forested bumps on the North Shore, all sixty of them in fact! Way to persevere through all that bushwhacking…

A remote alpine cathedral

The buses don’t run early on Sunday morning, so I pedalled up in the dark to our meeting spot at the Lynn Headwaters entrance. We crossed the pipeline bridge, and then enjoyed a peaceful morning ride along the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve forest road, turning off just after the 9km mark. We stashed our bikes in the forest, hiked up the old road, and then followed the steep trail up to the Paton lookout for a hazy view of Vancouver. The trail is steep, direct, but generally clear of deadfall and easy to follow. The terrain opens up quite a bit beyond Paton, turning into open alpine slabs on the summit of Coliseum Mountain and Mount Burwell. An alternative bike-free and longer access to the area takes a trail from Lynn Headwaters, going along Lynn Creek and then up Norvan Falls.

The first summit of the day, Paton
If you want to believe your eyes, then sure, we ran like this all day long.

Our Church was waiting, still far away. Most people would be content with the view from the top of Burwell, but we were a group of desperate peak baggers, so down we went. From the summit of Burwell, descend granite ramps to the col at 1180m. It was easier to stay left of the ridge to avoid cliffs.  From this point on,  Avery’s eyes were glued to his GPS screen at time, keeping us on track. Meanwhile, Doris and I focused on the abundant blueberry bushes. The route clearly sees some traffic, with North Shore SAR flagging tapes, and some cairns marking the way. There is a much better trip report on (membership required) by Peter G. that describes the route in better detail than I can. The idea is to head up towards the ridge until it steepens, then traverse right across to a talus slope in the forest and then up and left across another talus slope. The route descriptions seem to deviate a bit at this point, but most people seem to cross a gully here and then climb up and out. Not recommended when wet! Some scrambling follows, to regain the ridge. From here, the route finding was straightforward, some ridge walking, some scrambling, and a final vertical bushwhack between rock and krummholz. Going to church is hard work! It might be a while before I make another visit.

Abundant blueberry bushes, one of the highlights of the trip
Vertical bushwhack just below the summit

We reached the altar, uncrowded asides from three green pillars, broadcasting today’s sermons. Church service was quick, involving mountain worship and identification, followed with refreshments of nuts and Nuun. A slight threat of thunderstorms that afternoon stopped us from lingering around any longer, Sunday school will have to wait until next time. We retraced our route, doing a better job of staying on the route time and avoiding any unnecessary encounters with the local vegetation. I was tired on the climb back up to Burwell. The mid-afternoon heat, my lack of  exercise this summer, and my dwindling water bottle didn’t help with the slog up. My pace picked up after Burwell, where I retrieved a water bottle that I left earlier, and further motivated by the idea of swimming in the beautiful tarn by Coliseum. I enjoyed a quick dip, finishing just in time as some raindrops few. There’s not much to say about the descent, it’s fast on the way up and just knee jarring on the way down.

Great day on the North Shore!

Doris on the summit helicopter pad. This is what happens when you spend your summer bushwhacking.
The Holy Trinity 
The beautiful tarn below Coliseum Mountain

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *