Brandywine peak is a gentle giant standing tall at the head of its namesake creek. With gradual slopes and unremarkable prominence, it lacks the ruggedness and imposing character that its surrounding peaks offer. However, at 7260 feet above sea level, it does offer a long and beautiful day out in the mountain for those seeking it - the long part holding true if you scramble to the top from the lower parking lot.
If one drives all the way to the upper parking lot, one pretty much eschews the steep hike and about 600 m of elevation gain - which is around half of the total elevation gain (~1300 m) if one starts at the lower lot. However, driving to the upper parking lot is probably out of question unless one drives a high-clearance 4WD truck.
The scramble itself is nothing more than easy class 3. However, the route does involve significant travel over scree slopes, some boulder hopping and route finding - again nothing serious, but enough to offer a above-the-tree-line alpine big mountain feel that differentiates it from merely a strenuous hike.
The peak itself doesn't see as much traffic as Brandywine meadows does, and for a good reason. The meadows, in addition to being extremely beautiful, is also extremely accessible - a mere 30 minute hike from the upper lot and and probably 90 minutes from the lower parking lot.
The gentle flow of the Metal dome creek threading through the lush green, the slanting rays of the long summer days nourishing the colorful flora, the heather lined hill slopes abutting the flats and I could go on and on. Everything about the scene looks like a perfectly composed landscape painting. Who wouldn't want to spend a few days doing nothing in such a place?
If I had the luxury of camping here, I would, but with 1-year old baby in the tow, camping does incur additional challenges. Slogging out a long day in the mountains does seems easier logistically, but definitely imposes a stiff challenge physically.
My baby boy, Agastya, was going to turn 1-year old in a couple of days, and I did want to have a good day out in the hills with him. Something more than a strenuous hike, but nothing that would make it so hard on Agastya that I would have to remember this day for any different reason!
Agastya has piggy backed me on upto 8 hour hikes (Alouette peak in early season) and upto 4856 feet (Elfin lake). So for his first birthday, I would have liked to improve on those stats. Brandywine peak, did offer a good option. At 7260 feet, it was certainly higher than previous hikes, and a round trip of just over 9 hours also meant his longest day out in the mountains.
Reaching 10.00am at the lower parking lot trailhead, we had a luxurious (should I call lazy?) start. The drive itself would be a difficult one for most 2WD sedans. Our Subaru Outback and my friend's Toyota RAV4 however did not have any problems reahcing there. The rain and relatively cooler temperatures over the past couple of days did promise a relatively bug free hike - espcecially until the meadows.
A steep, brisk hike of about 75 minutes and we were instantly enthralled by the beauty of the Brandywine meadows. A late start on Sunday, coupled with not-so-promising-cloudy forecast meant less campers and more tranquility. Also, the low hanging clouds and mist lent a special charm that is difficult to describe in words.
The clouds did settle low and we could neither see Brandwyine peak, nor the surrounding peaks of Metal dome. However, it did mean that we were sheltered from the scorching Sun that would have otherwise been a major impediment. We were blessed with perfect weather as far as we were concerned!
The terrain beyond the meadows gradually changes the character of this hike as the landscape transitions from lush greens to the heather-lined slopes, with some remnants of winter snow. We crossed the Metal dome creek at the farther end of the meadows and started the steep trudge towards the peak.
Beyond the heather-lined gentle slopes, an unwelcoming barren boulderfield looms large and steep scree slopes fills the landscape. Finding the path of least resistance across the talus and scree, we aimed for the low saddle on the south ridge of Brandywine massif.
And as we slowly made our way towards the saddle, I was hoping for the clouds to clear, even if it does so for a brief moment, so as to catch the magnificent, ominous, beautiful yet evil looking peak of Mt. Fee. Very rarely does one use all these adjectives in one sentence to describe a single object. The jagged ridges and sharp spires jutting from Mt. Fee does elicit such emotions!
Soaking in the views as much as the clouds allowed - both of Mt. Fee and the magnificent Tantalus range towards the west, we continued on the south ridge scramble. The scramble itself doesn't offer any challenges and is never exposed. The south ridge scramble itself is divied in two distinct sections - a steep 120 m section, followed by a short traverse keeping the snow field on the right, followed by a couple hundred meters of scramble to the summit.
The scramble, although not as prominent as a well trodden hiking trail, is relatively well marked with orange flags all the way to the summit.
We reached the summit at 3.00 pm - 4 hours and 45 minutes from the trail head - nothing spectacular, but good pace nonetheless with a 1-year baby (30+ lbs) in the tow. We spent a few minutes on the top, amazed by the beauty of coast mountains and expressing our gratitude for being in such a beautiful place, we started on the long descent.
The descent was going to be a knee-knacker!
The barren landscape soon gave way to the heather slopes and once again to the beautiful meadows. However, the low hanging clouds were gone now and along with it went the unique charm that it lent to the meadows.
The slanting rays of the evening Sun now filled the landscape as we struggled to get a glimpse of Black Tusk - alas the clouds did cover the distant horizon. The rest of the hike was tiring, uneventful and devoid of the excitement and beautify that filled us earlier on the day.
I am pretty sure there was enough beauty in the surrounding landscape even then, but the thought of leaving it all behind in our race to the rigmarole of the daily life left us oblivious to the fact!
Back to car by 7.30 pm for a 9 hours and 15 minutes car-to-car time; a long, but beautiful day in the mountains for us, and especially for Agastya.
He turns one as I post this blog, and here is what he has been upto in the first year of his life - Agastya's trip logs.
- Summit elevation: 7260 feet
- 9 hours and 15 minutes car to car with few short breaks along the way.
- 4160+ feet of cumulative elevation gain & loss
- 14 kms out and back (35% forested, 55% barren above the tree line, 10% meadows/grasslands)
- Average slope gradient: 16 degrees (maximum of 36 degress for the class 3 section)