The Bagging of Hanover


Jackson Points to the peak of Hanover

Since I first became aware of Mount Hanover, it has loomed large as peak I had to stand on top of.  

Hanover is one of the loftier summits (1748m) in the lower mainland area of British Columbia.   It is the second tallest mountain in the Bagger Challenge.  The few who have graced it's summit call it a "tricky" and "technical" climb... one I imagined more suited to a team of carabineer and rope-laden alpinists hoping to get in a final local peak before setting off to conquer Everest, than for a runner.  Until less than 24 hours ago, Mount Hanover was one of a small handful of Bagger Challenge peaks I had not bagged.

Bill getting ready for battle

Call it overuse.  Call it under-training.  Call it due to the natural process of aging.  I'm not sure exactly why, but my knees have been knackered over the past few years, so I've been obligated to pick my fights carefully in 2012.  Throw in family and the need to sustain some sort of regular income stream, early in the spring I figured my best strategy for the 2012 Bagger Challenge would not be to win back the coveted Quaich from Baggermeister Bill Maurer based on the most peaks bagged in the year, but rather to focus on the smaller number of bagger peaks I had not yet "conquered"... this so I could say, "I bagged them all!"

I'd let it be known in this forum and others that I was looking for a bagging partner for this particular summit attempt.  I was mocked by most.  "So you've graduated into the territory of mountaineering, Jackson? Trail running, it ain't!" was typical of the response.  Had the folks who offered the comments even been to the peak of Hanover?  Regardless, time was running out on the best summer in decades when Bill Dagg and I coincidentally crossed paths while bagging Suicide Bluffs on Saturday.  I bid a 6:00 am car pool meeting.  Bill countered with 7:00 am.  "Deal.  See you at 7 tomorrow," Bill said.

Hanover is one of those mountains for which there are some sketchy known routes to the top, but no trails.  From the trail runner perspective, at least, it was off the radar.  Bill and I broke the trip down into milestones:  Get to the trailhead, get to Brunswick Lake, get to the peak of Hanover, get back to Brunswick Lake alive, get home.  I had a conference call at 4 on Sunday afternoon, so given it would take us an hour to drive home from the trailhead, our goal would be to get back to the car by 3.  We knew that wet rocks would make this attempt a lot more dangerous, so it would come down to the weather.  Environment Canada called for a bluebird day.

An obstacle on the trail

We were a bit late getting on the road, but arrived at the trailhead fortified with strong coffee and ready for adventure by shortly after 8:00.  Dang!... the gate was closed.  Figuring the run up and back the dirt-and-gravel fire road would add 90 minutes or so to our trip time, we attempted to skooch Bill's VW Westfallia around the gate.  When it looked like we'd end up stuck and looking stupid, the call was made to run the extra bit and hope to make it home for dinner.

Yum, yum.  Nature's bounty.

Our jog up the popular Howe Sound Crest Trail (HSCT) to Brunswick Lake was a blast.  For Bill, it was his first time in this area, so each waterfall, each stream crossing and each beautiful section of the trail was wonderful newness.  Fall mushrooms were plentiful.  Did I bore Bill with my excitement at finding a choice cauliflower mushroom?  A king bolette?  A rotten log covered with choice oyster mushrooms?  The first of 3 alpine lakes we would skirt, Deeks Lake, was a magical color of blue and so crystal clear we could make out stumps deep in its middle.  It was my lucky day... I found a glove I figured would come in handy later in the day.

We arrived at Brunswick Lake at just over 2 hours running time from the lower parking lot.  Not bad!  There was no cellular reception, so Bill couldn't get a text off to confirm he was still alive.  (Note to Jess:  he did try!)  The sun burned through the high clouds making for dry rocks and perfect bagging weather in the alpine.

Now what?  Do we continue up the Howe Sound Crest Trail and loop back across the skree, or bushwhack straight up from Brunswick Lake?  We opted for the more direct route.  It was easy going as we zigzagged steeply uphill up under tall trees.  At a small cliff, we went left and came into a meadow of blueberry bushes which soon led to a broad, open alpine area of heather.  That was easy!  Within a half hour of leaving Brunswick Lake, we reached our first snow patch and the beginng of a huge field of sharp boulders.

Deek's Lake

Soon we had to choose between taking a direct route up a creek or going wide.  We went wide to the right on what appeared to be a less technical route.  Bill spotted some orange flagging.  We figure this marked the high route off the HSCT and a better option than just "winging it", so we followed the surveyor take up to the base of Hanover.  We spotted a pika in the rocks at the foot of another patch of snow.  Half-way up the snowfield, I found a nice articulated pole and wondered as to the status of my benefactor, "Where's the body?" 

The fun part was about to begin.  Bill and I paused for a noontime snack.  From our perspective below the 3 peaks of Hanover, there were 3 narrow notches in the vertical cliff face above us.  We'd heard the easiest way was via the farthest chimney to the left, so in lieu of surveyor tape or other beta to guide us, we went left and very steeply uphill through much loose, tile-sized granite.

I'll call the final push the "Bowling Alley."  Think a rock-sided bowling alley on the vertical, though, with different sizes and shapes of granite rocks rather than black balls.  Every handhold, every step could release a volley of sharp rocks onto the person below.  Bill wore his bike helmet, I brought my ski helmet.  It occurred to me that it wouldn’t take much of a hit to split either of our helmets and pierce the soft skull within.  I volunteered to go up first.

We knew we would be faced with several challenging terraces as we made our way up the narrow rock chimney.  "How challenging?", was the question. 

I found the first terrace to be very challenging.  The cliff face was smooth with precious little to grab on to or put a foot into.  I tried going up with my face to the wall.  I tried going up with my back to the wall.  Either way caused my sphincter to tighten.  A fall would mean broken bones and a helicopter rescue at best.  No cellular coverage, so it would be a long bout of suffering while wedged in a cold, exposed chink in the rocks until help arrived.  Worst of all, I had no idea if this particular obstacle was the hard part or the easiest of the terraces.

"How's it going?", Bill hollered.  "Uh...  'going to try something different," I replied as I tried to formulate how I would tell Bill he was going to be going it alone from here.

Bill checking out a pika on the boulder fieldIt was at about this time that I had an acute incident of baggeritis.  I am here.  It is now.  Someone has bagged this bad boy.  Why can't I do it, too?  Suck it up, princess!The peak of Hanover from the boulder field

After getting over the nasty bit, I noticed a bit of rope hanging down from the next terrace.  Before giving Bill the green light to follow, I figured best to see if the next terrace was as dicey as the last.  

The rope looked like it came from Canadian Tire rather than the Mountain Equipment Co-op, so there was no way I could count on it holding my weight.  I inched up with my back to the cliff wall and warned Bill as I hurled a few football-sized hunks of sharp rock in his general direction.

I'd best let Bill articulate how he felt about Terrace #1.  I couldn't see below me.  Every now and then, I'd hear "Shit!" and a bunch of rocks falling, but a reassuring "All good" followed.  At least Bill benefited from being able to use the Canadian Tire rope on Terrace #2! 

'Seems to me there were 5 terraces before the bowling alley widened and became less steep.  We scrambled up the last bit using heather and blueberry bushes as handholds.  Our understanding was that the middle peak was the tallest of the 3, so we headed there first. 

The 360-degree view from what felt like the top of the world took our breaths away.  We exchanged high-5s.  We hollered and counted the echos.  We alternated taking photos of each other placing a rock on the small, summit cairn.  We soaked in the view, had a snack and gave our sphincters a bit of a rest.  Bill got 5 bars on his phone, so sent word we'd make it to the peak.  I thought briefly about the trip back down, but figured best to hedge my bets regarding the true peak of Hanover and bag all 3 first before worrying about details.

"Hey, Jackson", said Bill, "We've got an hour before your meeting."  Ha ha ha.Bill in the bowling alley

The sky was a cloudless blue.  The sun was delightfully warm.  Wouldn't it be nice to lay down, work my tan, have a cold beer then call for a helicopter?  Unfortunately, I had neglected to pack a celebratory pint, so I began an ass-backwards descent of the bowling alley.

Bill Dagg and Ean Jackson Bag Mount Hanover!

Our plan was to go down one at a time, regrouping after each terrace.  The lower guy would zig from the fall line so he didn't get his block knocked off by falling rocks.   The lower guy might also stand a chance of catching a photo of the upper guy as he slid to his doom... something to pass along to the wife at the wake along with the life insurance cheque.  

In comparison to our trip up, the descent was a piece of cake.  True... it did have its moments, and a few bad words were uttered out of fear or frustration, but all-in-all, far less of a workout for the sphincter.  Bill and I again bumped knuckles and sighed respective sighs of relief and accomplishment when clear of the bowling alley.

We made good time down through the boulder field.  I'd like to thank the person who was kind enough to leave the trekking pole for me, as it allowed me to keep up with Bill.  (I sure hope you didn't come to grief, pal, but it seems strange for you to leave that nice pole up there.)
We stopped frequently to take photos, as with Hanover in the bag, we could appreciate the natural beauty of our surroundings that much more.  Beaver-fever be damned, I insisted on stopping for a drink from a crystal clear trickle of glacier water as we made our way down to the fields of heather.

Back at Brunswick Lake and the main trail, Bill and I paused to bang knuckles once again, to pack our helmets, and to remove rocks, sticks and pine needles from our shoes.   Heck, my helmet and shoes were off already, why not take the rest of the gear off and go for a skinny dip?  The water was so clear, we couldn't gauge if it safe to dive.  Yes, the water was cold!

The 3 peaks of Hanover (Middle is the "True" Peak)The descent from Brunswick Lake to the car took us 2 hours at a jogging pace.  We didn't see a soul until the final couple of kilometers on the fire road.  "Why are you running?  Are there bears chasing you?", a couple of girls out for a fall stroll asked as we passed.  I found a penny on the trail.  It truly was my lucky day!

The gate was still closed when we arrived back at the parking lot.  At 8 hours and 45 minutes, not including rest pauses, it had been a full day of baggery.  I was reveling in the thought of sitting and, for once, getting home for dindin on time after a bagging expedition.  That's when Bill said, "How about an asterisk with that?" 

Bill in the bowling alley

The only thing that beats a successful peak bag is a bag with an asterisk on it.  One earns the asterisk by bagging a peak from sea level.  The ocean was no more than a couple hundred meters below where we stood... 

For the record, a brief discussion about the rules regarding a "Water Bag" followed.  It was clear that one must go from sea water to peak for each waterbag claimed.  Since we had bagged only one peak, this clause did not apply.  However, there is no rule that specifies when claiming a waterbag, one must start at the water.  Since the value of a waterbag is in the achievement of bagging a peak in one push from sea level to the summit, the order of things was unanimously determined to be irrelevant, so we crossed the highway and looked for the most direct route to the seashore.   (Note to those who follow:  Cross the bridge over Highway #99, go right and down the ramp, then go immediately left on the dirt road with the "Private.  No trespassing sign."  Take road to end.  Cross railroad tracks.  Look for bunny trail through alders to water's edge.  Earn an asterisk.) 

For those who keep track of such things, I believe Bill and I set a new world record.  Since nobody has waterbagged Brunswick Mountain, the highest peak in the Bagger Challenge, and we have waterbagged the second-highest peak, Bill Dagg and Ean Jackson hereby claim the record of the highest vertical in a Bagger Challenge waterbag:  1748m.

Brunswick Lake... a nice place for a celebratory swim

I made it home in time for a late dinner.  Sleep came easy.

Great day in the mountains, Bill!  Let me know when I can buy you that celebratory pint... and when you're good to go for a sweep of "The Needles"!


















Hanover Lake




Hanover has been waterbagged many times,as has Brunswick.

Ean Jackson's picture

Names and dates...

I figured that was a lofty claim in the context of eternity and the population of the world... but I claim a world record in the context of the Bagger Challenge   cool


David Crerar's picture

EPIC BAG: well done

watch out, Needles: Jackson is a hungry bagger.

DO watch out for the hidden sheer drop as you descend from MNE to the saddle at the base of NNE: it's cleverly hidden by cedar boughs, and is a bit steep and dicey.

reaganwhite's picture


great read, what a bag!

Ean Jackson's picture

The owner of the pole?

I went to share this trip report on www.clubtread.com.  Got curious and did a search on "Hanover".  Found a post by mj24 shared how his adventure on Hanover ended with a helicopter rescue.  I may have found the owner of the pole I liberated from the boulder field.

Be careful with this peak! 

Ean Jackson's picture

Pole returned to rightful owner. Anyone lost a

Michael Jackson glove on the HCST?

Ean Jackson's picture

Will wonders ever cease?

Turns out, the guy I contacted on Club Tread didn't lose a pole.  But another guy, who got caught in an avalance in our little gully of doom 2 years ago, did... and it was the pole I found!  It gets better:  guy who lost pole likes beer and lives in my 'hood!  The saga continues...

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