3 Brothers Mountain Backpacking Trip

The longer I live in Vancouver, the more I start repeating trips. This was my third time hiking to 3 Brothers Mountain (though each trip has been very different), but it was also probably my favourite trip! I’ve had a love affair with Manning Park for a long time. 3 Brothers Mountain was my very first hike in the park back in 2016 and while everyone else has been trying to bag every peak in Garibaldi Park, I’ve been working on bagging every trail in Manning. I day hiked the trail with Emily in 2016 and returned in 2018 with Carolyn to thru hike the Heather Trail over 3 days. On this occasion, I visited with my Girl Guide troop and we set up a base camp at Buckhorn Campsite for 3 days.

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This is my first year with a Trex Unit – which is a special girl guide unit focused entirely on outdoor adventure. For our first year, we decided to do a backpacking series. Our first trip was to Viewpoint Beach in May, which had moderate success due to all the rain, so Trex was very excited about the potential nice weather for this trip!

Unfortunately, with it being summer and people going on holiday, we had a small group, with just 5 girls, but their enthusiasm more than made up for it! They are very keen to hike Panorama Ridge one day, but we decided we needed a bit more practice in the backcountry before we attempted that hike. Which was an excellent decision because with the high snow pack this year, Panorama was still buried when we attempted this hike. In addition, my friends went up to Garibaldi the same weekend and ended up getting evacuated when the water levels rose into the campsite, so all in all, we were thrilled to be at Manning Park instead!

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That said, we were still up against some challenges in Manning Park as well, particularly the heat. After my companion got evacuated from Banff National Park last year with heat stroke, I’ve been very weary about hiking in hot weather. But heat waves are starting to become more and more common around here, so I’ve had a lot of learning about staying hydrated over the past year. It was calling for 28 degree temperatures on the 3 Brothers hike, so we decided to go anyways and packed in a lot of electrolytes with us.

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We gave each member a 1L bottle of gatorade before we left the lower mainland and they were tasked with drinking as much as they could before we started hiking. Traffic was brutal leaving Vancouver on the August long weekend, so they had a lot of time in which to accomplish this task, though it turned them off gatorade in the process. But we were nice and hydrated when we started.

Even so, it was a bit of a slog doing the 4km to the campsite. It was around 1pm when we pulled into the parking lot on Blackwall Road, so we ate our lunch there before starting our hike. Luckily it’s all downhill on the first day, so we took our time since everyone had heavy packs. We weren’t sure if it was going to be too early for the wildflowers with the late snowpack, but fortunately the meadows were in full bloom! We stopped several times in the shade on the way to the campsite, but still made fairly good time.

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When I hiked the Heather Trail, I went the full 13km to Kicking Horse Campsite on my first day, so I’d never stayed at Buckhorn. I thought it was a small site with a few tents pads, but I’d obviously never taken the time to explore it because it is a massive campground with 24 tent pads and a gorgeous sheltered cooking hut! I think it’s probably expanded since I was there in 2018 though because a lot of the tent pads looked very new.

Trex found a few tent pads next to each other that they liked, but they weren’t shaded, so the Guiders set up in a different area. We did some exploring around the campground before settling in the shelter for dinner. There were some mosquitoes around, but definitely not as bad as other campsites I’ve been to this year. For our first meal we had Mexican rice on tortilla, which was a huge hit!

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On Day 2 we packed our bags for a day hike up to the First Brother Mountain. This was the unit’s first major trek and we had a few growing pains at the beginning. The girls were not happy when I insisted that they each had to bring a full 2L of water on the trail. I don’t think they realized the extent of the hike and the term “day hike” had given them the distinct impression that it would be easy. So I think they learned a lot!

We were glad to be doing the climb up to the mountains early in the morning and we were all in awe at the huge fields of wildflowers along the route! It’s pretty route, so we took short breaks in every shady spot and a few longer snack breaks. In addition to gatorade powder, we all had packets of iced tea and pink lemonade to mix into our drinks. This was really helpful in encouraging the girls to drink more as not everyone loves drinking water. Even still, it was very hot and I wasn’t sure if we would want to push all the way to the top of the mountain. We decided to continue trekking to the bottom of the First Brother to assess from there.

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Because I still have some PTSD from the heat stroke incident, I didn’t want to pressure anyone to hike all the way to the top and gave the group lots of opportunities to turn around. But everyone was determined to summit, so we took a break at the base and started hiking up in groups. We stressed the importance of taking lots of breaks and that just because we were going to try for the summit, didn’t mean we couldn’t change our mind at any time. I opted to go last so that I could turn around with anyone who was having reservations (pretty much just me, lol).

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Fortunately everyone did amazing! Iris hiked halfway along the ridge, but opted not to go all the way to the summit because of her fear of heights, but all the Guides went right to the top! There’s not much vegetation up there for shade, so we quickly did our best to get a tarp up with our poles so that we could have a bit of shade to eat our lunch. Even though it was my third trip to the top of the mountain, this occasion was extremely rewarding because I was so proud of the group! They were all thrilled with their success and I loved watching them get that sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes with pushing yourself to achieve something new and scary.

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Just as we’d hiked up in small groups, we returned back down in small groups as well. I came last again and had a good chuckle when I caught up with the group, to find everyone sheltered under the one lonely tree that was providing shade on the ridge! We took a break here before heading back down. The lesson about packing lots of water was learned as everyone expressed their amazement that they had drank so much! We were even starting to run a little low, but we’d seen a few streams on the way up, so we decided to return to those to filter more water.

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There’s a small pond on the way back and we all dipped our hats in the water to cool down. The streams were really just a trickle, but we were able to filter about 5L, which was enough water to see the group back down to the campsite. The girls really powered it on the way back and beat the Guiders by a longshot. We took river baths and had a little nap before heading to the cooking shelter for supper, where we discovered the Guides had already fed themselves and were making dessert for us!

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So overall, I was super impressed with how everyone handled themselves on the hike in the heat. There was no complaining and everyone got up early the next morning so that we could try and beat the heat on the hike back uphill to the parking lot. You can see the First Brother Mountain from the parking lot and there was a real sense of accomplishment that we had hiked all the way there and back! So in conclusion, 3 Brothers Mountain remains one of my favourite hikes – I think it’s a great hike for beginners and it was a real pleasure to share this hike with the Girl Guides!

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