The Lions (peaks)

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The Lions are a pair of pointed peaks (West Lion - 1,646 m (5,400 ft);[1] East Lion - 1,606 m (5,269 ft))[2] along the North Shore Mountains in Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. They can be seen from much of the Greater Vancouver area, as far as Robert Burnaby Park in East Burnaby, south to parts of Surrey, and from the west on the Howe Sound Islands and the Sunshine Coast. Along with the Lions Gate Bridge named in their honour, these twin summits have become one of the most recognizable Vancouver landmarks. The city's BC Lions CFL football team is also named in their honour. Lions Gate Entertainment which was founded in Vancouver in July, 1997 is also named for the peaks.


West Lion
West Lion is located in Vancouver
West Lion
West Lion
Location northwest of Vancouver
Elevation 1,654 m (5,427 ft)
Prominence 369 m (1,211 ft)
Location British Columbia, Canada
Range Howe Sound Group
Coordinates 49°27′28″N 123°11′11″W / 49.45778°N 123.18639°W / 49.45778; -123.18639Coordinates: 49°27′28″N 123°11′11″W / 49.45778°N 123.18639°W / 49.45778; -123.18639
Topo map NTS 92G/06
First ascent 1889 H. Bell-Irving; Chief Joe Capilano; Squamish First Nations
Easiest route class 3-4 scramble
East Lion
Elevation 1,606 m (5,269 ft)
Prominence 121 m (397 ft)
Location British Columbia, Canada
Range Howe Sound Group
Coordinates 49°27′22″N 123°10′52″W / 49.45611°N 123.18111°W / 49.45611; -123.18111
Topo map NTS 92G/06
First ascent 1903 W. Latta; J. Latta; R. Latta
Easiest route class 4 scramble

The Lions are composed of hornblende diorite, the oldest plutonic rock on the West Coast of Canada.

Hiking and rock climbing routes[edit]

Hikers can climb up to the ridge between the East and West Lion peaks using either the Binkert Trail leading up from Lions Bay, or the Howe Sound Crest Trail. The Binkert Trail, named after Paul Binkert of the British Columbia Mountaineering Club, is one of the most popular in the Lower Mainland. Hiking to the ridge from Lions Bay takes approximately four hours and gains 1,280 m (4,199 ft) in elevation. Most hikers stop there as both the East and West Lion peaks require rock climbing equipment and expertise. The East Lion is out-of-bounds for climbing as it is located in the Greater Vancouver watershed.

Early ascents[edit]

According to an article by Steven Threndyle in The Greater Vancouver Book,[3] "the earliest recorded climb of the West Lion in 1889 happened almost by accident. A group of hunters following a herd of goats found themselves at the top with no place to go but down. The hunting party was guided by Squamish First Nations Chief Joe Capilano. One of the members of the hunting team was Doctor Henry Bell-Irving, who asked Chief Capilano if he could time one of the chief's young natives to see how long it would take him to run from the base of the West Lion to the summit. The youth, stripped completely naked, made the round trip ascent and descent in under 20 minutes.

With its steep granitic face the East Lion was believed to be impossible to scale. That did not deter John Latta and his two brothers from setting out to climb the East Lion in 1903. Hearing that climbers often used ropes for mountaineering ascents, they packed one along but actually had no idea of how to use it. Their technique was to grasp the small shrubs and bushes growing out of the cracks in the rock. The Latta brothers also climbed the West Lion on their way out.

"The Sisters"[edit]

The indigenous Squamish people named these two prominent peaks "Ch'ich'iyúy Elxwíkn" (translates as 'Twin Sisters'). These mountains remain sacred for their legal marker of a peace treaty, family lineage histories, and spiritual value. The two peaks were transformed by the Sky Brothers, or Transformers, after twin sisters that had married with Haida twins created the path for the war to end between the Squamish and Haida people. The families that made the Peace Treaty and married together still live in the Squamish and Haida Nations. Sometime around 1890, Judge John Hamilton Gray proposed that Canada rename the mountain peaks to lions couchant from heraldry.[4]



  1. ^ "West Lion". 
  2. ^ "East Lion". 
  3. ^ The Greater Vancouver Book, an urban encyclopedia, Chuck Davis - Editor in Chief. Linkman Press. 1997. ISBN 978-1-896846-00-2
  4. ^ British Columbia Place Names. G.P.V. and Helen B. Akrigg. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997