The Lions, known as Twin Sisters or Ch'ich'iyúy Elxwík in local Skwxwu7mesh language, are two of the most prominenet and recognizable peaks in Vancouver. Visible from nearly everywhere in central Vancouver and beyond, the West Lion is an enticing and well known objective. While the peak is frequently climbed, and no climbing gear (except a helmet) is required, it is still a daunting climb. Many bold but inexperienced people ascend this peak because the route is made challenging by it's exposure and routefinding more than it's climbing difficulty.
There are two ways to get to the base of the West Lion.The Cypress Mountain access along the Howe Sound Crest is that harder of the two, with a third more length and altitude gain, but it has much better views and a much more interesting trail.
Some people find it worthwhile to do in two days, camping along the route. This is still allowed, though this is a rare privilege for an alpine area as crowded as this. Campfires are not allowed, and make sure to practice Leave No Trace ethics so that we can use this amazing trail for years to come.
In addition to the usual 10 Essentials, bring lots of food and a good deal of water. Once you gain the ridge, you will be in the sun for much of the day, and in July it is freqently very hot. The steep climbs add to that. There is no safe drinking water availble, so bring your own. Due to the steep ups and downs, trekking poles are highly recommended. They greatly reduce the strain on your knees.
The trail begins at Cypress. There are many ways to start, but often the best place is just behind the main lodge, near the small lake. Signposts point upward to the Howe Sound Crest East Trail, but the most scenic and gentle variation is to follow the trail to St. Mark's/Bowen Lookout. You'll wind through the old-growth forests and past alpine lakes. At the next junction, head for the Howe Sound Crest. The trail starts heading upward, briefly meets a gravel road, then quickly starts ascending gravel. This brings you to a signpost with a splendid view of the Lions framed by the trees.
From here the trail is very obvious. Be sure to keep an eye out for orange markers; overuse has seen accidental trails carved into the fragile undergrowth. It starts graveling before turning to interesting rooty trail at the first subpeak. Beyond this you get your first incredible view of St. Mark's summit. Most of your fellow hikers will end their day here.
Keep following the main trail curving down toward Unnecessary Mountain. A deep dive down follows the ridge to a meadow that frequently is used for campsites. After descending once more, you'll quickly find yourself climbing again. The trail is pretty steep in sections and requires a hand here or there. This gains the first summit of Unnecessary Mountain. From here you will be mostly in the sun and out on the ridge proper. The route meanders up and down along the ridge. From the second peak there is a small trail that goes down to the lakes, and shelves off to the side. This is a lovely spot if you have time to spare, or if you fancy camping.
The route becomes increasingly rocky as you proceed, with each descent being increasingly steep. The descent off the third peak requires a rope to descend. Eventually it brings you down to the main trial from Lion's Bay and you ascend the slabby rock and a rolling trail to the base of the lion. Just before the base there is a steeper third class scrambling section that can be daunting for those scared of heights or with heavy packs. Take confidence in the solid rock and positive granite that grips your shoes. Above this are superb views, an excellent lunch spot, and a terrific view of the West Lion.
If you are scrambling the Lion from here, check out the West Lion Scramble adventuer that details exactly how to scale the Lions.