Vancouver VK Courses - VK1 Completely Necessary

Sea to Sky Group

Sea to Sky Vertical KM Course #1


Course is Currently OPEN

Start and Finish Instructions

Parking/Transport:There is no longer free parking anywhere in Lions Bay, including on Oceanview road which until recently has 4-5 free spots. There is paid parking only via a phone app for $2/hr. Give yourself a minimum of 3hrs (elites) and 4-6hrs (others) to complete the trail up and down. It is unlikely you'll get parking on a weekend in Lions Bay. The best option is to do the trail on a weekday, or to take public transport to Lions Bay. You can park at Horseshoe Bay and get the bus to Lions Bay. (Departures every hour).

Note:The distance of the route is somewhere between 2.2-2.6km depending on your device. The course was originally intended to be shorter and more direct at the start, but to make it easier we will take the gravel road to the Mt Unnecessary trailhead. If you see 2.6km and you haven't finished the course, don't panic, keep going until you reach the rock with the painted orange arrow on it. You can't miss it! We urge you to run through the finish area and head another 50-100m up the trail just to ensure you connect with the Strava segment

WARNING This course is difficult and novice hikers/runners with little to no experience may find it challenging. If you are attempting this course with inexperience please start very early, it may take you up to 2-3 hours to ascend and another 2-3 hours to get down. The descent is even more challenging than the climb due to its steepness. Poles are recommended to assist with the descent, but some sections of the climb may require you to stow the poles so you can use your hands, so be prepared. Please watch the demonstration video to get an understanding of the terrain you will face. After 800m of vertical ascent, there is the most difficult section of the course which requires either a short rock scramble or a detour around that scramble via a narrow exposed ledge that has a bit of a drop off the edge. Please navigate through this section carefully (UPDATE: 2022 we have now secured a hand rope in this area). If you are feeling uncomfortable, please turn back, you will still be awarded the attempt on the VK course if you don't complete the course. Safety first!

Descent Options Beware of snow until mid-late July if you continue up toward the Howe Sound Crest Trail. There you will be able to descend via other options (either the Lions-Binkert trail), or across St Marks summit to Cypress resort.

Strava Segment:

Download GPX File: vk1-completely-necessary.gpx

Parking: The start of the route begins at the gate at the top of Oceanview Road in Lions Bay. There is now paid parking everywhere in Lions Bay. You will need to download the Flowbird App to pay for parking $2/hr. More info here

The route:

The VK segment begins at the gate at the top of Oceanview road (picture #1). After passing the gate, continue to run up the gravel road until you reach the trailhead for the Mt Unnecessary trail (picture #2). Head up the trail but within a few minutes you'll reach a somewhat unclear intersection (see picture #3 and #4). Make sure you turn left up the Mt Unnecessary trail, rather than heading straight onto the "local trail" (Erin Moore trail). The wrong way will appear to be the more clear path, so you must ensure you go left here. Please watch the demonstration video to ensure you go the right way and its clear to you. Make sure after the left turn you stay left - follow the flagging tape.

The rest of the Mt Unnecessary trail is easy to follow. There is one intersection with the Erin Moore trail (see picture #5). Make sure you continue straight rather than turning right up that trail.

Finish: The finish of the course is show in pictures #6 and #7. You will reach a large rock with an orange arrow painted on it. This is the end of the course. The altitude is around 1200m. The distance of the course might say on your device ~2.5-2.6km.

Video Demonstration


Steep and unrelenting, Completely Necessary features the Unnecessary Mountain trail from Lions bay. At 2.2km, this is the crown jewel of the series featuring a course length close to the two steepest VK’s in the world: Verticale du Grand Serre in France (1.8km) and Fully in Switzerland (1.9km). Both of those European courses feature the fastest VK times ever recorded, with the men’s world record set at Fully by Italian Philip Gotsch at 28’54” (the course record at Grand Serre is 30’13” by Remi Bonnet) and the Women’s world record at Grand Serre at 34’01” by French woman Axelle Mollaret (the women’s course record at Fully is 34’44” by Christel Dewalle).

However, we are unlikely to see times approaching 30 minutes on the Completely Necessary course due to the nature of the terrain in the Pacific North West. By comparison, the VK course at Fully goes directly vertical aided by the benefit of the old vineyard rail line steps up the steep slope. While the Grand Serre is on an open grassed slope where the athletes can head up in a directly vertical line as well.

Completely necessary features a mildly technical trail under a dense forest canopy, with some zigzagging lines, and various obstacles such as rocks, fallen trees that will slow the athlete down and break climbing momentum. Despite the terrain, times under 40 minutes are a definite possibility on this route by the male elite athletes who attempt it. Elite women will be looking at sub-50 mininute times as a key target.

The course is challenging because of the steepness, but its not overtly difficult and there is no exposure. However, there are a few short steeper sections that require some shorefooting and may be slightly confronting for inexperienced individuals. In one section, there are a few ropes to assist the ascent, but are not typically needed if you are experienced on this terrain. If you ever feel uncomfortable and out of your comfort zone it is recommended that you turn back.

The Unnecessary Mountain trail actually climbs much more than VK course of 1000m. The Completely Necessary VK route only climbs to the crest of long ridge some 300-350m in elevation beneath the summit of Unnecessary Mountain North. To make the shortest distance possible for the course, it was decided to make the start of the course lower than the actual Unnecessary Mountain trailhead in order for the course to finish before the longer flatter section at the commencement of the ridge. Had we not done this the course would have been 200-300m longer.



Card image cap

The Vancouver VK Series is Proudly Sponsored by Bremner's Foods a local Vancouver based company.

Check out their premium products on Bremners Online at: