Saturday, 27 July 2013

CONQUERING THE STAWAMUS CHIEF





The Stawamus Chief is an imposing mountain that cannot be missed on the Sea to Sky Highway located about halfway between Whistler and Vancouver (near a town called Squamish). The Stawamus Chief (more commonly referred to as "The Chief") is famous for its near-vertical granite cliffs and the breathtaking scenery from the top that attracts thousands of rock-climbers/hikers around the world to this site. Personally having done the Grouse Grind the day before and coming off of my second graveyard shift, I foolishly agreed to go on this adventure.

Large boulder halfway into the hike
Top of the peak!
Directions (from Vancouver): (~1 hour with no traffic)
Take Highway #1 westbound towards Horseshoe Bay (follow signs toward Whistler) and exit onto Highway #99 (Sea to Sky Highway). Continue for ~40 minutes and watch for signs indicating "Shannon Falls". Park in the Shannon Falls parking lot. (It could get busy during summer weekends, so go during the week if possible... if the parking lot is full don't worry, continue on the highway for ~1 km and use the Stawamus Chief parking lot instead.)

From the parking lot, we casually strolled through the paved trail towards Shannon Falls. From there we took a left turn onto a wide gravel trail (Lower Falls trail) that eventually led to a small wooden bridge. After crossing the creek, Lower Falls trail becomes the Chief Peaks Trail. For the next 30 minutes we found ourselves ascending large rocks/wooden stairs up a fairly steep gradient (in the shade.. under the protection of beautiful west coast foliage). About halfway up there was a large boulder and granite lookout (where we stopped for a couple pictures + water break). We continued our ascent towards the first peak and, shortly after the boulder, the trail divided in two (one for 1st/2nd peak and the other path towards the 3rd peak). This middle portion of the hike was much gentler than the beginning, until the foliage gave way to the gigantic granite dome that defines the Stawamus Chief. In order to reach the top of the first peak we had to climb a couple metal ladders and continue our ascent with the aid of metal chains bolted into the rock.  After an hour of sweat and burning muscles, we finally conquered the Chief and realized why this hike is widely believed to be one of the best hikes in beautiful British Columbia.

Top of the peak: Emerald green water... killer view!
We made it!
P.S. Bring lots of water, and prepare for sore knees the day after (the descend down the mountain was quite hard on the knees).

Happy Travels!

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