Stewart Peak

October 19, 2021


Chilliwack, BC

Stewart Peak is a small-ish but rugged summit that locates in the “middle zone” of Cheam Range. The access is from Airplane Creek FSR and the scramble is well documented in Matt Gunn’s Scrambles in SW British Columbia. Adventurous parties could take the SW Ridge for a more challenging scramble but the standard route, the SE Face/Slopes is a straightforward class 2-3 ascent. Folks who made the effort to come up this far usually prefer to combine a scramble of Stewart Peak with the nearby The Still, “Baby Munday North” and/or Knight Peak. The access road is very rough and the trail isn’t that pleasant neither, so it’s better to make the most use of a single foray. I had come up this way previously for a climb of the true summit of Baby Munday Peak. This time, in shoulder season conditions Elise, Ben and I checked off Knight Peak, the north summit of Baby Munday Peak and Stewart Peak leaving only The Still behind as my last summit in Cheam Range. This trip report also includes the portion of “Baby Munday North” as I do not want to count that sub-summit as a separate peak despite its inclusion in Matt Gunn’s book.

Knight Peak and Stewart Peak standard routes. GPX DL

From Baby Munday/Knight col we ascended a short stretch of tedious rubble slopes to merge onto the snow couloir that eventually led us to the high col between Baby Munday’s north and central summits. This snow couloir was pretty steep but the snow condition allowed for some easy step-kicking. There were a few spots that I wished to have strapped crampons on, but those were all short-lived. From the high col we wrapped around to the “back” side and found the scramble route to gain the north summit. Thank to the fresh snow the scrambling had a few challenging steps but nothing’s really worth noting. The scramble was short and fun that in no time we were on the summit of “Baby Munday North”. The view of the true summit of Baby Munday Peak was incredible from this little peaklet.

Baby Munday “north/central” col is the left of the two notches up there
Me and Ben climbing towards Baby Munday’s north col
Elise kicking-step up the snow couloir leading to Baby Munday col
Elise now wrapping around to the backside of the Baby Munday col
Panorama from “Baby Munday North”. Click to view large size.
A view looking back at Knight Peak
Stewart Peak from Baby Munday’s north summit
The true summit of Baby Munday Peak from the north peak
Looking north down to Jones Lake

After taking enough photos we gingerly down-climbed from this peaklet and carried on the traverse towards the base of Stewart Peak. We linked a few short but fun glissades including one ride that was surprisingly icy. Stewart Peak looked imposing from most angles but I knew there supposed to have an “easy” route on the backside. We plodded across a small glacier then scrambled some snow-covered boulder fields to the base of the SE slopes. I could not spot a route as “easy” as most people made it sound, but that was because we had snow on the route. Nonetheless I led the way charging up the slopes. I opted to link up several stretches of steep snow instead of dealing with snow-covered rock scramble. A few spots had short, but 50-degree snow climbing and some treacherous wallowing. None of us brought an ice axe on this trip, but the snow conditions allowed us a passage to the summit of Stewart Peak.

Down-scrambling the south ridge of “Baby Munday North”
A bit of tricky down-climbing to get off the scramble
The first of the few glissades
Ben traversing undulating terrain between Baby Munday and Stewart Peak
The SW Ridge of Stewart Peak now facing us
Me and Ben starting the ascent of the SE slopes of Stewart Peak
Ben ascending some steep snow on the standard SE Slopes route
This few steps were the trickiest
Summit Panorama from Stewart Peak. Click to view large size.
Welch Peak now looks like a Himalayan giant
The Still will be my final summit on the Cheam Range
The true summit of Baby Munday Peak, the only technical climb in Cheam Range
Looking back towards Knight Peak with Lady/Cheam Peaks behind
Silvertip Mountain looms behind Mt. Northgraves
Me on the summit of Stewart Peak

The summit wasn’t very spacious and there’s a cool breeze of wind so we didn’t linger too long up there. I briefly thought about to investigate some alternate routes but decided to just go with the known. The down-climbing wasn’t too bad. We then plunged down that small glacier into the broad valley between Stewart Peak and The Still. Ben had used this valley to approach and descend from The Still so we knew where exactly to aim for in order to close this loop. The descent towards a frozen tarn was unpleasant due to the fresh snow covering all the boulders and sometimes we broke through weak spots and post-holed passed our knees. There’s a helicopter flying around us for at least 15 minutes. At the time we had no idea what was going on, but later someone else said they were likely there to look for a recent plane crash. The tarn wasn’t completely frozen to walk across so we had to post-hole our way around the south shore and then hop across the lake’s outflow.

Me about to descend some steep spots on Stewart Peak
Baby Munday Peak. From L to R: True, Central and North Summits
Elise and Ben down-climbing around the crux
More about the down-climbing on the SE Face
This is just a sub-summit of Stewart Peak that we did not bother to check out
Off the scramble, looking back. SE Slopes on the right.
The Still in the foreground with Welch Peak behind
This chopper flew around us for at least a dozen rounds…
This section of the descent was tedious. Lots of hidden holes.
We aimed for this frozen tarn then traversed to the far side of it
Me and Ben at the tarn’s outflow

From there we descended the slippery dirt and scree slope directly beside the outflow creek for at least 100 vertical meters before making a decision to cut skier’s right to find the flagged path. We indeed found the unofficial trail and that eventually brought us back to the trail junction with Knight Peak’s access. The trail was very narrow at places. We then followed the trail to descend into the insanely steep forest but at least the forested descent was only 600 m, which was pretty tame for SW BC’s standard. Once back to the Airplane Creek crossing I spent a few minutes to swap footwear back to the trail runners. The rest of the return along the overgrown FSR was still wet even though there had been a full day of dry weather by this point.

Ben now descending the chossy slopes under the tarn’s outflow
This was about the place where we traversed skier’s right to find the trail
Elise traversing the narrow and steep trail
The trail in the forest was very steep and slippery
Finally down to Airplane Creek
About 50 m of re-ascending later we were back onto the overgrown FSR
A view looking down the Airplane Creek valley from an opening on the FSR

Our round trip time was just over 8 hours on a steady pace and we still had a few more hours of daylight time as spare. In retrospect I could have also added The Still into this trip but this is such a beautiful area that I would not mind a revisit. The access is not very pleasant, but also not a terribly long one. While driving down the rough Airplane Creek FSR I managed to not scrap the bottom of my truck at all, including negotiating that crux ditch about halfway down. The drive back across Foley FSR was ironically slower because of the never-ending pot-holes.