Stawamus Chief

September 14, 2022


Squamish, BC

The official name of this peak is Stawamus Chief Mountain but almost everybody refers it to just “the Chief”. I opt for the middle ground solution, the “Stawamus Chief”. Back in my high school days I actually hiked to the second summit with my parents but the second summit isn’t the true summit. I knew at some point that I had to come back for the true (third) summit but such would never be the priority. I eventually planned three possible ways to tag this peak – to climb a route on the face, to bring an Instagram girl for photos or to bring a city friend who’s interested in hiking. I did not have a strong preference but I committed to the 3rd option in September 2022 after bagging over 1300 peaks across the world. I will still climb a route on the face at some point, but when I eventually do that it’ll be a rock climbing trip without any peak-bagging pressure. I also wanted to traverse all three summits to fully finish off this peak and also to experience the via ferrata that had gone absolutely viral on the internet in recent years.

Kat and I left White Rock at 9:30 am which was as early as she could manage, but thankfully we didn’t have to come back home too early. My work on this day wouldn’t start until 7 pm. The traffic through Vancouver was rather brutal such that we didn’t start hiking until more than 2 hours later. The plan was to traverse from Chief/Slhanay saddle over all three summits and down the regular trail. I did not do any research but I did know what roughly to expect from seeing the social media posts these years, and the trails are all marked on the Gaia map anyway.

Stawamus Chief traverse route. GPX DL

The backside trail up to Chief/Slhanay saddle was at times more like a path but chances are we missed the most defined trail as there are quite a few labelled on the maps. Nonetheless we gained elevation rather efficiently. There’s one steep section near the saddle assisted by a batman rope followed by a catwalk traverse underneath some cliff faces. We then carried on to the broad, forested NE Ridge (backside) of the 3rd peak. At one point the trail started to traverse horizontally due climber’s left to the base of an impressive overhang and then made a sharp right turn to traverse back onto the ridge. Above this section was the via ferrata and the batman ropes. It took Kat a few minutes to commit to the first via ferrata but she gained confidence quickly. The final set of via ferrata was rather steep and exposed but she handled it much more fluently than the first (easy) one. A short walk was then followed to the third (true) summit of Stawamus Chief. I unfortunately got stung by a wasp on my head.

The start of the “backside” Chief trail.
The trail was easy to follow but not world class quality
Onto the ridge now with view of the Chief’s backside
We traversed underneath some bluffs to bypass cliffs
The first via ferrata traverse
This traverse was quite exposed
The exposed finish of the backside Chief via ferrata.
Slhanay or what used to be called “the Squaw” from the 3rd summit of Chief
Kat coming up. Clouds and smoke obscuring Mt. Garibaldi behind.
Kat on the true summit of Stawamus Chief
Me on the true summit of Stawamus Chief at last, after 1300+ peaks bagged

The true summit actually didn’t offer much views so we walked down to a gigantic piece of slabs to have lunch. We then easily descended slabs into the saddle between the 3rd and the 2nd peak which was deeper than I thought. There’s one bonus boulder on the edge of the cliff and I spontaneously decided to climb, which turned out to require a few 5th class moves with some exposure. We then easily ascended onto the second summit to join the hordes of hikers.

Descending slabs from the 3rd peak
We were off the trail but not had picked up the path
The typical descent to get into the col between 3rd and 2nd summits
This viewpoint had an overhanging drop…
The city of Squamish from the 3rd peak of Chief
Me looking down into the overhang. Even I get vertigo from this spot
I then climbed up a bonus boulder rock
Hiking up towards the second summit now
The slabs under the summit of the 2nd peak
Kat on the summit of the second peak of Stawamus Chief
That classic view from the second peak including first peak in foreground
Kat on the second peak with the first one behind, our next objective

The descent into the saddle between the 2nd and the 1st summit involved a steel ladder and some other forms of aids and was actually quite fun. The tree roots and the rocks were all polished due to the zillions of people that show up here each year. We then decided to take the climber’s short-cut onto the first peak which involved two sets of vertical via ferrata. I was impressed that Kat actually handled this section well especially given that she was very scared at the much-easier via ferrata a mere hour or two earlier. Above the via ferrata we opted to stay on the ridge crest and that was a mistake. The summit was a monolith of slab from this side that I estimated to be 5.7 ish. With only approach shoes I did not feel comfortable soloing it, so we backtracked and found the correct route with some corkscrewing. This first summit was actually the busiest of the three and actually the most impressive views of the Howe Sound.

Down-climbing our first ladder of the day
A few 3rd class moves required here
Finishing the fun parts
The vertical via ferrata up towards first peak
The second set of via ferrata with shear exposure
Looking back towards the second peak
Chains and batman ropes are the key on this route
Backtracking after picking a wrong route that led to some 5.7 slabs…
Kat scrambling up to the first peak
Kat on the first peak of Stawamus Chief
Me on the first peak of Stawamus Chief. It’s also my first time ever here.
Kat walking around the summit slabs
We both love this photo.

After taking enough photos we joined the other hikers and descended the regular route down to join the main trail. This trail was much more constructed now compared to 14 years ago. Almost all steep sections now had wooden staircases to assist, which was actually not the greatest to descend. Kat was having some leg cramps so we slowed down to let the others to pass. The original plan was to walk the 3-4 km flat trail and road back to the truck but the new decision was for me to run that alone without a pack. Kat would simply wait at the regular trail head to save her from more unnecessary walking. I came back in about 40 minutes with the truck and we were back to Vancouver an hour later. We made a spontaneous decision to have a dumpling dinner on Kingsway but that added time. I ended up being 40 minutes late for work but that was okay as I had already informed the possible delay.

After a while of photo shooting we had to start descending
More chains, ladders and slabs
Down to the official trail now
Lots and lots of staircases to descend
Dinner in Vancouver
A smoky sunset from Vancouver. It was a great day.

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