Route:

Distance:

Time:

Level:

Elevation:

Season:

1st Peak

6 km

2 h r/t

Easy

620 m

March to Nov

2nd Peak

9 km

3 h r/t

Moderate

600 m

March to Nov

3rd Peak

11 km

4 h r/t

Moderate

600 m

March to Nov

Squaw

15 km

5½ h r/t

Challenging

550 m

March to Nov

 

Access: See Getting to Whistler

Topographical Map: Squamish 92G/11

Click to View Map

When you get off the bus at the Stawamus Chief viewpoint, look up. Chances are there will be any number of groups hanging off the imposing granite monolith above you. This is "The Grand Wall," one of North America's most famous free climbs. The good news is you won't be scaling the Chief in that fashion.

thechief

Monster Monolith: The Chief dominates the view overlooking Howe Sound on a misty day. Photo taken from the trail to Diamond Head.

Stawamus Chief Provincial Park now includes 40 wilderness and 15 vehicle campsites that were created following a prolonged bout of civil disobedience. Following many years of "guerrilla camping" by a growing corps of dedicated cliff hangers the provincial government finally decided to get with the program and build a proper campsite with toilets at the site. The park has since become a veritable mecca for climbers from all over North America attracted by some of the longest, most accessible free climbing routes on the planet. There are more than 280 different ascents up The Chief. Perhaps they don't know what you do, there's a much easier back door.

Walk southwards, working around behind the base of the Chief in counter-clockwise direction. Once you locate the trailhead in behind the solid rock wall scramble over the boulder that blocks the entrance and begin climbing the steps in earnest. The well-used trail paralleling Olesen Creek eventually branches into four separate routes. One will take you as far as the site of a forest fire lookout perched atop Stawamus Squaw 7 km away. The others lead to the Stawamus Chief's triple peaks.

The first two branches to the right lead to Shannon Falls and are detailed below. Almost immediately a left branch leads up to the first and second peak. The first peak is a mere 3 km away; straight up mind you but mercifully short. The second peak is 4½ km away while the third one is 5½ km from the start of the trail. The third peak can be accessed either from the top of the second peak or from the main trail following Olesen Creek. This latter route eventually branches with the left fork extending up to the third peak. The Chief's distant mate will be found at the end of the right fork. The views from all four are spectacular, encompassing a panorama that includes the striking peaks of Garabaldi Park to the east, the Squamish Valley to the north and Howe Sound laid out at your feet to the west and south. The scene is marred only by the urban and industrial landscape of the city of Squamish and the Woodfibre pulp mill beyond. From atop the Chief consider you are standing on the world's second largest freestanding granite outcropping, topped only by the Rock of Gibraltar.

Choose a route suited to your schedule or camp out and undertake all four.

The End


Labrador Tea

Labrador Tea

Forgot the tea bags and dying for a cuppa? Look around the camp. Chances are your drippy socks are draped over a Labrador tea bush. Steep the leaves, but not the socks, in boiled water for a tea that was enjoyed by more North American Indians than any other kind. Don’t actually boil the leaves however as boiling releases a chemical called ledol which has a number of unpleasant side effects. Pregnant women should avoid Labrador tea altogether. As a mild narcotic, Labrador tea was also an essential ingredient in kinnikinnik, a tobacco-less smoking mixture used by native groups throughout much of North America.

Illustration by Manami Kimura