Conquering The Squamish Chief Hike

Today we decided to head out a little further from Vancouver. We had been on the 3 main mountains of North Shore (Cypress, Seymour and Grouse) over the the last 3 weeks so we thought we should mix it up a little. So we challenged ourselves to take on the 3 peaks of the Squamish Chief Hike.

The fresh air goes straight to the boys’ heads. They fight each other just like excitable kids. Once broken up we take a look at the Shannon Falls. We have parked here specifically so that we can take in the view before we go up to The Squamish Chief. You can hear it from the road so you just need to follow your ears to get there. The river coming down from the waterfall looks powerful enough but then we find the view point; it’s so much larger than I had anticipated. I didn’t do any research on the falls prior the hike itself but very much loved what we found. Flowing water isn’t always that easy to capture and the overcast weather wasn’t really helping either but I hope I have done some justice.

Shannon falls at the Squamish Chief Hike
Shannon Falls

The hike starts off with endless wooden steps reminiscent of those of The Grouse Grind. Yuk. Soon enough though these steps become intermittent with the usual roots and rock we’ve come to expect on these hikes in BC. What is more evident here is the amount of bare rock on the path compared to the other trails that we have been on. The rain and drizzle makes the hike up far more slippery so we’re having to watch our footing more than some of the other hikes

Squamish Chief Hike
Video game style fighting at the beginning of The Squamish Chief Hike

The hike going smoothly we soon come to a feeling that we had evidently taken a wrong turn, the evidence of which was a dead-nd. It looks like there had been a tiny landslide, with loose rubble and earth spread over the path. Not knowing how far back we would have to turn we decide to hop over the log that lay in our path and carry on. We weren’t the only ones that had come to this conclusion as there was a fresh prints ahead of us and we could make out a new path so we followed that. It looked like the real path was just above us, running parallel to our current trajectory. The trees were clearer up there so we made a direct little hike up to it and our suspicions were confirmed. We were back on track.

It’s here the flat slab of the mountain would start to rise up out of the ground, towering over us. It somewhat reminded me of the hike at Grotto Canyon however this was far more enclosed being deeper in the forest.

On the way up we stop at another lookout point for the falls. We are now a lot higher so we have a completely different perspective of them. All I know is that I wouldn’t want to be in that water. It’s here we started playing a couple of games. Game 1 required us to name our favourite and second favourite animal, and our thoughts on the ocean and of the night. We weren’t told the significance of each answer until Arno and I had answered in full . . .

And this is what it means:

  • Animal 1 is how we see ourselves (I chose Bison – resilient, strong, ‘simple’ and non-flash . . . and maybe because my local hockey team are The Bison).
  • Animal 2 is how we see our ideal partner (Peregrine Falcon – fragile, elegant,  intelligent, skillful and a poster for the British outdoors)
  • Ocean represents our opinions to relationships (Enjoy the ocean, beautiful to look at, but can be dangerous and volatile; needs to be respected, when it comes to it I dip my toe in but never go all out)
  • Night represents our opinions on death (peaceful, quiet, solitude, not overly worried)

This is a great game to play with people when they don’t know what they are actually answering. A fun one from Sam via Dalai Lama (apparently).

The Squamish Chief Hike

Coming to a junction we took the turning to go to the first peak. We had decided earlier on to do all three peaks if we could. It would be a shame to come all this way and only do the one, of course. The first peak asked for a bit of scrambling from us. There are chains set into the crease of the rock. They are there to help hikers get to the top in safety. I can imagine that in dry weather we probably wouldn’t need to use them but the rain made it feel like ice under foot. Hands instantly cold on the metal chains, it didn’t take too long to get to what looked like the top. It wasn’t. There was a steel ladder bolted into place to help make a climb to the final area which required a steady, sure footed walk. It was best done with either a hand on the floor or in an achy squat position. We all looked a bit like Bambi, unsure of our footing, keeping a low centre of gravity.

The Squamish Chief Hike
Sam at the top of Summit one

Once at the top we got a spectacular view of Squamish town and the estuary. It was quite unnerving at parts when up here. It was just bare stone. very few trees or dirt to be seen. The top was convex and extremely smooth so if you had a tennis ball and put it on the ground, it would soon enough find it’s way off the edge. We’ve all seen enough films where someone slips and falls, careering to the edge of a cliff only to be saved with their fingertips. This was running in my mind anyway. It was pretty wide, however we all kept ourselves a safe distance from the edge, keeping to the ridge. I wouldn’t want any dogs or kids up here. Especially in the wet.

It took us longer going down than up. It was mainly spent on our arse, crabbing it down. Arno, our Austrian housemate (Well known in yodelling circles) asked the question “So are we going to do all three”. I sensed in the hope that we would say “no”. He was disappointed when we said “err, yes”. His concerns were valid however as the view from summit one across to two and three didn’t look promising in this weather. Bare and wet.

The Squamish Chief Hike
Top of 1

We loop back to where the trail split to take us to summit one, and took the other path, taking us to 2 and 3. This required a nice hike in a small valley made from peak two and three, with a ‘stream’ running down through it. It’s here that I got my first hiking injury although I’m so bad ass that I can’t believe that I’ve not had one already. However this came in the form of a badly positioned rock that walked in front of me, resulting in a strong knock to the knee. Needless to say I was brave and didn’t cry about the ‘owee’.

Summit two required a climb with via ferrata style steps and holdalls – minus the clip-in cable. It was remeniscant of my trip in the Rockies with Loz We were helped for the final part with another set of chains. This last part required us to walk along one of the rock layers which was a couple of metres wide – which could be sketchy, depending on your opinions on heights. The chain took us to the top with continued spectacular views. It would have been better in summer of course – or even just on a clear day. Saying this the clouds that hung over Squamish looked like a lake of fluff, calmly poised for someone to jump on.

Injury on The Squamish Chief Hike
Owee

As with the first peak, going down is always a lot harder than going up. We did this one at a time and took our time coming down as it required a decent amount of concentration. A slip here wouldn’t be too fun.

The climb up to the final peak started not far from the second so we didn’t have to go far. This is more like summit One to get up. Chains and plenty of slippery roots however this one was pretty narrow. Once on the top of this section we follow the ridge back in the direction we came. It’s a relatively narrow stretch that can accommodate 2 people but would probably require one person to stop if passing. It was at this point that Arno was saying he may not go any further. This was until a couple were making their way back, causally walking down that narrow part. Arno said “Let’s go” in his thick Austrian accent, and so we did. I grilled him on this later and his ego got the better of him. Luckily for us we’re not on Everest so it wasn’t the most dangerous decision he could have made.

Come down from the 2nd peak of the Squamish Chief Hike
“Are you SURE?” – Making our way down from 2nd Peak

The path leads you away from the edge and between two layers of rock. Some bits are quite tight so if you’ve a backpack, be prepared for that. There is one part, just before the ladder which you may need a leg up for. I’m not the tallest guy in the world and managed it when wet – just requires a good foot hold and quick boost up.

The trail from here on isn’t too obvious but there are the reflective diamonds / squares the follow up to the the top. It essentially follows the layers in the rock. Again, there is a clear ‘top’ as there is no further to go and pretty much to point. We take a breather. We munch on a banana or a sandwich and take on some water (as if we hadn’t taken on enough with this rain!). It’s time to head down. With a couple of arse cracking slips, we take it slow and mainly slide down on the arse. We re-trace our steps and finally we’re back on sure footing. As is tradition now, we run down. Every time I say that I will put my camera in my bag (I loop the camera bag on my hip straps) but I don’t. Every time it bounces and knocks me in the nuts so I need to be careful! That’s my excuse for being last each time.

We pass a few people who we saw on the way up to the first peak. They ask me “where did you go after seeing us?” I tell them that we went to both 2nd and 3rd. “wow, that was quick, and now you’re running down?!” I felt like a hero.

The Squamish Chief Hike
All 3 at the top of #2

I always expect the run down to be a little longer. I know that going downhill is always going to be quicker than up (walking), and that running just speeds it up so much more but it doesn’t seem to compare. 2.5 hours going up, and maybe half hour on the way down. Just like that we were back at the car park. The steam was rising off our heads and shoulders and we were now feeling very wet and tired. But this didn’t bother us one bit especially with the knowledge we had dry clothes to look forward to and a great dinner ahead of us.

We went to the Watershed Grill in Squamish for a feast. Poutine and burgers. Couldn’t have asked more. What a way to end the day. Our continued feeling of heroics was emphasised by the waitress, Melanie. When asked “which peak did you do” we proudly said “All three”

#TotalAthlete

  • You can find the route HERE

Cheers, Scott

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