Stawamus Chief Mountain

Stawamus Chief Mountain is an iconic landmark on the outskirts of Squamish, British Columbia.  A mecca for rock climbers from around the world, the mountain is also immensely popular with hikers who utilize well-constructed trails on the backside to access three distinct summits (from south to north, they are referred to as 1st, 2nd and 3rd Peaks).  After spending a weekend visiting my brother and his family in Kirkland, Washington, I drove to Squamish on 18 August 2014 to hike up Stawamus Chief Mountain.  Although parking is plentiful near the trailhead, I was a bit shocked by how full the lots were given that it was a weekday.  I parked in the furthest lot before walking an extra 300 metres to the trailhead which is located at the back of a very crowded walk-in campground. 

It did not take long for me to build up a good sweat as I climbed up steep wooden stairs for the first 200 metres of elevation gain.  Beyond the stairs, the grade eases only slightly, but I found hiking on a dirt trail to be vastly more enjoyable.  At a signed junction, I followed the trail leading to 1st Peak and generally had little trouble reaching the top.  A few ladders along the way help with surmounting some steeper sections of rock, but these also created some traffic jams as people waited their turn to ascend or descend.  After tagging the summit, I retraced my steps to the signed junction and continued up the trail to 2nd Peak.  A few awkward sections along the route to 2nd Peak require some hands-on scrambling, but there are chains in place to provide some security.  From the summit of 2nd Peak, I followed flagging and markers northward before descending into an obvious gap.  There were fewer people on this part of the mountain, and I actually ended up slightly off-route in the forest here.  I had to backtrack a bit before finding the correct (and safer) route up 3rd Peak.  In retrospect, I had found the top of 1st Peak to be the most scenic, and consequently, standing atop 3rd Peak, the highest of the three, felt somewhat anticlimactic.

Returning to the gap, I descended a rougher, less-traveled trail which follows the gully between 2nd Peak and 3rd Peak and which eventually joins up with the main trail near the top of the stairs.  The mostly uneventful hike back to the trailhead was marred by a painful spill I took partway down the rough trail which left me with a nasty bruise on my leg and a broken trekking pole (the cheap pole lasted only two trips for me).  Checking into the superb Hotel Squamish later on helped alleviate some of my pain and disgust.
That's one big hunk of rock! This is looking up the west face of 1st Peak from the parking lot.
Some of the steps were seemingly made for people with really long legs... Wooden stairs grant easy access to the backside of Stawamus Chief Mountain.
You should be sweating nicely by now... Cedar trees provide welcome shade from the sun for much of the ascent up the backside.
It's the Hilary Step...okay, not really! Steel ladders are in place on a variety of steeper sections throughout the backside of the mountain.
After you, ladies! The trees eventually give way to bare rock.
Great spot for nude sunbathing...just wishful thinking on my part! The views open up near the top of 1st Peak.  Behind the figures is Squamish Harbour.

Although it is the lowest of the three peaks, 1st Peak definitely has the nicest summit views.

Sonny stands on the 620-metre summit of Stawamus Chief Mountain's 1st Peak.  2nd Peak and 3rd (highest) Peak are to the right.

Some people erroneously call this mountain "Squamish Chief". The town of Squamish can be seen over the cliff edge.
Unfortunately, there is no easy route down this side of 1st Peak to get to 2nd Peak unless you have a rope. Here is another look at 2nd Peak and 3rd Peak.
Despite the hordes of people, there are still areas on the mountain that are relatively secluded. The gully between 1st Peak and 2nd Peak is dark and quiet.
Some hands-on scrambling required, chain or no chain! Getting to the top of 2nd Peak is a little trickier than 1st Peak.
Oh sure! NOW they're nude sunbathing over there... This is looking back at 1st Peak from 2nd Peak.
Go Seahawks! Sonny sits on top of 2nd Peak (650 metres).
Though the route is flagged, some route-finding may still be necessary. The most direct route from 2nd Peak to 3rd Peak (right) roughly follows the mostly forested ridge crest.
They should have set this up between 1st Peak and 2nd Peak instead which would have saved me some elevation loss! A slackline (or highline) has been set up across the major gap between 2nd Peak and 3rd Peak.
Nice dolphin? A "slacker" balances on the slackline.
Definitely deserves a closer look one of these days... To the north is the Garibaldi Massif, an eroded stratovolcano which is comprised of Dalton Dome, Mount Garibaldi, and Atwell Peak.  The tops of all three peaks are visible in the photo.
Yep, 1st Peak was much nicer! Sonny looks up disapprovingly at the overcast sky while standing on the 695-metre summit of 3rd Peak, the highest of the three peaks on Stawamus Chief Mountain.
Looks like a nude sunbathing party going on at 1st Peak... Here is a closer look at 1st Peak and 2nd Peak from the top of 3rd Peak.
I actually booked my room at the Hotel Squamish right here! This calm pool of water is located along Olesen Creek which runs beside the stairs on the backside.

Hotel Squamish is a great place to stay!

Here is the view of all three peaks of Stawamus Chief Mountain from the Hotel Squamish.

A bit crowded, but lotsa fun! Total Distance:  7.7 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  5 hours
Net Elevation Gain:  627 metres

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