Ascent of Stawamus Chief on 2011-09-10

Climber: Richard Hensley

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Saturday, September 10, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Stawamus Chief
    Location:Canada-British Columbia
    Elevation:2303 ft / 701 m

Ascent Trip Report

Had an extra day on my weeklong sweep through northwest Washington and Victoria, BC. When I read about this hike while researching Vancouver area hikes, I knew this was the one worth going out of my way for. Wasn't let down. This is one of the funnest hikes I've done in the northwest.
I think most hikers climb 1st Chief first, but I didn't have time to wait for a turn on the ladder, so I decided to top 3rd & 2nd Chiefs and maybe the crowd would be gone from 1st. It worked well, as I had 1st Chief's ladders and ledges all to myself when I finally got there. However, route-finding is probably a lot easier doing 1st first. I think I pasted together reports and descriptions from several descriptions to find my way.
The trail up to 3rd Chief was straightforward. It is very steep with countless short switchbacks. It is often reduced to step-climbing on natural stone with some areas even supplemented by man-made steps. In the lower canyon, ignore the one trail that goes right and crosses Olesen Creek and obviously continues southwest and out of the canyon. Higher up, I stayed right at the next fork that kept me close to the creek. The canyon between 1st & 2nd is more obvious on the ground than it is on the topos. There really isn't a good streambed in this one. I knew the trail continued along Olesen Creek past 3rd Chief, so I looked for the next fork that would follow a definite but smaller stream up to the left. This one led me up to 3rd Chief. Where the narrow canyon leveled off, there is an obvious 4-way. Take the one that forks right and then quickly swings back and follows the rock wall south. It leads to a skinny ledge that soon requires a left switchback on a solid granite "hogback" that leads to the open granite top. The views are good, but get better on 2nd and 1st.
Went back to the 4-way, and that is where hiking the loop in this direction gets tricky. I looked across the canyon at the rock wall opposite 3rd Chief. I thought it was 2nd Chief. I saw a faint path lead over to a weakness in the solid granite. There was a tree growing next or into this lowpoint that simultaneously made it climbable but also got in the way. With some struggle, I was able to gain the top of this narrow ridge running between 3rd & 2nd. Followed it southwest, and it led to many easy options to get up on 2nd. You can probably find a much easier way that skips this ridge when going in the opposite direction.
It was also tricky finding my way down off of 2nd. I knew I needed to find a crack leading south, but there were several there. With the rock getting steeper in all directions, I couldn't see far enough down to see which one was right. As I roamed southwest, I luckily heard the clanging of chain on rock, and it led me to the crack with the ladder in it. Again, this would be easier to find going from 1st to 2nd.
The 1st Chief is a climb to remember. The rebar steps (and a couple strategic handholds) pounded into the vertical granite is something to see. This led up to a narrow slanted ledge running to the right. This ledge is so steep and slanted away from the wall, one section has some more rebar steps and also a chain anchored to the wall. The path reversed course through some trees, and led to another ledge heading southwest. This was much more difficult, but no chain or steps here. There were a couple climbs involved; the second climb I found difficult, requiring weight on all 4 limbs, while still on a 3-ft wide ledge (I don't know the YDS class). The views atop 1st Chief are the best. The Black Tusk, Mts Garibaldi & Cloudburst, Squamish and the Howe Sound.
I decided to post a GPS track, since I found other maps vague and lacking. But reguarding the GPS track, it had to be cleaned up a lot from the raw data. The combination of very steep and narrow canyons filled with tall trees played havoc with satellite receptions. There is no way a GPS can work in those areas. Using Google Earth, I kept the minority of hits that looked plausible or consistent, and filled them in with what looked reasonable. But the Olesen Creek canyon is so steep and narrow, there are probably twice as many switchbacks as my track shows. But the track is accurate on the granite tops, especially showing the ledges on the 3rd & 1st, and also leading to the crevice you need to descend the 2nd.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2122 ft / 646 m
    Total Elevation Loss:243 ft / 74 m
    Round-Trip Distance:2.2 mi / 3.5 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2115 ft / 644 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2092 ft / 637 m; Extra: 23 ft / 7m
    Loss on way in:23 ft / 7 m
    Distance:2 mi / 3.2 km
    Route:Chief Peaks Trail, Third Peak Trail
    Start Trailhead:Stawamus Chief Day-Use Parking   211 ft / 64 m
    Time:1 Hours 42 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:220 ft / 67 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 213 ft / 64 m; Extra: 7 ft / 2m
    Gain on way out:7 ft / 2 m
    Distance:0.2 mi / 0.3 km
    Route:Third Peak Trail
    End Trailhead:canyon west of 3rd Chief  2090 ft / 637 m
    Time:9 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Stawamus Chief (0 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Stawamus Chief2011-09-102122 ft / 647 m
2Stawamus Chief-Second Summit2011-09-10132 ft / 40 m
3Stawamus Chief-First Summit2011-09-10155 ft / 47 m
Total Trip Gain: 2409 ft / 734 m    Total Trip Loss: 2415 ft / 736 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Richard Hensley
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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