The Stawamus Chief Trail: the most difficult and dangerous activity of my life

A week ago, I was having lunch with coworkers and they were talking about hiking The Chief. Andrea had plans to do it that weekend and I felt a desire grow in me… Squamish Valley Music Festival and the possibility of traffic on the Sea to Sky Highway made Andrea postpone her plans and I was free to go up this weekend. I invited another one of our colleagues and Andrea’s friend visiting from France rounded out our foursome.

Seven years ago, I hiked The Chief with NPY and Lil’ Sis. We bought Subway sandwiches in Squamish and hiked just the first peak. I barely knew there were two others. On our way down, Lil’ Sis and I took up the width of the stairs and an older man passed us on the left on the gravel and ended up slipping and falling rolling down several steps. That has traumatized me a little. And all these years, I have felt like I have been missing something by not going to the other two peaks while with the definite anxiety about coming down.

fuel for the hike

And after a year since my last hike (last year, Grouse Grind, with Andrea and a different colleauge), I forget my loathing for nature and feel like it’s time for my yearly dose. This was a good one for a yearly go at it. A mosquito bit me on my exposed leg before I got a change to apply mosquito repellent, grrrr.

We were in it for doing all three peaks so the first one wasn’t so hard. It was difficult at the very beginning and I found it indistinguishable from Grouse Grind, and the differences appeared more after the first peak.

first peak

It was Andrea’s idea to ask the guys taking pictures shirtless if she could join them and a few other women joined in the fun.

it was andrea’s idea

We tracked downwards from the first peak, down the short chain and ladder and reached the fork and set out towards the second peak instead of back to the trailhead. The chains were extensive and the rockface was really big and looked like you couldn’t scale it!

The view was just as nice, although higher.

second peak
our shoes

Between the second and third peak, we came across the group that was slacklining. I hadn’t heard of or seen it before and it’s wild! Not my things. And I’m too old. Seriously.


After walking a long a narrow ridge and really not so much effort, we reached the third peak. Our view of the water was blocked by the first two peaks but it was neat to see how far we had gotten, the crowds on the other two peaks.

We had completed it… except for the going back down part.

third peak
“look off in the distance”

The first large chunk of the downhill from third peak was brutal, all rock. You’d think I had balance and be limber and be fit from all I do. But I’m terrified of scraping myself up so I was really tentative. And any slip freaked me out and I wasn’t sure I was going to save myself from sliding without stopping. At one point, I was listening too intently to another group talk about which of the upcoming way was easier and I stepped onto a too smooth inclined rock and wiped out landing on my bum and scraping up my forearm. Thank goodness I didn’t hit my head or scrape up my hands which I needed to hang off rocks for dear life. Later, I slipped on a wet patch and nicked myself near my elbow. I was freaking out that my luck would come in threes!

When we were finally in the clear, I told my colleague that the whole hike was the most difficult activity I had ever done. “Even more difficult than a marathon?” Yes! And certainly it was more dangerous. The most dangerous activity I’ve every participated in. And I survived.

that blessed rock

It was wild when we’re back at the trailhead just what we accomplished. But after a drive back that took two hours, the feeling has dissipated a little. And the bruises and soreness isn’t so big.

I wasn’t too disappointed to disband for the day since I knew what I wanted to make for dinner.  A quick vegetarian ramen in a butternut squash soup turned a little Asian.

meal after the chief

On this day..