They call it the Chief. Stawamus Chief is the 12th largest monolith in the world, stands 2,300 feet tall, and is one heckuva hike. It has three peaks: First Peak (4km hike), Second Peak (5km hike), and Third Peak (7km hike). I’m a fan of their simple, sensible names.
You can find it on the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver, B.C. to Whistler, B.C. It’s one of the most gorgeous drives we’ve ever made. We double-thumbs-up recommend it and then some.
We hiked to the First Peak. Chris made it all the way to the peak. I made it to the peak-ish. What did that mean for me? It meant that I made it beyond all of the chains and ladders and to the last section, but I couldn’t bring myself to go all the way up it.
A few things to know before hiking the chief:
Two to three hours is the typical amount of time the hike takes round-trip, though some can complete it in just 90 minutes — they must be trail runners. It took us about three hours. We made a few lengthier stops, because we were recording our adventure for our channel and taking photos to document it for our blog.
We recommend giving yourself time, bringing water, and packing a snack. The views are stunning and the hike is strenuous. The Chief is the highest calorie burning trail we’ve ever done. According to my Apple Watch, I burned 786 calories while on the trail. That’s about 220 more active calories than I burn in a typical day (while in school and during a pandemic).
Hiking the Chief can be a bit mentally challenging as well. Just the fact that it takes ladders and chains to make it to the top gave us pause and felt daunting. Going down requires focus, because there are plenty of stumbling opportunities.
On the Peak(ish)
I felt immense gratitude for my daily yoga practice while on the peak(ish). Thanks to my practice, I accepted where my personal edge was on the hike and felt secure while being vulnerable. Chris wanted to go farther and I wanted him to go to his personal edge. A lesser me might have insisted we both be done and whined unnecessarily.
After sitting alone for a bit, I did get nervous. What if something happened to Chris? What if something happened to me? We wouldn’t be able to communicate. What an idiot decision it was to separate! Then, I hollered his name and he hollered back. We were safely “within range.”
Going Back Down
Most of my fear revolved around wondering how on earth I would get down from where I’d climbed. While others walked down, seemingly unfazed, I did a combination of butt-sliding and spider crawling (on hands and knees back facing the ground). Never had I ever realized what a worthwhile skill the spider crawl is. I learned it in Elementary gym class.
After making my way back down a set of chains to just above a ladder, I encountered a woman and her dog on their way up.
“I’m sorry. I’m scared and can’t really move out of your way,” I said. She was super sweet and assured me that there was nothing to apologize for. She and her dog made it by me and I was so happy to get down that ladder right after.
Trails like the Chief and the other fit adventures we look forward to taking fuels a lot of my desire to stay fit. Had I not chosen to manage my stress in a healthier way while in my mid-30s and selling cars, I don’t think I’d be able to take on a challenge like the Chief as a 40-something. Heck, I’m not sure if my 20-something self could manage it.
Once down, we decided to hike over to Shannon Falls. The trail was easy going and the sight was beautiful. After our roundtrip Shannon Falls jaunt, my Apple watch said I was at 947 calories.
At the end of the day, my gratitude list included: challenging hikes, my patient husband, hot baths, elementary gym instructors, and yoga.
A hiking snack recommendation that we are not paid to make: I loved my Hornby Organic Chocolate Espresso energy bar (dairy, gluten, and soy free). It’s 370 calories, so it’s definitely heartier than the average snack.
What was hiking the Chief really like? Watch our video below for all of the details!