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Hiking Stawamus Chief – aka Flirting with Death on My 37th Birthday

Dear Mom, Dad + Ashley.  It would would probably be in your best interest to skip this post, as viewer discretion is advised.



Note: Since I have written this post, a hiker has died at the Chief while hiking alone.  Where exactly she fell from + how she lost her footing is unknown.  A horrible tragedy + it’s no joke!  Don’t go hiking by yourself!  Bring a buddy!!!

When people move to Los Angeles, their parents are always afraid their children are going to be mugged or carjacked.  Since moving to Canada, my parents are afraid that I’m going to be eaten by a bear or die alone in the wilderness.

Jeff has been working in beautiful Squamish this week, so I took the opportunity to do some exploring.  It’s an hour drive north of downtown Vancouver, surrounded by mountains + is a nature lover’s paradise.  I decided for my birthday to go out for a hike + be encompassed in the warm bosom of breathtaking British Columbia!!!  Stawamus Chief is a popular tourist destination + so I thought to myself, “Well, if it’s well traveled trail, I can go by myself – there’d be less chance of getting mauled by a bear!”.  Oh ho, bears were THE LEAST of my worries, my friends…..Stawamus Chief - 02

Check out this sign leading to the trail:Stawamus Chief - 03

This trail is NOT a walk in the park!!!!  Some websites claim this is a good “beginner hike for visitors”.  Pishaw!!!!  They can bite me!!!! Uphill forever!!!Stawamus Chief - 04

I went rrrrreallllyyyyy slooooooow.  I walked in a “switchback” style – as in a zig zag pattern – I tried to avoid going straight up the trail as much as possible.  This was my attempt at trying to preserve my energy.  Slow + steady y’all.

I liked this old sign embedded high up in the tree.Stawamus Chief - 06

Oh man, my legs were burning but I didn’t stop to rest much because then it would’ve been harder to get going again.  I kept that momentum consistent, peeps.Stawamus Chief - 07

This next picture looks like a scramble of rocks, no?  Uh, think again – that’s the trail!!!  My short ass legs were having a hell of a time stepping up onto these large rocks!!!  And this is what a majority of the hike is like!Stawamus Chief - 08

The trails are well maintained but a little confusing – even more so toward the end as I’ll soon illustrate!!!  There are little red markers on the trees to show you’re on the right path.Stawamus Chief - 09

And here my troubles began……oh, Stawamus Chief you are but a trickster + a wanton foe!!!!!  There are three peaks to hike on the Chief.  I read somewhere to bypass the 1st peak + head straight to the 2nd.  Okay.  I had passed the trail to the 1st peak + I finally arrive to the top of the 2nd peak trail after about an hour + a half of hiking straight up.  Two girls were in front of me + to the left was a foreboding sign.  I took the time to take a picture, so you would have thought that I had the sense to read it + take heed.Stawamus Chief - 10

DO NOT GO UP THIS PATH OF HELL LIKE I DID!!!!  This “ladder” is just rungs made of rebar stuck into the rock face.  NOT placed by the park, but by just some guy, whoevertheheckheis!!!!Stawamus Chief - 12

And it’s a SRAIGHT VERTICAL CLIMB UP!!!!Stawamus Chief - 11

I almost turned around but I thought, “I did not hike up this mountain for an hour + a half to reach the 2nd peak + turn around!”.  I just assumed that this was the only way up, so I started up the ladder + I madly repeated to myself, “What would Keith Richards do?!  What would Keith Richards do?!?!?!”.  Sometimes when I’m feeling like a wuss I say this to psych myself out, so I’ll stop being such a whiny wuss – because Keith Richards would be like, “Oy!!!!  Quit being such a wank + go on!!!!!”.Keith Richards

OMIGOD IT WAS SO SCARY!!!!!  And then there were these really poorly placed (note: really bad for short arms + short legs) smaller widely placed rungs, a chain rope + wet, slippery rock.  NO BUENO, PEOPLE!!!!!Stawamus Chief - 13

More chain rope.Stawamus Chief - 14

As I was midway up, gripping onto the chain rope I took a picture of Garibaldi mountain.  Smart, Shelli.  You’re almost diagonal, holding onto a chain rope with one hand + you stop to take a picture.  Genius.Stawamus Chief - 15

I reach the top + my body is BUZZING with adrenaline!!!  I ravenously ate the turkey sandwich I bought from the amazing local Sunflower Bakery Cafe in downtown Squamish.Sunflower Bakery Cafe Squamish

The views were absolutely gorgeous.Stawamus Chief Panorama

As I was eating, from up above on a rock I heard voices + a barking dog.  Como say what?!  How the heck did a dog get up there?!  And out of nowhere a guy popped out.  I asked where he came from + he said, “From below the first peak!”.  Woah, woah, woah – what do you mean, that’s the first peak?  Where the people + dog are?  “Yeah, technically this is all part of the first peak as well.  Did you come up the side?  That’s the CRAZY way!!!!”.

DO WHAT????!!!!  I risked my life up that janky, home-made ladder + FOR WHAT!!!!???  To take some SHORTCUT TO THE 1ST PEAK???!!!  OH HELL NO!!!!!  He pointed across the way + said, “That’s the 2nd peak!”.Stawamus Chief - 16

Apparently, I (+ the girls in front of me) went to the LEFT + basically took a dangerous shortcut to the 1st peak.  To the RIGHT was more chain rope leading up to the 2nd peak.  DAMMIT!!!!

Oh yeah, next I desperately traversed down the side of the mountain alone, trying to find the official path back down the 1st peak to avoid the ladder of insanity.  I ended up on the side of the mountain with a straight drop off, scrambling for footing + I literally thought I’d get stuck there + no one would know where I was.  I managed to scurry back to where I ate lunch + was forced to go back down in a most unfavorable fashion from whence I came up.  Luckily, there was a group of unkempt, young looking rock climbers at the bottom.  Ras Trent

I sheepishly called down, “Do you guys mind watching me as I come down?”.  Thank god they did cuz they would say, “No, no – move your foot a little left – okay you got it!” + “There’s a handhold over to your right!”.  I didn’t know that guardian angels took the form of dreadlocked caucasian rock climbers, but obviously mine do.  At this point I was like, “Screw this, I’m getting off this accursed mountain!”.

The climb down was steep + a killer on the knees + thighs.  My legs felt like wobbly Gumby.  I really wished they had an electric stairlift chair to take me down.Electric Stair Life Chair












I would warn anyone coming up about AVOIDING the ladder + how to go up the 2nd peak the RIGHT WAY.

When I finally reached flat ground, I swear to god  I wanted to kiss the ground!  Today my legs are SO SORE + I’ve been walking around like an old broken down stunt man who did too many episodes of Bonanza!  I’m going to keep running + doing kettlebell training + at the end of this summer, I’m coming back for you, Chief!!!!  Oh yes, + IT’LL BE ON LIKE DONKEY KONG!!!!!!Stawamus Chief - 19

Rule #1:  You don’t always have to listen to Keith Richards because sometimes he just wants to stir up your crazy.



32 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ashley #

    Ay Shells why did you not read that DANGER sign more carefully! Ok enough big sister preaching, I’m proud of you for even attempting the first peak! I’m sure by the end of the summer you’ll be concurring the second and third peak too! Just please bring Jeff with you next time!😠😤😊 Love and miss you😘 Ashley

    March 29, 2013
    • Thanks big sis!!!! I know – next time I’m DEFINITELY bringing Jeff with me……maybe. Love you!

      March 30, 2013
  2. I didn’t know it was your birthday!!!! Happy birthday! I’ll make you a cake in a few weeks! 🙂

    March 29, 2013
  3. Deb Fayle #

    Shelli!! And here I totally advised that it would be a great hike to do based on Tom and boys doing it last summer! It was his first time too as normally he climbs the face and takes the trail back down. I’m so sorry … I’ll have Tom read your blog so that he can advise. Yikes. As I have still yet to hike the Chief, lets do it together when you return after the summer. I’d love to join you on your next adventure up to the summit – or shall I say non- adventure!!!

    March 29, 2013
    • I’m glad that I went up the Chief!!! I for sure know what to do next time!!! Squamish is so dreamy – I’m definitely going back!!!!

      March 30, 2013
  4. kenneth Papi~Dads nishino #

    Yup Yip Yep,…i agree as basic as can be, ”Danger”
    would be enuff warning 4 most soul’s…LOL, but as
    luck would warn, Nan, U did manage 2 get sum kind
    of hard earned kudo’s 4 not being a wuss,…Ouch !!!
    did someone say, ”beginner’s”,…Yike’s, even dum-
    dum, Keith Richards would have enuff smarts not 2
    attempt this ‘ Chief ‘, hehehe,…but good on yah,…
    …and hope jeffrey, takes U 2, Vig’s,…finally !!!!!!!!!

    March 29, 2013
  5. I can’t help but laugh. I know it’s cruel, but having just experienced something similar I can totally relate…..except for the re-bar shortcut! CR AZ ZZYY Did you notice on the sign it says hiking party? More than one person. I’m thinking that’s more for talking reason into the hiker that wants to do the shortcut. Btw, the next time you finish a big hike, take a tylenol and drink a club soda. No sore wobbly legs the next day.

    March 29, 2013
  6. whoa!
    looks like a regular hike on a mountain in korea, with the exception of danger signs and swarms of drunk, silver-haired (and tightly permed) senior citizen hikers
    i’ve come a long way since our hike up echo mountain in LA, eh? 😉

    March 29, 2013
  7. rocky nishino #

    Hi Shel,

    Oh, my goodness, for sure the LORD WAS WITH YOU. PLEASE REMEMBER TO GO OUT ANYPLACE WITH 2 BY 2.

    God blesss you, and love you.


    March 29, 2013
  8. Good Helper Woman #

    Thank you for having the courage to do that for the rest of us! And after seeing those beautiful pictures….I will keep my feets on the ground. Your writing is fantastic, and I enjoyed laughing out loud and feeling my stomach turn at the views.
    Bravo brave woman! BRAVO!

    March 29, 2013
    • Haha!!! Thank you!!! I’m glad you enjoyed this post!!!! Yes – please keep your feet on the ground!!!! Learn from my foibles + mishaps!!!!

      March 30, 2013
  9. You crack me up!! Nothing better than a laugh when you are working on a Sunday morning!! I am just trying not to so it during blocking!

    March 31, 2013
    • OMG!!!! If I can bring out a smile on someone’s face during pilot season, my job has been accomplished!!!! GOOD LUCK with the rest of the shoot!!!!!

      March 31, 2013
  10. Wow you are brave!!!! I do not think my fear of heights would have let me go up that homemade ladder!!! Amazing views though but maybe not risking your life for:)

    P.s my Canadian students often ask me if I am afraid getting robbed or other crimes when I go into the US. Haha. What are these Canadian schools teaching their kids about America.

    April 1, 2013
    • I get all weird about heights too + it was definitely not worth climbing up that stupid ladder!!! That’s so funny about your students. Yeah everyone thinks that people are just running around with guns in their hands in America!!!

      April 1, 2013
  11. That sounds SOOO scary! Glad you made it back to earth okay 😉

    April 9, 2013
    • Thanks! I was like, “This is Major Tom to Ground Control, get me the hell off this rock!!!!”.

      April 10, 2013
  12. Ryan Trigg #

    An amazing account of the trickster 1st peak death ladder. My gf and I just did the same thing by accident yesterday, glad there’s people out there with the same shared experience! Although instead of descending down the ladder, we were happy walking around to the 1st peak trail (which was relatively easy). Glad you made it safe and sound!

    May 12, 2014
    • Wow!!!! Thanks for commenting! Peeps need to be avoiding that ladder, am I right?! That ladder is a trickster + an evil jester!!!! I almost fell down the side of a cliff looking for the way around to the first peak trail!!! How did you find it?

      May 14, 2014
  13. This is hilarious! We were just thinking about doing this trail and googled looking for reviews, we are planning to take our dogs but certainly need to avoid this shortcut at all costs!!!

    July 1, 2014
    • Haha thanks! Yes, it’s a definite must do hike – but avoid the ladder for sure!!! Have fun!

      July 2, 2014
  14. Hahaha this is awesome!! So happy to see I’m not the only one who thinks this is a trail of death!! 😛 I could not believe I was supposed to risk my life just to get up this stupid granite rock.. Like what?!

    May 31, 2015
    • Thank you for confirming my thoughts!!! It is a serious hike that definitely comes with a little warning, right?! LOL!

      June 2, 2015
  15. Heading there in a couple of weeks – thanks for sharing!

    April 21, 2017

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