Along with West Vancouver’s Cypress Provincial Park, Stawamus Chief Provincial Park has been the focus of much of my hiking activity this past year. Really, is there anything better to do on a Saturday in winter than to wake up relatively early and head up to Squamish?
Since last April, I’d already done separate day hikes to the first and second peaks of the Chief, and another one to Upper Shannon Falls, so last weekend it was time to hit Slhaney. Known as the Stawamus Squaw, a racist and sexist toponym, until a few years ago, when it was renamed by Squamish Nation elders, the less popular mountain sits immediately northeast of the Chief and shares the same trailhead.
From the campground just off the Sea-to-Sky Highway, our hike began with a climb up those daunting wooden stairs that are always guaranteed to get the heart pounding but don’t last long. We kept going straight on the Chief Peaks Trail as we passed both the lower Olesen Creek bridge and the Upper Shannon Falls Trail on the right.
At the next junction, we went right, following the trail to the Chief’s Third Peak until a metal plate on a tree trunk sent us right again and finally truly on our way to Slhaney. From this point onward, we didn’t encounter any other hikers. In the misty morning, the trail led us through the woods below the backside cliffs of the Third Peak. We paused to admire the rock at the Cirque of the Uncrackables climbing area.
At the next fork, we went left, following the sign for “Valley”. Having done this hike once before, about a decade ago, I remembered the rest of way as a dreary trudge through sometimes-ugly forest. But we must have gone right that time, sticking with the main Slhaney Trail.
Going left meant we took the older, more interesting clifftop trail. It plunged steeply through the forest and across a small patch of snow to a welcome viewpoint, offering a look back at the Third Peak. From there, the narrow path cut across steep slopes (I wouldn’t want to be there in rain or snow), before climbing to another viewpoint.
From this satisfying perch, we were treated to a most impressive scene, with the Chief towering over Squamish, mounts Murchison and Lapworth lying across the Squamish River, and Crumpit Woods rising behind the Valleycliffe neighbourhood. Bolts protruding from the clifftop confirmed we were standing at the apex of one of the climbing routes on Slhaney. Leaving the viewpoint, we continued on the trail to an old logging road, where we turned left. A “Valley” sign marked the way we had came.
We walked up the logging road, skipping a signed lookout on the right, until we observed flagging tape heading off into the trees on the left. The final stretch of the Slhaney Trail is a steep and rough route. At the top, snow and fog obscured the view and true summit, but it was still a pleasant spot for a not-too-long lunch. We went back the way we came.
Referring to the main trail, one of the editions of 103 Hikes in Southwestern British Columbia lists Slhaney as a 14.5-kilometre hike with 550 metres of elevation gain and requiring a round trip of 5.5 hours. Using the older trail, we ended up spending an enjoyable 6.5 hours in the woods.