Location: British Columbia, Tantalus Provincial Park (near Squamish)
Elevation: 2,603 metres
Range: Coast Mountains, Pacific Ranges
When I was 17 years old, my parents drove and friend and me up to Garibaldi Provincial Park, where just my friend and I were going to hike up to Garibaldi Lake and climb the Black Tusk. It was my first overnight trip apart from my family or any Boy Scout group. When the Tantalus Range came into view, I asked my dad to pull the car over because I wanted to get a shot of that spectacular scene. Black, rocky spires pierced through a white mantle of glacial ice with green forests wrapped around the feet of the peaks. This view has stopped untold numbers of visitors to the area and there is a small rest area with a picnic table situated slightly above the highway so one has an unobstructed view to the mountains.
The mountain names inspire visions of Greek mythology: Alpha and Omega, Pelion, Serratus, Pelion, Niobe, Pelops, and of course Tantalus. As the myth goes, Tantalus was punished in Hades for all eternity by being submerged up to his neck with fruit hanging just out of reach, forever “tantalizing” him with something he could never have. The local story goes that a climber was tantalized by the ice-draped peaks from across the turbulent waters of the Squamish River.
The range is only 16 kilometres wide at its widest and 35 kilometres long. However, it is the first grand view of glacier-covered mountains when driving to Squamish from Vancouver. The mountains are popular with tourists, photographers, and even film makers, but naturally there is a special allure for climbers. The first stage of the climb is a 4 to 6-hour hike up to Lake Lovely Waters and later requires glacier crossing and some difficult scrambles with some short pitches required further up the ridge.
The mountain was first climbed in 1911 but not via the lake. Instead, climbers B. Darling, J. Davies, and A. Morkill went up the Rumbling Glacier route. This route is not possible now due to glacial retreat. The exposed rock would make it very difficult and there is no path through the forest.
View from near Levette Lake
100 Famous Mountains of Canada on Flickr
Tantalus Provincial Park
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Location: Squamish, British Columbia
Elevation: 702 metres
Range: Pacific Ranges
World-class rock climbing. Yosemite North. Smaller version of Half Dome. At 702 metres high, the Stawamus Chief (a.k.a. The Chief) is not going to compete with Canada’s soaring peaks. But it is a mountain of great significance. Its physical features, accessibility, popularity with climbers and tourists alike, and geology, not to mention its stunning appearance when first viewed along the Sea to Sky Highway when coming from Vancouver, make this mountain a must for the list of Canada’s 100 famous Mountains.
Formed as a pluton of granodiorite way back in the Early Cretaceous (about 100 millions years ago), the rock was gradually brought to the surface by the erosion of overlying material, largely by glacial activity in the last 2.5 million years, and also by uplift caused by tectonic movement along the Pacific boundary. In the final stages of glacial activity, the rock was entirely covered by ice and the glacier that carved out Howe Sound – a fjord – also cut away at the rock, creating a face in the same manner and similar in appearance as Half Dome in Yosemite Valley. The Chief is the second largest granite monolith in the world and bears many features of interest, including deep gulleys, marvelous examples of glacier polish, an array of various sizes of boulders, prime examples of exfoliation (a kind of sheet weathering in strong-quality granite), and a dyke of later-formed igneous material that intruded into a split in the granite monolith. It is also home to peregrine falcons.
The Chief’s excellent rock climbing conditions and the surrounding Coast Mountains have helped make Squamish a world-class climbing destination. However, tourists who are content to simply stand and gawk or snap a few shots can enjoy a visit to the Chief as well as boulder enthusiasts and hikers. The Chief is divided into three peaks and well-maintained hiking trails allow access to the first two summits to hikers. The highest summit is the third summit which is a little more difficult to access and thus less popular. The views from the First Summit over Howe Sound are spectacular.
Flickr 100 famous Mountains of Canada
TourismSquamish (very good 360-degree movable view)
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Location: Metro Vancouver, British Columbia
Elevation: West Lion 1,646 metres, East Lion 1,606 metres
Range: North Shore Mountains, Coast Range
The Lions are the most easily recognizable and outstanding mountain peaks visible from Vancouver and many of the surrounding areas. From my childhood home in Surrey they were visible from the living room window and from my street. Set back from the mountains overlooking the city, the Lions are two twin hornblende diorite peaks that resemble the lion monuments of Trafalgar Square, hence their English name. The Lions have inspired the name of Lions Gate Bridge and the B.C. Lions football team.
Geologic history has them carved out by the great glaciers that once covered the local mountains; however, native lore tells a beautiful story of two sisters. A great chief or Tyee of the area was going to hold a tremendous banquet and celebration – a potlatch – to celebrate the coming of age of his two treasured daughters. People of tribes from all around were invited except for a tribe to the north with which the Tyee was at war. As he had won all the recent battles he decided he could afford to turn his back on their war cries for a week to celebrate. His daughters then came to him and requested that he invite his enemies to the fest. The father could not deny his daughters their wish as it was their celebration and so invitation fires were lit up the coast and the two warring tribes made peace. The Great Sagalie Tyee saw his Indian children and smiled and decided to make the two sisters immortal. He placed them on the mountains where they remain to this day. The name in the native Squamish language means “The Sisters”. For a detailed retelling of the story, go here.
The Lions can be reached via the Binkert Trail from Lions Bay or the Howe Sound Crest Trail. The elevation gain is over 1,200 metres and round trip takes several hours. Most people climb to the base of the West Lion but many attempt the climb to the summit. This is not a climb for the inexperienced and there have been deaths. A good report on the climbing conditions can be found here. The East Lion is the more difficult of the two to climb but it is within the Capilano Watershed and climbing is forbidden though this is not enforced.
For their symbolism to the City of Vancouver and their importance to the Squamish Nation, as well as for their natural beauty and geologic interest, I believe this mountain with its twin peaks is worthy of being considered one of Canada’s 100 famous Mountains.
Flickr 100 famous Mountains of Canada
The Legend of the Two Sisters
Bivouac West Lion
Bivouac East Lion
Posted in Coast Mountains | Tagged 100 Famous Mountains of Canada, Canadian mountains, Coast Mountains, mountains near Vancouver, mountains of Canada, North Shore Mountains | 1 Comment »
Location: Southwest British Columbia
Elevation: 2,596 metres
Range: North Cascades
I remember the name Silvertip from my childhood because my parents often took us to the Silvertip campsite in summer. It was one of our regular camping spots. I had no idea that there was such a fantastic mountain giving its name to the campsite.
Silvertip Mountain is the 35th (or 34th depending on the source) most prominent peak in British Columbia and the most prominent non-volcanic peak in the Cascades. It stands 1,871 metres above the Hope Slide Pass and is the most southern of the ultra-prominent peaks of British Columbia, located only 16 kilometres north of the American border. Regarding Silvertip’s prominence, as the entry of SummitPost mentions, if the American border were extended north 16 kilometres to include Silvertip, it would be the 6th most prominent peak in Washington State and the 25th most prominent in the contiguous states. Why do Canadian mountains exhibit such prominence? A big thanks can go to the ice age glaciers which were much more extensive and did that much more to change the landscape in Canada than in the States. The same reason why Mount Robson is only the 68th highest peak in the Rocky Mountains but has the highest prominence: Canadian glaciers were that much thicker and powerful.
Silvertip Mountain is not an overly technical mountain to climb but that does not mean it is easy. The two most common routes are the southwest ridge, which is said to cover a variety of terrain but is the least dangerous and recommended for first-time visitors to the peak, and the northwest side of the peak where people leave from the Sumallo River valley and climb up steep gullies to the ridge. The hazard of the gully routes is that there is a lot of loose rock that can easily be set in motion. Although the recommended climbing season is during the drier period of July through September, the gully routes are best taken in June when there is still snow covering the rocks. Earlier than that, there is likely to still be snow at the summit, making it a greater challenge to reach the top. To read an account of one party’s ascent by the northwest route, check out ClubTread here. Note that there is a false summit before the true summit and that some scrambling is involved on this final leg of the climb.
Silvertip Mountain first appeared on a map by cartographer Henry Custer with the name, “East Skagit Mountain”. The name was changed a couple of times until finally being given its current name. Because of its height, Silvertip maintains a snow cover on the summit well after surrounding mountains have lost theirs, thus giving the tip of the mountain a silvery appearance. It was first climbed on July 5th, 1908 by a Canadian Border Survey party, led by E.T. De Coeli and then not climbed again until 1940. The first winter ascent was in 1981. Silvertip Mountain is rarely climbed in winter due to the avalanche risks and even in summer few parties attempt to reach the summit. It’s a long hike with a lot of elevation gain and the dangerous route up the scree gullies probably deters many people as well. The views from the summit are, as one would imagine, breathtaking. For a good collection of images visit the SummitPost site mention above.
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Posted in Cascade Mountains | Tagged 100 Famous Mountains of Canada, Cascade Mountains, Silvertip Mountain, ultra-prominent peaks in Canada | 1 Comment »
Location: Near Chilliwack, British Columbia
Elevation: 2,429 metres
Range: Skagit Range, Cascade Mountains
During the years that I lived in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia (1975 to 1999 and 2005) I always enjoyed looking at the vista of mountains and admiring the shapes and contours of the various peaks, without actually knowing the names of most of them. Once very interesting peak (I didn’t know if it was in Canada or the U.S.) stood out above its neighbours like a fang. As it so happens, this distant peak was Slesse Mountain, whose name in Halqemeylem actually means “Fang”. According to the site for place names in British Columbia, the mountain was first labelled as Slesse in 1912 and the name was made official in 1936. The name was temporarily changed to Silesia in 1951 in order to conform to the Washington spelling, but soon it was changed back again.
Commonly referred to as Mount Slesse (but officially labelled as Slesse Mountain), the mountain is attractive to both climbers who go for the summit and hikers who can enjoy the Slesse Memorial, a commemorative trail honouring the 62 passengers and crew aboard the Trans-Canada Airlines flight who died on December 9th, 1956 when the aircraft crashed into Slesse Mountain in poor weather. No one was certain where the plane had crashed initially after radio communication ceased. However, in May of the following year, some hikers discovered a navigation map and later aluminium aircraft parts were found. By pressure from the Slesse Families, a group of families of the deceased, the area was protected from clearcut logging and made into a commemorative site. Hikers today can still spot aircraft debris and many have placed the parts on rocks so as to prevent them from disappearing back into the earth. As a side note, some of the passengers who died in the crash were team members of the Winnipeg Bluebombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders, who were flying back from Vancouver after the East-West all-star football game.
The mountain is composed of mostly diorite which is part of the Chilliwack Batholith that was intruded about 26 to 29 million years ago. This was part of the orogenic process associated with the eroded Pemberton Volcanic Belt, which formed with the subduction of the Farallon Plate. There are also some metamorphic rocks near the summit which were created near the contact point of the magma intrusion.
Slesse Mountain is known for its challenging climbing routes. It was first climbed in 1927 and involves nearly 1,650 metres of ascent with Class 5.6 climbing in places. It is featured in “Fifty Classic Climbs in North America” by Roper and Stecks.
100 Famous Mountains of Canada on Flickr
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Location: Southwestern British Columbia, near Stave Lake
Elavation: 2,262 metres
Range: Garibaldi Ranges, Coast Mountains
You could almost wish to leave this mountain off the list because it can be seen up close from a limited area that is mostly difficult to reach and climbing it is even more difficult, partly due to the “multi-modal” access, as Bivouac puts it. Yet this mountain deserves its candidacy, I believe, because it is a) very beautiful in form and appearance, b) a worthy challenge for those who do wish to climb it, c) a prominent peak both topographically (1,627 metres of prominence) and visually when viewed from other peaks in the Greater Vancouver Area, and d) its namesake is related to another beautiful and known mountain, Mount Robie Reid.
Mount Judge Howay – The Judge – is a spectacular twin-peaked mountain located at the far end of Stave Lake. Access is generally by canoe, crossing the lake, followed by hike up deactivated logging roads, next a fording of the Stave River, a bushwhack up through forest with cliff bands and rocky outcroppings, a ridge walk, and finally rock climbing to the summit. It’s a fair assumption that few actually attempt and reach either of the two summits, though its difficulty apparently taunt the minds of many climbers who are up for the challenge.
Originally know as the Snow Peaks, along with Mount Robie Reid, the mountain was named after judge and jurist, Frederic W. Howay, who was also a noted historian of British Columbia. He and his colleague Robie Reid, ran a law firm together from 1893 to 1906 before Howay was appointed to the bench. Both mountains were renamed in 1944.
For a detailed account of an ascent of the South Peak, go here.
100 Mountains of Canada on Flickr
PeakBagger trip report
South Peak ascent
Proposal for Golden Ears Provincial Park and Mount Judge Howay recreation area (offers details on the area)
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Location: Golden Ears Provincial Park, British Columbia
Elevation: 2,095 metres
Range: Garibaldi Ranges, Coast Mountains
Dominating the mountain view from Abbotsford and peering up from behind the peaks of Golden Ears when viewed from further west, Mount Robie Reid is a glacier-carved mountain massif with impressive features and one of the several rugged-looking peaks visible from around the Fraser Valley. The northeast face of the mountain boasts a rock wall that is nearly 1,700 metres and is the biggest rock wall so near Vancouver.
Though access to the mountain can be gained by boat across Alouette Lake, there is a trip report on Club Tread that says the forest service road from Stave Lake is in very good condition and a 2WD vehicle can manage the way. Though that party didn’t make it above the tree-line due to the weather, photos and Google maps provide information. Bivouac reports a hike and a scramble to the base of the summit pinnacle, which is from there a Class 4 climb to the top.
The mountain was previously known as one of the Snowy Peaks along with its neighbour Mount Judge Howay, and referred to as “Old Baldy” by old-timers. It was renamed in 1944 to commemorate historian Robie Lewis Reid, who along with his close friend and colleague Frederic W. Howay were the only two to graduate from the provincial examinations for a First Class permanent teaching certificate in 1885. They went on to study at Dalhousie University in Halifax and started a law firm together in 1893 in New Westminster, which remained a partnership until Howay was appointed to the bench in 1906. Interestingly, the two mountains which are so close to each other were named after the two close friends, Mount Judge Howay being the slightly higher summit just as the man Judge Howay had achieved a higher stature in his career.
100 Famous Mountains of Canada on Flickr
Posted in Coast Mountains | Tagged Mount Robie Reid, mountains of the Fraser Valley | 2 Comments »