Archive for October, 2013

Location: Squamish, British Columbia

Elevation: 702 metres

Range: Pacific Ranges

Candidate: #57

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

Further reading:





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

Candidate: #56

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

Vancouver Hiking



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