Today the Xtreme Picnic Team Group was organizing a hike to Cheam Peak and I jumped to the opportunity of visiting one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Unfortunately only one member, Hiroshi was able to attend. I hope the Group can schedule a new hike for fall, this is one of the most scenic alpine hikes in the Lower Mainland.
To reach the trailhead, if coming east on Highway 1, take Exit 119, drive south and before the bridge over the river (Chilliwack River upstream of the bridge, Vedder River downstream) turn left and drive around 28 km. Just after crossing the Chilliwack River, go left onto Chilliwack-Foley Forest Service Road. After 2 km cross Foley Creek and go left at the T-junction ignoring the happy rednecks usually camping on the side of the road. After another 2 km cross the Chipmunk Creek bridge. Very shortly, go right and uphill onto Chipmunk Forest Service Road. A 4x4 vehicle is recommended for the next 11 kms although I have seen Chevrolet Cavaliers and low clearance vehicles reaching the trailhead.
Trailhead and parking lot
There is a barrier that has been improved during the last years, just recently it was possible to see dirty bikes and ATVs destroying the meadows just shortly after the end of the logging road.
We walked the logging road for one kilometer with nice views of Lady Peak
At the end of the logging road we did a quick stop to have some nice views of Tomyhoi Peak and its high bench glacier with Mount Baker on the right. Both mountains are on the American side. Tomyhoi Peak can be climbed in one day-trip from Vancouver. For people wanting to become temporal illegal aliens on American soil, the access is through Tamihi Creek Road. You drive for around 16 kms, then you reach the NW ridge of Tomyhoi where a long but easy bushwhacking starts.
Tomyhoi Peak and Mount Beaker
Then we did a short descent to the meadows. A sub-alpine meadow is a high-altitude grassland located below the treeline of a mountain.
Cheam Peak and the sub-alpine meadows
The word Cheam, in Halkomelem, means "wild strawberries" and properly refers to the ridge comprising Cheam and Lady, and the lower slopes around Spoon Lake and upper Airplane Creek. However, Cheam was originally used by the Sto:lo people for a particular Fraser River Island.
Crossing the second bridge
Halkomelem (also Halq'eméylem, Hul'qumi'num', and Hǝn'q'ǝmin'ǝm') is a Coast Salishan language of the First Nations around the Fraser River and the southern end of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Halkomelem is most closely related to the Squamish, Sháshíshálh (Sechelt), and Nooksack languages.
We started to ascend again leaving behind what is better known as Spoon Lake.
Our ascent was marked by long zigzags, going south af first, then going in a north direction along the front of Lady Peak. We saw some groups getting tired very quickly, in part because they were using the shortcuts along the trail instead of keep following the original trailbed.
The old route to this peak used to be a 30 km demanding hike, in a single day you climbed 2080 m (6825 ft) in elevation. In the early years of the last century if was an annual pilgrimage made by whole families: one hundred people on the top was nothing unusual!
Today, thanks to the logging road, that trip as been cut to just 2 hours.
Early European settlers made the first ascents of the easier peaks in the late 19th century, not as specific mountaineering objectives, but in the course of goat hunting expeditions. Today, you can see their descendants shooting to anything that moves, specially in fall. The first recorded ascent of the mountain was in September 1888 from Popkum by A. O. Campbell, Ebe B. Knight and two Native guides whose names were not recorded.
Later on, we reached the saddle between the two mountains, gradually the terrain was becoming more bare with occasional rocky outcrops.
Cheam Peak, is the furthest northerly peak of the Skagit Range (which includes the Cheam Range) of the North Cascades mountains. It dominates the Eastern Fraser Valley, rising above Bridal Falls and Agassiz just east of Chilliwack, and west of Hope British Columbia.
Cheam Peak was part of the oral history of the Stó:lō First Nation. The Halkomelem name for the peak, Theeth-uhl-kay, means "the source" or "the place from which the waters spring." For the Sto:lo, the peak is the "mother mountain" or old woman overlooking her children dwelling in the valley.
Cheam's structure is pyramidal, with north, northwest, south and east faces. While the north face (plunging 2000m to the valley floor, has rarely been climbed) is the steepest, the northwest face is also sheer. The south face is the sub-alpine bowl of Spoon Lake .
The first documented ascent to Lady Peak was done in 1889 by E. Knight, J. Smith and I. Henderson. The trail to Lady Peak is less obvious and rocky. If you still want to go, you need to scramble on the NW flank. At 2178 m (7146 ft) is 74 m higher than Cheam Peak.
Lady Peak, Theeth-uhl-kay's dog
The peaks of the Cheam Range are Cheam Peak, Lady Peak, Mount Foley, Mount Welsh, Knight Peak, Baby Munday and The Still. The peaks in the eastern end of the range (Foley, Welch, Stewart and Knight) are referred as the Lucky Four Group because of their relationship to the abandoned Lucky Four Mine, they are visible from the old mine access road that runs near Wahleach (Jones) Lake.
Around World War I, miners built a trail up the creek leading to Welch and Foley to stake the Lucky Four Mine and prospect for copper.
Fraser River and Harrison Lake
But let me go back to Theeth-uhl-kay story as told by the Sto:lo Nation. Theeth-uhl-kay once accompanied Mount Baker to his country. There they lived and raised three sons, - Mount Hood, Mount Shasta and Mount Skusan. Soon after, Theeth-uhl-kay bore three daughters and announced her return to her people on the Sto:lo (if you didn't know that is the Native name for the Fraser River)
Once home, she and her daughters settled to watch over the people and the fish that return to feed them (even though the First Nation people deny any overfishing), so that no harm comes to either.
According to Sto:lo elder Oliver Wells, now deceased, three small points on the mountain are Theeth-uhl-kay's three daughters .
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1. 49:10'05.5"-121:41'38.7" Elev:1445 m Trailhead
2. 49:11'11.9"-121:40'55.3" Elev:2103 m Cheam Peak
Roundtrip length: 8.8 km (5.5 miles)
Time: 4.0 hours
Elevation gain: 665 m (2175 ft)
Driving distance from Vancouver: 150 km (90 miles)