Explore BC: Sunrise over the Stawamus Chief
Never the type of people to do things in half-measures, we decided that hiking this mountain in early March wasn't crazy enough. Nope, we needed to watch the sun rise over it as well. To accomplish this ambitious goal, we woke up at 2 am, left the house at 2:30 am, and arrived at the bottom of the Chief by 4 am. I feel like I need to mention here that I had eaten a large meal the night before at Hart House (a delicious seven course meal), which included an unfortunate cup of coffee that would keep me awake until at least midnight. As a result, I woke up feeling as good as a meagre two hours of sleep would allow...
Starting our hike soon after our arrival at 4:10 am, we managed to hike up the in the dark to reach the first peak by 5:25 am. Due to our gross lack of experience with the area and misreading of the trail description, we stupidly thought that it would take three hours to reach the first peak. However, when we reached the peak in less than an hour and a half, we were obliged to spend the next two hours shivering in the dark and cold before sunrise made its appearance.
While I unfortunately didn't take any pictures during the night hike, I would highly recommend this experience for anyone who enjoys watching too many horror movies and being creeped out by the dark. Starting from that morning, one member of our party would not stop cracking jokes about how our hike was beginning like a horror movie-- several friends gathering together for a fun hike in the woods and mountains, only to be picked off one by one by some monstrous creature or mass murderer. While our ascent onto the mountaintop was indeed riddled with eerie sights and sounds (a industrious woodpecker made us start quite badly), it was really quite fun hiking the trail all by ourselves. Also, we made sure that everyone was alive by counting off regularly and taking short water breaks after particularly tough sections.
Since we were stuck on top of the first peak for more than two hours, I made the unpleasant discovery that I had not dressed nearly warm enough for the occasion. As a result, I had to maintain as much body heat as possible by huddling with my fellow companions in a circle. While in our "penguin circle" (pictured below), we shared random stories and got to each other better as only people under extreme circumstances can.
At 6:30 am, the sunlight was already becoming increasingly visible over the mountaintops. While I took many pictures of the coming sunrise, the photos are unfortunately too unfocused to post up. However, my goal is to one day be capable of photographing crisp and clear images of the night sky full of stars.
As the sun rose, we were treated to a spectacular view of Squamish and beyond. The effect of seeing the gorgeous, tranquil mountains in the silence of the early morning made us realize just how lucky we were to witness their beauty, especially without having to share the sight with anyone else.
After we had drunk our fill of the beautiful view from the first peak, we decided to warm up by heading down. By that time, I was feeling like a popsicle and was desperate to start moving out of the strong windchill. When we made our way back down to the trail marker denoting where the second peak was located, we decided that we had more than enough time to explore the next ridge since we had underestimated the first climb so badly. After forty-five minutes of navigating slightly treacherous rocky faces, chains, and ladders, we were treated to the even more amazing view of the second peak. I would almost recommend skipping the first peak and climbing the second to anyone who wants something slightly more challenging!
On the second peak, we silently munched on our multitude of snacks (I highly recommend cinnamon-covered apples, Canadian bacon, and trail mix) while taking in the view. From this experience alone, I knew that I was completely hooked to climbing mountains and would be doing it as much as possible in the near future (leading to our adventure up the Black Tusk a week later). Let's hope that I get to encounter as many beautiful mountains as possible in the coming spring and summer months!
Our lovely German couple who often led the way with their unfairly long legs.
While this adventure was most certainly tiring, even discounting our extreme lack of sleep, the day did not end for us there. After driving back to downtown Vancouver by 12:30 pm, I showered at my gym and readied myself for a four hour seminar. While I should have gone home to sleep, I made the foolish choice to instead pick up my paper, get some attendance marks, and almost fall asleep right in front of the instructor. Somehow I made it through the class and passed out like the dead on the train ride home. One of our party even went to work right after!
You might think I'm crazy but I think the effort was completely worthwhile for the experience. Would you care for an adventure like this?