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Freedom of the Hills...


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Date:                                                    August 24, 2006

Participants:                                          Author and Mike

Distance:                                              Approximately 9 km

Elevation Gain:                                     Approximately 665 m

Maximum Elevation:                              2112m

Elapsed Time:                                       4.5 hours

Published Routes:                                 Fairley, Gunn and others

Published Rating:                                  Easy Scramble

Difficulty - Endurance:                          3

Difficulty - Technical:                            2 (one short rubble section of 2.5)


To get to the standard route’s trail head you will absolutely need to have a high clearance vehicle with four wheel drive capability.  Access is via a decommissioned logging road which is in such poor condition that even the full size Dodge Ram 1500 we were riding in ending up dragging parts in a couple spots.  The road is narrow, washed out in places and is exposed.  The directions to the trail head are also quite involved and are as follows:


“Highway 1 Exit 119A (Sardis/Vedder). South on Vedder Rd. until you reach the Vedder Bridge. Turn left onto Chilliwack Lake Rd. Set your odometer to "0" at the Vedder Bridge. At 28km, turn left on Foley Forest Service Rd. Zero your odometer again and drive 2 km, cross the bridge over Foley Creek and turn left at the T-junction. 2km further cross Chipmunk Creek Bridge and take the next right uphill (passing the gravel pit on your left) on Chipmunk Creek Forest Service Rd. This is a rough road with many cross ditches, but not too steep for the first 7km. Keep right after crossing Chipmunk Creek. The road is rougher and steeper for the final 4km to the parking area. Orange squares mark the route.”


The standard route is stated by Gunn to be an easy scramble but in reality is just a hike akin to Fairview or Ha Ling.  Sure footed climbers will not require hands to be used in any location on the trail.  Lady, the peak East of, and the peak which shares the col with Cheam is said to be a moderate scramble with some route finding difficulties.  This appeared to be accurate from the very little of Lady I could see through the clouds.


My original plan was to do both Cheam and Lady, and given that Cheam could easily be done in under 3 hours (2.5 hours for very fit individuals), this dual summit day is strongly suggested after one has already journeyed up the extreme access road.  However, weather, time constraints, sickness and the party make-up did not allow for a dual summit on the day of my visit.


Regardless, the views and the terrain were incredibly stunning.  Had the sky been clearer we would have likely had a magnificent view of the near 11,000ft. glaciated massif of Mt. Baker to the south.  I am a real sucker for coastal BC peaks having grown up and climbed in this area and this mountain did not disappoint, even with the clouds.


The actual hiking terrain was boring but there is a western ridge that offers more interesting scrambling, likely moderate and exposed on the Kane scale (a scale which is somewhat similar to Gunn’s).  I journeyed part of the way down this ridge on descent while my partner rested but could not see all of it as it descended through cloud cover so I climbed back up, rejoined him and we descended via the normal route. 


My recommendation would be to do the following if you ever get the chance to be in this area: (WARNING:  I have not done this so it may not go).  Park at the standard trail access to Cheam/Lady, follow the trail until you can see the col between Cheam’s west ridge and a bump to the south of Cheam, carefully cross an ecologically sensitive meadow and gain the sparsely treed col, climb Cheam via the west ridge, descend Cheam following the standard trail, depart the trail and climb a nub on the col.  Follow the col up Lady and descend Lady via the very sparse trail to the cairn (I rebuilt it) and out on the standard trail to the parking lot.


Although the standard route up Cheam is merely 2nd class please be aware that there are extreme drop offs on three sides at the relatively narrow summit.  I understand that people have accidentally walked off the top in the heavy cloud cover that is typical of coastal B.C.


The lower slopes of Cheam with cloud cover hiding the peak.  The terminus of the western ridge would be to the left while the col between Cheam and Lady (and the normal route up) is to the right.


RICOLA!  Looking back on the way up to the col.


Watching Mike as he does a bit of scrambling above the clouds... this was Mike's first real hike!


At the narrow summit looking North.


Memorial plaque and the drop to the North that is easy to miss in thick clouds.


Looking East with Lady mostly hidden by clouds.


Wanna spend the night?


On the West ridge which should go but involves some real scrambling.


Further down the West ridge as exposure increases and the clouds thicken.


Coming back up the West ridge with the summit in sight.


Mike rests and waits for me to return.  Notice the rock, it is tight!