I had been eyeing this place for awhile. Ever since I stood at Jones lake and looked up, I knew I wanted to climb Cheam.
I had been stalking it online and on Instagram to find out what it was all about. The common theme that kept appearing was that I needed a 4×4 to get up there and that the views were worth it. The night before the hike, I printed off the driving instructions to get there, and I packed my backpack the same as I always do; water, food, camera & lenses, tripod, bug spray, tweezers, toilet paper, jacket and extra socks.
The next morning we hopped in the Jeep and began the 1 hour 45mins drive out to Chilliwack. After turning off Chilliwack lake road and onto Foley Creek Service Road, I wondered what the big deal was. Yes it was dusty and it was a service road, but nothing out of the ordinary. 4kms and a few turns later, we made our way onto Chipmunk Creek Forest Service Road, and then the fun began. As I mentioned above, I knew a 4×4 was needed but I guess I didn’t fully comprehend that this road was a decommissioned service road and besides the giant potholes and deep water wells, this road has one hell of a steep grade to it. Did I mention it’s also a one-way service road so if someone is coming down you need to find a spot to pull over? It took almost 45mins of careful driving before we made it to the top, which is actually only 10kms or so. As soon as we crested the corner and saw the views of Lady Peak and the green heaven that awaited us, we knew the journey there was worth it.
There is something so empowering about hiking. Knowing that your own legs took you to that amazing spot that a lot of people will never experience.
The Hike Begins…
We parked the Jeep and made our way over the pile of logs and onto the old logging road that leads you to the trailhead. We stopped at the ONLY outhouse in the area and then made our way to the trail which takes you gently down about 50m and through an unbelievable green valley with wildflowers as far as the eye could see. There is a small lake called Spoon Lake that is about as picturesque as they come, and someone made it even better by erecting a tent beside it!
After stopping for some photos, we began our ascent up, and up and up. Did I mention we went up? The trail leads you up the face of Lady Peak, and through a sub-alpine mini forest before plopping you out in a giant section filled with more wildflowers. It continues to climb higher and higher as you make your way through several switchbacks for about another 45min before the trail evens out and you arrive at another small lake ( it was almost dried up when we were there). It was at this point I realized we were only halfway there and that climb we had just done was nothing compared to the next part we needed to climb.
I was ready to give up, or die trying
As I sat there looking up at Cheam towering in front us, I tried to think of every excuse in the book as to why I couldn’t do it, and every excuse was shot down. Sometimes we all need a little bit of encouragement and so, after some water and some food, we set out again down the narrow path and to the base of Cheam. While standing there I noticed a small side path that led back towards lady peak. It was actually leading us between to the two mountains. I looked at Jono and said “I want to see what is over there”. He looked at me and said “you better not be using a stalling tactic. We are climbing this mountain!”
So we veered off to the right, walked 10 mins and found ourselves standing on a cliff overlooking Jones Lake. My heart skipped a beat. I fell in love with that lake back in May and made a promise to myself as I stood below, that one day I would climb the mountains I saw towering high above. I was now standing on that mountain looking down. That feeling alone is one of the reasons I hike. But that feeling was short-lived when I came back to reality and remembered we still had half a mountain to climb to get to the peak.
Jono decided that it would be best if he carried my pack as the weight of it was starting to get to me, and off we went again. This leg of the journey became steeper and rockier. We were no longer in the alpine we were now walking over loose rocks and dirt.
The trail continued up with many switchbacks and you could start to see more and more peaks appear. The higher you climbed the more you could see, until finally you were given your first view of the entire Fraser Valley, and heaps of peaks in the USA. The last push to the top gave us two options; climb straight up to the peak, or go left to the ridge.
I wanted to have something to eat and enjoy the view so to the ridge it was, and were instantly greeted by ground squirrels. I was so in awe of them it took me a minute to realize where I was standing, and then a gust of cold air hit me square in the face and I looked up. Have you ever had one of those “holy shit I just climbed a mountain!” moments? That view of stunning vastness as far as the eye can see….
The sprawling Fraser Valley from Cultus Lake to Harrison and beyond. The peaks upon peaks of snow-capped mountains to the south and in an amongst them, Mount Baker shining like a star. I walked over to the bench at the top and plopped myself down. I just sat and stared for awhile trying to take a mental picture of everything I saw.
After eating and sharing my lunch with the friendly ground squirrels, Jono trekked up to the peak, and I stayed on the ridge to take some pics and videos. Once he got back down we took a few more shots and decided to make our way back to the car as it was a long drive home.
The hike down although tough on the knees, was easier for me. I was exhausted, but I was still in a state of euphoria.
The drive home was a quiet one. Both of us reflecting on the amazing scenery and weary from our hike. I slept well that night. I always sleep well after spending a day in nature.
Until we meet again Mount Cheam, until we meet again.