August 07, 2009 | Tips from Travellers >
Find more information about Chilliwack - Hiking
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We arrived at the Foley Forest Service Road,28km down the Chilliwack Lake Road and started the 15km drive up to the Mount Cheam trailhead. We passed a number of ATV’s and dirt bikes on the lower section of the climb.
Not long into the drive it became apparent why a 4x4 is recommended on this road. The forest service road is decommissioned and the frequent and fairly deep ditches and uneven surface mean that having a vehicle with a decent height clearance is important if you want to make it all of the way up to the trailhead. The ascent gets fairly steep in places as well as narrow. There are definitely a few points you don’t want to meet a vehicle coming the other way! If you want to break the journey up, there are a number of good lookout points to grab some photos. Do this on the way up if the weather is good as by the time you are on your way down, conditions could change.
About 4km before the trailhead we passed a few SUV’s (probably not 4WD) parked just off the road and this is the point where your 4WD will become very useful. Ironically the last km of the drive is comparatively smooth and in fair condition, compared to what you have encountered before. There is a parking area at the trailhead.
This is the first time I had climbed Mount Cheam and the first difference I immediately noticed was the absence of a forest canopy. The terrain was very open and from the outset we could see the climb which lay ahead. The first section of the hike from the trailhead lead us up a steadily climbing winding gravel path which crossed a few streams. It’s not long before you are rewarded with your first views of snow covered Mount Baker.
Not too long into the hike, we encounter our first large area of snow to traverse, the first of several which would add at least 20 minutes to our hike. After the gravel path and snow fields, we reached the first meadow and saw the first signs of beautiful wild flowers you only tend to see at this altitude. Still at the this point there hadn’t been too many steep climbs, though this is the first point at which the trail narrows to the point at which it is one person at a time!
Gradually the meadow opens up and the climb becomes steadily steeper. Before the final push we are treated to views of both Jones Lake from the first of several cliff edges we encounter and Cultus Lake can also be seen in the distance. This is also the first point at which it is evident that our day of blue skies and hot weather is quickly changing. Thin cloud is starting to roll in below us and temperatures start to fall surprisingly quickly. The first change we encounter on the final push is wind, lots of it and whilst refreshing at first to counter the sweat we have worked up it soon becomes irritating as we all become very cold and realise that we have not come prepared for the changes in weather we are encountering. Having left 30 degrees and blue sky on the ground it is difficult to believe we are now struggling to stay warm.
As we reach the plateau it provides superb views of the valley on a clear day, which unfortunately this day no longer is! A memorable and exhilarating hike meaning I now look at Mount Cheam with a renewed respect.