August 2007 with John C, Leo, Noni, Margaret O & Chris H
The 2112 metre Mount Cheam is the dominant peak in the Fraser Valley, especially notable as seen from this stretch of the TransCanada highway to the east. There is a trail, or at least a system of logging roads, going up from the TransCanada highway, but with an elevation gain of over 2000 metres. Not for us, thank you very much.
The easier way is a short but steep trail from Chilliwack Lake Road on the south side, where Chipmunk Creek logging road can take you up to the 1430 metre elevation. You need 4wd to make it, and we were able to enlist John and Chris along with Xterra and Pathfinder. As of 2007 the first 11 kilometres of the road were steep and rough with many waterbars, some hard to see, but a car could do it with a patient and careful driver. The last four or so kilometres is steeper and covered with loose shale, and 4wd is pretty well essential here. We saw one newish looking Suzuki Swift parked around the 11 km mark; I’ve read a few reports of compact sedans making it to the trailhead but I wouldn’t recommend it with any car that I cared about.
The parking lot is situated at the last place where there is space for vehicles to park and turn around, is barricaded at this point in an attempt to keep ATVs from the meadows, but continues for about half a kilometre (and with two more smaller barriers) before narrowing to a trail. The trail winds through a beautiful alpine bowl and past the intriguing Spoon Lake, then begins a steep climb through meadows up to a saddle between Mount Cheam and neighbouring Lady Peak. The saddle gives a brief respite from the climb before the trail continues to corkscrew up the south slopes beneath the summit to the rocky summit ridge itself.
There are a couple of rough spots on the trail but most of the hike can be done on two feet with minimal use of hands. The summit is open and exposed with a steep drop-off to the north and is not recommended in bad weather, but there is ample room for a lunch stop if the weather is good. The good news that day was that it didn’t rain, but the bad news was that the summit was completely clouded in with no views whatsoever.
It was a busy place considering the weather conditions and the effort needed to get there. A few younger hikers we met up with were suitably impressed by John’s stories of climbing up Cheam fifty years before. I look forward to being able do it even twenty years from now but hopefully before that.