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" Great book. Has a little bit of everything (places to hike, kayak, day tour, etc.), super informative and practical (conditions of camp sites, pubs to go to or avoid, etc.), and has awesome factoids about local flora/fauna and Aboriginal culture on the margins. Great for anyone interested in the BC outdoors! "
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Dentalia Shells
These thin, tubular mollusks formed the currency of commerce throughout the Pacific Northwest as long as 3000 years ago. Pre-European civilization is often considered a barter economy, with, for instance, coastal tribes swapping oolichan grease directly for prized Oregon obsidian. Commodity traders, however, could rely on this wampum to close a transaction when interest in the goods was decidedly one-sided. Called hykwa in Chinook jargon, dentalia shells possessed all the necessary attributes of money, being portable, recognizable and durable but rare and desirable enough to foster trade. Being available in a variety of sizes, the tusk-like shells were even divisible into small change. Professional traders are known to have tattooed measuring lines on their forearms as a handy calculator of individual shell values. Only a handful of groups, including the Nuu-chah-nulth in the vicinity of Tofino, possessed dentalia in quantities sufficient enough to make them wealthy. Harvesting the deep water mollusks was no easy undertaking however. From a dugout canoe a long, broom-like apparatus was thrust straight down into the muddy sea bottom then retrieved. With any luck a shell or two would be trapped amongst the stiff twigs at the end of the handle. Dentalia were also ostentatiously displayed as symbols of wealth and power in the form of body adornments. Perhaps most recognizable are the breast plates invariably worn by cheesy Hollywood Indians.
Illustration by Manami Kimura
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The Chief & Squaw E-mail
(12 - user rating)
Written by Brian Grover   
Route: Distance: Time: Level: Elev: Season:
1st Peak 6 km 2 h r/t Easy 620 m March to Nov
2nd Peak 9 km 3 h r/t Moderate 600 m March to Nov
3rd Peak 11 km 4 h r/t Moderate 600 m March to Nov
Squaw 15 km 5½ h r/t Challenging 550 m March to Nov
Access: See Getting to Whistler
Map: Squamish 92G/11

When you get off the bus at the Stawamus Chief viewpoint, look up. Chances are there will be any number of groups hanging off the imposing granite monolith above you. This is "The Grand Wall," one of North America's most famous free climbs. The good news is you won't be scaling the Chief in that fashion.

Monster Monolith: The Chief dominates the view overlooking Howe Sound on a misty day. Photo taken from the trail to Diamond Head.
Monster Monolith: The Chief dominates the view overlooking Howe Sound on a misty day. Photo taken from the trail to Diamond Head.

Stawamus Chief Provincial Park now includes 40 wilderness and 15 vehicle campsites that were created following a prolonged bout of civil disobedience. Following many years of "guerrilla camping" by a growing corps of dedicated cliff hangers the provincial government finally decided to get with the program and build a proper campsite with toilets at the site. The park has since become a veritable mecca for climbers from all over North America attracted by some of the longest, most accessible free climbing routes on the planet. There are more than 280 different ascents up The Chief. Perhaps they don't know what you do, there's a much easier back door.

Walk southwards, working around behind the base of the Chief in counter-clockwise direction. Once you locate the trailhead in behind the solid rock wall scramble over the boulder that blocks the entrance and begin climbing the steps in earnest. The well-used trail paralleling Olesen Creek eventually branches into four separate routes. One will take you as far as the site of a forest fire lookout perched atop Stawamus Squaw 7 km away. The others lead to the Stawamus Chief's triple peaks.

The first two branches to the right lead to Shannon Falls and are detailed below. Almost immediately a left branch leads up to the first and second peak. The first peak is a mere 3 km away; straight up mind you but mercifully short. The second peak is 4½ km away while the third one is 5½ km from the start of the trail. The third peak can be accessed either from the top of the second peak or from the main trail following Olesen Creek. This latter route eventually branches with the left fork extending up to the third peak. The Chief's distant mate will be found at the end of the right fork. The views from all four are spectacular, encompassing a panorama that includes the striking peaks of Garabaldi Park to the east, the Squamish Valley to the north and Howe Sound laid out at your feet to the west and south. The scene is marred only by the urban and industrial landscape of the city of Squamish and the Woodfibre pulp mill beyond. From atop the Chief consider you are standing on the world's second largest freestanding granite outcropping, topped only by the Rock of Gibraltar.

Choose a route suited to your schedule or camp out and undertake all four.



Copyright © 2007 Brian Grover. Content Distribution is Prohibited
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