Siám’ Smánit/Stawamus Chief

Siám’ Smánit/Stawamus Chief

The Stawamus Chief looms over the town of Squamish as North America’s second-largest granitic monolith (basically an ancient magma chamber), out-bulked only by Half Dome in California’s Yosemite National Park. Unsurprising in its appeal to the same climbing crowd that frequents Yosemite, “The Chief” is attached to a larger granodiorite batholith of basement rock (mid-Cretaceous Coast Plutonic Complex) that formed ~100 million years ago some 15-30 kilometres below the Earth’s surface and  largely comprises the walls of Howe Sound, which it sits at the head of.

Known as Siám’ Smánit in the the language of the Squamish First Nation, a legend revolves around the formation’s prominent, dark-coloured mafic dyke (mainly ferromagnesian minerals) running vertically across the face, one of several that intruded into the granodiorite batholith ~40 mya.

The exfoliation and rockfall characteristic of such a weather-exposed granitic formation has ramped up in recent years due to the more extreme heat, cold and precipitation events of climate change, posing a significant geohazard to recreationists and prompting closure of some sections. The strenuous hike to the summit is an iconic Sea-to-Sky activity and yields spectacular views of the town of Squamish and surrounding Átl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound UNESCO World Biosphere Region.

  • enormous granitic monolith
  • the iconic hike to the top
  • Átl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound UNESCO World Biosphere Region

GEOLOGIC CONTEXT:

A large, 700-metre-high granodiorite monolith formed ~100 mya some 15-30 km below the Earth’s surface and now exposed through processes of mountain uplift and downward glacial erosion.

HOW TO SEE IT:

You can’t miss the Stawamus Chief from Hwy 99 or anywhere in Howe Sound or Squamish for that matter, but those wishing to make the popular hike up its flanks can do so from the main parking lot of Stawamus Chief Provincial Park located ~2 km south of Squamish.

Services:

Parking and washrooms.

Hazards:

High-mountain hazards of rockfall; slippery rock during rainy periods; stay on marked trails.

Protection and guardianship are at the heart of the Geopark philosophy. We ask that you treat the land with the same reverence as its original inhabitants, and not remove anything from a site but what you’ve brought to help preserve it for future generations.

Decimal Degrees (DD)

49.687276, -123.135000

Degrees Decimal Minutes (DDM)

49° 41.2366' N   123° 8.1' W

Degrees Minutes Seconds (DMS)

49° 41' 14.1936" N  123° 8' 6" W

What Are Pillars?

The Fire & Ice Aspiring Geopark comprises four main geological pillars referenced in all interpretive material: (M)ountain Building, (G)laciation, (V)olcanism and (C)ollapse.

MOUNTAIN BUILDING

Mountain building can involve several processes that contribute to the formation of mountains, such as the collision of tectonic plates that result in folding, faulting, metamorphism and the creation of subduction zones associated with volcanic activity and igneous intrusion.

GLACIATION

Glaciation refers to landform phenomena associated with the formation, movement and recession of glaciers and ice sheets. In temperate latitudes such as British Columbia, montane glaciation at higher altitudes is the norm while continental glaciation occurred during Ice Ages like the recent Pleistocene.

VOLCANISM

Volcanism is the eruption of subterranean molten rock (magma) and gasses onto the surface of the planet and includes the production of volcanic landforms and the effects of eruptions and flowing lava on pre-existing surface formations.

COLLAPSE

Collapse is a term that refers broadly to both slow processes of destabilization and erosion by wind, water and ice, as well as rapid processes like rockfall and landslides.

Whether acting as primary or secondary forces, one or more of these processes figure in the creation of each geosite.