North American Classic Climbs

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Squamish Chief

The Grand Wall One of the top 25 routes in this collection!

Beta Images Slide Show

A route with a long history that was first done as a siege aid climb with pitons and many bolts. The first ascent attracted huge crowds of gawkers at the base over the many weeks required to hammer their way up this huge intimidating monolith of granite, leaving fixed ropes for returns to a base camp after each section was overcome. The final push was a test of will, with concerns about giant loose flakes, heat, thirst, and mosquitoes conspiring to seriously discourage, but not stop these determined climbers. This ascent opened the eyes of the climbing community to the possibilities on the wall, and began the age of serious route development. Soon there were many new lines, and inevitably sections of the Grand Wall began to go free. Individual pitches were freed over a long period, but extremely difficult (up to 5.13b) variations are necessary to pull off a completely free ascent, and so the standard modern route still includes a few points of aid. Peter Croft established his reputation as on of the top free climbers in Canada in the mid-80s here, but he later went on to prove he was one of the very best in the world through his accomplishments in Yosemite.

The Grand Wall is the name of the entire wall as well as the original route climbed by Baldwin and Cooper. It consists of three major sections: the slabs to the base of the Split Pillar, the steep mid section to Bellygood Ledge, and the upper section, which can be climbed or avoided altogether by simply traversing off on Bellygood. Many variations have been developed over the years. The route chosen for this collection is true to the original, except that the long bolt ladders up the apron section are avoided in favor of combining Apron Strings and Cruel Shoes (6 pitches), or the more moderate 5-pitch combination Flake Escape Ledges/Merci Me to start your day. Next comes the heart of the Grand Wall - the serious, sustained pitches of the Split Pillar, the Sword of Damocles, Perry's Layback, and others, comprising some of the most classic vertical granite climbing imaginable - perfect cracks and dihedrals involving laybacks, underclings, and jamming equal to the best to be found in Yosemite Valley. All but two of the images in this collection are from these middle pitches, which establish the classic nature of the route.

The upper section is called the Roman Chimneys. Although poorly named as chimneys, these pitches pose a substantial free climbing challenge on their own, with ratings of 11a, 10d, 11a, and 10b. If you aren't tired at the end of the day, you might well be the next Peter Croft.

Although long known as Squamish Chief, the name adopted in 1997 when the Provincial Park was formed is "Stawamus Chief", after the native american village STA-a-mus at the north end of the Squamish River.


Lowland Rock




Squamish, BC (north of Vancouver), Canada



I9, G33


IV, 5.11, A0


Route Descriptions & Maps:

Route diagram

First Ascent:

J. Baldwin, E. Cooper, May 1961


Trip Reports:

Buckle 4/00