Hello all, it's been awhile. I have been satiating my hiking need on Deeks Lake for the last little while, and thought it was time for a change up.
The Stawamus Chief provided great variability. Since my last hike up this trail there have been some major changes.
1. There is now a new trailhead entrance, which bypasses to the right of the old trailhead entrance, which was that small "scramble".
2. The stairs have been renovated, now you'll find nice, looking and smelling, Red Cedar stairs for the initial ascent; though some of the old stairs are still in place.
3. There is also some ongoing work involving Mortar, at least that is what all the signs stated. I met a worker, who told me that stone steps were being put in along the main trail up to and including the fork in the trail, which separates the First Peak trail from the Second and Third Peak trail.
The trail condition up to about 650m, was muddy, wet, and snow free. After that it was muddy, snowy, and patches of hard ice. The ice and snow weren't consistent enough to warrant putting on Microspikes, or any other traction footwear.
During my ascent, I noticed some flagging at about 550m leading to the Northeast. I had thought this was the alternate ascent to North summit via the North Face, so I decided to give it a go. There are two small chimneys that provided some fun scrambling, after which you'll need another five minutes in the forest before you hit open Granite. As I started up the rock, it became instantly clear, that I should probably turn around. Though the grade was gradual, the rock was very slick, and conditions were made more treacherous by the (light) blowing snow and strong gusts of wind. Later on, I met a fellow hiker who informed me that, the trail I had attempted was actually a climber's approach to some area know as "Solarium".
Anyways, I doubled back and continued on the traditional route. Be careful as you ascend the final ridge up to the open Granite of the North Summit. It was covered in snow and as others who have done this hike will attest, the footing that's available is minimal. The Granite on this side was not slick, may be that whole notion of, "moss only grows on the North side of trees" could have some truth. There were small patches of snow at the top, and pools of melting snow; kind of disconcerting considering that it is Winter.
No snowshoes needed. I would also like to add, that I purchased a pair of Microspikes, and have used them on four hikes over the last month, and in my opinion they are fantastic. I was able to hike along trail varying from two inch thick ice to hard packed snow, without any tentativeness. Many times, snowshoes are unnecessary and these are much more appropriate. Furthermore, I can't objectively vouch for their durability, may be after a full season or two of winter hiking.