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The Canadian Rockies : new and old trails. With 3 maps and 41 illustrations Coleman, A. P. (Arthur Philemon), 1852-1939 1911

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*M>^  THE
A. P. COLEMAN, Ph.D., F.R.S.
1911  THE
A. P. COLEMAN, Ph.D., F.R.S.
IX.     DOWN THE   COLUMBIA   IN SEARCH OF HIGH   MOUNTAINS            .              . . . .              -79
X.    SURPRISE MOUNT           . . . .                      87
XI.    LOOKOUT POINT             . . . .              *       95  Contents
ROBSON, 1908.
INDEX ....
{Photograph by A. 0. Wheeler)
(A. O. Wheeler)
(Soult Photographic Co.)
(A. 0. Wheeler)
139  List of Illustrations
•   3"
PACIFIC AND ARCTIC OCEANS      . . . .     316
THE  NORTH-EAST AT 7,000 FEET . . .     327
AND ICE AVALANCHE        .....    340
(By courtesy of the Royal Geographical Society Journal)
When the train left Winnipeg for the West, about
the -middle of May, 1884, it was not in a hurry.
It took its time at the stations so that you could
pick spring flowers from the prairie, and eat a
dinner of wild goose in a restaurant tent at one
place, or enjoy a supper of antelope in a shack
beside the station at another.
Twenty miles an hour meant a serious spurt, not
to be undertaken everywhere, so that the motion
and the scenery were not wildly exciting. The
wheels sounded a monotonous beat on the ends of
the rails, and the landscape was always the same—
a sort of magic circle of prairie grass that seemed
to travel with us. The sky was a very shallow
dome, and shut down all round like a watch-glass
over an insect.
One began to fancy that we were only marking
13 Hi
The Canadian Rockies
time, the sallow grass and prickly cactus and pallid
sage brush and purplish anemones around us now
were so exactly like those an hour ago or a day ago.
Even the animals did not change. The gopher,
in khaki, beside his hole in the morning, was the
counterpart of the gopher beside his hole in the
evening. It seemed as if nothing ever could
change. That the world should ever stand up on
end, instead of flowing out endlessly east and west
and north and south for the sleepy train to poun,d
its way across, seemed incredible after three days
of westward travel.
Toward evening of the third day, however, a
faint jagged rim rose above the general level on
the south-west, pale blue and delicate white against
the yellow sky, with shapes clean cut and (fine,
and one's heart leaped, for there at last were the
The dome of sky already arched up a little more
to give them room, and there were three dimensions
of space instead of two. One began to look up
again instead of down or straight ahead.
Then came Calgary, in its basin, beside Bow and
Elbow Rivers, with blue-green mountain water
instead of the muddy prairie fluid. Last year the
old Calgary was east of the Elbow, bu,t the almighty
railway had put its station in a more spacious part
of the valley, a mile or two west; and the submissive city packed itself on sleighs or carts,
crossed the Elbow, and replanted itself near the
station as a row of straggling log houses and tents.
Some of the mansions had the curved roofs of
§ On the Way to the Rockies
C.P.R. box cars, and the thousand inhabitants
sheltered theniselves from the weather in all
possible ways, many under roofs of prairie sod.
The citizens were out in full force to see thie
semi-weekly train arrive : Blood Indians in bright
blankets and with dark faces daubed with yellow
or vermilion, cowboys in " shaps " and buckskin
suits on lively, broncos, spruce mounted policemen
cantering up in scarlet jackets, and all sorts and
conditions of ordinary men, with even a few well-
dressed women, in addition to the squaws with
blankets over their coarse black hair.
Just what the city lived on was not clear to the
stranger—not on its past, for it had none. Perhaps
on its future; but there were " knockers " who
doubted if it had a future. Most of the inhabitants,
however, were normal western men, " boosters,"
who did not see how the city could help prospering,
with the mines of the mountains, the cattle of the
foot-hills, and the grain-fields of the prairies
pouring in their tribute.
I called on an old acquaintance, a prominent
lawyer, who received me in his office, a ten-by-
twelve tent with a bed screened off in the rear,
and introduced me to eminent citizens, from whom
I obtained much valuable information of an optimistic kind.
Writing now, twenty-eight years later, it must be
admitted that the " boosters " were right, for Calgary has become a solid and prosperous city of
fifty thousand people.
But my real interest was the mountains. I could
15 The Canadian Rockies
talk of nothing else, and climbed the bench above
the valley to scan them in the distance, while the
Calgarians preferred to talk of steers and broncos
in their sheltered plain by the rivers, out of sight
of the great range of mountains. Their lack of
enthusiasm was as suggestive as that of the explorer
Mackenzie, who, first of white men, in 1793, beheld
them on his journey to the Pacific. " At two in the
afternoon the Rocky Mountains appeared in sight,
with their summits covered with snow, bearing
south-west by south ; they formed a very agreeable
object to every person in the canoe." Mackenzie
wastes no more adjectives on them, but goes on to
describe the buffaloes on the bank of the river—
the steers of those days.
I hastened to leave Calgary by the next train,
three ,days later, that wriggled its way up Bow
Valley through the darkness, over a half-ballasted
track, crossing the river on spindle-legged trestle
bridges, and halting with a jolt at Morley on the
Stony, Jndian Reserve, where my brother, the
rancher,  was to meet me.
It was two o'clock in the morning, and swelling
black hills crested with black trees stood round
us, cutting off part of a blue-black sky. The air
was chill as my baggage was loaded on a creaking
Red River cart built all of wood, and we turned
down winding " coulees " and over a silent, dewy
plain to Bow River. A clumsy boat was unchained
and pushed off, the snorting pony swimming
behind. There was a rush and swirl of strong,
mysterious   waters,   against   which   the   oarsmen On the Way to the Rockies
pulled heavily, and then the bow grated on a half-
seen shore.
We leaped out and fastened the boat. The pony
scrambled splashing up the beach, and was harnessed, dripping, to a buckboard ; and presently
we rattled over stony plains toward the ranch as
the earliest dawn began to break. The cool valley,
four thousand feet above the sea, the upsweep of
tawny hill-slopes, and the grey mountains sharply
outlined against the south-west sky, had something austerely impressive about them as wide,
untenanted spaces.
A freight train crawling up the pass on the other
side of the river was a procession of antsi; the
scattered log houses were only dots on the broad
hillsides, and the ghostly cones of Indian teepees
seemed lifeless. Man and his works showed for
very little in a gigantic valley, where the grim
mountains pushed the dusky blue sky so far above
Perhaps it was only the human lack of courage
at three o'clock in the morning that daunted me
as we drove through a silent, impassive world,
seeming too huge and unconquered for mortal man
to feel at home in ; but I was thankful when the
sunrise spread warm tints in the greys, and the soft
low of cattle came from the hills, and a vesper
sparrow began to sing, just as his fellows do in
the east.
The mountains had covered their austerity with
the most delicate and feminine of gauzy garments,
and all the world was rosy and warm with level
17 b The Canadian Rockies
I !
sunshine when we reached the log house of the
ranch—low, sod-roofed, and without a tree to
shelter it on the wide hillside. It and the other
low log buildings and the log corral crouched with
a proper humility on the broadly sculptured foothill sweeping up to a crest of rock.
How I learned the humbling lessons of the
tenderfoot, who knows not the wiles of the bronco
nor the arts of the cowboy need not be related
here, nor need I do more than recall the homage
given to the mountains, fifteen miles away. They
were bold and bare to indecency in the hard midday sun, so that every harsh seam and scar or
band of slate or limestone stood out as if just
across the river—brown, earthy, almost repulsive.
But in the afternoon blue and purple shadows
began to creep from point to point, till all was soft
and ethereal as if fifty miles remote ; and the sunset can hardly be described in sober words, with
its mingling of delicately rich, mysterious tones,
deepening and glowing, and then going out, so that
nothing but sharp-edged embers stood against a
colourless sky.
Going to the west window one morning to take
my first look at the mountains, I was shocked to
find them gone. They had vanished overnight like
a dream. The great valley was still there, wider
and longer-looking and quite complete, as if the
mountains had never existed. The mists had
swallowed them up, while the plains basked as
usual in desert sunshine.
Then the foot-hills came to their own.    (Huge On the Way to the Rockies
masses of bent and tilted shale and sandstones,
occasionally showing a black seam of coal, they
often reached five thousand feet above the sea and
one thousand feet above the valley, and in most
other places would have been reckoned respectable
mountains. But now the mists rose and parted
and were dissolved under the morning sun. The
pageant of the Rockies began to solidify and take
shape once more, and the foot-hills became foot-hills
again, when the real mountains occupied the stage.
Meantime my plans were completed. Ponies,
more or less truculent, were selected from a squealing mob in a corral, and paid for in cash to their
shrewd Scotch half-breed owner; Grier, an old
prospector, was secured as companion; and
Severin, a strapping young Erench Canadian, was
engaged as cook and camp-keeper. They were to
follow with the ponies.
Fording Bow River, greatly fallen since my
arrival, I waited at the little Morley Station for
the leisurely train to saunter up from Calgary, forty
miles east, watching the silent Mountain Stonies
as they sat their ponies like statues to see the fire-
wagons of the white men come in, for trains were
still a novelty to them.
The long-waited-for train arrived and departed,
and the mountains visibly lifted themselves into the
sky as we rattled westwards past Kananaskis Falls,
past higher foot-hills, and through the portal of
the " Gap," where two bare, grey sentinels rose
sharply three or four thousand feet above the Bow.
The mountains were about me. I had seen the
19 The Canadian Rockies
Alps and the Jotunf jeld. How would the Canadian
mountains compare with them?
The construction train, staggering along on no
fixed schedule, gave plenty of time to look about
before it stopped, for the last time, at " the End,"
near what is now the delightful tourist resort
Whoever would advance beyond this must do so
on foot or on horseback. It was evening, and
my eyes turned from the mountains across the
valley of Bow River to the " city," temporary and
hideous, where night quarters must be found. The
chief hotel seemed to be the " Sumit " House
(Summit?), a low-browed log building with a floor
of " puncheons "—slabs split with the axe—instead
of boards.
When darkness fell I paid for my bed in
advance, according to the cautious practice of the
hostelry, and retired to the grey blankets of bunk
No. 2, second tier, in the common guest-chamber,
trying to shut out sights and sounds from the barroom by turning my back. An hour or two later
another man scrambled into the bunk, somewhat
the worse for whisky, and tucked himself into the
blankets beside me. It appeared that my half-
dollar paid for only half the bed.
It was a relief to turn out before the sun and
escape from the noisome air of the hotel into the
stumps and half-burnt logs and general litter of
the clearing outside, where one could take deep
breaths of the keen morning breeze, fresh from
the snow of the mountains. On the Way to the Rockies
The crude life of the city was not yet stirring,
and the dusky peaks on each side dominated the
pass, looking down coldly, perhaps scornfully, on
the heaps of foulness and scars of fire that marred
the beauty of the valley. Then the spell was
broken, sunlight gleamed on the western peaks,
smoke began to rise from camp fires and chimneys ;
there were voices and oaths, mules hee-hawed in
the corral near by, and the Valley once more yielded
itself up to man's uses.
When some business was done and arrangements
had been made for the night somewhere else than
at the Sumit House, the next thought was, of
course, to climb the nearest mountain, for mountains can only be seen from a mountain. .You
cannot really see them from the valley, even a
high valley like this, at five thousand feet.
A Scotch engineer, waiting for a position on the
railway, joined me, and we set out gaily for an
afternoon's frolic.
The mountain nearest was to the east, and first
we had to cross a swath of burnt woods—an
abomination of desolation made up of black soil,
black standing trunks, and black fallen logs—under
a glowing sun, that tried our temper. Then came
green timber and shade, with moss under foot, and
a green-edged lake, followed by a stiff climb among
dwindling spruces until timber-line was reached,
where my Scotch friend halted with a kindling
eye. We were walking on heather five thousand
miles from the Scottish moorlands, the first he had
seen  for  years.     I   had  not  known   before   that ft
in f
The Canadian Rockies
heather grew in Canada, so that it was an equal
surprise to me.
There were three kinds, with red, or yellowish,
or pure white blossoms, the last small bells almost
as dainty as lily-of-the-valley; and broad spaces
between the rocks were carpeted with them.
Above the trees there was a lavish display of
bright flowers, and the engineer elected to stay
there while I went on over rocks and a snowfield
to the top.
It was only a commonplace mountain, about
eight thousand feet high, without a name, so far
as I am aware ; but it belonged to the family of
Rocky Mountains, and gave one an introduction to
its stately neighbours, for here one could gaze up
and down the pass with nothing but clean air
between one and the summits, while down in the
valley a trail of smoke from the | right of way "
where the timber was burning blurred and sullied
the view.
From the top I could see that the small snofw-
field I had crossed projected to the east as a
cornice over a fascinatingly desolate little valley,
all grey cliffs and talus blocks, with a fierce little
torrent* grey with mud raving at the bottom'.
Northward, up Bow River, one could see a blue
lake at its source; and across the main valley,,
with its smoke and bustle, rose several fine mountains with glaciers, and at the foot of one of them
beautiful Lake Louise.
Mount Temple and Mount Lefroy, as I learned
afterwards,  reach   11,600 and   11,400  feet,   and   On the Way to the Rockies
are    among    the    highest    in    sight
After years of humdrum city life in the east,
the assembly of mountains, lifting their heads
serenely among the drifting clouds, gave one a
poignant feeling of the difference between man's
world and God's. Here was purity and dignity and
measureless peace. Here one might think high
thoughts. Below in the grim valley engines
puffed, mule-teams strained at their loads, sweaty
men delved in the muck, and man's work, looked
at from above, did not seem admirable under its
mantle of smoke.
But that was an unfair thought. How should I
have reached the mountains if there had been no
railway ?
That night, by the kind word of a high official,
I had permission to join the railway contractors
in their boarding-car, a shrewd and interesting set
of men from everywhere—the logging camp, Old
World Universities, the east, and the west. There
were pious men from Scotland, impious ones from
Montana, much-married ones from Utah, and
prudish men from Ontario, chatting or sitting silent,
all waiting for a signal. There was a clangour
from a big tent near by; a brawny " cookee,"
with sleeves rolled up, vindictively hammered1 a
crowbar bent into a triangle and hung in a tree;
and each man moved toward the tent, for it was
supper-time. The meals were rough but good, in
so far as things can be good which come from
a tin can.    The advance of civilisation is marked
23 The Canadian Rockies
by mounds of empty cans, and our age may some
day be named the Age of Tin.
Later, after a look at the mountains, while the
moon rose cautiously, and at last gleamed softly
on a snowfield, I tried the new sleeping quarters
in the box car, with the bunk-room up a little
flight of stairs. A dim lamp showed two tiers of
bunks already half filled with forms muffled in
blankets. Soon I was joined to their number, and
but for its unstable equilibrium, voted the boarding-
car an immense improvement on the hotel. It was,
unhappily, a sort of reversed pendulum on springs,
that rocked for fully a minute when any late comer
got on board ; and we all shuddered in sympathy
when any one turned over in his bunk.
Next day I visited Lake Louise and scrambled
along its shores, then unnamed and without marks
of human habitation where the comfortable chalet
now rises. On the following day Grier and
Severin, with four of the ponies, arrived, and all
arrangements were made to cross the pass into
British Columbia.
lift ■hi
The journey down the wild Kicking Horse Valley
is familiar to travellers across the mountains by
rail. During the summer of 1884 the valley was
full of smoke from the inevitable forest fires, and
everywhere men were at work, teaming, with much
bad language, on the inexpressible I tote road,"
using pick and shovel on earthwork, or drilling
and blasting in rock cuts, so that more than
once the flying bits of stone fell about us.
We looked up awestruck at the cliffs of Mount
Stephen, and at length reached the end even
of the " tote road." Beyond this our way
led up and down the mountain-sides, following
the pack trail, and as a tenderfoot I had
much to learn of British Columbian trails and
ponies. Eortunately Grier was an old prospector,
and Severin was a hardy backwoodsman, so that
not much of the work fell to my share.
Brown's pack-train was just ahead on the side
hill, three hundred feet above the Kicking Horse ;
and I was riding comfortably along on Buckskin,
who seemed to handle his feet deftly and with no
sense of risk on the foot-wide trail, whefr a pony The Canadian Rockies
I i
I Hi
a few yards in advance jostled his wide pack
against a wall of rock, lost his balance, and rolled
a hundred feet down the slope, halting upside down
against a tree. After the pack had been taken off,
the pony was led trembling up and re-packed.
I now got off at the worst points. Reaching
another bad place, Brown and his packer took the
stumbling pony by the halter and tail and edged
him round the difficulty.
A mile beyond this, where the trail was about
one thousand feet above the torrent, another horse
rolled over, and I fully expected that he would go
on to the river; but he, too, brought up against
a tree, and by dint of hard tugging horse and
load were once more brought up to the trail. I
now decided that walking was far better exercise
than riding, and cautiously, led Buckskin along the
groove in the cliff which was all that stood between
us and the river.
We were entering the broad valley of the Upper
Columbia, in a forest of mighty firs and cedars,
with tall, white-stemmed aspens on the drier flats
along, the river. We had passed from chill early
spring, at five thousand feet, near Laggan, to hot
summer, at half the elevation, near Golden, where
the Kicking Horse enters the Columbia.
In my inexperience, there had seemed trouble
enough with the ponies in the narrow Kicking
Horse valley, but at Golden our real .difficulties
began. The ponies had been picked up at different
points and lacked solidarity—in fact, only the two
bought at Calgary were friends. When we came
26 To the Columbia River
down the steep side of the terrace or " bench " to
the flat near the river where the shacks and tents
of ambitious Golden were beginning to rise, Grier
had hobbled two of them, hoping they wojuld see
the inadvisability of attempting the two hundred
feet of steep, climb to the bench.
The tent was not yet pitched, however, before
we saw old Bay cheerfully going up the slope,
hobbles and all, with the others following. Grier
foreboded mischief, but they were out of sight
before any one could capture them.
There were miles of burnt and unburnt timber,
mixed with grassy glades sloping up between
the edge of the bench and the mountain; and it
was the third day before we had all the ponies
together again. We got the two cronies the first
day, but could not find the others. By the time
the next two were captured, at points miles away,
the first pair had disappeared again. The grass at
the village had all been eaten, and one could not
blame the animals for going farther afield.
Horse-hunting through square miles of river
bottom, dusty bench, and bushy hillside, under a
broiling sun, busied us for two whole days. It was
no use trying to track the horses, for there were
a hundred other animals wandering over the range ;
but it was discouraging to tramp half a mile toward
'a bay horse on the hillside only to find it was some
one else's bay, or to catch glimpses of a buckskin
through the bushes and discover a mass of
yellowish clay on some upturned root when the
place was reached, or to see something that might The Canadian Rockies
be the black pony which turned to a burnt stump
on  nearer  inspection.
It was some consolation to know that others
were in the same plight. ' There was a noise in the
bushes, and a hot young man, with a halter in his
hand, came up, asking anxiously if I had seen a
blue pony with a star on its face, or a bay
with saddle marks. I could not recall such
animals, and he went on.
At length, on the third day, we had all the ponies
assembled at one time, and, to make sure of a start
in the morning, handed them over to a firm of
" horse wranglers "—two half-breeds who engaged
to produce the animals when needed on payment
of fifty cents per horse.
That night, after watching a pretty little Shuswap
squaw, with a papoose on her back, milk a gentle-
faced cow in a brush enclosure near our tent, we
went to bed with peace of mind.
Early next morning the ponies were driven into
the Kicking Horse, and, after one or two false
starts, swam across the broad and turbulent river
modestly called by our neighbours " the creek " ;
and we followed with our saddles and stuff in a
canoe. Our trail* up the Columbia valley began
through groves of tall spruce or poplar, but
presently came out upon the stony beds of dry
torrents, or along the edge of grassy benches, from
which we could look down on the river and across
to the Selkirks.
At night camp was pitched fifteen miles up near
a " ranch," just built of logs, and now being roofed
28 To the Columbia River
with earth by a Chinaman. The only neighbours
beside the man and woman of the ranch were this
Chinaman and his partner, in a little tent a hundred
yards off.
Here we found ourselves lacking some needful
things, and Severin, our good-natured French
Canadian camp cook, was sent back for them on
the black pony to the end of the railway, while
Grier and I began work on the nearer slopes of
the Beaverfoot mountains.
The Columbia Valley between the Rockies and
the Selkirks has a character of its own. A mile
deep and six or eight miles wide, it appears to the
eye to go on for ever toward the north-west and
the south-east, the enclosing mountains growing
bluer and hazier till lost in distant mists. After
a slope of forest, largely burnt, the wall of the
Rockies rises toward the north-east as grey cliffs
of limestone and gentler slopes of slate,
monotonous and by no means beautiful.
Across the river to the south-west, and some
miles farther away, the Selkirks lift themselves to
eight thousand feet or more, with blackish evergreen timber along the valley, now partly burnt
and growing up afresh, followed by paler green
and brown slopes, and ending with purplish cliffs
of quartzite at the summit. There were few snow-
fields and no large glaciers in sight, since the lower
frontal ranges hide the loftier snow-covered peaks
of both Rockies and Selkirks.
Through the middle of the valley winds the
muddy green Columbia, with lovely lagoons of
29 The Canadian Rockies
clear bluish water on the concave sides of its bends.
Though only seventy miles from its head, it is
already a great river, broad and with a steady
sweep of current. The valley has its own peculiar
climate, with only two winds—a cool one from the
north-west and a warm one from the south-east.
It might be breathless in the sun to-day, but tomorrow a frigid air would sweep down from the
north-west, bringing masses of cloud completely
roofing in the valley half-way up the mountainsides. A thunderstorm, with blue-black clouds and
endless reverberations from mountain to mountain,
might end in a grey veil of rain, shutting out the
world, or might roll itself upwards in pillars of
sunlighted vapour, climbing the mountains to melt
in the clear heavens.
We were on the high-road from Montana to the
new railway line, and often had other visitors than
the rather sinister man and woman of the ranch,
who had no cattle and made no sign of cultivating
the soil. Disgusted railway workers, with their
small 1 turkeys " slung on their back, passed us,
beginning the three hundred miles tramp over
rough trails to the land of freedom in Montana;
and eager fellows, tired of prospecting and finding
nothing, were pushing hopefully north to make
some money on the grade. Four fine-looking
Montana traders came in with their mules one
evening, piling the loads of flour and bacon under
tarpaulins, and offering supplies for much less than
they could be bought for in the log stores of
Next morning the white bell-mare moved northwards, and after her, in proper order, came the
mules according to their rank, with what was
unsold of their loads.
One night, at dusk, a wild party of desperadoes
and Indians cantered in from nowhere, with a little
keg fastened to each side of the pack-saddles ;
and the significance of the ranch became evident.
It was a " whisky ranch," purposely planted outside the mounted police limit of ten miles on each
side of the " right of way." We began to esteem
our Chinese neighbours, whip-sawing lumber and
floating it down to Golden, as respectable citizens
compared with the white ranchers.
After exploring two barren valleys in the Beaver-
foot range, I longed to make close acquaintance
with the unnamed mountain across the Columbia,
with its cirque and small snowfields. On Sunday
morning, to my surprise, I saw one of the patches
of snow move diagonally up the mountain. Running into the tent for the glass, the patch resolved
itself into a flock of mountain goats, five miles away.
We cut dry cedar logs and put together a raft,
and only waited for Severin to come back from
I the End" to make our venture into the new
world of the Selkirks. The long avalanche tracks
of paler green, stretching thousands of feet down
through the sombre forests of spruce and pine,
looked like narrow grassy paths to the gardens
of the gods above ; and Grier and I selected one
for our ascent, getting a compass bearing for use
through the unbroken timber beneath.
31 The Canadian Rockies
Severin came, several days later than had been
expected, with tales of fathomless tote roads and
all sorts of delays owing to rain and rivers ; and
the next morning our raft was paddled across the
clear and placid lagoon, breaking marvellous reflections of trees and mountains into a mosaic of colour
patches. The narrow ribbon of tree-crowned bank
between the lagoon and the river was not hard to
cross at a low point, since the water was high;
and then we were on the muddy current, paddling
our best, but hastening down-stream toward
At last, reaching the western shore of the river,
the raft was securely tied to a tree, and we set out
through the cedars by compass, presently reaching
the creek valley we had planned to follow for a
time. Here I had my first encounter with that
torment of the moister forests, the devil's club—
slender, withy, and graceful, but the most diabolical
plant in America, lurking among the ferns to fill
one's hands with poisonous needles.
We advanced steadily through the lower woods,
treading down the tall maidenhair ferns and seeing
nothing of the world for the trunks of the trees.
While we were sitting at lunch beside our fire a
humming-bird poised itself a few feet away, then
took courage and settled on its dainty nest, so,
covered with lichen as to look like a knot on the
branch where it rested.
Evening found us still among the tapering
cedars, with no evidence of an outer world; and
from our beds we could look up at the graceful
32 To the Columbia River
trees, swaying and bowing to one another in a
solemn dance to soft music.
The next morning brought us nearly to timber-
line, with open groves of stunted trees, now chiefly
spruce, so that we had glimpses of the distance.
We lunched by a waterfall at the first snow, and
afterwards followed up the stream to the romantic
cirque or half-kettle valley at its head, where we
camped under a clump of spruces. We were at
timber-line, and after the gloom of the forest below,
where the eye beheld nothing but sombre green
boughs and grey tree-trunks, it was entrancing to
come out on flowery slopes with the wide world
open to us. And how bewitching the high mountain flowers are ! On June 30th spring beauties—
adder's tongues, yellow columbines, and a host of
others of all colours of the rainbow—were wide
open to the Eastern sun, and the day was one to
rave over.
Climbing to the top of our nameless mountain,
more than one thousand feet above the last timber,
and about eight thousand five hundred feet above
the sea, we crossed, first meadows and tinkling
streams, with a pond or two, then rose upon steeper
slopes of bafre slate or of moss or Alpine flowers
.scarcely in bloom, and finally climbed tilted beds
of brown or reddish quartzite, whose edges we
followed to the top.
Before us opened out the valley of the Spili-
macheen, flowing southward to meet the Columbia
in the far distance.    On the other side was a cliff,
and beneath it  the stiff  slope  we  had  climbed;
33 c The Canadian Rockies
and miles away, and at least a mile below us,.
the Columbia wriggled on its course north-west,
for the two rivers flow in opposite directions.
Beyond was the tremendous landscape of the
Rockies, snowy and glorious, with hundreds of
peaks, of which at that time hardly a dozen had1
been climbed or named. A particularly fine group
to the east probably included Mount Assiniboine,
the Matterhorn of the Rockies.
To the west rose two ranges of the Selkirks,
the more distant one glacier-covered.
Next morning, however, all the glamour was
gone under shrouded skies; but we climbed
another peak on the ridge, in spite of the gloomy
weather. Clouds clung to the mountain-tops, and
when they lifted there was the glimmer of fresh
snow. Soon snow was falling round us, and we
took shelter behind gnarled, weather-beaten, evergreen bushes leaning against the cliffs. The snow
thickened, and at last we slipped and slid down
the slopes to our camp under the spruces, where
we took a hasty meal and pushed rapidly down-*
wards through the forest, hoping to reach the river
before dark.
We were tired, and made poor time among the
wet bushes, so that night caught us still toiling
through the cedars. There was nothing to do but
camp in that rainy wilderness without shelter, for
the spiry British Columbia cedar sheds no rain.
It was a wild and dismal night, rain driving, trees
roaring and swaying in the storm, and no dry place
to spread the blankets. We wrapped ourselves in
m To the Columbia River
them and sat wi$i our back to a huge tree, keeping
a strong fire burning in front, dozing and waking,
and heartily glad when the wan morning allowed us
to cover the last mile or two to the river, where
the raft was swinging in water higher than ever.
In half an hour we were on the other shore, after
drifting away below our tent because of the current.
The Selkirks were fascinating, and we made
another incursion on foot, taking along Sever in,
a powerful young fellow, to help with the loads.
The second visit differed little from the first, except
in our experience with a snow-slide path.
We had missed the mark on the former journey,
struggling all the way to timber-line through the
forest, and regretted the smooth, green path we
had promised ourselves. More fortunate the
second time, after three or four slow miles through
the tangled undergrowth among the heavy timber,
sky began to show in front, and we came joyfully
to the end of the trees where the path was to
begin.   But what a path !
Tree trunks, two or three feet through, were
smashed down together as one might spill a box
of matches, criss-crossed and piled upon one
another fifty feet high—old, weather-beaten trunks,
bare and white like bones ; others, of last winter,
still partly covered with bark. A squirrel ran over
the logs and jeered at us.    It was no road for us.
Laboriously we made our way to one side
through the standing timber and passed this final
dibdcle of the trees, hoping for better things farther
up, where the ground might have been swept bare.
35 The Canadian Rockies
After a quarter of a mile we entered the clearing
again, finding it covered with a close fur of bushes,
with all their branches pointing downwards, so that
logs and loose rocks were completely hidden. Here
at least there were endless blueberries, a feast for
birds and bears and men ; but as a path it was
a failure.
One especial bush, the box-elder, had limber
branches twelve feet long, layer after layer, each
bush tangled with its neighbour. If you stepped on
the mat of branches, it sank unequally under your
foot to rocky depths ; to pull them apart was almost
impossible. To go up against the stream meant
dragging yourself bodily with the hands. To cross
the stream with packs like ours meant rolling over
and under withy stems that gave no support, the
under ones snatching at the feet and the upper
ones at'the pack on one's back. To cross one of
these baffling streams of bushes, flattened by the
down-rushing winter's snow, cost a hard hour's
work, though it was only a quarter of a mile wide.
Henceforth we avoided snow-slides in the
Selkirks, though in the Rockies, where the growth
is less dense, parts of the slides often make fairly
good walking.
The whisky ranch was growing to be a nuisance,
a noisy and riotous neighbour at night; and we
struck camp, moving some miles up the valley to
Johnson's ranch, where we ferried over the
Columbia, first splashing for a mile through a
shallow lagoon, then canoeing across the river after
starting the ponies into the water to swim. Grier
had acquired a bay mare with a lively foal, and
was somewhat worried lest the youngster should be
swept down and lost. However, the colt held his
head up and swam as well as any. of the horses,
while his mother scarcely kept her nose above water
and drifted nearly a mile down before landing.
We now crossed the ridge that separates the
Spillimacheen from the Columbia, and then turned
north-west up the valley. Rains had soaked us
now and then on our foot expeditions, but here in
the actual Selkirks they, seemed endless. The tent
was scarcely down and' the packs on the horses
before showers began, softening the swampy trail
and making life miserable in every way. Camping
at night in pouring rain, on water-soaked moss
37 The Canadian Rockies
near some muskeg opening in the forest, where
there was swamp grass for the horses, was a distinct
trial of temper and endurance.
Near the head of the valley we made a central
camp beside the river, now reduced to a creek,
and put a bridge across by felling two trees side
by side. This gave a chance to climb the second
range of the Selkirks, rising as a long ridge to
eight or nine thousand feet.
Erom the top the central range was before us
to the south-west, beyond the valley of Beaver
Creek. A few miles away stretched one pf the
snowiest regions in British Columbia, and we could
count nearly fifty glaciers, most of them small, but
several having a neve five miles or more in width.
On the way down, turning a sharp corner of
rock, we came upon a goat and kid resting near
a patch of snow in the shade of the cliff.
Apparently the sun was too warm for them. They
rose quietly thirty or forty feet away, looked at
us as we stood motionless, and then trotted off
across the snow.
We now shifted our main camp to timber-line
on the range between the Spillimacheen and Fifteen
Mile Creek, so that we were nearly opposite the
whisky ranch and only six or eight miles from it,
after circling forty miles to reach the position.
Our tent was pitched in a sheltered ravine close
to ,the last trees, a snow bank above sending down
a little stream as a water supply, which, however,
was generally frozen up in the morning. The
slopes of crumbling slate above tree-line were
IN! Up the Spillimacheen
covered with a short turf, mostly of a little sedge
having black tufts of flowers, that suited the ponies
perfectly; and we could keep an eye on them as
they ranged for a mile or more on one side or,
the other.
Erom camp we could easily climb in half an hour
to the ridge separating the two valleys, and get
the overwhelming view of the Rockies which had
entranced me on our first climb in the Selkirks.
Going up on Sunday to enjoy the outlook, a
curious sensation awaited me. All was quiet in our
valley under a sunny sky, with some white clouds
moving rapidly above. It was the proper Sunday
calm. Lifting my head above the final ridge of
rock, a strong wind coming from space laid hands
on me and thrust me back. This powerful, invisible current, sweeping across the continent 8,500
feet above the sea, leaving the stagnant air of the
valleys untouched, seemed to typify the vast, mysterious forces influencing the world beyond the
touch of our senses.
The view from the ridge was glorious, but almost
indescribable. Far to the south-east, at the en,d
of the valley, throned in purple state, was a range
of snow-covered mountains, rising into gauzy blue
and white. Next came a succession of blue and
purple peaks, each with stronger colours and firmer
outlines than the last, till the strong, warm tints of
ochrey rocks in the ridge beside me lifted themselves against the soft blue of the distance. The
gradation was perfect. The other side of the ridge
dropped off as cliffs, but on our side was the
39 The Canadian Rockies
smiling slope of steep meadow, with many
blossoms, even on the ist of August, where the
snow had lain recently; below this were the
crabbed spruces, and still lower the forest, growing
taller as it marched down the valley, where grey
cedars were mingled with the dark spruces. The
ribbon of river and an exquisite lake or two marked
the bottom of the valley.
Erom this camp one could command most of the
mountains and valleys around—splendid Bear
Gulch pn the western side, Fifteen Mile and Canyon
Creeks on the other—and could study the bent and
tilted slates and quartzites. But my time was
nearly up, and on the 6th of August, after a furious
squall that threatened to bring down our tent in
the night, we packed our ponies, urged them up
the steep slope to the divide between the Spilli-
macheen and Fifteen Mile, forced them one after
another to slide on their haunches down the
slippery talus of slate on the Columbia side, and
presently reached smoother ground at the first
trees. A sudden storm drove us to camp here in
the cirque, not far from a bridal-veil waterfall trailing over grey rocks, with a border of bright green
mosses in the lower part.
The next day saw us crossing the Columbia in
a canoe, and a few days later we were camped
near the mouth of the Kicking Horse, on the way
home. Here I had an unexpected visit from Professor Blake, of University College, Nottingham,
who had come to Canada for the meeting of the
British Association, and had wandered to this out-
40 Ifefc
Up the Spillimacheen
of-the-way place by train and pony, seeking meta-
morphic rocks. Unfortunately, all the rocks of that
kind are on the west flank of the Selkirks, so
that he had to return unsatisfied.
Some of his eastern Canadian friends had inspired him with great dread of grizzlies, which
are really harmless when not attacked ; and others,
in Ottawa, had advised the bringing of a folding
bedstead for comfort in sleeping. The bedstead
duly accompanied him to the end of the track,
but beyond this he was obliged to travel by cayuse
and could not transport the bedstead where it was
needed. He must have suffered on the board or
earth floors of the camps on the way down the
Kicking Horse valley, and have longed for the
comfortable bed stacked up with a thousand other
things at the end.
The end had come a long way to meet us when
we returned toward the pass. There we sold the
horses and pack-saddles for more than we had
paid in the beginning. The beasts had looked after
their own fodder, as the cayuse cheerfully does in
the mountains, so that from the monetary point of
view the transport had cost less than nothing. They
had cost us enough worry and ill-temper to quite
balance the account in other ways, however.
41 mmm
Grier and I had promised a prospector to stop
at Silver City, between Laggan and Banff, to visit
a copper mine, and dropped off there on our way
east. During the winter the log houses of Silver
City near the foot of Castle Mountain had been
crowded with hundreds of mining men and prospectors from Montana, waiting, not very patiently,
to stake silver claims in the spring. They proposed
to make Silver City a " wide-open " town after
the fashion of Montana ; but two red-coated policemen came in quietly one day to reside for the
winter, and after their arrival, I was told, the city
was as orderly as a Sunday School, so that np
" guns " were used in its streets. When the snows
melted the hopes of the miners melted too, for
it was found that there was no silver in the ore
and none too much copper, so that the city was
almost deserted before the end of summer.
Mose and his partner, a Welshman, were among
the few still buoyed up by hope; but they were
curiously suspicious of their neighbours, and we
started off for the claims in two different directions
to throw watchers off the scent.
42 m  Castle Mountain
After sweeping a curve through the woods, we
met the other party leading a pony with blankets
and supplies at the appointed rendezvous, and two
hours later reached the camp, under a spreading
tree in the beautiful Horseshoe Valley behind the
Our first day was spent mostly near the head
of the valley, scrambling up " chimneys " in the
vertical upper cliffs of rotten limestone, where
Mose had found small veins of copper glance.
Some of the climbing was quite risky work, since
the projecting knobs of rock were often loose, and
gave way under the hand or foot. Above the
edge of the cliff, however, going was easy, so that
the highest part of the Castle (nine thousand feet)
was not hard to reach, and the wonderful view of
the valley of Bow River, four thousand feet below,
was quite worth seeing. The tower standing in
front of the Castle to the south-east looked as
unscalable as it was reported to be.
Our work was finished early in the afternoon
and there was time to ponder over the valley five
or six miles wide and three-quarters of a mile
deep. The Castle is built of nearly flat-lying
courses of limestone, and cliffs built in the same
way rise across the valley, evidently a continuation
of the same beds.
What had caused the great gap between? The
pale blue ribbon of river at the bottom of the
valley looked innocent and quite insignificant compared with the immense and solidly built Castle and
its neighbours ; and yet there is little doubt that
43 The Canadian Rockies
the Bow and its tributaries, helped by the weather
and frost and glaciers, have actually destroyed and
swept away to build up the plains the many cubic
miles of rock that once joined the two mountains.
It was a beautiful study of erosion.
We turned back to camp by an easy path beside
two delightful lakes, and soon passed out of the
warm evening sunshine into the cool shadow of
the mountain which seemed to overhang our camp
and cut off a great arc of the sky.
Next morning was dull, but we set off early to
cross the ridge between Horseshoe Valley and
Johnson Creek, where our prospectors had other
claims, following the fresh tracks of mountain sheep
and seeing three of them silhouetted against the
sky on a ridge half a mile off. The big-horn has,
of course, long ago disappeared from Bow Pass,
and is now seldom found in the Southern Rockies.
From the ridge parallel to the Castle, Johnson
Valley opened beneath us two thousand feet below
as a beautiful sweep of natural park with lakes,
groves, and meadows, through which the sea-green
creek made its way toward Bow River. On the
ridge we came upon a covey of ptarmigan of the
usual innocent tameness, which was rewarded by a
volley of stones knocking over two of them.
The descent into the valley down loose rocks
in a gorge was distinctly dangerous with a party
as reckless as ours, and one of the men behind
me sent a block or two whizzing past so that I
was glad to turn aside under a projecting rock.
It had begun to rain, making the rocks slippery
1 Castle Mountain
as well as insecure; and we waited only a minute
to see Mose's copper vein before going on down
over better slopes to the upper end of the valley
where he had a second camp.
The trees here were tamarack, giving little
shelter from the rain, but we intended to spread
a blanket as a roof, which, with a fire in front,
would make us comfortable. Mose's provisions
and blankets had been rolled up and cached under
a rock on his last visit to the valley, and he proceeded to pull them out of their hiding-place, but
found the blankets gnawed to tatters and the flour
scattered over the ground. He used some strong
language in denouncing the gophers for this crime,
which made it impossible to stay the night in
Johnson Valley under a pouring rain. We broiled
ptarmigan and had supper, and then made our
difficult way up the ravine once more, reaching
the top in the dusk. The tramp across the rough
limestone surface of the ridge was made through
sleet and snow in the gathering gloom, turning
to the sheer darkness of a rainy night before we
stumbled down to the camp in Horseshoe Valley,
following the foam of the creek to the spruce-
tree on its bank. The first to arrive lit a gorgeous
fire, and by ten o'clock all were in, and a second
supper of goat-meat was fried to atone for the
hardest day's work of the summer.
After a dismal night under wet blankets, Grier
and I rose early without rousing our partners and
walked six miles through the wet bushes to catch
the seven o'clock train for the east.
45 The Canadian Rockies
Mose's copper claims were of no importance, but
this interesting glimpse of the cathedral type of
mountains in the centre of the Rockies was worth
the time and labour. Not long after Silver City
lost the rest of its inhabitants, and good log-houses
could be rented for nothing. Even the name has
now disappeared, and the flag-station is called
Castle. The almost equally fraudulent name of
Golden, at the mouth of the Kicking Horse, has
held its own, though the town suggests the precious
metal only when the yellow poplar leaves are falling
in the autumn.
Reaching Morley in due time, I wanted to cross
the river and walk to my brother's ranch. Some
Indians were fording on their ponies, stripping off
their leggings to keep them' from getting wet in
the last twenty yards, where they had to swim. I
was told that there was a boat on the other side,
and shouted for the ferryman, being mocked by
some merry boys, who finally called the man. He
came over on his horse and stood on the shore
with his bronze legs wet and glistening while he
made a bargain to take me over for two shunlas.
I understood his two fingers held up and the word
shunlas (silver), and agreed to the terms. Explaining by signs that he would have to go down
the river for the boat and tow it up, he splashed
back again on his horse, and before long I saw
him wading up the shallow water with the boat.
Two wrinkled old squaws, with their heads covered
with blankets, joined me in the boat, and apparently
my two shunias paid the passage for all three.
UK Castle Mountain
A four miles' walk to the ranch over the stony
terraces of the valley under a hot noon sun without
a rag of romance made a striking contrast with my
former journey in the same direction through the
l&arvels and enchantments of dawn and sunrise.
The snowy Selkirk range, right in the heart of
!the British Columbian Mountains, and 250 miles
from the sea, is completely surrounded by water,
and in a sense may be called an island, three
hundred miles long, eighty wide, and two miles
The great Columbia River, with its tributary,
the Kootenay, encircles it on all sides except for
a mile or two on the east, where Mr. Baillie
Grohman cut a canal some years ago and completed
the girdle of water.
Coming down from the Kicking Horse Pass
through the Rockies you face the mountain wall
of the Selkirks; but before they can be reached
the Columbia must be crossed, already a powerful
river, as we had found in the summer of 1884,
though it is less than a hundred miles from its
If you wriggle your way for eighty miles through
the Selkirks as the railway does, you come once The Selkirks and the Columbia
more upon the Columbia, a muddier and far larger
river than before, but now flowing south instead
of north-east.
The Selkirks are not quite so high as the Rockies,
but are quite as Alpine in appearance. Their
heavier snowfall provides nevi and glaciers where
the Rockies would be bare, and their greater rainfall clothes the lower slopes and the valleys with
an almost tropical rankness of forejst, splendid to
look upon but heart-breaking to force a way
The Columbia is the most whimsical of great
rivers. It begins in the strange structural valley
between the Rockies and Selkirks, where all large
British Columbian rivers are fated to begin ; flows
north-east for 150 miles in a very mild-mannered
way for a mountain river, so that even a two-man
canoe is safe upon it; and then, in the heart of a
rugged mass of mountains, breaks away from the
north-west valley, falls a thousand feet in a series
of canyons and rapids at the Big Bend, and turns
due south to the State of Washington, ending its
journey in the Pacific near Portland, Oregon. Many
miles of it are navigated by steamers, but many
other miles are made up of cataracts and falls.
Its valley is a patchwork of odds and ends and
misfits of older valleys having a strange history
not yet unravelled, but probably caused by unequal elevation of different parts of the mountain
After my glimpses of the Selkirks in 1884, I
needed little inducement to visit them again the
49 d The Canadian Rockies
I r
following summer to see the Columbia Valley on
the opposite side, and especially to enter the Big
Bend country, where the placer miners had washed
out their nuggets twenty years before. This was
my first visit to a placer gold region.
By the summer of 1885 the Canadian Pacific
Railway had crossed the Rockies and was just
reaching out into the Selkirks, chopping, burning,
and blasting its way through the rough mountain
range where the moist climate made the work even
more difficult than in the Rockies. Regular trains
ran as far as Donald, fifteen miles down the
Columbia from Golden, and there was now a
bustling town where there had not been a house
the year before.
Donald was the headquarters whence the army
of conquest was organised and detachments were
sent forward into the wilderness. Beyond this only
construction trains made their way, starting when
they chose, travelling to suit themselves, and finally
reaching the end some time during the day. It
was rumoured that one would start about five
o'clock, so I was on hand at the hour, but had
plenty of time to admire the sunrise pageant on
the mountains, for it did not start till six o'clock.
The train moved slowly across the long bridge
over the river, through the morning mists rising
from the water, and then jolted and creaked up
Beaver  Valley  towards   Roger's   Pass,   straddling
mountain torrents on wooden trestles, rocking and
rolling over half-ballasted track, while we sat on
the edge of the flat cars swinging our legs over
50 The Selkirks and the Columbia
abysses or jerking them out of the way of half-
removed forest trees.
Presently the scar of our track rose above the
river, climbing steadily through the timber until
we came to the end, at this time nowhere in
particular, on the steep slope of the mountain up
which marched the serried ranks of spruce and
giant cedar.
The end was waiting here patiently for the
highest wooden bridge in the world to spread its
spidery legs of rough-hewn timbers above Stony
Creek, raging three hundred feet below. Not long
before two men at work on the bridge had fallen
and been killed, and the others had " lost their
nerve " for the time, delaying the work.
We dragged our dunnage from the flat car and
dumped it among the stumps of the right-of-way
before looking up quarters in the temporary city
of canvas and logs in the valley, where all was
bustle and turmoil as teams were brought up to
load for the journey up the pass to the construction
Next day a lazy cayuse took me along the tote
road, the vilest road that can be imagined, made
up of rocks and stumps and fathomless mud which
the mules and the wheels splashed up for thirty
feet on the tree trunks through which it wound
like a black canal. Here and there a wrecked
wagon or a dead horse or mule showed how
strenuous the battle was.
Except where snow-slides had mowed down the
trees, or some side-torrent left a gap in the forest,
51 The Canadian Rockies
HI iij
there was little to be seen of the canyon below or
the snowy mountains above. Everywhere water
was running as rills and torrents and rivers, all
tearing along at their maddest pace toward the
Columbia, and all raging to destroy the mountains
that bore them; while the tangled lower thickets
of bushes were spreading their matted tentacles
and trailing stems and branches over the rocks
for protection, and the spruces and cedars were
anchoring everything as firmly as might be with
their muscular roots. It was a splendid contest
between frost and running water, and bushes and
trees, for the life and death of the mountains ;
blundering man coming in as a marplot with his
terrible servant, fire, to destroy in a day the protective forest that could not be replaced in a
One had the sense of a world in the making,
all the forces struggling hotly to build, to conserve, and to tear down. Even the mysterious
underground forces that uplift mountains and
counteract the nihilistic glaciers and rivers must
have been secretly at work, if not now, at least
not long ago, for these young canyons, cliffs, and
peaks in so ancient a range of mountains could
only exist after a great upheaval to start the endless ball rolling again.
My drowsy buckskin pony splashed through the
mud or turned aside from the abominable road into
a side path beaten into the mos> or the ruddy
brown rotting logs among the lichen-draped trunks
of the cedars ;  but my thoughts were more or less
52 The Selkirks and the Columbia
in a whirl as I grasped the bustle and excitement
of the conflict around me.
Now and then the woods opened, where a torrent
spanned with a log bridge parted the trees, and
patches of sky, beetling cliffs, blue tumbling
glaciers, and white slopes of snow lifted one's
thoughts higher. Then came the jolt and rumble
of wheels, the crack of a whip, and I had to pull
Buckskin into the bushes to let the heavy wagon
thump and pound its way eastwards for a new load
to feed the army in front.
The whole vast battle, the real thing of consequence for all the world, as to whether dry land
should be devoured and vanish for good and all
beneath the waters, then dropped from my mind;
and once more man, the intruder, with his hideous
roads and mules and railways, became the dominant
Another glimpse of the mountains showed that
they were drawing on their caps of cloud, and
the blue sky became overcast with a grey veil. The
road through the woods grew sombre, and presently
down came the easy rain of the Selkirks, for these
mountains, unlike the eastern Rockies, are more
accustomed to grey days of rain than to blue skies.
It was evening and time to seek some shelter. The
rain began to pour and to drip from the trees, and
then the woods opened into a ragged little clearing
of burnt stumps with some big tents and square
stacks of baled hay, at one of the construction
camps scattered along the line. On one of the
tents was the sign " Dew Drop Inn," so I dropped
53 The Canadian Rockies
in, after making sure that Buckskin had enough
baled hay for his supper.
The big tent was undivided, but the rear opened
into a little tent where one could observe the whole
staff of the hotel—proprietor, clerk, cook, and
waiter—embodied in one dirty man in his shirtsleeves, engaged in frying bacon over a cracked
stove. The supper of hot bacon and beans and
tea, with stewed dried apples as dessert, was soon
on the board, and as soon eaten by the half-dozen
hungry guests who then gathered round the box
stove in the large tent, for the rainy night was
cool four thousand feet above the sea.
A little later every one unrolled his blankets and
chose his bed on the earthen floor, picking a spot
where no stream dripped from the roof. The hotel
sign was not unwarranted, for the dews of heaven
** dropped in" at many places that rainy night,
and I had to shift my bed more than once before
securing a permanently dry corner.
The muddy tote road wound on through the
trees, stumbling and scrambling over rocks robbed
of their normal padding of moss, till the canyon
of Bear Creek ended at the wind-swept yoke
between mountains called Roger's Pass. The
trough was bare of trees, not because of its elevation, which is only 4,300 feet and much below
timber-line, but because the steep slopes on each
side are the highway for avalanches, making trees
Mount Sir Dpnald rises to 10,600 feet near
by, closely fpllowed by several rivals, and every
54 The Selkirks and the Columbia
winter vast masses of snow are hurled down their
sides into the valleys.
A few years after the railroad was opened an
avalanche swept the little station on the pass with
its inhabitants into destruction. From the pass,
severe in its unclothed rocks and precipices, the
road bent down to the west, following a stream,
the head waters of the musically named Ille-cille-
wait River, like Beaver River, on its way towards
the Columbia, but in the opposite direction and
with a slope one thousand feet greater; so
that it was in even a more furious hurry to get
its work done and join the brimming Columbia.
Here Buckskin gave me plenty of time to see
mountains and glaciers and leaping falls now
invisible to the traveller on the observation-car,
for so sure as there is fine scenery the train takes
to earth like a rabbit, burrowing through a tunnel
or swinging downhill through miles of those
artificial tunnels the snowsheds. There was time
to gaze up at many a peak, then nameless but
now famous ; at glaciers, some of them heading!
in the great Asulkan snowfield, one of the largest
south of Alaska ; to study the curves and loops
of the pale, muddy green river whose roar came
faintly up from hundreds of feet: below; and then
to go down to its margin among trees ever growing larger as we approached the Columbia Valley,
till at last the cedars were giants ten or twelve
feet through and   150 feet in height.
There were contractors' camps and engineers'
camps here and there along the valley, where I The Canadian Rockies
had a welcome and a night's shelter, one of them
the camp of Mr. Donald Mann, knighted and well
known since as one of the heads of another great
trans-continental railway.
In one place the tote road (in mid August)
passed over thirty feet of solid snow six thousand
feet below snow-line, the still unmetted remains of
an avalanche, where one could study the effects
of a cruel joke of Nature. Crossing the huge snow
bank, under which a creek could be heard
grumbling on its hampered way to the river, one
stood at the melting edge, where belated winter
was only now setting free the bound earth.
Here spring was beginning for the plants, ferns
just unrolling their fronds, scotch-caps just
opening their buds, and spring beauties were now
in bloom; while a few hundred yards away the
scotch-caps and other plants had long ago ripened
their fruit, and their leaves were beginning to turn
brown or red with the first touches of autumn,.
It was pathetic to see the hopeful look of the
opening leaves and budding flowers.
Glaciers and snowfields were left behind as I
trotted along a flat trail into the broad valley of
the Columbia, bounded with dim, smoke-shrouded
rows of mountains, low and grimy ghosts of mountains not at all attractive after the severe, clean-
cut splendour of Roger's Pass. I was once more
in a u city " of five or six hundred people, nine-
tenths men, the forerunner of the present Revel-
stoke. It was about six months old, but already
had   a   history,   for   it   had   been   swept   by   the
56 The Selkirks and the Columbia
inevitable fire, which not only licked up the log
and canvas buildings but destroyed many square
miles of splendid forest around.
The city was once more housed, many of the
log buildings blackened by fire, and close by there
rose dismal black trunks into a sky still grey with
smoke. The coppery sun shone down intensely
hot on the whitish-grey street, literally of dust
and ashes, and at a little distance the broad
Columbia, a grey flood of muddy water, licked and
lapped at its muddy banks, which every now and
then caved and collapsed where undermined by
the current.
An uglier place probably never existed than this
first edition of Revelstoke, with the smoke and ashes
of its premature conflagration still hovering about
it. All western towns have to be burnt at least
once in their youthful days, but this still unnamed
I city " at the second crossing of the Columbia
had been the most precocious of all.
Perhaps I was not in the mood to do the village
justice, however, for after three days of broiling
sun on its one hideous street I could find no boat
with which to go up the river to the goldmines.
It is true that certain citizens were building a boat
on one of the vacant lots, but they found it necessary to " liquor up " so often at Hanson's bar,
and felt it so important to adjourn for every dogfight or horserace, that my holidays would certainly
be finished before their boat was.
The brazen sun of a fourth morning found me
wandering hopelessly along the white road quiver-
57 The Canadian Rockies
ing with heat. I had heard the stories of the florid
judge, and of the sheriff, famous for his brilliant
imagination, I had made inquiries in all quarters
as to a trail to Laporte through the woods, with
the discouraging answer that the trail was hardly
begun, and it was no use to try to get through
with horses ; and my mind was nearly made up
to saddle Buckskin, if he could ever be caught
again among the many miles of range, and go
back up the pass.
My feet turned aimlessly toward the river, where
there was sometimes a breath of cooler air, and
my eyes fell upon the yellow gleam of fresh-hewn
pine. A dug-out, just finished, was lying on the
shores, and its three builders and owners were
discussing what to do with their craft. I was soon
beside them and found that they had been disgusted
with railway work, and had made the canoe to go
down the river to Washington, where life was
supposed to be less strenuous.
They did not require much persuasion to go
up the river prospecting, instead of down, and in
a few minutes I became fourth partner on condition of paying $12.50 into the general funds.
It was further stipulated that I should provision
myself and perform a fair share of the navigation.
The future now looked rosy, and in a day or
two we had everything ready at a snug harbour
half a mile above town out of reach of loafers,
who seemed to make up at least half the population. Under the guidance of Frenchy, who was
an old Ottawa lumberman, we prepared oars and  IN The Selkirks and the Columbia
outriggers  and  purchased   eighty  feet  of  strong
Meantime our friends in town had heard of the
enterprise and prophesied all sorts of disasters if
we ventured up the river when it was booming.
The hot weather was melting the snow on ten
thousand square miles of mountain-sides, so that
the Columbia was in full flood, and I believe my
partners would have backed out if the $12.50 had
not already been turned into flour, beans, and side
When all was ready two of us put our oars on
the outriggers, Frenchy took the stern with his
paddle, and the fourth man let out the line and
stepped on board. We were out in the current,
every man pulling his best, and were steadily
going down-stream stern foremost. The Columbia
in flood was too much for us, and in a few minutes
we should be slipping past the city to the joy
of all the friends who had given such good advice.
There was nothing to do but go ashore as quickly
as possible and put a stop to our downward progress. Then the long rope was uncoiled and the
ex-guardsman and I went ashore to tow, while
the others with paddles or poles kept the boat on
her course.
We soon found that tracking up the Columbia
was no matter for joking. As long as the strip
of muddy beach lasted we got along well enough,
but presently the bank was undermined, and the
guardsman and I had to scramble along the top
of the low cliff, passing the rope round trees and
bushes and hauling the canoe up hand over hand.
60 Up the Columbia
Then a long, slender tree, overturned but anchored
by its roots, stretched quite beyond reach of our
rope, its free end whipping the water as it struggled
with the current. The man in the bow chopped
the tree and we went on ; but tree after tree met
us in the same way, some too large to cut without
great waste of time. Sometimes the canoe was
pulled up by all hands clinging to the branches, and
twice the current caught us, and we rowed with
all our strength across to the other side, where
the same work began again.
It needed a day and a half to advance five
miles up-stream to the foot of the Dalles, a heavy
rapid, where every one foretold trouble. We
camped at an eddy below the rapids, which were
hidden by a point of rock ; but the roar, and the
revolving drifts of foam, and the irregular rise
and fall of the water, like an animal panting for.
breath, were evidence enough of what was beyond.
There were two portage paths across the rocky
ridge which made the rapids, and we crossed by
the new one, easy to follow, climbing right over
the steep hill, and returned by an old one clinging
to  the  cliffs  along the  river,  and  in  one  place
passing behind a waterfall which sprang from the
rock   wall   above.    Near   the   old   path   Frenchy
found   some   one's   abandoned   pack   mouldering
under a tree, and on opening it saw only a rotten
blanket and clothing and some musty flour.   There
was no clue to the fate of its owner.    Near the
head of the portage a cedar canoe had been built,
as one could see from the stump and chips, and
61 The Canadian Rockies
below the cliff on the rocks were its smashed
remnants. Apparently it had just been launched
when it was wrecked.
Even Frenchy, an old hand at work in the rapids,
did not like the look of the Dalles, but our dugout was too heavy for the four of us to pull out
of the water, much less carry across the hilly
portage, so that we set about dragging it up stage
by stage against the current.
A whole day of risks and hard work was spent
in getting the empty canoe up the rapids. Once
it upset and spilled out the oars and paddles, and
at another bad place the rapid was too much for
our united strength and the canoe broke away,
but was caught in an eddy lower down.
Once above the Dalles, we were triumphant and
felt that the worst of the voyage was over, for
no more rapids were reported from this to Dalles
des Morts, above La Porte, where our canoeing
was to end.
In the morning, after hewing out our new
paddles and oars, we set out in good spirits to
row up-stream, hoping that a day or two would
cover the thirty miles left of our journey by river ;
but in half an hour we were baffled by a current
too swift to make head against, sweeping round
a smooth point of rock too high and much too
long for our eighty feet of rope, and landed once
more discouraged. Some white animal, perhaps
a goat, had come down to drink in the dusk the
night before, and had been pursued in vain by
our two hunters ; and now the Frenchman sug-
62 Up the Columbia
gested we should camp and go hunting in the
mountains for a few days till the river fell. He
was sure of getting a goat with his " rafle."
Others were in favour of rowing across to the
other jside, where the shore looked all right for
tracking, but there was some risk that we might
be swept down the rapids, half a mile below, and
add four more to the prospectors drowned in the
After some debate we decided to cross the
river. The guardsman and I put our oars on the
outriggers, and Frenchy and Mac at stern and bow
got ready for a supreme effort. The bow swung
into the current and we headed across, pulling our
utmost, but quickly sweeping sideways towards the
head of the Dalles, and we had already been half
deluged with a wave when, just in time, the old
Frenchman gave the canoe a big thrust into an
eddy, and the risk was over.
Canal horse work began again for the. guardsman and myself, and at the rate of about ten miles
a day our heavy canoe was dragged up-stream.
Then came a change of weather. Instead of hot
sun there was pouring rain, and the unreasonable
Columbia rose higher than ever, making progress
almost impossible.
We had camped beside the new trail just too late
to save our goods from soaking, and were sitting
disconsolate round the fire getting supper ready,
when a boat came down the river and a party
landed beside us, placer miners just come from
the Big Bend, and each one brought a showy gold
63 The Canadian Rockies
specimen in his pocket. " Was there gold at the
Big Bend?" "Why, sure!" "Yes, there was
plenty of gold, but it was too late to go in there
this fall." Then, without accepting our invitation
to supper, they went on with the current toward
the Dalles, where they would leave their bateau
and walk into the city.
This visit was not the only one. Towards
evening a powerful-looking man carrying a pack
came to our fire out of the dripping woods. He
needed little persuasion to fling his pack into a
corner of the tent and stay the night, and turned
out to be H., a well-known prospector, on his
way to the Big Bend to examine and report on
a claim for a mining company. He was a thorough
believer in himself and his goldmines, a hearty,
laugher and talker, and a man of .unusual talent in
swearing, all of which naturally made him popular.
The two visits worked a transformation. We
no longer felt dejected. If other men had luck
in gold-mining, why shouldn't we? So we had
a jolly evening by the fire while the rain dripped
from the trees, laughing over old misfortunes and
planning what should be done with the gold when
we got it. Grizzled old Frenchy put half of his
grey moustache into his mouth to chew, after his
whimsical habit, and the firelight gleamed in his
eye as he talked about his family from which he
had not heard for years, for he could not read.
Mac boasted of his former grandeur before he lost
a fortune by the bursting of the Winnipeg boom ;
and the tall, bony guardsman told of a soldier's
64 Up the Columbia
life in three armies, the British, the American, and
the Canadian. He had reached Winnipeg with
Sir Garnet Wolseley at the time of the Red River
expedition. When he had made his pile he would go
home. Our new friend had all sorts of ambitious
plans, some of which have since come true, unlike
all the other pipe dreams of the evening.
Next morning when H., the prospector, went
his way, I joined him, leaving my share of the
canoe and supplies to my partners, and shouldering a flour-sack with a blanket and provisions
for a few days. The others were to follow with
the canoe when the river fell. The new trail ended
in a mile or two, and we had to push through bushes
following an old trail of blazes, H. going ahead
with the axe. Before the day was over the axe
was driven into the palm of his hand by an
accident, making a frightful gash, leaving the
sinews bare. The wound was bound up with his
handkerchief, and I urged him to go back ; but
he was not made that way and dashed ahead at
a pace that left me breathless, every now and then
striking the hand on something and bursting into
a volley of oaths. The chopping and cooking now
fell on me.
The first night caught us in the midst of
a hopeless cedar swamp, a labyrinth of fallen
trunks ten feet through and so long that we had
to go round immense distances. It began to rain,
and cedars, unlike spruces, give no shelter; so
we finally camped under a dead tree that had split
in falling, one half resting on another log with a
65 i e The Canadian Rockies
space beneath. With a fire just outside we were
fairly comfortable, but had a start in the night
by hearing some large animal snapping sticks not
far off.
Next night was spent in the ruined shack of
a gold-miner on Cairn's Creek. We bridged the
creek by chopping a tree, bent into a bow in the
middle by the strong current, and on the third day
reached Downie Creek, the largest one we had to
cross, only four miles from Laporte. Once more
a tree was felled, but was too short and was swept
down-stream. While cutting a second one, larger
and longer, the axe-handle broke, putting an end
to bridging operations.
A raft was the next thought, but with a broken
axe and no rope that was hopeless. We could
see a raft moored to a tree on the other side left
by the last party which crossed, and I swam after
it, since H. could not swim ; but the strong current
swept the raft down towards the Columbia in spite
of my pole, and I had to jump overboard and swim
back to H., who was running along shore with a
branch for me to catch.
Finally we walked up the creek, hoping to find
it shallow enough to wade, but found instead a
terrible strip of country, all muskegs and beaver
dams, so that, too, was given up, and we returned
to the Columbia in the darkness.
Evidently our only hope was to go back to the
canoe and come up-stream with it, so we started
back on the trail, H., travelling furiously, cursing
himself, his luck, the woods, the mountains, the
66 Up the Columbia
Company that employed him, and mankind and
things in general in the most thorough and comprehensive way. I began almost to fear for his
reason; but there was no need for that. It was
simply the natural outlet for his feelings and was
really artistically done, so that presently he was
in good-humour again, in spite of his having to
fight against the adverse set of the bushes. All
the parties had come this way, bending the branches
before them, and going back was decidedly harder,
like wading up-stream.
At Cairn's Creek we saw the Frenchman's dingy
tent under some balsam poplars across the river,
and a shout brought the canoe to ferry us over.
The river had fallen, and H. elected himself
captain, working like a demon in spite of his
wounded hand, so that we made fair speed by
poling and tracking, slowly creeping towards a fine
peak with a large glacier on one side, coming
abreast of it, when it half filled the sky beside
us, then creeping away from it. The mountains,
both of the Selkirks and of the Gold Range to
the west, seemed snowier and more impressive than
near the railway, some reward for our hard fight
against the current.
At last we reached Downie Creek, the signal
for a volley of parting anathemas from H., and
then rounding the point, landed at La Porte, the
gateway of the goldfield, with its three ruined log
houses and one tent. The city had one inhabitant
at the time, left in charge of supplies while his
partners were off on an expedition.
67 Halting only for dinner, we left the guardsman
in charge of our surplus outfit, including Frenchy's
tent, and set off for McCullogh Creek, eighteen
miles inland, H.'s destination. The old trail, wrell
beaten twenty years ago when some thousands of
men had eagerly tramped it, was still in fair condition ; and next morning Gold Stream, the main
river, was reached, with McCullogh Creek entering just opposite. Crossing in a leaky-dug-out,
we were in the first placer mining camp any of
us except H. had ever seen.
The weather-beaten log shanties of McCullogh
town stood on the gravel flat where the creek entered
the river waiting for tenants, but up thd steep gulch
of the small mountain torrent all was desolation,
as if fire, earthquake, and flood had done their
work. Every yard of gravel had been hewn with
picks, shovelled into barrows, and washed in
sluices, leaving grey chasms in the green, reaching
almost to timber-line on the divide. We halted
for the night in the last cabin, sound of roof but
windowless and doorless and very cool as a sleep- The Big Bend Goldfield
ing chamber, with the chill night air flowing over
us down the valley.
The whole gulch was growing up with berry-
bushes and saplings, Nature doing her best to cover
the scars and restore health to the valley, and
there were only two small parties of miners at
work on the creek, one driving a tunnel and the
other sinking to bedrock, so that there was very
little to suggest the bustle of former days when
fortunes were made in a season.
Next day we went four miles farther into the
mountains to French Creek, much larger than
McCullogh, where there must have been quite a
town of cabins, laid out in regular streets, now7,
however, all burnt except one, though some houses
were still in good condition higher up the valley.
My companions had been waked from their
dreams of sudden wealth by a look at these desolate
valleys, and began to feel downcast over their
prospects. They decided to fit up the best of the
cabins, rebuilding the fireplace of stones and the
chimney in one corner, so as to spend the winter
hunting and trapping and be ready to work a claim
in the spring ; but how their venture turned out
I never heard. H., however, quickly sized up the
location he had been sent to examine and turned
back to Revelstoke. For the few days I could spare
I explored the region with Frenchy, a most cheerful and resourceful companion. When we arrived
at McCullogh town it turned out that the baking-
powder had been left behind, so that unleavened
pancakes made our chief diet;  but Frenchy, before
^20* ill!
The Canadian Rockies
leaving the camp, got half a yeast cake from one
of the parties there and started " sour dough "
bread. His pack was the flour-sack, and the
warmth of his body kept the yeast at work, so
that in the evening the dough was ready to bake,
a little being reserved and mixed with more flour
and water for next day's bread. He had evidently
not been cook in a lumber camp for nothing. The
two of us explored French Creek to its head, and
from the divide had fleeting glimpses through the
opening clouds over the savage wilderness of the
Selkirks to the north and east, a series of wild,
ice-covered peaks not yet explored, but apparently
quite equal to the fine mountains climbed and
mapped by Green and Wheeler near Glacier on
the railway. My time was so short that no high
climbing could be attempted, and the lowering
weather made such work unattractive.
We explored one of the side gulches, which
needed some stiff rock-climbing, and ended in the
clouds at timber-line, where all was clammy with
new-fallen snow. Coming down to our packs, left
under a tree in the valley, rain began to pour, and
we sought out a dry camp under a big spruce,
feathered to the toes with drooping branches. A
balsam and two birches stood about it, making a
snug enclosure, and with the axe the lower dry
branches were soon stripped, and with some rags
of bark from the birches a fire presently roared just
beyond our roof. The layer of brown twigs and
leaves under the spruce made a splendid bed, and
after drying up our clothes and getting supper, The Big Bend Goldfield
things seemed very homelike; and Erenchy told
me, between puffs of his pipe, all sorts of stories
of bears, wolves, and lumber camps.
In a day or two it was time for me to go back
to civilisation. It was late in September, and the
rain, which fell every day in the valley, fell as snolw
higher up, so that the snow-line, when the clouds
lifted, was far down the mountain-sides. Bidding
goodbye to my partners, now all together at French
Creek in the best of the unburnt houses, there was
a lonely tramp of twenty-three miles before me
on the way to La Porte. Good-hearted Frenchy
had baked me a fair-sized loaf, so that I had food
for the journey, which was to be made in one
day, as there was no good stopping-place short
of the Columbia.
The sun was shining when I started, but rain was
falling again before McCullogh Creek was
reached; and there, by ill-luck, the canoe was on
the wrong side of Gold Stream, and had to be swum
for before my pack could be ferried over. Why is
a swim so uninviting on a rainy day?
The long trail back to La Porte, grown up with
dense bushes, furnished a fresh bath of cold water
for every step, and the blanket in its flour sack
on my back grew heavier hourly with the rain
soaking into it; so that the tramp through ferns
and devil's clubs, over slippery fallen logs, between
grey, bedraggled cedars yielding no shelter, was a
long misery. It was evening before the edge of
the bench above La Porte was reached, and, to my
joy, a brisk fire was burning before one of the
7i The Canadian Rockies
tents. The two British Columbian miners, Mac-
millan and Lyon, who took my bag from my back
and supplied hot tea and hot bean soup beside a
hot fire, and then looked me up a dry shirt and
blanket, were certainly ministering angels.
Next day I rested, and Lyon lent me " Felix
Holt " to read. On the flyleaf was the name of
Bailie Grohman the hunter, and author of " Camps
in the Rockies."
On the way down the trail my conscience had
been at work over the problem of our canoe.
Would my one-fourth share justify me in running
down in it to the Dalles and leaving it there out
of reach of my partners? Arrived at La Porte,
my conscience was relieved of temptation, for H.,
who did not own any share in it, had already taken
it down the river.
The problem now was how to make my way to
civilisation. As there was no boat within reach
I loafed a day or two, waiting for things to turn
up, one afternoon walking up the shore to the
Dalles des Morts, where, according to the story,
a party of sixteen Hudson Bay men, on their way
down from Boat Encampment, ran on a rock and
met their death. It was a rough piece of water,
but not so bad as the Dalles near Revelstoke.
While waiting two young men came up from
below7 and had an odd experience. They had
driven their horses across Downie Creek and were
rafting their stuff over, reaching the north side
safely; but there the current was too strong and
swept the raft, with all their grub and outfit, into
72 The Big Bend Goldfield
the Columbia, leaving them bare of everything
except their clothes. They managed to cross the
creek, and ran some miles down the Columbia,
where they were lucky enough to find raft and
cargo revolving in an eddy.
^y^ 1 «
After three days' waiting I was rescued by a
Mr. Barrett, who came from the gold region with
ponies on his way to Revelstoke, and was very
willing to have a partner. We built a raft at La
Porte, swam the horses across Downie Creek, and
then rafted down the river beyond the mouth of
the creek, landing comfortably beside the trail.
Mounted on Bony, one of the pack ponies, and
riding on a pack-saddle covered with my blanket,
and with jury stirrups of rope, I brought up the
rear, while Barrett led the way, now greatly improved by the work of a party of trail-cutters,
who had bridged the smaller creeks and cut away
the bushes. The rain still continued, making travel
very dreary, especially as we had no tent and slept
under a tree or a blanket during the two nights
of the journey. The third evening saw us still
some miles from the city, but we pushed on in the
darkness. Bony, whose nature suited his name,
was now used up and had to be dragged along;
mounting him to cross a creek, he fell, and I had
to scramble off in the mud and help him out.   The
74 Return to the Railway
trail 'was simply the wettest and muddiest of the
openings between the trees, and had to be felt for
with the feet, except where a glimmer from the
sky was reflected in the pools ; and, to add to the
weirdness of the night, rotten wood gleamed up
here and there with an unearthly phosphorescence.
We were glad enough to come out of the woods
and see the lights of the log city. It had struck
me as God-forsaken and repulsive when I arrived
from the east j but now it looked quite dazzling
and cheerful to come out of the rain into the office
of the hotel, which was also the sitting-room and
bar-room ; and one did not at all resent the good-
humoured inquiry, spiced with a dash of profanity,
whether we had " struck it rich."
Hanson's had made great strides in the month
past, for instead of climbing up to bunk with all
the rest of the lodgers in the big chamber above,
I was actually given a whole room of my own.
A " lean-to " of whip-sawn cedar had been put
along one side of the house and divided intp a
dozen little chambers. You could see your neighbour's candlelight through the cracks between the
boards, but otherwise you enjoyed strict privacy.
It is true there was only one basin and one towel
for all in the narrow alley-way, but one should not
be too exacting.
There was no woman connected with the establishment, for Hanson prided himself on the
respectability of the house; and the staff consisted of strapping young Swedes and Finlanders,
except  Hermann the  chamberman,  who  brought The Canadian Rockies
buckets of water from the river. He was a refined,
almost aristocratic-looking German, who confided
in me as one who spoke his language. His life
here would soon be over. When he was fifty he
should go back to Germany and take refuge in
a Stiftung provided for needy gentlemen of his
Settling my account in the morning, the bank
bills in my pocket-book were mouldy, after ten
days in clothes that had never been dry.
The journey back to the end of the 'advancing
railway was uneventful, except that I travelled in
great state with Mr. Lukes, the paymaster of the
railway, who carried with him a good many thousands of dollars for the monthly payments to contractors. His cavalcade was armed, and included
a mounted policeman with carbine slung over his
shoulder ; but, in reality, life and property were
nearly as safe there in the mountains, in an unwashed crowd of all nationalities, as at home in
the settled east* The pair of mounted policemen
posted here and there along the right-of-way
seemed mostly concerned in keeping whisky
beyond the ten-mile limit.
The excursion to the Big Bend had not been
wholly a success ; rain and all kinds of delays had
sadly cut down the time available for a real study
of the mountains, such as I had planned; but
from one of the passes ravishing glimpses of sunny
and shadowy mountains in the distance had opened
up when the veil of clouds parted, each vision
differing from the others as if a totally new land-
76 Return to the Railway
scape was revealed by the passing mists. On the
whole, the high mountains of the northern Selkirks
remained a tantalising mystery, however.
The old placer mining region furnished a
strangely interesting study from the geological as
well as the human side.
Many thousands of feet of the ancient green
schists, with their gold-bearing quartz veins, must
have been destroyed by frost and glaciers and
rivers, the heavy gold settling down among the
quartz pebbles and being caught by the " riffles,"
where jagged edges of schist rose in the bed of
the creeks. The whole was hidden under the heavy
growth of British Columbian valleys, until the
hordes of miners had harvested the richest of the
Californian placers, and in the early sixties began
to swarm north-west over Oregon and Washington,
overflowing along the Columbia and Eraser valleys
into British Columbia. It was a strange army of
thousands, recruited from the sturdiest men of all
nations, that invaded these peaceful valleys clothed
with ancient forests. Now, in the days of railways
and steamboats, it is not easy to imagine the hardships of that advance into a hostile wilderness, the
toil through cedar swamps and devil's clubs, or
over the rocks or snowfields, with heavy packs on
the back of man and beast; or the slavish tracking
of heavy dugouts or bateaux against stiff currents,
with here and there a wild rapid.
When the right valley was reached, and the pan
filled with dirt dug from bedrock showed a long
string of colours after washing, a detachment of
77 The Canadian Rockies
the army set to work in a frenzy, cutting trees,
building cabins, sawing out boards for sluices ; and
then the real attack began with pick, shovel, and
barrow, tearing the valley to pieces, washing down
the mud into the river, piling up the boulders in
hills, elbowing the creek out of its bed and carrying
it miles in ditches and flumes so that the hoards
hidden in the lowest points might be ransacked.
A town sprang up in a month where no one but
an Indian hunter had ever appeared before, and
for a season or two everything throbbed with fierce
life—miners and their parasites, the whisky-sellers
and gamblers and vile women, all plying their
trades, some growing rich, others going dead
broke. Then, almost suddenly, the placer was
worked out. The hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars' worth of gold, sorted and sifted,
and hidden by the creek during geological ages,
had been looted and carried off, and the town was
deserted. For a year or two more a few Chinamen,
warned off while the diggings were rich, made
wages from lower-grade gravels; and then fire
destroyed the cabins, and the valley sank back
into wilderness again, and berry-bushes and saplings began to hide the old sluices and rock dumps,
though here and there black water reflected the sky
at the bottom of the shaft, or crumbling timbers
stood at the gaping mouth of a tunnel. The creek
had slipped back into its old channel, and furtively
began again its work of sifting and sorting and
hoarding. The bad dream is over, and peace has
come back to the valley.
A high mountain is always seductive, but a mountain with a mystery is doubly so. No one will
wonder, therefore, that when I studied the atlas
and saw (Mount Brown and Mount Hooker, the
highest points in the Rockies, standing one on each
side of Athabasca Pass, I longed to visit them.
They were said to be fifteen or sixteen thousand*
feet high, and Reclus even put Mount Hooker at
5,180 metres (16,990 feet). No one seemed to
know who had measured these peaks, the highest
between Mexico and Alaska, though it was reported
that the botanist Douglas, who crossed the pass in
1872, had given them their names.
The pass, after its discovery by Thompson in
1810, had been used by hundreds of voyageurs of
the North-West and Hudson Bay C6mpanies. One
can imagine the hardy fellows toiling up four thousand feet over the fearful trail from Boat Enearnp-
79 The Canadian Rockies
I ill
ment on the Columbia, and flinging down their
90-lb. packs of beaver skins with a 'huge grunt of
relief at the Committee's Punchbowl. While they
straightened their backs they must surely have
taken a look at these giants to the north and south,
and yet no one had ever mentioned them. The
artist Paul Kane crossed the pass in 1846 and
did not sketch the mountains. Much later the
Canadian Pacific Railway engineers, looking over
the passes for an easy route to the ocean, had
^traversed the same trail and had been equally ,silent
as to lofty mountains. Could there be any mistake
as to their height ?
My eyes turned to them irresistibly whenever I
looked at the map, and my mind was soon made
up to visit and, if possible, climb them.
In order to get there one had, it appeared, only
to canoe seventy miles down the Columbia from
Beavermouth on the railway, and then follow the
old portage trail up Wood River to the pass at the
foot of Mount Hooker. Many of the goldminers
navigated this part of the Columbia twenty-five
years before on their way to the Big Bend placers,
and there should be no insuperable difficulty for
a practised canoeman like myself, so the route was
decided upon.
Frank Stover, whom I persuaded to join me,
had excellent reasons for going. He had never
paddled a canoe, nor climbed a mountain, nor shot
a grizzly, and earnestly desired to do these things.
About noon, on July 10, 1888, Frank and I
stood by the Columbia, at the little lumber town
If In Search of High Mountains
of Beavermouth, loading our blankets and supplies
in a light Peterboro' canoe, which tugged at its
painter in an eddy behind an overturned tree.
I Old Uncle " and the brown-eyed French
Canadian station-master had come down in their
shirt-sleeves to see us off. Hitherto we had met
no one who knew more of the Columbia than I
did myself, but Old Uncle had been down fifty
miles to Lake Kimbasket, and warned us that halfway down we should meet Surprise Rapids, which
we should on no account run ; and below the lake,
he had heard, there was an eighteen-mile canyon
that only one man had come through alive, which
did not seem entirely encouraging. I knew of the
canyon, but thought we might turn off before
reaching it. Meantime our traps were in the canoe,
with Frank in the bow ; and as I stepped into the
stern and pushed off into the current, Old Uncle's
parting words were, " Well, solong, boys ! I wish
ye may come back safe ; but I wouldn't resk my
life in that boat. She's too low. She'll fill before
she gets into a rapid."
The swift current soon swept us round a bend
out of sight of Old Uncle, and the station-master,
and the yellow piles of lumber and all the other
ugly bits of civilisation belonging to Beavermouth.
That afternoon was one of enchantment. A
great river was swiftly taking us out of man's disfigured world, where axe and fire had done their
wicked work, into the mysterious world of mountains. When the river hurried round a rocky point,
or a heap of weathered driftwood, we hurried,
81 f The Canadian Rockies
§ .
too, and when it slackened its pace, in wide expansions reflecting woods and mountains, we
loitered with it.
At one or two points the river split into several
channels, running between avenues of great trees I
and there we kept the centre of the widest channel.
On the left we had the Selkirks, and on the right
the Rockies—two splendid ranges, with forest
slopes, precipices, and snowy summits close at
hand, or valleys opening into blue and white
When the shadow of the Selkirks began to rise
on the rosy western side of the Rocky Mountains,
we camped on a low sandy island more than twenty
miles down the river; and here we were very
warmly received by the inhabitants, an unusually
venomous tribe of mosquitoes. The building.™
the fire, and cutting of poles and putting up of the
tent, 'had to be carried on, like the building of
the wall of Jerusalem, with one hand for work
and the other for defence.
The fire gave some relief, though the Columbian
Imosquito can stand almost as much smoke as a
man. Then came the baking of bannocks, when
flour had to be poured into the pan, stirred with
salt, baking-powder, and water, and mixed into
dough. With fingers in the slimy paste I could not
defend myself, and was severely punished. How
many mosquitoes were worked into those bannocks
I neglected to tell Frank, who was cutting spruce-
boughs for the bed. As usual the first time, the
bannocks did not rise properly;   and when Frank In Search of High Mountains
was called to supper, his hands smelling of the
resinous spruce, he looked somewhat doubtfully at
the two round, ashy cakes, the two tin plates, the
tin cups, tin spoons and forks, and crisp, brown
bacon, which ought to have been parboiled to take
out the salt. He was as hungry as the mosquitoes
that fed upon him, but ate very little supper. His
heart must have sunk at the prospect of such
provender for the next two months, but he was
gentleman enough even to praise the bread,
and to express his wonder at my ability as
a cook.
In a few days he had learned to cook on his
own account, ate as much pork and bannock as
I did, praised them honestly, and drank his brown,
creamless tea with no wry faces.
Next morning a brisk paddle rid us of our
Enemies, and our spirits rose. Old Uncle's
warnings were absurd, and our expedition looked
very prosperous. Then we began to hear a faint
roar in the distance, and I noticed that the mountains crowded together a mile or two ahead in a
way that was ominous. The roar grew louder,
and the river took on those upboilings and lines
of tension that forebode trouble—yet we could see
no danger ahead. All at once the trees parted to
the left, disclosing a downward swoop of water
between walls of schist, and beyond this spouts
of foam. It was Surprise Rapids. How long
would it take us to portage past them ? Old Uncle,
on his voyage years ago, had " carried " on the
right bank, so we landed at an eddy on the side
83 The Canadian Rockies
of the river towards the Rocky Mountains and
looked for a portage path.
We found only a fearful tangle of rocks an,d
fallen trees, with no hint of a trail. Scrambling
along the cliffs, an hour of hard work took us
beyond the first plunge of the rapids, but as far
as we could see down-stream there were flashes of
white water, and the river for miles below was
too rough for our little canoe.
It was evident that we should not make our
portage on that side without a tremendous amount
of hard work in chopping a trail. The path must
surely be on the other side.
We turned back to our canoe with no loss of
time, scourged by clouds of black flies and mosquitoes that left us bleeding, and made our second
camp at the head of the rapids. Starting a big
smudge to keep off our tormentors, we put up the
tent, and at length had a few cubic yards of air
free from humming wings and poisonous stings,
where we could rest in peace and see a little of
the world through the cheese-cloth curtain that
closed the front. It was evident that our
expedition was to be no holiday trip.
Cooking by the camp fire, two great dragon-flies
cruised about us with whirring sounds, snapping
up mosquitoes on the wing close to our faces.
May their shadows never be less !
Next day we tried the south-western side of the
river, and were overjoyed to find a blazed trail
leading down-stream, hard to follow, since the scars
left by the axe years ago had weathered grey, but
84 In Search of High Mountains
still something to pick up here and there so as to
keep the proper direction. There was very little
in the way of a foot-worn path, and the dim blazes
were not easy to distinguish in the dappled sunlight of the woods, so that we kept losing the
way. Here and there a sapling had been slashed,
but no logs were cut, and great fallen trees bent
the trail away out of its course.
At one point the trail seemed to vanish altogether
for a time, but after half an hour's skirmishing
we found that it followed some rough-barked logs ;
then, plunging into a ravine, the trail crossed the
creek at the bottom, first on a big fallen spruce,
then stepped over to another one swung high over
the water, then turned at an angle along a great
Cottonwood, and ended by balancing on a slender
trunk swaying like a spring-board over a bed of
devil's clubs lying in wait for any one whose foot
It was a perfectly reckless trail, thrusting its
way under close-set alders and the shades of cedar
swamps, where one's foot sank into the muck
hidden by ferns and horsetails and giant skunk
cabbage, then out into the glaring sun along labyrinths of fallen logs in a windfall. At last it ended
on a steep slope down to the river, where a curve
of beach, swept by wind and spray, just below
the main falls, gave a blessed relief from the
diabolical flies and mosquitoes. This path was
most romantic, but did not promise well for our
purpose of portaging the canoe and heavy packs.
It ended below the heaviest fall, but from higher  CHAPTER   X
Our nearest neighbour among the Selkirks was
a triple-crowned peak, which could be reached by
following up the creek in the ravine.
We took with us each a blanket and food for
a day, while Frank had his rifle in addition. We
were not in training, and it was Frank's first mountain, so that our ascent was broken by many halts,
when we puffed and perspired and fought
mosquitoes  till our  breath returned.
We followed the south bank of the stream
through jungles of scotch-caps and bracken on
the burnt ground, then through horrible tangles
of alders, ferns, and devil's clubs higher than our
heads, where every yard meant a struggle and every
stumble meant a handful of prickles from the clubs.
It was mournfully enlightening to Frank, whose
rifle nearly doubled the difficulty among the bushes.
A dark grey " fool hen" sat invitingly on a
spruce-branch in the ravine close by us,
but there were only ball cartridges, and,
trembling with the hard scramble, Frank's
ball   missed   its   head.     Great   was   his   surprise
87 The Canadian Rockies
to see the fowl still sitting on the branch,
cocking its head from side to side, intensely
interested in the aim he was taking for another
shot. A second report, and the plump bird dropped
to the ground, and Frank averred that a hen in
the barnyard would have been a more difficult
Six hours after our start we made a camp somewhat below timber-line, four thousand feet above
the river, not bad work considering the going.
There was dry wood at hand and a heathery knoll
for our bed, while a snow-bank melting in thef
sunshine just above provided a water supply. The
mosquitoes were now losing heart, and when wel
started again, after a lunch, for a final climb to
the summit the cool breeze swept the last of them
away, a relief quite worth the climb.
The devil's clubs had been left behind some
time ago ; the woods had been thinning and the
trees growing more stunted, till now, at 6,700 feet,
they had dwindled to bushes. We had dropped
our loads and were climbing over flowery slopes,
where the plants were just bursting into bloom in
their sudden summer, following the moist edge of
the melting snowfields. Bumble-bees tumbled over
the crowded blossoms in a regular intoxication, a
humming-bird poised itself over the flowers, little
gophers squeaked and stood upright beside their
holes, or plunged terrified into them as we made
our way up with feet sinking into the turf. A
few belts of dwarfed and twisted spruce-bushes,
with trunks a foot through, leaned against the steep
88   Surprise Mount
slope, and tracks and other signs ^showed that
mountain goats had sheltered behind them.
Then came snowfields, slushy in the sun, and
some stiff rock-climbing, and we found ourselves
on a rugged point of rocks on top of the mountain,
8,400 feet above the sea and more than six
thousand feet  above our tent  by the river.
Nothing more inspiring can be imagined than
the view from the top, and Frank, exhausted as
he was with the long climb, was overwhelmed by
it and declared that our half-hour there was worth
all the labour. It rather sobered him to think
that Mount Hooker was perhaps twice as high
and would need more than twice the climbing.
On the side we had climbed the slope had been
steep enough, but to the west the ridge dropped
off suddenly in precipices, and in the valley below
we could see a torrent draining two glaciers, one
of them descending with splendid seracs over two
falls and ending a thousand feet beneath us.
Beyond this valley to the south-west the main range
rose two thousand or three thousand feet above
us, including, no doubt, the highest peak known in
the Selkirks, Mount Sir Sandford, triangulated from
near the railway some years later by Mr. A. O.
Wheeler and found to reach   11,634 feet.
It was a splendid array of snowy peaks, still
largely unknown, though the immediate neighbourhood of Sir Sandford has recently been mapped
by Mr. Howard Palmer.1
Three years before I had caught tantalising
1 Geographical Journal, vol. xxxvii., No. 2, February, 1911. The Canadian Rockies
glimpses of the same group of mountains from
near French Creek, twenty miles to the westwards,
but stormy weather prevented any clear view.
However, we were more interested in what lay
beneath us in the Columbia Valley, where the river
ran as a pale blue ribbon sweeping between
blackish, evergreen forest and the richer greens of
burnt tracts and poplar-trees. The rapids were,
perhaps, four miles away, and more than a mile
below us, showing as white stretches interrupting^
the turquoise ribbon, while brownish and grey
cliffs and promontories rose between the flood and
the forest. Away below the falls and rapids we
had seen in our scrambles along shore there were
patches of white, the danger colour, for fully five
miles, foreboding serious difficulties for our small
The valley was an admirable and strikingly tinted
map for us to study, and all the crooks and turns
of the river lay plain before us, outlined by forest,^!
rock, and curves of sand, while many new features
showed themselves. Lagoons and tributary rivers
broke the forest here and there, and exquisitely
coloured lakes lay among groves  and marshes.
Beyond the Columbia Valley rose the great host
of the Rocky Mountains, lighted by the evening
sun, sweeping for more than a hundred miles from
north-west to south-east, a simply glorious sight
never   quite   equalled  in   earlier   or  later   climbs.
There was every tone of vibrant  colour,  from
the pale white and blue of far peaks at the horizon
to the purplish black forest slopes a few miles
90 Surprise Mount
away across the river. There must have been more
than a hundred large or small snowfields and
glaciers in view in the tremendous panorama.
Even the outlook from the Spillimacheen ridge
four years earlier and fifty miles farther south could
not compare with it.
We looked with special eagerness away to the
north, beyond the gleam of Lake Kimbasket, where
a great pale mass, faint as a cloud, but with
delicately exact outlines, lifted itself above the long
valley and nearer mountains. Could it be Mount
Brown, sixty or seventy miles away? Nearer and
more to the east stood another giant that might
be Mount Hooker. There stretched the promised
land, but what lay between?
Opposite us in the Rockies a fine group of three
peaks rose probably three thousand feet above us.
Was the highest point the Mount Sullivan shown
on our map? Far to the south-west we could follow
the Columbia and the Rockies beyond it toward the
Kicking Horse valley, but the lumber piles and
smoke of Beavermouth were hidden by nearer
peaks of the Selkirks.
The chill of evening warned us to get down to
our camp at timber line. We had reached the top
at 5.30, and now the sun was setting.
Our heather bed was none too dry, and chill
airs swept down to us from the snowfield above,
so that we had to supplement our two pairs of
blankets with a good fire, and even then saw more
of the steely stars in a black sky than was desirable.
The sunrise found us both wide awake and ready The Canadian Rockies
to make a stir over the fire to get breakfast. Then
we parted, Frank to look for goats, and I to
climb a lower point of our ridge to make sketches
of the mountains. A striped gopher not much
larger than a mouse came out of his hole, whistling
softly, and climbed a bush a few feet away to watch
me better. These little animals, and several larger
kinds, especially the siffleur or marmot, whose shrill
whistle startles you into looking round for the man
calling his dog, do a very important work in the
mountains, burrowing and shifting the soil downwards year after year. Two kinds of small birds
flitted over the heather, and it gave one quite a
shock to see them calmly launch out over the
tremendous precipices to the west.
Frank found no goats, though there were fresh
tracks, and brought back only a ptarmigan, which
was delicious roasted before the fire.
After lunch we began the descent. In our
struggle upwards the day before we agreed that
nothing could be worse than our route along the
south side of the creek ; so we took our way down
on the north side. To our dismay the north bank
proved far worse than the south ; but the snow-
fed mountain torrent was too much flooded to cross
to the other side.
In the higher levels our feet were tangled in
the rhododendron, now covered with pale pinkish
flowers, and lower down we plunged and stumbled
through thickets of alder and devil's clubs, all the
time harried by increasing clouds of mosquitoes.
On a burnt stretch near the foot of the mountain
92 Surprise Mount
we escaped from the jungle and Frank was roused
from his weariness by the sight of large hoof marks,
probably of caribou.
It was seven o'clock in the evening before we
had crossed the bridge of fallen logs and reached
our canoe by the river.
We were ready for a day or two of rest, and
moved our camp, canoe and all, down the
adventurous trail south of the river to the curve
of beach below the falls. Portaging the canoe,,
balanced on our shoulders, along the fallen trees
proved ticklish work ; but, as a reward, we escaped
the mosquitoes in the spray-cooled breeze beside
the falls ; and from this point we could more easily,
work out a trail past the five miles of rapids which
we had seen from Surprise Mount.
A heap of bleached driftwood lay at the head of
the beach, battered trees, and saw-logs, and bits of
lumber with ends rounded by pounding against the
rocks ; and one or two slender trunks had their
butts fixed among the timbers so that the long
taper ends writhed and struggled in the rapids.
Now and then fresh logs came racing down, diving
into the pool at the foot of the falls and coming
up to revolve stupidly with a dozen others in the
eddy, before making up their mind to go on dofwn-
This eddy was our water supply, and it kepft
ebbing and flowing with a vague rhythm that made
the filling of a bucket or the washing of one's
face an exciting occupation.
The roar of the falls filled the air, and at night
BEFORE long we had thoroughly explored the shore
below the falls, and found that our trail presently
turned off into the woods and disappeared. It was
evidently made by some trapper, perhaps Old
Uncle, for here and there along it there were deadfalls . To cut a trail past the five miles of dangerous
water, through thickets and cedar swamps and over
the steep sides of cliffs and ravines, would mean
heavy chopping and much time ; so we reluctantly
turned once more to the north-east side pf the
Columbia, searching for the well-travelled road
made during the Big Bend gold excitement.
Once more we pushed inland from the head
of Surprise Rapids, this time making our way up
the Rocky Mountain side of the valley. Finding
no trail, we followed the usual plan of climbing
a mountain, the nearest outlier of the Rockies,
which proved much easier of ascent than Surprise
Mount, partly because the woods were open,
without the lower forest of clubs and ferns and
alders, and partly because its summit was only
7,750 feet above the sea.
95 The Canadian Rockies
It was surprising to find timber-line at 7,300
feet, about 600 feet above the limit in the Selkirks.
It seemed, in fact, as if the climate was different
and decidedly drier than eight miles to the west
across the valley. Probably the lower tree-line
in the Selkirks comes from the heavier snowfall
as compared with the Rockies.
This excursion was delightful in more ways than
one, for the climbing was good, mosquitoes were
few, and near the top we enjoyed the full sweep
of the Selkirk Mountains. Now and then the roar
of the rapids came to us faintly through miles of
air, like an echo from home, but our tent was out
of sight behind trees.
From the summit we, looked north-eastward
straight across a narrow valley to the snows and
precipices of the fine three-topped mountain which
we had travelled towards all the way from Beavermouth, and which we had judged to be Mount
Sullivan when seen from Surprise Mount. On
Dr. Collie's late map, however, the nearest peak
is called Stephen's Range, and the Sullivan of the
old maps has disappeared. We estimated the height
of the mountain at four thousand feet above our
Lookout Point, say eleven thousand or twelve
thousand feet.
Our neighbour cut off from view all the
mountains to the north and north-east, so that
neither of the peaks we had thought to be Brown
and Hooker were to be seen ; and it may be added
that we never saw them again.
Our way down from Lookout Point was as easy
96 Lookout Point
as that from Surprise Mount had been hard.
Striding down through open bushes, we were soon
beside the rapids ; but we failed to find the pony
trail we had hoped for, since much of the ground
had been burnt over. Near the river, however,
we made a curious discovery just below the
heaviest fall. Half buried in the bushes a large
canvas tent lay rotting, and beside it were pack-
saddles, a costly-looking kitchen range, a marble-
topped washstand, and not far off a portentous
heap of empty bottles. These strange relics lying
twenty-five miles from the nearest inhabited house
must have meant disaster to some outfit on the
way to the French creek placers a quarter of a
century before. The empty bottles may have had
something to do with the untoward end of the
Not far off, in a small clearing grown up with
bushes, we found the trapper's little shack, with
moss and grasses sprouting from the roof troughs
and the door hanging by one leather hinge. Inside
were his old clothes, his battered tin cup and pail,
and his bed of withered twigs, all mouldy and
pathetic in decay; and on our way back to camp
we speculated as to his lonely snowshoe tramps
along the lines of traps. Were there any thoughts
in his mind beyond the price of mink and martin
and otter ? For romantic seclusion and beauty of
prospect his nook in the forest should have satisfied
a poet. The rustlings and sighings and half-audible
dirges  of the pines and spruces behind blended
well with the lapping of the great eddy on mossy
97 g The Canadian Rockies
stones and tawny sands in front of the clearing,
and the distant roar of the falls ; while the snowy
top of Surprise Mount with its glacier-filled cirques
rose just across the river.
Your misanthrope should turn trapper.   No other
mortal so effectively renounces man and his works.;;
He need not confront a human face for months,
as long as the flour holds out in the sack and therer
is a plug of tobacco on the shelf.
One wonders if the lovely final owners of the
furs ever think of their first owners' wild life in,
the forest twilight, or their fierce struggles and
lingering death when the steel jaws have seized
them, or of the silent man trudging noiselessly
through the snowy woods while the winter days
shorten and then lengthen again.
Frank and I looked out for big game whenever
we came to brutes or snowslide tracks, where the
splendid Rocky Mountain blueberries grow thickly.
As we helped ourselves to the fruit with one hand
and fought mosquitoes with the other, we always
expected to see a grizzly, rise to dispute our claim
to the harvest, but he never did this when I was
on hand. Once, however, as Erank was helping
himself in a berry patch, a burly fellow lifted
himself to have a look at the intruder, and Erank
affirms that his head was as big as his own waistcoat ; but the bear made off heavily through the
bush before the rifle could be unslung. The bear's
taste in fruit is not of the best from the human
standpoint. He prefers the nauseating sweet and
bitter snake berries to the delicious blue berries Lookout Point
or scotch-caps or saskatoons ; however, de gustibus
non disputandum.
Bear tracks and their scratching places six or
eight feet up on the trees are very common along
the Columbia, so that the bear population must be
large. Of small game we secured marmots and
squirrels, fool-hens and ptarmigan, the fowl excellent eating under all circumstances, the mammals
endurable after a steady diet of bacon which has
been exposed too long to the summer's sun.
Our explorations had finally convinced us that it
would be unsafe to run any part of the rapids with
our small canoe, and that to portage the canoe and
outfit for five miles or more to quieter water would
mean days of hard chopping in working out a trail,
which at best would be very hilly and difficult.
We concluded to set out on foot for Mount Hooker,
fifty miles away, with 40-lb. packs of provisions
and blankets, and with a little shelter tent for camping. The rest of our outfit we left in the large
tent at the head of the rapids, and began our walk
on the north-east shore, the side toward the Rocky
Frank was not feeling well, though he would not
put off the journey; but the heat was intense in
the woods as we followed the trapper's vague trail,
and before long it was evident that he could go
no farther. We had passed the roar of the main
fall when we sat down on a log to consider the
situation, and then temptation overcame us. Why
not go down to the beach, build a strong raft, and
run swiftly and without labour down to Lake Kim- Running Surprise Rapids
basket? This plan had already been considered
and rejected as too dangerous ; but Frank's indisposition now turned the scale in its favour, and we
went down the oozy bed of an alder-shaded creek
to the riverside, taking a drink on the way from
the bark sprout placed there by the trapper for the
convenience of passers.
We were soon at the right spot, where an eddy
had piled up a great heap of driftwood during the
time of high-water. Below the eddy a bold
promontory of rock forced the river to a sudden
bend, and from its top the rapids appeared passable
for a well-built raft.
Here was our shipyard with timber right at hand
in the driftwood stacked up by the eddy ; so our
packs were soon lying on the upturned edges of the
schist, the axe was unfastened, and we set to work
chopping square timbers to the proper length.
There were planks among the spoils to use as cross-
pieces, and in* some run-away boom logs from up
river there were iron spikes, which we chopped
out for later use. Unpleasantly suggestive were
some thin painted boards from a wrecked boat,
which we laid down as a floor to the raft.
With much hammering of spikes that kept the
echoes busy, the timbers and planks were fastened
together, and then the glacier rope was tied round
each end of the raft to make things doubly secure.
With some heaving and prying the raft, already
half in the water, was launched in the eddy and
fastened with one end of the rope, while we got
dinner with the chips lying about.    When dinner The Canadian Rockies
was over each shaped a paddle and prepared a
pole to suit himself, and finally the packs were made
up carefully in their bags and wrapped in a waterproof to keep them dry if seas washed over. A
strap was tied round them and made fast to the
raft, and all was ready.
We made no haste in paddling across the eddy,
for who knew what was beyond? Presently the
Current caught us and we were swept past the
point on to the main stream, and I should have
given much at that moment to go back, but it
was too late.
The waves began to drive over our knees, and
we paddled desperately to keep clear of a sharp
island of rock ahead. From the top of the
promontory we had thought the waves were not too
much for rafting, but here at the level of the water
they seemed mountains high, and we began to
wonder if we should get through alive.
It was nonsense to paddle any more, for our
raft was revolving end for end, and then a great
billow fell upon us sideways and the raft overturned. There was a moment under water, snatched
and tugged at by unseen fingers while I clung to
the binding rope, and then I dragged myself upon
the upturned bottom of the raft and saw Frank
just scrambling up at the opposite end. I remembered that he could not swim and shouted to him
to hold on for his life—as if he would not do that
in any case !
We had missed the island, and were now far
past it in the very centre of the current, the raft
102   Running Surprise Rapids
plunging and revolving, while we shifted constantly
to face the danger. One pitch followed another,
the waves half smothering us from time to time.
And now, right ahead, was the worst point of all:
what the Ottawa raftsmen call a " cellar," where
the water sinks down in front of a ledge of rock
and flings itself back as a towering wave. A strange
sensation of sinking into the depths was followed
by a deluge of water leaping and trampling upon
us, and then the raft struck heavily and was nearly
dragged from under us. Was it going to pieces?
Next moment we were above water again, half
strangled but alive, and we supposed that the packs
underneath the raft had struck and been torn from
their fastenings.
The most violent part of the rapids was over,
but we were flying straight for a jagged projecting
rock at a sharp bend of the river. If we struck,
the raft might go to pieces; so I braced myself
and prepared to fend off with a pole that had
caught in the binding rope. The pole was
wrenched aside, nearly pushing me overboard, and
we shot round the bend like a projectile, just
grazing the rock.
The current now moderated, and, paddling with
the pole, we gradually drew to the right shore,
the one on which our canoe was left above the
lipids. Frank caught an overhanging bough and
we were soon moored to a stump at the foot of a
steep-cut bank, none too soon, for the Columbia is
largely snow-water and we were shuddering with
the cold.
103 I ill
The Canadian Rockies
Transport by raft had certainly saved some time,
for we had come down at least four miles in fifteen
or twenty minutes ; but, on the other hand, we
had not been able to admire the fine scenery of
the canyon on the way, and we had lost everything we possessed except our dripping clothes.
Still, there was a certain thrill of pleasure and
pride in having done it, though we did not want
to repeat the exploit. Presently as we stood there,
I on the raft and Frank perched on the stump, a
disagreeable feeling came over us that without
blankets, rifle, frying-pan, or axe life would be
shorn of its comforts; however, our rashness
deserved a fine, for we had foreseen the danger
to some extent before starting.
The romance of the situation had vanished and
we began to think of scrambling up the steep bank
when Frank caught sight of something black swaying in the water under the raft. There were the
packs still enclosed in the waterproof, barely held
at one end by the strap ! We blessed the honest
leather of that ancient shawl-strap and no longer
felt like shipwrecked mariners on a desert island.
Our water-soaked bags weighed a ton, and could
hardly be dragged up on the steep shore beside
the stump. The blankets and other soaked
garments were drawn out and wrung before
climbing the bank, which rose about seventy feet
above the river, and in successive journeys all was
carried up and spread out on rocks and bushes to
dry in the afternoon sun. It was our most extensive washing day and was no doubt useful.
104 Running Surprise Rapids
Rummaging in the dunnage-bags disclosed the
welcome fact that very little damage had been done,
though the sacks of sugar and salt, of course, were
half dissolved and proved very troublesome to dry
and as hard as bricks when dry; while the can
of baking-powder had exploded and filled the bag
it was in with foam. The matches, put inside the
blankets for safety, were so slimy that I was for
throwing them away, but Frank spread them in
the sun and actually coaxed one to light with a
lens as burning glass. Soon a splendid fire was
roaring while our clothes and blankets steamed
on poles about it.
Before night everything was dry, and when we
had fried bacon and made tea to accompany the
sodden bannocks for supper we agreed that life
was decidedly worth living. By the time our little
shelter tent was pitched we were glad to crawl
into the blanket bags, for which there was just
room and no more under the low roof of cotton.
We felt quite happy and heroic, but it was hard to
get to sleep, and we chatted over the events of
the day. If the raft had gone to pieces, it would
have been a first-class mystery. What would have
been Old Uncle's speculations when he came down
the river for his winter's trapping and found our
deserted tent and canoe above the rapids ? and
how long would it have been before our friends
missed us and sent out a search expedition? At
last sleep came and the day was done.
Morning found us sore in body and dejected in
mind, and we wondered at our lack of sense in
J05 The Canadian Rockies
running the rapids. We had risked our lives and
gained nothing at all, for we should have to go
back to camp for baking-powder if nothing else.
Would it not be better to give up our wild-goose
chase, do some climbing! near by, and return to
However, one hates to turn back before every
effort has been made to reach one's object; so
we tramped through the heat to the head of the
rapids to get the needful stores, stopping a few
minutes on the cliff opposite the island of rock
to gaze on the scene of our upset, and by night
were once more at our " Shipwreck Camp." A
little before reaching it we were overjoyed to find
an old pack trail, a mere hollow beaten by the
feet of mules a quarter of a century before, and
now grown up with bushes, but a great bit of
luck, for it probably meant a good road to the old
mining camps at Big Bend.
If we could find the still older trail used by
the voyageurs in portaging their furs from Boat
Encampment to Athabasca Pass, we might camp
at the foot of Mount Brown within a week, for
it could not be more than sixty miles away. Our
spirits rose as we went to bed, but sank again
when we woke in the morning to find it raining
hard and our blankets wet against the low cotton
walls of the tent. The mountain slope outside
was half in solution, so we crouched disconsolately
in the little tent, just high enough to sit up beneath
the ridge-pole, and prayed for a change of weather.
Soon after sunrise on the following morning the
damp tent was folded and we followed the Big
Bend trail, tramped by so many feet before, and
were presently as wet from the bushes as we had
been in the rapids ; but that did not matter, for
the hot sun dried us and the rest of the world in
an hour or two. The trail began attractively, but
lost itself before long in an old brule, grown up
to a thicket so matted together that we had to
part the saplings with our hands ; and for some
hours we groped our way through a world made
up only of fallen logs, little spruces, and sky. I
wished heartily that we had gone on with the raft,
but Frank had acquired a distaste for rafting.
Then came relief, where a recent fire had
devoured the second growth as well as the old
timber; and here we were surprised to see the
forest still burning higher up on the mountainside, fire leaping from tree to tree and flaring up
in pointed flames, roaring so that we could hear it
half a mile away, then sinking to wavering
columns of smoke. What had started the fire,
and why had the rain not put it out?
107 The Canadian Rockies
This last fire had not only cleared our way,
but had licked up the trail itself, so that once lost
it was hopeless to look for it, and we struck across
to the green timber which had escaped in the lower
ground. Soon we were treading softly on the
mossy path under great spruces and cedars, cheerful, but quite shut away from the world ; but then
the trail dipped to still lower ground along the
river, swampy in the wetter parts, and full of giant
ferns and devil's clubs, where we scrambled over
or struggled round monster fallen cedars that rose
above the mucky soil like ramparts.
Before evening we were out of the cedar swamp
and halted by the river at the foot of a mountain
of limestone, out of which gushed a full-fledged
stream of the clearest water, fed by an underground channel from some distant valley. Its
freedom lasted a hundred yards, and then it was
lost in the turbid Columbia.
It was a charming camp ground with a beautiful
view of the Selkirks opposite, and lulling sounds
rose from the brook and river, while a squirrel
and a chipmunk were merry and saucy neighbours ;
but here misfortune overtook Frank, who became
too unwell to travel and lay feverish and in pain
under the wretched little tent, wet with frequent
showers. He made no complaint, but must have
pondered as to ways and means of reaching
civilisation if he should grow worse.
On the third morning;, however, he felt in good
trim again, and once more we followed the whims
and fancies of the reckless trail, this time push-
108 The Big Bend Trail
ing over higher ground burnt almost bare, where,
strangely enough for the Columbia Valley, we
found no water until dusk in the evening. Then
the trail entered a bit of heavy timber and plunged
down a ravine dark as a cavern, where a crumbling
log bridge crossed a little torrent pallid with haste
and foam. We camped in the dark just beyond
it, rolling logs against two trees by firelight to
make a platform large enough for our bed. We
had meant to bake at noon, but could not without
water, and now had to hurry up a bannock before
dinner could be served.
The ups and downs of the trail brought us on
the sixth day to the head of Lake Kimbasket,.
where the Columbia feathers out into a delta of
marshes and lagoons. After a mile or two of hillside path with lovely views of the lake and
mountains, our way led down once more into
swampy forest, and at last stopped short among
devil's clubs and reeds and rushes in front of a
stealthily flowing river with no sign of a bridge.
Our camp was pitched at the foot of a great
spruce on the driest spot to be found, and all
night long the geese on the marshes kept up so
loud a conversation that our sleep was badly
It is probable that the goldminers ferried across
at this point and that the trail goes on beyond
the river; and again I longed in vain for the
raft, which was probably aground in the reeds not
far away. We tried our usual panacea for troubles
of the trail next morning, and climbed the moun-
109 The Canadian Rockies
tain behind us to have a look at the country. On
the steep slopes we got enchanting glimpses of
the lake and the distant mountains, but the summit
was round-topped and covered with woods, so that
we had no general view at all. It did not reach
timber-line, which in this latitude is about seven
thousand feet.
We must have climbed three thousand feet, but
soon after the episode of the raft our aneroid had
stopped work because of the rusting of its hairspring, so that we could only guess at altitudes.
Disgustedly we swung down through the bushes
and found to our dismay that we had missed the
way, and only after an hour of searching did we
find the little white tent among the devil's clubs
at the foot of the spruce-tree.
With the few hours of daylight left we laboured
through the bushes up stream, hoping to find a
narrow part of the river where we could fell a tree
as a bridge, but when darkness came the river,
nameless on the maps, was as wide and marshy
as ever, and we had to make a second gloomy
camp beneath tall lichen-draped trees in an under-
forest of alders and clubs that hid all the
There was only one cheerful feature at this camp,
a lively little stream of clear water which tumbled
over the rocks beside us. At night, when the
mosquitoes piped in millions outside the net which
closed our small triangular door, and the woodcock or some other eerie fowl piped mournfully
now and then out of the darkness, it seemed as if  Ill
M The Big Bend Trail
the world of man was very far off, and as if stray
humans had no business among the murky shadows
of the forest.
With the morning came the end. In this sunless
wilderness of green we took stock of our supplies
and found not more than three days' provisions
left, though we were only eleven days out and
had put, as we reckoned, three weeks' provender
in our packs. Our appetites had played us the
usual trick of growing with the hard work.
Probably less than twenty-five miles in a straight
line from Mount Hooker we had to turn back
without even seeing it. It was a bitter disappointment,  but there was no help for it.
Frank put a bit of fire under the tent to dry
it after the customary night's rain, and we changed
our route, going back along the mountain-side so
as to see the lake and the opposite ranges anjd
escape the hateful devil's clubs. As our packs
were now light I took some specimens of beautiful
mica schist filled with gems, such as garnets and
On the second day we baked the last of the
flour into bread and boiled our last scrap of
bacon ; but another day brought us to Fountain
Camp, where we had cached some supplies under
a log beside the stream from the cavern, and we
found that the squirrel and the chipmunk, our
neighbours at the camp, were friendly and had
respected the cache. We wasted no time on
greetings but put the beans into our pot-of-all-
work so as to get them boiled in good time, for The Canadian Rockies
beans are a luxury slow to cook, and we should
want the pail for tea when dinner came, A
remnant of rusty pork left at the cache was put
in at the proper time, and the black lid of the
pot as it swung on its pole over the fire was lifted
oftener than was necessary so as to get a whiff
of the delicious aroma. By the time the beans
were done a big hot bannock had browned close
to the fire, and a famous dinner was served by
the firelight.
We were coming back beaten, but after all it
was a pretty good world to live in, when it wras
not raining; and so we went to sleep contentedly
to the drowsy music of the river and the brook.
Next day we made double time, since now we
knew7 the trail and had not to spend hours looking
for it, scrambling up steep hillsides, putting on
our best speed in the shady green timber wrhere
the scotch-caps were ripening, scarcely slackening in the burnt ground where the fire we had
seen on our way out was still smouldering in spite
of the showers that had fallen, burrowing into the
roots and under the logs. The very soil was
turned to white ashes, and black trunks stood
where there had been green trees.
Then came old forest spared by the fire, with
a good trail once more, log bridges over streams,
green shadows and golden sunshine and luscious
huckleberries waiting to be picked.
In the middle of the afternoon we reached our
Shipwreck Camp and carried off the strap which
had held our packs so bravely in the rapids, after- The Big Bend Trail
wards crossing rolling plains covered with snake-
berry bushes, now almost stripped of their fruit.
A bear engaged in picking the bitter red berries
was greatly startled, and scuffled off with as much
crashing as an elephant.
Next was the promontory above our shipyard,
where we paused a few minutes to look down on
the eddy, the rocky island, and the foamy rapid.
We passed the trapper's hut, and felt a faint revival of curiosity as we caught the gleam of bottles
and marble near the rotten tent; and we flung
down our packs and took a long drink at the
trapper's bark spout before splashing up the oozy
path through the alders, and coming out upon the
familiar trail through the woods to the head of
the rapids.
We were nearly home and promised ourselves
a gorgeous supper with stewed prunes, and sugar
in the tea, almost forgotten luxuries, as well as
the inevitable bacon and bannock. We should also
have a roomy tent where we could stand up to
spread our blankets instead of crawling laboriously
into the six-by-four shelter.
At last the river lay placidly before us above
the falls and the tent showed pale in the twilight.
We had left it trim and snug, but now it tilted
drunkenly and had a yawning hole in its side.
We rushed up, shocked at its condition and wondering what had gone wrong. Evidently we had not
been at home to receive callers, most likely bears,
and they had done some exploring in our absence.
The mischief was done, however, more out of
113 H The Canadian Rockies
curiosity than malice ; for no burglar would have
left our bags of flour and bacon untouched, so
that it was after all only a friendly visit.
With the mosquitoes so active the large tent
with the huge gap in its side was uninhabitable,
and after a monumental supper we squirmed, feet
foremost, into the tiny shelter tent once more.
We were well content to find that there was
still plenty to eat, though Frank was not to be
consoled for having missed a shot at the supposed
grizzly who had done the wanton damage.
Personally I was glad to have been absent at the
time of the visit.
The next two days were devoted to repairs and
luxurious idleness with unlimited berries for the
picking, but no bears came within reach of Frank's
rifle. A half-day was spent in the canoe exploring
marshes and lagoons for geese, but without success,
though the level meadows and sluggish waters
reflecting mountains and woods were worth while
as a contrast to the strenuous rivers and steep
slopes and bushy tangles we had been struggling
with for the last few weeks.
On August 17th our time was nearly up, and we
started for Beavermouth. Everything was packed
once more in bags, the supplies nearing their end,
but the loss in weight quite made up with rock
specimens, and we were once more under way7.
The twenty-five miles of journey down the river
to the head of Surprise Rapids had been done in
little more than one dreamy afternoon, since the
river itself did all the work ; but we expected to need
three days of hard pulling for the upward voyage.
In the expansion above the rapids we had little
trouble, but our trials began where the river split
into several " snys,"l or channels with a rapid
current. Coming down we had chosen the middle
of the widest, which proved very swift water, but
we now took a smaller sny which seemed of a
more placid disposition. It ran for a mile or two
between banks densely wooded with immense trees,
as solemn and silent a waterway as one could
imagine, nothing but a harshly chattering kingfisher showing any sign of life.    But for the silky
1 Ottawa raftsmen  call these channels " snys" = chenai in
US The Canadian Rockies
sheen of the water, with its tiny suspended particles
of mica, one might have believed we were on a
tributary and not the real Columbia; but light
showed ahead and with it a stiff current which we
conquered only on the second trial.
From this on we had to fight our way up stream
by main force. When the " riffles " were too much
for us PVank went ashore with the rope and towed
as best he could round overhanging bushes and
fallen trees, anchored by their roots, while their
tops swung and threshed in the current outside.
At night we camped beside a lagoon, on whose
soft shores all sorts of events were recorded.
Geese, ducks, and snipe had wandered up and down,
and a bear, perhaps scenting goose, had sunk his
big footprints deep into the mud.
Our camp was away from the river, whose voice
came only faintly, and the distant chatter of geese
sounded homelike and peaceful; but the white
and black of moonlight and shadow on the tent and
perhaps a suggestion of the bear's footprints made
sleep slow in coming. Then there was a sudden
noise, and we woke with a start. Frank reached
for his rifle and we went outside. He hoped and
I feared that it was a bear ; but nothing further
Hardly were we asleep again when there was
a loud splash as if some one had fallen into the
water, and going out we fancied we could see circles
on the surface of the lagoon and a dark head in
the middle. It was probably a beaver logging
in the moonlight. We heard other splashes after-
116 Up River to Beavermouth
wards and wished the beaver would put off the
rest of his work for another night.
There was nothing of moment on the second
day except the sudden risingl of a column of smoke
on the mountain across the river as if a volcano
had burst out. Dense volumes coiled and spread
till the sun's face was covered and the) clouds grew
livid or lurid and a strange orange light tinteld
everything round us. Though the sun's light was
greatly dimmed, its heat passed through the smoke
Towards evening, while making a muddy portage
past a pile of drift timber which we could not
paddle round because of the heavy current, an
unfamiliar sound smote our ears, the shriek of
a railway whistle. Beavermouth, uglier than ever,
was round the bend, and we should soon see men
once more after six weeks with Nature.
We were not anxious to meet civilisation too
soon, especially Old Uncle, who had warned us so
faithfully, and waited out of sight on an island
opposite the lumber piles, where we could patch
our ragged clothing and make ready for the train
next morning.
As it arrived early, we slipped ashore after dark,
landing just behind the station, and slept for the
last time in the little shelter tent. Then came
our last portage of canoe and packs to the railway
just in time for the train.
At Donald, twelve miles up the track, we got
off with our outfit, and only the baggage-master
recognised us, after lookingj us over from head
117 ill
The Canadian Rockies
to foot, and asked with a twinkle if we had climbed
Mount Brown. In an hour we had shed our rags
at the hotel, and next day I parted from Frank
Stover, one of the most cheerful and loyal companions an explorer could have. Though he had
been half-drowned in the rapids, had been
tormented with sickness along the trail, and
had missed his coveted grizzly, he was delighted
with the journey, and never failed to joke over
our disasters when we met in later years.
As for myself, we had not reached Mount Brown,
which was a disappointment, but we had settled
that a canoe was not the most desirable conveyance to Athabasca Pass; and beside this
negative achievement we had made acquaintance
with the wildest part of one of the most remarkable valleys in North America, the valley that
separates the Rocky Mountains from the Selkirks
and Gold Ranges. It runs almost straight northwest through the most mountainous region of
British Columbia, with a length of at least 450
miles. Most great valleys are carved by a river
flowing through from end to end; but here is a
valley in which all the main rivers of British
Columbia begin their course, no matter where they
may close their career.
The Kootenay River follows the great valley for
ninety miles to the south-east, then the Columbia
begins in a small lake and flows for 180 miles
to the north-west, before swinging south, round
the Selkirk Mountains, to end in the Pacific. At
the Big Bend of the Columbia its tributary,
118 mm
Up River to Beavermouth
Canoe River, joins it, after flowing fifty miles southeast through the same valley. Then comes the
turn of Fraser River, which occupies it for 160
miles before turning south parallel to the Columbia
and entering the Pacific at Vancouver. After a
little uncertainty on the maps, Parsnip and Finlay
Rivers, important tributaries of Peace River, use
for three hundred miles a similar north-westerly
valley, probably an extension of the one just described, and send their waters to Mackenzie River
and the Arctic Ocean.
The two great mountain ranges separated by
the valley are of very different ages, the Rockies
being mere parvenus of post-cretaceous times,
while the Selkirks are among the oldest ranges
in North America and date back to the early
The famous canyon of the Colorado, three
hundred miles long and five thousand feet in depth,
with a breadth of ten or fifteen miles, is out of
the running as compared with the valley of the
Upper Columbia at Surprise Rapids, which is more
than eight thousand feet below the nearer Rockies
and Selkirks, the opposite summits standing fifteen
or twenty miles apart. Probably five times as many
cubic miles of rock have been carved from this
valley and disposed of as in the Colorado canyon.
Geologists have not finally settled the cause of
this chasm, in which six large rivers have their
head waters. In many places the rocks of the
mountains on each side dip away from the valley,
suggesting an anticline or upward fold, as though
119 The Canadian Rockies
the strata had been so strained or ruptured that
the rivers could easily carve their way downward.
In others there is probably faulting; but it must
have been a singularly long and narrow strip of
rock which lost its footing and slipped down to
leave such an extraordinary depression.
Whatever the cause, this is the longest and most
uniform valley between mountains in Canada.
120 PART   IV
Our fiasco on the Columbia had shown that Mounts
Brown and Hooker were not to be reached by
canoe; but after that failure I was all the more
eager to come to close quarters with the giants,
and often considered ways of getting there. If
the canoe was out of the question on the turbulent western rivers, the other means of locomotion
was the pony, who, with patience and the aid of
an axe, can navigate even the worst mountain
valleys. I recalled my experiences of ponies on
the Kicking Horse, the Columbia, and the Spilli-
macheen, and concluded that, though filled with
the spirit of the Evil One, they could actually be
induced to carry small loads in almost any direction through the mountains. The next expedition
must travel with cayuses. If the camel is the " ship
of the desert," the cayuse should be the " canoe
of the mountains."
Palliser's map was carefully studied, and Milton
and Cheadle's " North-west Passage by Land " was The Canadian Rockies
read with interest, and after consultation with my
brother, Mr. L. Q. Coleman, a rancher at Morley
familiar with local conditions in the foot-hills, and
Mr. L. B. Stewart, Professor of Surveying in the
University of Toronto, who had done some work
in the west, a Mount Browm expedition was
organised on a more ambitious scale than the one
which had canoed on the Columbia.
We added to our numbers Dr. Laird of Winnipeg, who was interested in mountains, and Mr.
Pruyn, who knew something of horses and wished
to join us as sportsman, assuring us that while
travelling through the feeding-grounds of the big
horn and goat his rifle would help out our larder.
Much of our journey toward Athabasca pass
would be in the hunting-grounds of the Mountain
Stony Indians, and my brother engaged two
members of the tribe as guides, that we might not
lose our way in that vaguely mapped region.
He engaged two, since one alone among white men
was sure to get homesick and desert. Our guides
were Jimmy Jacob, sexton of the Mission Church
on the Morley reserve, and Mark Two-young-men,
a husky lad who was supposed to understand
Jimmy was a middle-aged and serious man who
spoke Cree, of which my, brother understood something, and also knew a few words of English;
while Mark spoke nothing which any of us could
understand, but had a graceful and extensive command of the sign language. When this did not
meet the emergency Jimmy served as interpreter. The Eastern Side of the Rockies
Early in the summer of 1892 I went west to
Morley in the foot-hills, where the party was to
meet at the ranch. The serrated wall of the
Rockies was before us, with here and there a
I gap " where some larger river had cut its way
through, giving an entrance to the interior of the
mountain world. We expected to skirt the range
for a time, then turn into one of the gaps and go
from valley to valley, ending with Whirlpool River,
which headed between the two longed-for mountains. Jimmy and Mark had covered two-thirds of
the route ; the other third we should have to choose
for ourselves.
Though the Stonies had explored more of the
mountains than any white man, it was hard to get
any definite information from them. The Rev.
John Macdougall and his brother David, the Indian
trader, who knew the tribe well and could talk
with them fluently, did their best for us, but
gathered little that was certain, for the Indian
writes no records, and makes no maps, and
measures distances in the vaguest ways, by
I sleeps," or in a pious tribe like the Stonies by
I Sundays."
One man appeared to have almost reached the
point we aimed for, Joby Beaver, the most enterprising hunter of the tribe, but he made too much
money from furs and jerked meat to care to work
for a white man; however, Jimmy was supposed
to have gathered his ideas on the subject of routes,
and it was hoped would find the way through the
passes along Joby's trails.
123 The Canadian Rockies
Our expedition to the fabulous mountains had
aroused the greatest interest among whites and
Indians, and there was a generous and most conflicting flood of suggestions, advice, and warnings
reaching us from all quarters, some even foreboding disaster if we passed the known limits of
the Stony world, for beyond this there were grave
difficulties, including tribes of wicked Indians with
whom one should not rashly come into contact.
The judicious Jimmy would no doubt exert himself
to ward off these dangers.
The Stonies were plain Indians in the
beginning, a branch of the famous Sioux of the
Western States, who followed the buffalo to the
northern prairies ; but they were a small tribe and
not equal in physique to the Blackfeet and other
tribes that hunted the buffalo. In the many little
battles between them the Stonies did not always
come off best; so, not much more than a century
ago they took to the foot-hills and the mountains,
most of them as hunters of the big horn and the
goat, though a few hunted the moose and black-
tailed deer in the boggy valleys among the foothills.
Mr. Rundle, a self-sacrificing missionary of the
early days, gathered them under his paternal
guidance, and most of the Mountain Stonies settled
on their beautiful reserve at Morley; but every
summer they left their log houses and pitched their
teepees in the Rockies. Each family had its own
hunting-grounds,    however,    so    that   few   were
familiar with any wide stretch of the mountains.
124   The Eastern Side of the Rockies
The mountain sheep is now nearly exterminated,
and even the goat is growing scarce, so that they
are taking up cattle-raising and other occupations
and go less and less into their old haunts. One
may say that now there are no permanent inhabitants of the Rockies even in the summer.
We found them far from handsome as a race,
though the children and boys and girls are often
pretty; and they have nothing of the sombre
reserve and dignity of Eennimore Cooper Indians.
They are fond of a joke, and if you pass their
teepees in the evening, lighted up by the wavering
fire in the centre, you will probably hear a hymn
sung with sweet, reedy voices, or chatter and
laughter going on in the circle. They are good-
hearted and honest, and have been known to ride
miles after a white man to return some trifle left
Our guides were shy at first, which was not
strange from their lack of English, but they joined
in the camp life as well as the^y knew how,
though they proved less useful than we had
expected, for we could not trust their cooking, nor
their skill as packers. As " lords of creation "
they had always left such menial work to the
women ; so that we found them of most service
in tracking strayed ponies and in following poorly-
marked trails. Even in that, however, they showed
no. superhuman skill, but were quite equalled by
a white man we employed the following year.
Flour and bacon and beans and tea had been
bought from David Macdougall or from the store Ill
The Canadian Rockies
at the railway-station, and now all was bustle at
the ranch, arranging pack-saddles and riding-
saddles, putting supplies into bags to stand a
rough journey, and finishing up odds and ends of
equipment. Ropes of different sizes were cut
up into sling-ropes and lash-ropes, canvas was
arranged for pack-covers, and finally we were
ready. Nothing must be forgotten, for nothing
could be replaced during the next two months.
My brother had picked up ponies from the
Indians at prices running from $10 to $25 ; and
the " bunch " of thirteen which were to bear us
and our burdens northward were scattered over
the big pasture on the ranch ready for work, wiry
little fellows with fine legs and feet and big heads.
They were of all colours and patterns, blue, and
black, and bay, and buckskin, as well as pinto
(piebald), and none of us knew very much of their
properties, though my brother and Pruyn had taken
some lessons in packing and could " throw the
rope " in the orthodox way so as to finish with the
" diamond hitch " four square on the top of the
On July 6th our party was assembled. Stewart
and Laird had just arrived, while Pruyn had come
some time before. Jimmy Jacob turned up early
in the morning so as to get his breakfast. He
felt the importance of his position as guide and
was arrayed in his Sunday broadcloth, inherited
from the missionary and befitting the office of
sexton. His face was grave and determined.
Mark was more frivolous and came in a blanket
126 The Eastern Side of the Rockies
suit gay with trimmings and with fringes on the
leggings. He had an eagle feather in his felt hat.
They helped to corral the ponies and to pack on
the off-side under the direction of Pruyn or my
The saddles were cinched and the packing
began, a process hard to learn and impossible to
describe, but it went so slowly under our unpractised hands that one of the earlier ponies shook
off his load before the last of the others was ready
and had to be packed all over again. If the loads
are not well balanced, they are bound to slip toward
the heavier side.
It was almost evening before all was complete
and we left the ranch, Jimmy riding ahead as if
he owned the outfit, Mark coming in behind some
of the pack animals but careful to keep within hail
of Jimmy, and the rest of us following as we chose,
a long-strung-out and disorderly procession moving
slowly up the hills toward Ghost River. A few
weeks before two parties coming from Calgary had
been forced to camp one rainy night almost within
sight of home on the wrong side of the ford of
this treacherous little river, because rains in the
mountains had swollen it so that wagons could
not cross. To-day, however, we wound down the
path over the cliffs of tilted sandstone and splashed
through its pale bluish water with no trouble
at all.
We climbed out of the narrow river bottom up
the bare benches on the other side of the valley
as the sun was setting,  and soon after camped
127 The Canadian Rockies
beside a little creek near a meadow of grass and
pea-vines. It was time to camp, for some of the
loads were ready to fall off; however, the first
day is sure to go badly, and at any rate we had
made a start.
Next day we followed the well-beaten Stony
trail, where Jimmy knew every turn, and ford, and
camp-ground, and halted between the hills at the
Little Red Deer, where the Indians caught trout,
and brought in an armful of " wild rhubarb," a
hollow-stemmed plant that tasted more like celery
than rhubarb.
Although Jimmy was quite at home on the trail,
the region had never been mapped, and from this
time on Stewart seH-denyingly tramped the ten or
twenty miles a day with his pedometer, taking
bearings and sketching in the hills and streams,
while occasionally to check the pedometer records
he took the latitude with a sextant.
Next evening we camped at Fallen Timber
Creek, of suggestive name, and a day or two later
on the main Red Deer River, all the time among
the foot-hills, with glimpses here and there of the
range of mountains when there was time to look
at them. Our real object in life seemed to be
packing, repacking, unpacking, and driving refractory ponies when on the trail, or else cooking
beans and bannocks round a smoky camp fire at
Pruyn had fallen sick, leaving the saddling and
loading of the six pack ponies to my brother with
help from the rest of us, who knew little of the The Eastern Side of the Rockies
art; and those first days were sadly enlightening
for some of our party who did not know the cayuse
and his little ways. There was trouble in muskegs
and fallen timber, and every one was disillusioned
and disgusted and wondered why he had come into
a world of so much tribulation and such poor
We could not even camp where we wished.
There must first be feed for the ponies, and afterwards we might look for unessentials like wood
and water for ourselves and a flat place for a
tent.    Scenery was quite an afterthought.
Before we ever reached the mountains we had
grown familiar with every disaster that could
happen to a pony. Two of us had been thrown,
and several ponies had been mired in muskegs,
from which they had to be dragged by head and
tail to dry land; but we were learning in a good
school the art of " throwing the rope," so that
loads stuck better than at first.
As we turned west toward the mountains we
met an Indian family, the father, riding at the head
of the cavalcade, calling ombostage (good-day) to
us as he approached, and shaking hands with every
one, while the women followed demurely with
downcast eyes, whipping up the pack ponies. A
young mother had a papoose slung in a blanket on
her back, its round head bobbing as the pony
By this time Jimmy's clerical black coat had
disappeared into the sack behind his saddle, and
with the coat went most of his dignity.     Camp The Canadian Rockies
was late that evening and dinner slow in cooking,
and Jimmy standing near after the ponies had been
hobbled laid his hand on his stomach and said,
" Sick here." A rabbit which fell to Stewart's
rifle was made ready for the pot by Jimmy in five
minutes without a knife, starting at the hind legs
with finger and thumb and stripping off skin and
offal like a glove with a single motion.
Our five days in the foot-hills, besides teaching
us much-needed lessons in the art of packing, gave
glimpses of the strange history behind the hills
themselves. Out on the " bald-headed " prairie,
wherever a river cuts its valley, one sees the soft,
cretaceous shales and sandstones lying as flat as
when they were the sea bottom, many millions
of years ago; but here they were bent and
crumpled like so much brown paper, crushed and
jostled into wave-crests in front of the mountains.
Now, following up the Red Deer Valley, we
entered the portal of the mountains between huge
blocks of Palaeozoic limestone tilted up like floe
ice piled on the wintry shore by a storm, the northeast end of the blocks riding on the contorted
beds of the foot-hills. Seeing them so calm and
immovable, it was hard to imagine the turmoil
when irresistible forces from the Pacific drove them
inland, thrusting them as mountain ridges out over
the prairie and piling up the foot-hills in front.
The Red Deer Valley is  4,500 feet above the
sea, and the outer ranges of mountains reach only
eight thousand or nine thousand feet, so that they
are not specially striking, except to one approach-
130 The Eastern Side of the Rockies
ing them from the flatness of the plains. They
are mostly bare of vegetation to the very bones,
true " Rocky " mountains, standing up crude and
hard in the pitilessly clear air of Alberta. We
climbed one easily in an afternoon, following up
the moderate south-western slope of the tilted
block, and found no tangle of underbrush after
leaving the valley and scarcely any snow on top,
though some snowfields could be seen far up in
the central ranges.
Less than seventy miles to the west Stover and
I, four years ago, had climbed Surprise Mountain,
8,400 feet high, starting early in the morning in
the hot valley of the Columbia at 2,400 feet,
battling for hours with devil's clubs and alders
on the lower slopes and rhododendrons higher up,
and ending exhausted after a long day's climb by
crossing a broad stretch of snowfield. On top we
found ourselves in the midst of typical high Alpine
scenery with /z<?v^-fields and glaciers reaching far
into the valleys below us.
One could not imagine a greater contrast
between two mountains of the same height under
the same latitude. In the dry climate of the
eastern ranges only a few feet of snow fall in the
winter and this melts early under the summer's
sun, while the upper valleys and slopes of the
Selkirks are buried under thirty or forty feet of
snow, full reservoirs to feed their innumerable
glaciers during the hot months.
The trail which Jimmy picked for us went a little
way up the Red Deer to Mountain Park and then
climbed out of the valley to a pass among the
stunted timber at 6,500 feet, where it turned down
again toward the Clear Water River, flowing
through a parallel valley.
x\nother long day's journey took us over a
higher pass, running through a fine knot of mountains, to the Atikoseepee, only a small creek, where
we crossed at its head. With tired ponies after
twenty-seven miles of travel we camped in this
narrow, frigid valley from which the snow had just
melted, leaving moist meadows for pasture. We
were so close to timber-line that poles for the
tent were hard to find, and only gnarled little tree-
trunks could be got for the fire so much needed
in the nipping air.
In the morning we started through the splashy
meadows in a flurry of snow, crossed a pass well
above the trees (7,500 feet), and entered the valley
of White Rabbit Creek, which falls three thousand!
132 To the Saskatchewan
feet in its race of fifteen miles to the Saskatchewan. The whole valley of this foamy torrent is
covered with muskeg or forest without pasture,
forcing us to travel steadily for thirty miles, till
we reached grass and water on the Kootenay plains
at 7.25 in the evening and flung the loads and
saddles on the turf.
Toward evening the wearied ponies tried our
temper sorely, tearing their packs against snags
or dashing off the trail for a bunch of grass, getting
tangled among the trees. Little Bay thought his
load of flour too heavy and quietly lay down several
times, when he had to be helped up and repacked.
Before he was put in order some other beast was
sure to be in trouble.
Our trials were not over yet; for Stewart, who
was faithfully walking to record the distance with
his pedometer, did not turn up for dinner; and
Laird and I, going back in the darkness, found
him three miles up the trail, limping slowly along
with a sprained knee which must have cost him
misery among the fallen timber.
We had longed for the mountains during the
dull journey through the foot-hills from Morley;
but after snowstorms and stony passes above
timber-line we were inconsistent enough to find
it delightful to come down to this inlet of prairie
in the heart of the mountains, where Stewart's
lameness and the sore backs of some of the ponies
after fifty-seven miles of heavy travel in the last
two days made a welcome excuse for a holiday.
The Saskatchewan is so much more powerful
133 The Canadian Rockies
than the other eastward-flowing rivers that no mere
gap like that of the Red Deer or Clearwater serves
its purpose, and it has carved itself a flat valley
four or five miles wide through the outer ranges.
The warm and dry Chinook winds sweep down
from the passes to the west, licking up the snow
in winter and giving the plains the semi-arid look
of the ranch country. When we came down from
White Rabbit Creek on July 16th our ponies trod
upon pungent sage and wormwood, with their
silvery greens, as well as the bunch grass and
peavine; and flax and harebells and gentians and
yellow sunflowers with brown centres bloomed
everywhere as flowers of summer.
There was another interesting change on the way
toward the Kootenay plains, for the tilted blocks
or " writing-desks " of the Red Deer and Clearwater gave place to folded mountains elaborately
cut into shark's teeth ; and straight ahead, jutting
boldly out into the belt of prairie, stood a beautiful mountain nine thousand feet high, bent into
a fold like an S, two miles long and a mile broad,
tipped on its side. It can be seen from all the
valleys looking into the plains, and we named it
Sentinel Mountain.
After two days' halt, Jimmy Jacob led the way
down stream to ford the Saskatchewan, where it
was weakened by splitting into six branches w7ith
gravel bars between. Even so divided it was deep
enough for us and reached the saddles on the
horses' backs, so that most of us pulled off boots
and socks and let the wooden stirrups float beside
i34  & mm
To the Saskatchewan
us. The water was muddy and the current strong,
though steady and not dangerous.
Two or three miles beyond we forded the
Hahaseegee Wapta, or Cataract River, as one may
translate the Stony name, much smaller, with clear
blue-green water, but flowing far more swiftly over
rounded boulders on which the ponies lurched and
slipped, while the foam dashed against the seat
of the saddle on the up-stream side. One had all
the sensations of pitching and rolling at sea in a
very small canoe, so that it was a decided relief
when the pony stumbled into shallow water on the
other side.
To get a view of the valley we climbed Triangle
Peak, a kneelike fold of rock rising 2,600 feet
above the river, scrambling over limestones filled
with corals and other fossils in the lower part and
ending with quartzite and conglomerate on top.
The Kootenay plains and the Saskatchewan were
spread out below us, and higher mountains rose
everywhere around except toward the north-east,
where the greyish-green plains melted into the
hazy distance of the outer prairie.
From every mountain valley creeks and rivers
were hurrying to join the Saskatchewan, the largest
of them being the Cataract River at our feet, bringing the waters of two thousand square miles of
mountain and snowfield to fill the great river
before it began its journey across the prairies to
The Saskatchewan is greater than all its subordinate streams, the Red Deer, the Clearwater,
i35 The Canadian Rockies
and the Brazeau, put together, because it has cut
farther into the Rockies, gathering up the drainage
of the snowy central ranges behind them to the
south-east and the north-west.
A beautiful small lake and white salt licks broke
the surface of prairie below us, and looking down
on our specks of ponies, we could imagine the
brown herds of buffalo drinking! at the pond or
streaming toward the salt lick, where the hunters
lay in wait for them. One could still see their
hollow paths and wallows and an occasional
whitened skull in  1892.
The Kootenay plains were once in a small way
the high-road of nations, and full of picturesque
life, when the Kootenay tribe from southern
British Columbia came across Howse Pass at one
of the head streams of the Saskatchewan to hunt,
the buffalo and trade horses with the Stonies. That
traffic ended many years ago, and Howse Pass is
now seldom crossed by white men and never by
the Indians ; but the plains are still lively once
a year when the Stonies come north from Morley
before scattering into their special hunting-
Jimmy had travelled no farther than this, and
now Mark was to take the lead, but we had very
little idea what his plans were. We expected to
keep on through the mountains to the Brazeau
The ponies had strayed far on the prairies and
had to be tracked up to their feeding-grounds,
and when they were brought in proved to be in
altogether too good spirits, so that we started after
a long delay with Mark Two-young-men riding
jauntily ahead.
Instead of turning up one of the valleys, as
we had hoped, he followed the Saskatchewan down,
and passing the edge of the mountains, turned
northwards along a wooded valley in the foot-hills.
With the foot-hills came bad trail, for there were
muskegs and soft ground along the creek and
windfalls among the pine-groves to traverse.
Before long Mark crossed the creek in such a
bad place that Pinto rolled backwards under his
load of 200 lb. of flour and lay struggling in the
water, where we had to unpack him as he lay.
The trail was fairly well marked, and in my capacity
of ogema (chief) I deposed Mark from the leadership and sent Jimmy ahead once more. Mark
dropped back crestfallen to his old position as
driver of pack-horses, and before long I heard
i37 The Canadian Rockies
his tin whistle going  plaintively as he consoled
himself for the disgrace.
The next day's journey was not without interest,
for at one place there were three coal seams, which
have since turned out to be very valuable ; and
later, travelling along the edge of a canyon, we
came upon a beautiful waterfall leaping into an
amphitheatre, far better scenery than we had been
used to in the foot-hills.
On the second day, however, we rose nearly
one thousand feet to bare moorlands threaded with
interminable boggy creeks between the wooded
hills, where among low bushes of the " grease-
wood" we met no end of minor disasters, for
ponies are at their worst under these conditions.
Several were mired, and one of them ran amok,
charging back along the narrow trail, tearing his
own and others' packs to pieces and flinging Laird
from his saddle. Laird was so shaken and bruised
by the fall that he was put out of trim for climbing
during the rest of the journey. Pruyn, too, was on
the sick list and in doubt whether he should go on.
On the third day we reached Brazeau River,
and it was plain that our present route would never
lead to Athabasca Pass, so we decided to take
the direction into our own hands. Though snot
so good at picking up trails, we knew at least which
way we wanted to go, and turned up the Brazeau
Valley into the Rockies once more. Later we found
that there were at least two passes through the
mountains between the Saskatchewan and the
Brazeau, which woiuld have saved forty miles of
distance and two days of horrible trails.
138  11
lii1 From the Saskatchewan to the  Sunwapta
The Brazeau Gap opens up a splendid set .of
peaks, and we were charmed to push south-westward up its wide valley against a blustering
Chinook wind that sometimes set the spruce-woods
roaring. Five miles within the mountains we
halted for Sunday. The valley is much higher
than the Kootenay plains, and our camp was at
5,400 feet.
We were once more among tilted blocks of limestone, often fairly high; one we climbed reaching
9,450 feet and giving an inspiring view up the
valley till a snowstorm sent us down. There wras
hardly any permanent snow on it, however, though
a mountain as high as this in the Selkirks would
have been buried under at least 1,500 feet of neve,
sending two or three glaciers down into the valleys.
The snowstorm followed us to our camp behind
its protecting clump of spruces, and to add to
our troubles Pruyn had become seriously sick. It
was evident that he ought not to stay in the mountains, so next morning my brother and Jimmy with
the strongest riding and pack-horses set off with
him for a forced march to Morley, taking a route
through the mountains of which Jimmy had heard,
Pruyn could hardly sit on his horse as they rode
off toward the south through driving sleet,
beginning a journey of 150 miles over very
rough trails, and the outlook was not cheerful.
However, all went well, and two weeks later my
brother and Jimmy turned up again, tired but none
the worse for their three hundred miles of travel.
The rest of us, Stewart, Laird, and I, with Mark
i39 The Canadian Rockies
as horsekeeper, explored the valley and .climbed
near-by mountains, moving our camp only a few
miles up toward the forks of the Brazeau.
Mark was disconsolate without Jimmy, and the
mournful strains of his tin whistle beside the camp
fire at night were full of pathos. The other party
had taken the small tent used by the Indians, iSO
that he was homeless, sleeping at the foot of our
tent in bad weather, but preferring to curl up outside under a tree in his thick Hudson Bay blanket
if the night was fine. We sent him into the mountains hunting with Pruyn's rifle, but his only game
was a badger, which he singed over the fire
and then boiled. The meat was not bad, though
we had to add salt, which Mark had not founjd!
After Jimmy went away our conversations with
Mark were short and mostly in the sign language,
though he had begun to learn a little English;.
For horses trotting there was a quick motion of
the hand with the fingers pointing downward, for
walking a slow motion ; a teepee was suggested by
the fingers meeting in an upward position, and
time we expressed by pointing to the sun and then
to its place in the sky at the hour intended.
After the cold and snow flurries there were two
or three intensely hot days which brought out the
bulldog flies in full force, driving the ponies crazy,
and though we made them a smudge of their own,
they crowded round our camp fire till we had to
fence them off. Each one wanted to stand behind
another's tail, which whisked the flies from his
140 From the Saskatchewan to the Sunwapta
face, and presently they were racing madly round
after one another. Poor old Pinto was hard to
catch, so that we left a rope trailing from his
neck, and in the race the following pony was apt to
step on it and snub him up short. Before evening
his back was covered with blood from the bites.
It was hard to believe that snow had been falling
a day or two before as we took shelter from the
broiling sun under the spruces.
Then came a rainy day when bulldogs ceased
and the horses deserted us, and an insignificant
rill on the cliffs to the north was transformed into
a magnificent waterfall. Now the mosquitoes took
their turn as tormentors, and some of the ponies
came up and stood sedately in the lee of the fire.
On August ist we moved ten miles up the
valley over the usual muskegs, rocks, and fallen
timber, with a wall of cliff rising half a mile above
us for part of the way. Next day Stewart and
I climbed a mountain 9,500 feet high just above
the forks of the Brazeau and with the whole
valley in sight, while to the west there rose a
spotless dome of snow twenty or twenty-five miles
away, probably the Dome shown on Collie's map
as the central point of the Columbia icefield.
Another high point farther north we thought
might be the longed-for  Mount  Hooker.
Our new camp had been used by the Stonies
before us, and teepee poles leaned against a cliff
a little way off, and hacked skulls and horns of
sheep,  some of them immense,  were lying near
the old camp fire.    This must have been a great
141 The Canadian Rockies
centre for sheep. Their paths run along all the
mountain-sides, beginning and ending without
apparent cause, and their droppings behind
sheltering rows of bushes near timber-line are
as thick as in a barnyard, but we did not see a
single sheep. They had been completely killed
off or scared away.
Mark astonished us one day by his extensive
command of English. He actually asked, " Morley,
how many Sunday?" and his countenance fell
when I held up four fingers, for he was very
homesick. He wanted us to turn back, and pulled
some spindling blades of grass at his feet, then
pointed across the mountains and used his only
familiar English phrase, " No good."
To keep him busy he was sent sheep-hunting
again, and did not come home till the second
night, so that we began to wonder if he had not
gone to meet Jimmy, who was expected back along
with my brother. After dark we heard voices and
neighings and went out of the tent expecting to see
Lucius and Jimmy, but saw Mark and a younger
lad. We called them into the tent, and Mark introduced the stranger as " Joby's papoose, Shamosin."
When the fire was stirred up we saw that he was
a bright, pretty boy with a laughing face, and
that Mark had on a new pair of blanket leggings
which he had long needed. Evidently he had
found his way to the camp of Job Beaver, the
famous hunter, instead of going after sheep
Shamosin explained by signs that his father had
142 From the Saskatchewan to the Sunwapta
shot many sheep, bending down finger after finger
to count them and ending by opening both hands
explosively four times, meaning forty sheep.
Evidently Beaver was doing in that valley what
had been done in this. We had now got ready a
sumptuous supper of dried peaches, bannock, and
tea for all hands, a most picturesque party by the
firelight under the spruces ; and Mark showed that
the name | Two-young-men " was well deserved
at mealtimes if not on other occasions. He begged
the teapot with its old tea-leaves to brew a
second time, and we heard them talking and laughing in their nook under the trees. Next morning
we had a fine breakfast, for Shamosin had brought
some ribs of sheep, dry and dirty-looking, but
tasting delicious when boiled with fat pork in the
beanpot. Before going the boy wanted to exchange meat for tea and flour, and we gave him
some tea, but could not spare flour. Then he
mounted his pinto horse, promising, for a dollar, to
come back with two legs of sheep ; but he failed to
come before we left our camp on the Brazeau.
On August 8th we tramped to the headwaters
of the south branch of the river, following it up
for eighteen miles, where several small streams
tumble down from glaciers in the mountains
behind. Our tramp covered every variety of
ground—mossy trail through spruce-woods, old
windfalls on burnt ground, rugged outcrops of limestone, canyons with waterfalls and rapids to climb
into and out of, and rivers to ford on foot.
On the ioth, as we set out for an expedition,
i43 The Canadian Rockies
my brother Lucius and Jimmy surprised us by
coming down the Brazeau Valley instead of up,
for they had gone one way through the mountains
and come back another. Later the whole party
used both these passes. Pruyn had been taken
safely to Morley and was no worse, so that all
had gone well, and we turned joyfully back to
camp to make a fresh start for Mount Brown.
Stewart and I had looked over the ground and
picked out a trail, so that there should be no loss
of time, and in two or three hours the strayed
ponies were brought in and we left our most
permanent camp, not sorry to be under way again.
The trail chosen followed the main Brazeau
River to Brazeau Lake, which reflected a great ;
glacier to the north-west, then took the south shore
for two or three miles, and turned south-west up
a very steep and rugged little valley between
towering cliffs toward a pass we had seen on one
of our climbs. Heavy rain caught us on steep
ground just below timber-line, and we chopped
away the thick branches of a spruce to make room
for our tent, giving a picturesque but inconvenient
camp with wonderful views between the thunderclouds of Brazeau Lake a thousand feet below and
the mountains beyond.
Crossing the barren pass next morning, we
followed a creek flowing north-west toward a wide
river valley which we had looked at longingly from
a mountain-top some days before. We named the
pass and creek Poboktan, from the big owls that
blinked at us from the spruce trees, and we camped
144 From the Saskatchewan to the  Sunwapta
a little way down the valley at 6,800 feet. We
were full of curiosity as to the river we were
heading for. Could it be the Whirlpool, and was
our journey nearly ended?
Going on next day, we passed down the steep
Poboktan gorge from stubby tree-line timber to
tall and slender pines and spruces in a wide,
unknown valley at  5,300 feet.
The new river was muddy though the weather
was fine, so that there must be glaciers at {its
head, and in size it was nearly as large as the Bow
at Morley ; but it came from the north-west instead
of the north-east, so that it could not be the
Whirlpool. On the other hand, it seemed too small
for the Athabasca, and we decided to keep the
Stony name, Sunwapta, at least for the present.
Where to go next was the problem. From
a mountain-top near by we could look up the
valley to a striking group of snowy peaks with
a score of glaciers and a half-dozen blue-green
lakes in the valleys beneath them, while down
stream we could follow the Sunwapta for many
miles to its junction with another river, perhaps
the Whirlpool. If so, Athabasca Pass was somewhere to the south-west across the range of mountains between the two rivers, though no monster
peaks like Hooker and Brown could be seen in
that direction. Perhaps the nearer range cut them
off from us. It was decided to go down to the
forks and follow up the other valley.
After breakfast next morning Jimmy and Mark,
instead of going for the horses, came up with
145 k The Canadian Rockies
solemn faces and shook hands, after which Jimmy
remarked, " Goodbye, we go Morley." This unknown country might do for white men, but it
evidently did not suit Mountain Stonies. As
ogema, I told Jimmy, " You go Morley, you go
Calgary Gaol," and tried to make him understand
that if they broke the contract which they had
signed with their mark they could expect no pay,
and that we were only going a few days farther
They went to their tent to consult, and in a
few minutes Jimmy came and touched my arm,
saying, " Meewahsin " (" good "), and pointing
down the river.    The mutiny was over.
By night we had covered fifteen miles and
camped within three or four miles of the forks ;
but the latter part of the way had been through
burnt woods with terrible windfalls that meant-
heavy chopping; so before saddling up in the
morning we set out with axes to cut a trail to the
forks, and on the way discovered a canyon with
some fine waterfalls on the main river. After chopping most of the day it began to look hopeless to
get the ponies through in any reasonable time, and
we decided on August 17th that the three able-
bodied men, Stewart, my brother, and I, should
follow up the supposed Whirlpool River on foot.
It took some time to arrange pack-sacks and get
everything ready, so that it was toward evening
before we started, fording the Sunwapta on horse <•
back and driving the animals back across the river
to join the others.
Shouldering our packs, which weighed 40 lb.
or 50 lb. each, we began our tramp across the low
ridge between the two rivers over a brute grown
up with young trees, which were always snatching
at our burdens. Toward dusk we came out upon
the black and barren shore of the other river,.,
where a second fire had swept everything away
except the stony and gravelly soil. A few young
willows starting again we cut for our bed and a
few blackened stumps fed our fire, and then we
slept under the stars and driving clouds.
In the morning we found ourselves beside a
large river, apparently in flood, its grey, muddy
water covering the grass along shore ; and across
the valley there were fine, cathedral-shaped mountains draped with clouds, one with a cross of snow
in the ravines near its summit. The river was
split into several channels at this point, but farther
up the valley we found it flowing as a single stream,
so we rafted across and then pulled the heavy
logs wrell up on the shore for use on the way back.
Presently we reached a tributary coming down
i47 The Canadian Rockies
from more nearly the right direction, so we left
the main valley for this. As there were endless
beaver dams and trees cut by beaver along its
course, we named it Chaba River, from the Stony
word for beaver.
On the third night, which was frosty, we
camped under a spruce, near the foot of a splendid
square-based mountain built of thick courses of
purple quartzite. During the night we were disturbed by a moose or large deer that walked
crunching up the gravel and trotted away splashing
across the creek when we got up to look at it.
The morning was brilliant, and we left our
bundles under the tree to climb a few thousand
feet for an outlook. Fortress Mountain, as we
named it, proved a harder proposition than we
expected, and at 7,700 feet we halted at the foot
of a vertical wall, with the valley and its creeks
and rivers spread out more than three thousand
feet below, and a grand array of mountains near
its head a few miles to the south, the finest of
which we afterwards called Mount Quincy.
Fortress Mountain has since been climbed by
Barrett, Wilcox's partner, who determined its
height as  9,600 feet.
Rounding the corner of the great buttress, whose
foot we followed, suddenly there opened out
below us the most marvellous lake imaginable.
We were above its east end, and could see it
stretching eight or ten miles to the west in a
valley completely surrounded by heavy forest,
sloping up to purplish cliffs and mountain-tops with   The Tramp to Fortress Lake
snow and glaciers. The water was turquoise blue,
shading round the edges into green, and a creek
entered it from a glacier on the other side, forming a delta and sending out two plumelike currents
of milky water that almost reached our shore.
Forest and glaciers and mountains were perfectly
reflected in the lake.
Our hearts fairly stood still at the sight, for
surely this must be the Committee's Punch Powl
on Athabasca Pass, and the tall, snowy peak behind
the glacier to the south must be Mount Hooker.
It was one of the great moments of a lifetime !
We scrambled down over the talus of rough
quartzite blocks, quite unmindful of bruised shins,
halted for a feast of raspberries, gooseberries,
black currants, and huckleberries on the lower
slopes as an antidote to a steady diet of pork and
beans, and reached the tree by the creek
triumphant. By the camp fire that evening our
triumph was a little dimmed, however, for we could
not make the Punch Bowl of the map fit in size
or shape with the lake we had discovered.
Next day was Sunday, but we shouldered our
packs, trudging up stream toward the lake to settle
the question finally, and noticed that the plant
growth around us was more luxuriant than it had
been, while the berries were endless on the snow
slides, all suggesting British Columbia. In an
hour the clear creek we followed took its rise in
marshy springs at the foot of a little ridge covered
wTith trees, and beyond was the glorious lake, where
we dropped our loads on a pile of driftwood under
149 The Canadian Rockies
h t
an immense spruce which overhung the water.
Close by a small stream flowed out of the lake and
disappeared under the ridge we had just crossed,
no doubt through the blocks of an old moraine.
The springs on the other side must come from
this source.
We then started along the north shore of the
lake in search of a possible Mount Brown, picking
up a vague path here and there which might he
an Indian trail or that of the old North-West Company's voyageurs. Coming . to a stream, we
followed it two or three miles to its head and
climbed the mountain above to fix our position
if possible.
The climb was heavy, but when we reached the
top, at 8,500 feet, rather used up after our recent
strenuous work, we found ourselves more than four
thousand feet above the lake and just opposite the
delta on the other side. Stewart sat down to sketch
the lake and its surroundings, helping himself by
the clinometer, and my brother and I looked up
the valley and to the north for some great peak
that might be Mounjt Brown, but the mountains
in that direction did not rise more than one I
thousand or two thousand feet above us, while
Mount Brown should be almost double our;
The white pyramid beyond the glacier to the
south came nearer to the proper height of Mount
Hooker, and yet probably reached no more than
twelve thousand feet. The main outlet of the lake
was clearly westwards, and the river flowing from
150 The Tramp to Fortress Lake
it must be fairly large, for several creeks flowed
into it.
We could look east toward Fortress Mountain,
which was much higher than this peak, and southeast toward Mount Quincy, which was still higher,
but the headwaters of the Chaba and of the
Athabasca were hidden by nearer mountains.
Nothing was finally settled as we toiled downwards over rough quartzite cliffs and loose blocks,
and it was so dark when we reached the lake
that we could not follow the route picked out in
the morning and stumbled over rocks and through
bushes to our camp near the mysterious outlet
under the spruce.
We were cross as we lit a fire and made supper,
and all sorts of doubts troubled us as to our position. It was pretty certain that the lake we were
on could not be the Committee's Punch Bowl, so
we decided to call it Fortress Lake, after the fine
mountain on its shore.
But where were Mounts Brown and Hooker?
Had we passed them somewhere in the group of
snowy peaks to the south? That did not seem
possible, for we should certainly have seen any
point reaching fifteen thousand feet, rising head
and shoulders over the mountains around us, which
we believed to be not more than twelve thousand
feet. On the other hand, we had looked in vain
to the northwards, where all the mountains were
decidedly lower, so that it was a complete puzzle.
We came to the conclusion that the whole arrangement of mountains, rivers, and lakes could not
151 The Canadian Rockies
be made to fit with the map, and that probably
Fortress Lake and its surroundings had never
before been  seen by a  white man.
We went to sleep discouraged, but when we
woke next morning and saw glorious, sun-lighted
peaks under a cloudless sky reflected in the perfect
mirror of Fortress Lake we revived again. A flock
of ducks swam into the bay and rippled the wrater,
spoiling the reflection, and at last the sun struck
our camp under the big spruce, and we got up,
filled with the wonder and charm of the scene.
This lake was certainly worth discovering. It was
undoubtedly made during the Ice Age when a
glacier filled the valley and dumped across its
former outlet the moraine behind us, so that when
the ice melted the water had to flow toward the
Columbia instead of the Athabasca. On our climb
yesterday we had found the lower part of the mountain slopes planed and scoured by ice except where
covered with moraines.
Now,  however,  the climate was  by no means
glacial,  but  was warmer than  anything we  had'J
encountered, making a striking contrast with the
high passes  and valleys  we had been travelling
through.  The lake is only 4,300 feet above the sea
with a broad opening of the valley toward the west,
so that a splendid forest grows round the shores,;
chiefly spruce and pine and cedar,   100 or 1150
feet high and three or four feet through at the
butt;  and there is a rank lower growth of tangled
bushes, including the unlovely devil's club.    We
were certainly in British Columbia.
To face p. 153- The Tramp to Fortress Lake
After breakfast we built a raft of drift timber
and paddled westwards on a voyage of discovery, making by hard work only about a mile
and a half an hour, but solaced by the marvellous
views of valleys running up to glaciers among the
mountains. Our progress was so slow that we
landed at the delta instead of going on to the
end of the lake, and camped as usual under a tree.
On August 23rd we set out for the Pyramid
Mountain, caching half of our provisions, and
following up the torrent which built the delta. The
going was bad, through woods which snatched at
one with hooks and talons, and over slopes of
sliding blocks of limestone, till we rose to the
foot of the glacier from which the torrent gushed,
where we stayed a night with poor shelter from a
thunderstorm that echoed down the valley.
In the morning we climbed without difficulty
the moraine-covered end of the glacier, and
presently got upon the ice, which had looked all
right from the mountain across Fortress Lake, but
turned out to be crossed by fearful crevasses,
among which we zig-zagged upwards. We had to
cut steps for several hundred feet, and were
cornered at one place on a narrow ridge between
two crevasses. Stewart cut a few steps down and
then jumped across a blue chasm several feet wide,
while my brother and I braced ourselves with the
rope and held our breath. He did not slip, as I
feared he might, and cut some steps on the other
side so that we could cross more easily. I must
confess to a tremulous feeling as I made the jump.
i53 The Canadian Rockies
Finding the crevasses troublesome, we turned to
the cliff on the north wall of the valley, but the
rocks were steep and slippery, especially after it
began to rain, and we went back to the glacier,
keeping along its edge to avoid the seracs near the
centre, until at length we got above snow-line and
made better progress by kicking in our feet on
the steep slope.
By this time the rain had turned to sleet, climbing became miserable, and there was nothing to be
seen except dim black and white forms here and
there appearing in the whirling snow. All at once
we found ourselves on the edge of a tremendous
cliff with a valley beyond, out of which came the
noise of a torrent.
The aneroids showed 9,900 feet, and we halted
for some time, eating our lunch and hoping the
clouds would break and give us a sight of the
snowy pyramid which we thought might be Mount
Hooker ; but after shivering for half an hour we
gave it up and turned back.
Down the snow slope we made better time, and
presently got below the clouds, where we could
pick our way more certainly. We crossed the
glacier to the east side, where there was a bit of
woods sheltered by rocks at 6,640 feet, and camped
under three matted spruces. It was cold, but the
rain was over and we made a good fire, and finally
snuggled into a sort of bear's den at the foot of
the trees under the thick branches, where we slept
very comfortably.
A brilliant morning followed, and instead of
n The Tramp to Fortress Lake
going back to Fortress Lake as had been determined the night before, we retraced our old footsteps up the nivi, and in less than three hours had
reached the edge of the cliff where we had halted
in the snowstorm. It was some distance below
the top of the mountain, and there was stiff rock-
climbing up cliffs of vertical limestqne before we
got to the summit, at 10,050 feet.
It was now clear that the peak we had thought
of as Mount Hooker did not join the mountain
we were on, Misty Mountain as we named it; but
that there was a steep wall of cliff below us and
a somewhat deep valley before the foot pf the
pyramid could be reached. Its top was probably
two thousand feet above us and three or four miles
away, and it seemed very isolated, so that we had
to forego any attempt at climbing it, since our
supplies were low.
Misty Mountain was the highest point climbed
during our tramp, and from the top of its limestone cliffs gave a marvellous survey of the region.
We could look back on Fortress Lake and the
mountains around it; and to the south and west
in blue spaces, partly cloud-filled, on each side of
the white Pyramid there were far-distant peaks,
probably of the Selkirks across Columbia River.
The Columbia itself was not visible, though the
great river could not be more than ten miles away ;
and at this point, near the Big Bend, where it
turns south round the Selkirk Mountains, it must
have been more than seven thousand feet below us.
Looked at from the deep Columbia Valley, our
i55 The Canadian Rockies
neighbour, the Pyramid, must rise more than nine
thousand feet above the forest at its base, an;d
must present one of the finest mountain views in
the Rockies. Thus far this splendid peak has never
been seen, or at least has never been described,
from the Columbia side, and has never been
approached by a white man except on our climb
of Misty Mountain.
The Grand Trunk Pacific will pass within fifty
miles of it in a year or two, so that it can then be
reached without too much trouble by a properly
equipped party.
It is probable that the Pyramid is the snowy
peak triangulated by Wilcox from Fortress Lake,
several years after our visit, but he makes its altitude only 10,500 feet. This must be decidedly a
mistake, for Misty Mountain, as shown by two
aneroids checked by a boiling-point reading,
reaches above ten thousand feet, and the Pyramid
we estimated to rise two thousand feet above us.
Wilcox himself thought it higher, and was disappointed when his calculations brought it dbwn
to the figure he gives ; and Jean Habel, an experienced Old World mountaineer who saw it from
the lake some time later, says of it: " Nearly due
west stands a very prominent snowy mountain, in1
shape similar to Mont Blanc," and adds that it
appears higher than the 10,500 feet mentioned by
Our closer view of the mountain suggests
decidedly steeper slopes than those of Mont Blanc,
at least from some points of view. We were con-
III The Tramp to Fortress Lake
vinced from its position beyond the watershed
toward the Columbia River that this fine peak could
not be Mount Hooker, and remained as mystified
as ever in regard to the two great mountains beside
Athabasca Pass. From the top of Misty Mountain,
with clear skies we could see fully fifty miles to
the north and north-west, far beyond the position
of the pass on the map, and nothing even as high
as the peaks round Fortress Lake showed itself.
What had become of the giants?
Going back to the three spruces we passed beds of
snow red with protococcus nivalis, and saw black
glacier fleas all alive in the sunshine. It was a delightful day, full of vivid colours, the sky dark ultramarine, the snow yellow-white in the sun and blue in
the shadow, and the rocks ruddy brown and bluish
grey. Lower down where the glacier was bare of
snowT all the rills and pools on the melting ice
were like indigo with the reflection of the sky, and
our nook of forest at camp seemed of a darker and
more intense green than any other forest. The
slopes to the left and above the patch of woojds
had every possible rich tint of flowers and sedges
and mosses. It was a wonderfully coloured world
on Misty Mountain when the sun shone.
On the downward journey we chose an easier
route and escaped most of the crevasses, so that
after a gorgeous evening glow had faded from the
mountains beyond Fortress Lake we reached the
delta when darkness was falling and picked out a
better spruce for shelter than the last one.
We intended to raft to the outlet of the lake next
i57 The Canadian Rockies
morning, but thunder-squalls and downpours of
rain began in the night and kept us prisoners under
the big spruce most of the day. Fortunately it
made a good roof, not at all leaky, so that we did
not need to get wet.
Sitting chilly under a tree with no view of the
splendid mountains, but only the dripping bushes
beside us on the gravelly floor of the delta, there
was time to ponder over many things. Our supplies
were nearly out, for with the rush of hard work we
had, as usual, eaten more than had been expected,
and to-morrow we must go back to the main camp
and begin the homeward journey. The time lost
in sending Pruyn out to Morley made any fresh
move impossible this summer, since it was now
August 26th, and Stewart and I had to be at home
in the east before the end of September; so that
the second expedition in search of Mount Brown
and Mount Hooker must end without a sight of
either of the great mountains 1
Conditions were rather depressing there in the
grey of pouring rain under the dripping trees by
Fortress Lake, as we held a gloomy council, a trio
of ragged, unshaven men with boots nearly torn to
pieces by the struggle up and down Misty
Mountain. The only conclusion reached was that
we must try again next summer.
Towards evening we paddled back to our camp
near the mysterious stream at the head of the lake
and baked our flour into bannocks for the homeward rush which was to begin in the morning. By
strenuous marching we hoped to reach the main
ill The Tramp to Fortress Lake
camp in one day, since we knew the road and our
loads were now greatly lightened.
In the morning early the rain was over, and we
could see the spiry spruces reflected in the water, and
beyond them to the east the lower towers of Mount
Quincy, with their well-built horizontal courses of
dark quartzite, and the blue lower end of its main
glacier; but the tops of the mountains were
shrouded with mists and the whole valley was
roofed with cloud.
The beans were warmed, the tea steeped, and
bacon fried. Breakfast was ready. It was soon
eaten and we said " goodbye " to Fortress Lake,
plunging through the soaked bushes up the low
ridge to the rear of the camp, sinking to the ankles
in the spongy muskeg where the springs came out,
and then making our way along the gravelly flats
of the creek toward its junction with Chaba River.
Each of the three in turn took the lead for an
hour, as we had been doing all through the excursion. Lucius was guide for the first hour, toward
the end of which we passed our old camp under a
tree near the foot of Fortress Mountain, towering
gloomily above to the north, its top lost in mists.
It seemed homelike enough to us wanderers as we
rested for a few minutes, and recalled the moose
that had broken our slumbers that night by tramping past us over the gravel.
Then Stewart went ahead, plunging into streams
and bayous in his hurry to get on.    We forded
creeks up to the knees, slashed across old beaver
dams with the water running over them, sank deep
i59 The Canadian Rockies
into the moss under dank evergreen woods, and
then the hour was up.
My hour was mostly spent close to the edge of
the creek, where the drainage is best, through
muskegs and marshes. On a mud bank there were
fresh footprints of a bear. Then the Chaba joined
the main Athabasca River, and we struck across
burnt woods to cut off a bend and came out on
the shore where our raft logs had been pulled
up safely above the water.
Soon the six logs were rolled into the river and
lashed together with the glacier rope. Sticks and
boughs were piled on the middle to make a dry
platform for the three dunnage sacks. Lucius went
to the bow, Stewart to the stern, while I took the
middle, each armed with a pole to fend off from
rocks. A strong push from all together sent the
raft into the current and the river swept us homewards. In spite of knees and feet wet with ice-
water where the waves ran high round rocky bends
the motion was exhilarating and our spirits rose,
for we were making good time. We grounded:QjB
sand-bars and pried ourselves off again, and were
caught in an eddy and revolved there till hard
poling got us once more into the current. We
were in doubt which channel to take when the river
forked, and speculated as to future rapids ; and
all the time we were hurrying down the valley
past the splendid procession of mountains. The
mountain with the cross, a landmark of our first
camp after leaving the Sunwapta, was beside us,
and we had reached the abomination of desolation
160 The Tramp to Fortress Lake
where the great fire had run. It was time to land
on the right shore of the river to make our way
across the tangle of logs to the main camp.
The ten miles that took us four and a half hours
of painful trudging on the way up were passed in
two hours on the way down. There was a shrill
noise, and on a high bench inland from' the river
we saw two dark figures sitting, Jimmy Jacob and
Mark Two-young-men. We answered the Indians'
shout and pushed for land, stranding, of course,
on a bar well out in the river, waded ashore with
our bundles, took off the ropes and let the logs
drift where they would, and struck inland over the
ashy ground.
Presently the Indians silently drew near and took
the lead, following an old trail which they had
picked up, and about half-past six we came out
on the muskeg, by the Sunwapta, where the roan
and the grey were waiting for us. The Indians
strapped our packs on one of them, and we walked
on free from our burdens, with that curious
forward-falling sensation of men suddenly relieved
from a load.
Soon more ponies were caught and we mounted
them bare-backed to ford the Sunwapta, and at
seven o'clock we were in camp, where Laird met
us joyfully. But there was one bit of bad luck
awaiting us. Mickie, my brother's riding horse,
perhaps the most valuable of our animals, had been
someway tangled up by getting his drag-rope
caught in a stump and was in a serious state when
we began our tramp.    Poor Mickie had breathed
161 L The Canadian Rockies
his last and been rolled into the river a day or two
after we left.
However, nothing damped our spirits as we dined
in the tent that evening with plenty of bannocks
and beans and apple sauce. A keen appreciation
of the advantages of civilisation came over us,
and we were quite content with the world when we
turned into our blankets without having to look up
a tree that would shed rain for our night quarters.
During the ten days of our excursion we had
carried packs for thirty-five or forty miles into
unknown mountains, through woods and bogs and
rocky slopes, picking our way without a trail,
living in a little world of our own, at home in the
evening wherever there was wood and water and a
sheltering tree where three blanket bags could be
spread close together.
Altogether we had travelled more than eighty
miles and had climbed two mountains rising from
four thousand to six thousand feet above the valley,
and if we had not found Brown and Hooker we
had found some other things almost as good.
Fortress Lake we believed to be the finest in the
mountains, and we could turn our back on the
region with fair good-humour.
It was now the end of August and autumn tints
were beginning to show on the barer slopes, yellows
and browns and the crimson patches of a low-lying
plant whose leaves were as red as its berries.
Mosquitoes and bulldogs had disappeared with the
frosty nights, and so life had lost one heavy burden.
We had more than two hundred miles of mountain
trails to cover on our way home, not counting all
the crooks and turns of an Indian pony trail at its
worst. No time should be lost, for our bacon and
sugar were nearly ended, though we still had plenty
of flour and tea.
After a Sunday's rest we started homewards on
August 29th, through showery and sometimes
snowy weather, following Poboktan Creek and
Pass, and then Brazeau Lake and River to our
former camp in that valley. Here, instead of going
north-east out of the mountains to the horrible
trail in the foot-hills over which Mark had led us,
we followed the route traversed by my brother and
Jimmy in taking Pruyn to Morley.
First we went south, along a stream which we
163 The Canadian Rockies
called Job's Creek, from the enterprising Stony
Indian Job Beaver, who had worked out the trail,
then climbed a steep slope to Job's Pass, rising
above eight thousand feet, a thousand feet above
timber-line. From this rough mountain saddle an
equally steep descent leads down to an important
stream flowing into Cataract River (Hahaseegee-
wapta), which we named Coral Creek, from the
many fossil corals among its gravels. On our way
the fine folded peak of Sentinel Mountain stood
out impressively from the distant Kootenay plains,
and we were glad to come down with our worn-
out horses from the snowstorms and rocky slopes
of Job's Pass and Coral Creek into the prairie
grass along the Saskatchewan, where ponies could
trot once more.
At the higher levels we had always reached camp
soaked with cold rain or with snow from overhanging bushes, and at night Stewart built regular
log houses for fires, and Jimmy piled up pitchy
stumps into teepees of flame, so that we might
dry our clothes before getting between the blankets.
Going to bed, we pulled off our boots, but put on
all the other clothing we possessed, for there was
hard frost at night.
The warm and tempting Saskatchewan valley
gave only a brief respite, however, and the delight
of cantering over the plain, with the mild thunder
of hoofs on the turf, which made the ponies—true
prairie animals—happy again, lasted only one day.
We had descended four thousand feet in two
days from Job's Pass ; and now we had to climb
164 The Return to Morley
three thousand feet out of the valley once more,
up the rough and steep trail, following White
Rabbit Creek to the Atikoseepee valley, where we
halted over Sunday, partly to rest the horses and
partly to get a supply of dried sheep-meat from Job
Beaver. His two sons—Shamosin, whom we had
met before, and his elder brother John—had turned
up by the way, and told us of Beaver's success in
hunting the sheep, so we sent Jimmy with them to
get meat. Mark could not resist the temptation,
and slipped off, too, without permission.
Sunday evening the four Indians came into camp
with the dried meat rattling in a bag, and with
a fine sheep's head which Laird bought as a trophy
of the mountains. Getting it out to civilisation
on horseback made no end of trouble.
Dried meat looks quite unattractive, but its
leathery shreds when boiled into a stew would sustain life now that the bacon was gone. The Indians
carried a pouch of it on their saddle, and nibbled
a strip to pass the time on the trail.
Job's sons invited themselves to join our party
on the way to Morley, and we had a good chance
to make their acquaintance. Shamosin turns out
to be really the Stony version of Samson, for,
like all the other members of the tribe, he had
been christened with a good Bible name, without
any reference to his fitness for the part. The
graceful, smiling boy, whom we all liked, showed
no signs of becoming a Samson in stature. John,
who was a slender, delicate-looking young man,
with a face cynical enough for Mephistopheles, was
165 The Canadian Rockies
dressed in grand finery, with plenty of rings and
beads in his make-up, but none of us loved him.
On Monday morning we were on the trail again,
over the pass into the Clearwater valley, the ponies
dreadfully footsore. Tough little Chub—my saddle
pony — would go any distance round to avoid
a rock or strip of gravel, and he disliked soft
places quite as much, so that for one or the other
reason he was always sidling off the trail and
grinding my knees against tree trunks.
Jimmy went ahead as usual, with John riding
serenely beside or behind him on his black and
white horse, while Samson had to drive their pack
pony, a mare with a foal that was always getting
into mischief. The two were most exasperating, but
the boy rode smilingly after them into the worst
thickets without a hard word or a look of annoyance.
Though John had made a hard bargain with us
for dried meat, and had not shown himself helpful
about camp, he seemed to expect us to feed him
on the way to Morley out of our short supplies,
including a large allowance of stew made from the
very meat that we had bought. We got tired of it,
and no rations were handed to him next morning as
he stood by the fire with his sinister face, but afterwards Jimmy or Mark saw that he did not go hungry.
Without halting on the Clearwater, we crossed
the next pass to the Mountain Park, on the Red
Deer, where Mark went down to the river with
a bit of meat and in a few minutes caught
three trout, speckled, but with no red spots, the
largest nearly two feet long. They were fried and
166 The Return to Mori
served for dinner before we were in camp half
an hour. Mark roasted the smallest for himself,
and Jimmy was not satisfied with our cooking and
afterwards boiled :his share of the fish.
John and Samson lost their horses, and could
not go on with us next morning as we went down
the pretty Red Deer valley, out of the mountains
and into the region of foot-hills and prairie. Ponies
and riders were well satisfied to trot over the sod
or along the brown, well-trodden trails through
groves of spruce or poplar on the sunny plains,
and after thirty-eight miles of travel our last camp
was pitched at Greasy Creek, so called from the
bushes of knotched-leaved birch which, for some
mysterious reason, is named greasewood. It was
our longest clay's journey, and we camped quite
in the open, so that we had to " snake in " some
dead trees from a distance for our fire.
Then came the home stretch, on September 8th,
when we passed the little Red Deer valley, part
of my brother's ranch land, wound through
meadows beside two boggy lakes, forded Ghost
River, now very shallow, climbed the steep benches,
and trotted over rolling hills toward Bow River.
Passing through Fletcher's ranch, sleek cows
eyed us placidly, and men at work in the yellow
oatfields stopped to look at us. This morning
Jimmy had appeared once more in the long-tailed
black coat, and Mark was resplendent in a newly
pipeclayed hat, all his beads round his neck and
on his long forelocks, and with a little sleigh-bell
tinkling on his bridle. The white men had no
167 The Canadian Rockies
finery to put on, and looked ragged and poverty-
stricken as compared with the red men.
The last swell of hills was past, and as we trotted
down into the grey-greens and tawny yellows of
autumn in the final valley, where Bow River curves
down from the mountains, a railway train rumbling
up the pass on the other side of the valley completed our jstock of new sensations. For more than
two months we had seen, outside of our own party,
only Job Beaver's two sons.
We had reached civilisation, the ponies were unpacked at the ranch, and all at once a strange
feeling of homelessness came over me. No need
to look round for saplings as tent poles, for the
dingy old tent was not to be pitched again. All
was over, and the party must scatter.
Next day we paid Jimmy and Mark at
McDougall's store. McDougall had recently
taken in most of the treaty money paid by the
Government to the Indians of the Stony Reserve.
These payments are always made in crisp new one-
dollar bills, since the Indians do not understand
the figures on bills of larger denominations, and
very quickly these dollars lodge in the hands of
the store-keepers. I had arranged with McDougall
to supply enough of them for my purpose, and in
the midst of an interested crowd the bills were
counted out one by one into the waiting hand of
Jimmy, the bystanders grunting when every tenth
was ipaid down.    Then came Mark's turn.
It was an exciting time. Never before had our
two men stood so high in the esteem of the com-
168 The Return to Morley
munity, for now they were men of means, worthy
of admiration and respect. Jimmy, on the whole,
deserved all the dollar bills he was paid, as well
as the flour and unused tea which fell to his share ;
but Mark was lazy and gluttonous, and really
deserved very little.
Our expedition was over, and we had come home
disappointed in our main object; yet we did not
part without some consolations. We had covered
five hundred miles of unmapped mountain trails,
had discovered and named rivers, lakes, and passes,
and climbed a dozen virgin mountains.5 We had
shifted materially the boundary between Alberta
and British Columbia by proving that the Fortress
Lake valley drained into the Columbia River.
Hitherto the line had been drawn straight on the
maps of the mountains, but henceforth it would
bend eight miles to the east of its former position.
In the Fortress Lake valley we had found a new
pass between the prairies and the Columbia River,
much lower than Athabasca Pass or Bow Pass,
and somewhat lower than Howse Pass. It was
rather surprising that this splendid lake, and valley
had remained hidden from all previous explorers.
Professor Stewart had mapped our route, checking the pedometer distances by observations for
latitude, and I had kept a record of elevations as
determined by aneroid and boiling-point thermometer.
Best of all, we had passed a glorious two months
battling with Nature in one of her wilder moods.
169 PART V
Our third expedition toward Mount Brown included
Professor L. B. Stewart, Mr. L. Q. Coleman, and
myself, with Frank Sibbald, a young rancher, as
packer and handy man for the party.
Jimmy Jacob and Mark Two-young-men the
year before had been of little use except on their
own familiar ground ; and by this time we knew
almost as much of the route as they did, beside
having Stewart's map to fall back on if we lost
the way, so we took no guides. Sibbald was hardy
and resourceful, as Western ranchers are apt to be,
was thoroughly familiar with horses, and a fair
camp cook, so that he served our purpose admirably, though he had seen little of the mountains,
and did not profess to be a climber.
Living in Morley as a boy, he had learned the
Cree and Stony languages from Indian playmates,
so that he could talk to the Indians we met or
travelled with and pick up useful information from
them.    Though we had the good luck to> secure an
■Ml Third  Expedition  to Mount Brown
efficient man like Sibbald, it was necessary for all
to share in any kind of necessary work in packing,
camping, and cooking, so as to waste no time on
the journey.
A folding canvas boat was added to our outfit
this year to avoid building a raft at the larger
rivers ; and it proved to be very useful, but most inconvenient to pack on a pony, since it measured four
and a half feet when done up in its canvas cover.
It was always catching in trees or getting out of
balance on the pack, and cost ponies and packers an
immense amount of hard feeling and strenuous language, so that more than once we resolved to leave
it behind, though we always relented. Nuisance
though it was, we should probably never have
reached our point in the summer of 1893 without
the boat, since the winter before had been very
snowy in the mountains, and the Saskatchewan and Athabasca were booming most of the
With our smaller party of four, instead of seven,
as last year, we took only eight ponies, inclu'ding
several of the old bunch of pack animals, that had
wintered on my brother's range, and were in almost
too good trim, being fat and wild from lack of
work. They had entirely, looked after themselves
during the winter.
Our riding ponies were all different, however ;
my brother's, which had lost its life beside the
Sunwapta, was jreplaced by Belle, one of his own
mares; Stewart's had been sold, and as last year's
mount had been named Brown, he christened the
171 The Canadian Rockies
newly purchased horse Hooker; and I exchanged
hardy but short-legged Chub for a larger horse,
named Andy.
As usual, the first attempt at packing resulted
in a " circus," ugly old Pinto especially making
trouble. It took two hours of hard riding to induce
him to enter the corral, and then he bucked and
tore the post he was tied to out of the ground
when the saddle touched his back, but afterwards
he was of lamblike meekness.
It Was afternoon on July 8th before all was
ready, and our little procession moved northwards
through the valleys between the foot-hills, meeting
the usual torments of ponies tangled in fallen
timber or mired in muskegs. This part of the
Stony trail, which had never been too goojd, was
largely a quagmire, because of the wet season;
and the vast number of mosquitoes that assailed
us may be laid to the same cause.
The rivalries of the ponies in the earlier part
of the journey were of some practical importance,
for until the vital questions of precedence are
settled there can be no order in the procession.
For days there were struggles for the lead—
bitings, squealings, crowdings, and jostlings that
the driver had to take some cognisance of to keep,
the train in motion, often urging his pony into
the bush beside them so as to restore order. In
one of these squabbles, Jones, an easy-going pack
pony, was jostled off the narrow side-hill path and
rolled over sideways, making a complete rotation,
turning up on his feet at the bottom of the hill
172 Third Expedition to Mount Brown
with pack all in order, and trotting on with no
display of emotion.
The strongest pack pony always tries to keep
in front of another animal, where the driver's whip
cannot reach him. In that comfortable position
he can stop long enough to browse on a willow-
bush, or tear up a tall plant of vetch in purple
blossom, and any punishment will descend on the
flanks of his rear guard. Our lively sorrel pack
pony always practised this exasperating strategy,
until the driver lost his temper and plunged forward through the brushwood to give him some
mighty blows ; but before the deserved punishment
arrived Sorrel was trotting unconcernedly ahead as
if he had never broken the law.
Although we had engaged no Indian guides we
had Indian companions in the earlier part of our
journey, since Chief Jonas and his family were
going our way. They usually fell vbehind during
the day, but always arrived in the evening, camping not far off, so that the chief, and sometimes
his young man, might conveniently invite themselves to dinner with us.
The chief dressed his part only moderately well.
His black felt hat, it is true, was bound with
ermine and had a row of ostrich feathers running!
from front to rear, but the rest of his garments
were in shabby white man's fashion, far less
imposing than Jimmy's clerical coat of last year.
Although   Jonas   was   not   beautiful   and   was
rather  a  nuisance   at   mealtimes,  we  encouraged
his visits, since he knew many parts of the moun-
i73 The Canadian Rockies
tains very well. He talked guttural Stony to
Frank while the bannocks were baking, and?
Frank responded in musical Cree and served as
interpreter. Inquiring about passes toward the
Sunwapta, Jonas promised to make me a map I
so a pencil and a large piece of brown paper, just
unwrapped from a ham, were furnished him and
next day the map was ready, directions and
distances vague, yet with valuable hints which we
made use of later. He also gave us the Indian
names for several rivers on Stewart's last year's map.
The young man who came with him was more
picturesque than Jonas himself. He was hatless, but
well thatched with long, coarse black hair in braids
adorned with brass rings, wore an old white cotton
jacket trimmed with red, a breech cloth, and the
usual fringed leggings, ending with " flat shoes,"
a simple kind of moccasin made of moose-hide.
When he squatted beside our fire, his leggings
parted widely from the skirt of his short jacket,
leaving a large area of uncovered brown thigh
on which the mosquitoes pastured.
Jonas and his young man were constantly in
evidence, riding ahead in state, while Madame
Jonas with a baby in the blanket on her back,
and a vigorous girl, clothed only in a pink calico
gown, bestrode their riding ponies and hustled
along the pack animals. The ponies were unpacked, the teepee was put up, and the camp
arranged by the two women, with a little aid from
some children whom I had no chance to look at
or count.
i74 Third Expedition  to  Mount  Brown
Another Indian family met us, coming from the
north, and stopped not far off. There was but one
man, squalidly dressed, but riding with a lordly
air at the head of the band, followed by a
disorderly troop of women, children, ponies,
and dogs. This proportion of one man to several
women, common among the Stonies, is said to
come from the high mortality among hunters, who
are the bread-winners. The party halted near
us till supper, after which with barkings and
neighings the band moved on without saying adieu.
Amid showers and rainbows we passed from the
foot-hills into the lower end of the Red Deer valley,
with its cliffs and snowless mountains on each side,
and then, as in the former journey, crossed the
pass into the Clearwater valley. We camped near
the pass, which does not quite reach timber-line,
and took the opportunity to climb a mountain and
revive our impressions of the world above the plains
and foot-hills.
From the red and white heathers, the forget-
me-nots, and the monk's-hoods at our camp near
tree-line we tramped over sedgy, flowery slopes
with easy grades to the mountain-top, 8,500 feet
above the sea, where saxifrages, campions like
moss cushions with pink flowers pinned on, low-
growing white and yellow dryas, and other composites made the turf, all squatting close to the
ground in the most democratic way. To lift one's
head above the rest meant buffeting the storms alone
without support, and even the willows had trailing
stems with yellow catkins as big as the whole
i75 IM Hi
The Canadian Rockies
tree, just as one sees them on Spitzbergen. Not
far from the top a ptarmigan, still half-clothed
with its winter white, stood glaringly conspicuous
against a lichened rock, not aware apparently that
it would be safer to wear summer styles or change
its background.
From the top we looked over an abyss to the
north-east, and beyond a lower range than our
own saw the plains fading into the distance, while
up the Clearwater there were little gems of lakes,
and then the snowy central ranges of the Rockies.
Later on we visited these lakes in their lovely
setting of rocks and spruces, and found them to
be the settling basins where glacial mud is deposited, so that the river flowing from the last
deserves its name. How cool and clean and
healthful everything was by contrast with the hot
and dusty city we had left behind in the east !
The route north from the Clearwater had been
appreciably lengthened since last summer by the
fall of dead trees where fire had run. On an
Indian trail trees are seldom chopped. Instead,
the man who rides ahead pulls his horse into the
bushes when he comes to a newly fallen trunk
and goes round the end of it; the others follow
automatically and the trail has been lengthened
by one or two hundred feet. If kindly decay
did not finally open up again the earlier pathway,
one could imagine the trail through the woods at
last reaching infinity, growing more and more
meandering,  like a  river in  its  flood  plain.
On   our   way   down   the   White   Rabbit   Valley
m\ Third Expedition  to Mount Brown
toward the Saskatchewan Chief Jonas left us, and
we sent word by him to Jimmy Jacob, who was
camped not far off, to follow us down and pilot
us across the ford ; but he was afraid of the big
river in its high-water stage, so we went down
stream to a point where it flowed in a single channel
and prepared to ferry over. We chose a spot
for the ferry where an eddy on our side gave an
easy beginning for the voyage, and a strip of beach
down stream on the other gave a good landing
for the ponies, when their turn came to cross.
While we were fussing with the unfamiliar
framework of the boat so as to get the canvas
properly stretched a dog barked, and, following
up the sound, we saw a camp in the woods, and
not far off a man at work with a whipsaw.
He turned out to be McGavan, a prospector,
who had left civilisation a month before, and,
finding the river unfordable, was patiently sawing
wood to build a boat when we arrived. He was
only too glad to cross in our craft, which by this
time lay complete on the shore, a frail enough
Looking punt, 12 feet long and 5 feet wide, to
cross the brown river, 15 o yards wide, which
surged past just beyond the eddy. I did not like
the looks of it, but Stewart, our most experienced
oarsman, got in with a load of flour and saddles
and pulled away manfully. The boat was swept
far down stream, but landed safely, was unloaded
and towed well above our camp, and came back
light, swirling into the eddy at its lowest point.
It was now late in the afternoon and we worked
177 m The Canadian Rockies
hard with the little boat, which made several trips
before the camp equipment was over. Then came
the turn of the horses, which were driven down
to the shore and with shouts and more substantial
persuasion were sent out into the swift current.
Yells and stones kept them from turning back, and
soon they were all puffing and snorting toward the
opposite bank, the best swimmers landing easily
on the beach we had selected, others drifting a
quarter of a mile down before managing to get
on shore. They got so scattered in the woods that
Sibbald could not hobble them for the night.
It was after dark before the tent was up, and
midnight before we got to bed; but we were al|
happy that things had gone so well on the first
launching of the boat. So far as we could learn
afterwards, McGavan and our party were the only
ones to cross the Saskatchewan that summer.
Next morning all the horses were gone except
old Pinto, the only one caught and hobbled, and
Sibbald and McGavan had a long search for them,
while the rest of us ferried what was left of our
stuff when darkness came on the night before.
McGavan proved decidedly a character, who
travelled alone with his little black dog and three
cayuses, one of them decorated with a cow-bell
for ease of finding them in the morning. From
his mode of life in summer one might imagine
such a lonely prospector to be a morose recluse
shunning mankind; but that would be a complete
misconception, as we soon found out. He was
the steadiest talker I ever met, and made full
178 Third Expedition to  Mount  Brown
amends for his month without human society by
deluging us with all sorts of inquiries about other
people and of information about himself.
As soon as he learned that I was a geologist
and not interested in gold-mining, he explained
to me that he was going to make his fortune this
summer. He had done some placer-mining in the
Edmonton region, 250 miles down the Saskatchewan, where fine flour gold may be got from the
sand bars laid bare after the spring floods, and
had made up his mind, very naturally, that this
gold came from the headwaters of the Saskatchewan in the Rocky Mountains. Setting out to find
its sources, he began at the south, and had carefully prospected with shovel, pick, and pan every
creek flowing from the mountains into the
Saskatchewan, but had found no gold. This
summer he was going to work on the last two
tributaries, those farthest north, and was sure of
striking the gold and " making his pile " at last.
Imagine this hearty fellow, fond of society, yet
slipping off alone with his ponies and his dog,
afraid to share his secret with other miners lest
they might get the advantage of him, travelling
for months through the roughest of mountain
valleys and pitching his teepee beside the wildest
creeks, scraping the gravel to bed-rock and panning
day after day, but with never a colour to rejoice his
eye when the pan was worked down to the last
remnant of black sand. He professed, however,
to be quite sure of gold in his last two creeks.
He would prospect them carefully and take his
time staking claim's so as to get the best.
1 The Canadian Rockies
I had never found gold in any part of the Rocky
Mountains, and tried to moderate his  hopes  by
telling him of Mr. Tyrrell's theory accounting for
the gold of the Saskatchewan so far out on the
plains.    The Rockies are young mountains, dating
only from the beginning of the Tertiary, and before
they   existed   rivers   flowed   eastward   from   the
Selkirk  and  Gold Ranges,  which are  far older.
The  whole  belt of mountains  south-west  of the
Rockies  is  gold-bearing,  and much  of  the  gold
was transported out over the plains before the folds
and faults which raised the Rocky Mountains had
begun.    The gold had travelled so far that all the
nuggets were worn down into fine dust and deposited with the sedimentary rocks of the plains,
from which year by year the Saskatchewan concentrates a few thousand dollars' worth in its bars.
McGavan was not convinced and left us where
wre turned off from the Saskatchewan, turning up
stream to the two remaining creeks.
On our way home two months later we found
old camp fires where a teepee had been put up
with four poles, the smallest possible number. A
bed of spruce-boughs just large enough for one
man lay under the tripod, and here and there a
heart-shaped piece of tin showed where a plug of
chewing tobacco had been opened out. When we
went to stake out one or two ponies in a good
bit of meadow near camp we found three tethering
stakes. McGavan had not discovered gold in the
last two creeks flowing into the Saskatchewan, and
had left the mountains before us.
We took a new and shorter way to Brazeau River,
going up the Saskatchewan instead of down, as
Mark Two-young-men had led us last year, first
through the groves and meadows of the Kootenay
plains and then up the valley of the Hahaseegee-
wapta, or Cataract River (literally Bad Rapid
River). To reach this valley we had to scramble
down into the Coral Creek canyon, ford the rapid
stream, and climb the opposite wall, coming out
well above the river in a wide U-shaped valley,
with Sentinel Mountain behind us.
The Cataract valley received its smooth and
rounded shape from the scour of a great glacier
in the Ice Age ; but two or three thousand feet
above the river the polished surfaces are lost and
the imposing walls of cathedral-shaped mountains
rise to snowy summits. From a striking one which
can be seen up the valley from the Kootenay plains,
and which we named Minster Mountain, avalanches
thundered down as we passed.
The beauty of Cataract valley was marred, as
are so many parts of the  Rocky  Mountains, by The Canadian Rockies
a fire that had swept through it a few years before,
and we travelled all day through burnt woods,
where most of the trees were still standing, either
covered with blackened bark or yellow-white, like
tusks of ivory, where the singed bark had peeled
off. The wood had dried out and cracked, and a
rousing wind played strange music upon them,
hisses and sighs and groans and whistlings, so
that the valley was most dolefully bewitched.
Not far from its head Cataract River forks, one
branch coming from a splendid valley to the south,
w7here it begins in an exquisite lake about a mile
long and broad, fed by an enormous spring forty
feet wide. Pinto Lake, as we named it, is 5,850
feet above the sea, and on three sides of it mountain
walls rise to seven or eight thousand feet, making
a wonderful amphitheatre. We spent half of a
showery Sunday visiting it and climbing up the
easiest part of the wall, where a poorly-marked
trail leads southward up to a tableland 1,500 feet
above it, and then descends as steeply to the
Saskatchewan. The mountains on either side of
the lake rise to ten or eleven thousand feet, and
if it were not so far from a railway this romantic
pool among the woods and hills should be as attractive to mountain-lovers as Lake Louise. So far
it has been visited by very few white men, though
Indians come to fish in its crystalline waters.
The following day's journey took us over the
divide at  7,550 feet.    Near its summit Cataract
Pass, as we may call it,  is swept by snowslides
which have mowed down the timber, making an
182 A New Pass to the Athabasca
almost impassable tangle for ponies to cross; and
at the highest point the snow was so deep on
July 24th that we made a wide detour up the
mountain to get our horses past it. Fine peaks
of dark red quartzite rise on each side, with glaciers
about their shoulders, one reaching the level of
the pass and feeding an indigo-coloured pond amid
the snows of the summit.
A sharp descent on the other side brought us
to the headwaters of the Brazeau, where we had
done some exploring the year before; and we
camped at about 6,000 feet in weather so cool
that we had to break thick ice on the water-pail
when the fire was lit for breakfast next morning
and the kettle put on for tea.
Instead of the roundabout trail by Brazeau Lake
and Poboktan Creek which we had discovered the
previous year we intended to cross to the Sunwapta by a pass marked on Chief Jonas's brown-
paper map, and before breaking camp we set out
to look for it.
A steep, snowy ridge, rising to nine thousand
feet, gave wide views up and down the valley, but
settled nothing as to the pass. On the way down
a mother ptarmigan played the usual comedy to
protect her chicks, sprawling and fluttering on the
snow a yard or two from us while they scattered
in all directions. When the danger was past the
little hen gave the proper cluck and was off with
her brood.
To solve the problem of the pass we climbed
a higher mountain next day, a tilted block like
183 The Canadian Rockies
all the peaks along the Brazeau, but so steeply
tilted and with so rugged a surface of limestone
that it was no " sidewalk " to ascend. From the
top we had one of the finest panoramas in the
Rockies, for the Columbia icefield with its surrounding peaks and glaciers was only ten or fifteen
miles to the south-west, and the snow dome we
had seen on a former climb showed mysteriously
under brooding clouds. We could look down the
whole length of the Brazeau valley and see the
high, glacier-covered mountain north of Brazeau
Lake, and we could look over into the head of
the Sunwapta valley toward the north-west. From
this high point we could see a valley crossing
from near our camp toward a creek flowing into
the Sunwapta, evidently the pass Jonas intended
we should take, so that our plans were settled.
There was a bitterly cold wind sweeping the top
of the mountain, and we lost no time in beginning
the descent on a slope of fine scree that slid with
us. In twelve minutes we reached its end, 1,700
feet below the top, and in an hour we were 3,200
feet down, among the last trees, where our ponies
had been tied. The ascent had taken about four
During the night heavy rain pattered on the tent,
and in the morning everything above timber-line
was white with fresh snow, a misfortune for us
with a high pass to be crossed.
Soon after starting we found a well-beaten and
blazed trail, the one Jonas had told us of, winding!
up a very steep slope for horses to the mouth of A New Pass  to the Athabasca
a hanging valley far above the Brazeau, and for
the greater part above the trees.
We left the flowery slopes of forget-me-nots
and gentians where the snow had melted, and rose
upon barren fields of small stones and patches of
turf clammy with softening masses of snow at about
7,700 feet. The trail ceased, as usual on passes,
and for seven or eight miles we plodded through
slush and mire, until the valley dipped down to
timber-line on the other side, where we were glad to
camp beside a small creek, among the highest trees.
We named the pass and creek for Chief Jonas.
The pasture was poor and the short, stumpy spruces
made very clumsy tent-poles, but horses and men
were glad to halt at the first point possible.
An incautious porcupine, knocked on the head
to keep him from doing mischief to our stock of
saddles, was put in the pot for supper, and proved
so old and tough that he lasted for breakfast also.
Then came a terrible bit of travel down Jonas
Creek to the Sunwapta, when we alternately
splashed through muskegs with sharp stones
beneath the moss, and climbed up steep, rocky
banks to escape them. At one such assault Roan,
who carried the boat and other unwieldy things,
actually tumbled over backwards and had to be
unpacked to get up to the top. Things grew even
worse lower down the valley, for there the woods
were burnt and the fire had consumed the moss,
leaving sharp rocks and fallen logs instead of a trail.
Nothing more depressing can be imagined than
these burnt forests, with rags of black bark peeling
185 The Canadian Rockies
from gihastly bare trunks under a shower}' sky,
and the slippery rocks beneath added to the misery
for the ponies, so that every one' was relieved
when we came out of the rocky gorge into the
gentler slopes of the Sunwapta valley. Jonas described the pass as a good one, but that must
have been before the fire had ruined it.
We found ourselves five or six miles above last
year's camp at the mouth of Poboktan Creek, but
the wide valley looked friendly and familiar, putting
us once more in good spirits, while the horses fell
ravenously upon the fresh grass after half starving
the night before at timber-line.
Toward the close of such a day everything seems
to go wrong. The animals are tired and galled
and desperately hungry after six hours under their
loads, stumbling over rocks, plunging through
muskegs, and leaping over logs, and the hungry
driver, black from the burnt timber he has fought
with, is sure to be in a bad temper. His lunch of a
dry quarter of bannock was eaten hours ago, and he
must get into camp before rest or food is possible.
To have a pack go wrong at the last stage of
such a  day,  scattering ham's and' tin plates  and
forks and spoons over half a mile of bad trail, is
simply heart-breaking ;  and this actually happened
to us just as we entered the main valley.   Wearily
we gathered things up, and once more put the pack
on the restless, sore-backed animal.     Meantime,
of course, the other ponies were snatching for tufts
of grass and getting into mischief among the fallen
186 A New Pass  to the Athabasca
At last the packs and saddles were on the ground
beside the river and the sweaty beasts had taken
a long drink and were filling themselves on good
pasture, while we hurried up a fire to fry bacon
and make tea. Our camp was excellent except for
the burnt timber, but no washing seemed to take off
all of the black we had accumulated on the way
down. The once white pack covers were now
smudged into various tones of grey and black, and
our clothes were smeared so that to touch them was
to smear one's hands afresh.
To give the ponies a holiday, we spent the next
day in exploring the Sunwapta valley, and climbed
a peak ten thousand feet high just to the east of its
head waters. In this part the river is almost
entirely glacier-fed, and every sunny afternoon
sends down a flood of muddy water spreading over
the flats, while at night the water sinks and grows
clearer. The mud flats had hardened in the sun
between, showers, and made good travelling after
the exasperating trails of the last few days.
Our climb of 4,700 feet above the valley, over
lower tree-clad slopes followed by rough limestones
toward the top, was made in four hours, and proved
hard but not dangerous. The view of the valley
from above was marvellous ; for miles above and
below a wonderful network of river channels cut the
grey mudflats like a skein of green silk flung
ravelled on the floor. At the head of the valley
we isaw the same splendid snowfields and peaks
and walls of cliff as from the last mountain, but at
a different angle.
187 The Canadian Rockies
As the valley, is 5,300 feet above the sea, and
the mountains rise to twelve thousand feet, the effect
of height is more striking than from the Brazeau.
The next day was Sunday, clear and hot, filling
the river and bringing out the bulldog flies in
myriads to torment the horses, so we built them a
juicy smudge thick with the rank fumes of green
moss ; but they came to our fire, perhaps with some
idea that we could protect them from their enemies,
and we had to barricade our own quarters with lash
ropes tied to the trees.
Lucius's three-year-old pet mare, Belle, amused
and annoyed us. She had absolutely no fear of
man, came right up to the tent and lounged over
our fire, rubbing her head against us to wipe off
flies, and behaving as if the camp generally
were intended for her convenience. She was greatly
in the way at bannock-baking times and was alert
to pick up stray pieces of bread, such as a man's
lunch laid on a log before being put in the pocket.
Anything in the way of punishment short of an
actual beating she took most good-naturedly and
never allowed it to interfere with her friendly
attitude toward the family.
We started down the Sunwapta valley, expecting
in an hour or two to be at the old camp-ground
where Laird had waited for us on our foot trip to
Fortress Lake, but soon halted before a wilderness
of rugged quartzite blocks, often ten feet through,
that no pony could cross. A huge white scar on
the mountain beyond showed where a cubic mile of
rock had broken from its top and swept across
ill A New Pass  to the Athabasca
the valley, partly damming the river. It cost us
half the morning to pick a way round the landslip, and then we were confronted with the fallen
timber which had stopped us the year before.
The three axes were got out and we took turns
at chopping a way through the miles of windfalls,
sometimes following an old trail, but oftener losing
it. The work was disgustingly slow, and once we
forded, in despair of making our way on the east
side, but a few miles down forded back again.
Our rate of travel dropped to five or six miles a
day instead of the usual fifteen or twenty.
At length we reached the junction of the
Sunwapta and the Athabasca, where the combined
flow was too deep for fording, and looking up
the main valley and that of Chaba River, we could
see the mountain of the Cross and beautiful Mount
Quincy in the distance. Our camp near the
junction was beside the waterfall in a canyon, which
we had found the year before, and the mellow roar
came soothingly to us in our blankets after a hard
day with the axes.
As the valley broadened, a bit of good trail
cheered us and the axes had a rest. Pushing noisily
along, a black bear took fright at our party and
galloped away, never stopping till he had swum the
river, and Stewart, who followed him, was quite
left behind in the race. A grizzly or a cinnamon
bear would have moved away, too, from such a
startling caravan, but deliberately and with some
dignity, so that Stewart might have got a shot at
him. Judging from our own experiences in the
189 The Canadian Rockies
mountains, the only really dangerous animals are
the black fly, the mosquito, and the " bulldog."
Where the trees had fallen after a first burning,
and had then been burnt a second time, the flats
and hillsides were covered with fireweed in bloom,
a splendid purplish red mantle to cover blackness
and ashes, and the distant slopes looked like Scotch
heather, but of a richer and purer colour.
Soon, however, the trail turned down to boggy
ground along the river, where the horses dreaded
being mired and would even jump into the water
to avoid a mudhole where another animal was
struggling. One pack pony forded to an island,
and when chased off rushed into deep water where
he had to swim, to the detriment of his load of
Then came a growth of young pitch pines just
swept by the fire, all their slender branches cramped
and twisted and stiffened by the heat, making black
hooks and claws to snatch and tear everything
that passed. Fires were still burning toward the
north-west, giving a blood-red sun and strange
evening colours to be reflected in the river ; and
we wondered how they had started in this uninhabited region, not knowing at the time that there
was a halfbreed settlement not many miles down
the valley.
We were nearing the latitude where the Whirlpool should join the Athabasca from the opposite
side, and Stewart took the sun with his sextant
every day.    At one noon-halt for the purpose we
were close beside a second canyon into which the
190 A New Pass  to the Athabasca
river plunged, sending up spray from the depths to
make a perpetual rainbow.
In a cavern under the cliffs logs of wood could
be seen revolving in an eddy, and near the roof
of the cavern swallows had built their nests and
kept flying in and out. Below the falls the cleft
is at one place so narrow that some one had flung
over six small spruces as a bridge, but one would
need a steady head to cross it.
While Stewart was arranging his artificial horizon
the rest of us sat on a projecting rock trembling
with the concussion of the fall and delightfully
cool with the breath of the chaldron beneath, and
for a while forgot all about slimy muskegs and the
tormenting black flies among shadeless black trees.
There were two more days of misery in the burnt
woods before reaching what we took to be Whirlpool River. On one of them Frank and Stewart
went ahead to cut trail through a dense second
growth of pine with bigger fallen trunks piled up
among them, while my brother and I came on
with the nine ponies. All at once the trail stopped
at a precipice above a torrent flowing through a
ravine. The trail-cutters had picked another way
across, and it was our duty to turn the ponies
right-about-face ambng the tangled saplings and
fallen logs, take them back a hundred yards, and
start them in the new direction.
No one who has not travelled on mountain trails
can imagine the shouting, coaxing, whipping, and
leading needed to get those animals in motion on
the new course.    They were as exasperated and
191 I
The Canadian Rockies
obstinate as we were, and it was nearly half an
hour before, hot and angry, we reached the torrent
at an easier point and forded over the round stones
of its bed with the foamy water splashing against
the horses' flanks on the up-stream side.
Our axes were getting very dull from striking
stones in slashing out the trail, and no work with
the file and whetstone would give them a serviceable edge, so that the constant chopping grew very
hard, though we took turns in the attack. On
August 6th things reached a climax, and we were
almost in despair. Starting at three that afternoon,
after a halt for lunch in a tangle with no grass for
the horses, we toiled forward through burnt woods,
where the beasts were constantly going aside to
snatch some tuft of grass and had to be hunted
back, crashing through the branches and tearing
down dead trees on the way. It was nine o'clock
when we came out of the woods into open ground
with a little pasture, and before we could get the
tent pitched in the dtisk a thunderstorm was upon
us. Our only water supply was a little rill, that
had to be dipped up cup by cup to fill the pails.
When a candle was lit in the tent at ten o'clock
the scene was curious, for we were all black as
mulattoes from the wet burnt branches and bark
of trees we had encountered. In six hours of heavy
work we had come only three miles on pur way.
After we had gone to bed we heard Belle come up
to the tent and drink the water in our pail left just
outside the door to save time in getting breakfast.
In the morning the horses were right around us,
: A New Pass to the Athabasca
afraid to  go  farther  into  the  fallen timber,  but
fortunately there was plenty for them to eat.
Days like this made one wish he had never come
out in search of high mountains, but after this
things improved and we could sometimes trot over
bits of prairie covered with long grass or through
groves of unburnt timber.
The valley had gradually widened and the nearer
mountains were lower and without snow, though
some fine distant peaks could still be seen to the
south, and at one camp we heard the curious yelping laugh of a pack of coyotes, at which Frank
Sibbald, a true plainsman, was overjoyed. " It's
a decent country where there are coyotes," was his
The trail became well beaten and well blazed,
and we wondered by whom the work had been
done; for even if the early railway exploring
parties had come this way, the trail would have
grown up again long before this.
The river was now as wide as the Saskatchewan
on Kootenay Plains, and big Douglas fir-trees began
to show themselves, evidence of a wide-open door
to British Columbia. After a week of burnt timber
it was an immense comfort to camp on green grass
among willow-bushes beside the river, and we felt
ourselves Christians again, full of good feeling and
charity even for pack ponies.
We had reached the proper latitude, and began
to wonder whether we had missed Whirlpool River,
when a wide valley opened on the other side of the
Athabasca as if in answer to our question.
The boat was put together and we crossed to have
a look at things, finding a river about seventy-
five feet wide, with deep blue-green water, and
not at all suggestive of whirlpools in its gentle
flow ; but perhaps it was more headlong farther
up the valley. There was a good trail in that
direction, and we were deeply interested to find
fresh tracks of horses much larger than our ponies,
and also fresh camping-grounds. Some one had
passed that way only a short time before—white
men or Indians ? We were far beyond the hunting-
grounds of the mountain  Stonies.
At the time we had no solution for the problem,
which greatly puzzled us ; but thirteen years later
we found that a prospector and explorer named
Swift had been in the region then, and had been
equally puzzled by our tracks, which he had found
on some of the trails.
From the direction of the valley we began to
suspect that the river might be the  Miette, and
not   the   Whirlpool;    and  as   Henry   House was
placed on the map not far from the mouth of the
194 The Miette Valley
Miette, Stewart and Erank rode some miles down
the valley in search of the " house," but they found
none, which reassured us. Years afterwards we
learned that the log houses of the post had been
burned, leaving only some ruined chimneys, which
were overlooked. Frank reported that the bare,
grassy benches and hills over which they cantered
must be good ranch land, and they heard a mysterious cow-bell in the distance down the valley,
but saw nothing; doubtless the bell was on the
neck of one of Swift's horses. As the map showed
a prairie des Vaches a little way down-stream,
the cow-bell was very suggestive to imaginations
roused by the uncertainty. Were we in the right
valley or the wrong one? Were there neighbours
not far off who could tell us all about it?
We decided to go far enough up the valley to,
settle matters, so our outfit was ferried over, while
the horses swam, and we followed the well-beaten
trail, out of which some one with a keen axe had
cut logs two or three feet through. Climbing over
bare rock ridges, or travelling through thickets of
alder and willow along the water, the path led up
the river for ten miles, and then was lost in a
grove of spruce, with no hint of open ground
beyond. It was time to camp, and we unsaddled
the ponies, which fed voraciously on the rank
equisetums along the shore and among the trees,
apparently liking this coarse fare better than grass.
We were not the first to camp here, for broad
blazes on the trees had been decorated with charcoal figures of men and animals, one sketch
i95 The Canadian Rockies
showing a man and a boy hunting with guns, while
two dogs followed. The work must have been done
by Indians.
We set out for the nearest mountain, but never
reached it, because of fearful windfalls. However, we could see far enough to settle that the
valley ran west instead of south, so that the river
must be the Miette, and the trail must lead to
the Yellowhead Pass. It was clear that in some
way we had missed the Whirlpool.
Next morning we urged our ponies eastward,
and our thoughts of the quiet, blue-green Miette,
lurking in the forest shadows, were by no means
loving, for we had wasted three days' hard work
over the wrong valley.
Once more the ponies swam the Athabasca, and
we travelled back along its eastern shore, camping
about eight miles up, from which point we walked
on along the bank, keeping a sharp lookout for the
Whirlpool River. Before long Stewart noticed that
the water on the other side was greener than on
ours, and, reaching a bend in the Athabasca, we
saw the real Whirlpool, with its narrow valley
reaching far to the south into the mountains.
In our hurry to cut a way through the timber
and hustle up the unwilling ponies, we had passed
the mouth of the river, coming in on the opposite;
shore of the Athabasca without noticing it, and
had paid the penalty with fifty miles of travel and
four days' loss of time.
Presently we found blazes leading to a ford,
and hoped that the late season and the cloudy
196 The Miette Valley
weather had lowered the river so that we should
not need the boat; but next morning the horse
that tried it had to swim1, and we ferried across the
Athabasca for the third time. We were in better
spirits, however, now that we felt sure of being on
the right track; and we all recalled, when it was
too late, that the Miette was too small, that the
mountains along its valley were too insignificant,
and that its water was too clear to have come from
The real Whirlpool River fulfilled all our expectations. It was rapid, as one would expect of a
river tumbling two thousand feet in thirty miles;
it was turbid with glacial mud, and it came from
between lofty mountains.
It was my turn to lead the procession as we
turned towards the Whirlpool valley; and in spite of
clouds of those little winged tigers, the black flies,
at first I enjoyed picking a way up this famous pass,
once a thoroughfare—as mountain passes go—with
thousands of dollars' worth of rare furs travelling
eastwards. It was seven or eight miles before
we reached the entrance to the actual valley, and
we camped at its mouth.
Crossing the Whirlpool next morning, we were
surprised to find the old fur traders' trail so well
cut out and with such frequent blazes. It had, no
doubt, been freshened up by the early C. P. R.
survey parties, though Indians must have used it
later. Then came the usual alternations of green
timber, with soft, mossy pathways, in a green
twilight; of burnt timber, with a confusion of
198 Whirlpool River
fallen logs, through which one must twist and turn
to avoid too much chopping; of muskeg and
shallow, muddy lakes, which one must skirt
cautiously lest some animal get mired.
Before the second camp on the Whirlpool a
serious accident happened to me in the woods.
A splintered sapling, long and sharp, drove through
the broad, wooden stirrup beside my left foot and
pierced my horse's side, the farther end of the
stick catching against trees and pushing the point
deeper into his flank. Andy was frantic and out
of control, and dashed among the trees ; then the
axe which I carried in my hand to clear the trail
jabbed his neck, and in a moment I was smashed
against a tree and flung from the saddle. I was
stunned for a minute, but managed to climb on
my horse again after he had been caught and
quieted and rode on to camp. Though I was badly
bruised no bones were broken, and I hoped in a
day or two to be ready for climbing when we
reached Mount Brown.
After a bad night my left knee proved to have
been so seriously wrenched that I could only get
round with the help of two sticks; and it was
clear that climbing was out of the question during
this season—a bitter disappointment, with Mount
Brown almost in sight. I rode Andy through thick
and thin for the rest of the trip with only my
right foot in the stirrup, and it was years before
I could trust myself in the mountains again.
This was a bad handicap for the party, since
the other three had all the work to do ; and, to
199 The Canadian Rockies
relieve them, the dish-washing fell to my lot, a
task I always hated.
It is a curious sensation for an active, self-
sufficient man suddenly to find himself a cripple,
to be cared for by others.
We advanced steadily along the old trail, with
its rotten log bridges over creeks and muskegs;
sometimes the boiling river, with the eddies and
whirlpools that its name suggested, had carved
away the bank, trail and all. A fine snowy peak
ahead must surely be Mount Brown; and the
other three worked like heroes to quicken our
speed, while I spent the time pulling Andy to the
right of the trail so that my swollen knee should
not be bruised against tree trunks.
The trail was lost for some time, and the others
scattered to look for it, while I waited by the
river among the slender pines and spruces. They
were long away, and the river voices and the voices
of wind in the trees made a doleful music, so
that sometimes I thought there was a shout from
Stewart or Lucius that the trail had been found,
but it was only a louder surge of the rapid.
The whirlpool was here spread out over a wide
flat, after the manner of glacial rivers ; and, as
often happens under these circumstances, there was
no defined trail, since the river channels were constantly shifting with the flooding due to hot sunshine. We had to pick the best way we coujd,
fording branch after branch, and keeping along the
openest gravel flats.
Our camp was not far from' a glacier coming.
I Whirlpool River
down to the valley, comparable in size to the Rhone
Glacier in Switzerland, and furnishing probably,
half the water of the river, which henceforth was
only a moderate creek, easily forded. We were
near the headwaters, and therefore near our goal,
but camped on the flats, where there was pasture,
since up the valley only woods could be seen.
On August 19th, five days after leaving the
Athabasca, we set out, expecting to find camp in the
evening at the foot of Mount Brown. The horses
had stuffed themselves, as Indian ponies do when
the grass is good, and hated to be saddled; and
as I crouched under a tree old Black, who had just
been cinched up, was whimpering like a puppy
left out of doors on a cold night. Presently all
were saddled arid packed, and I climbed on my
own horse ready for the start, keen to see the
giants Brown and Hooker, which should loom up
just round the bend of the valley ahead.
The timber presently became more open, for we
were above five thousand feet; and our horses'
feet sank noiselessly in the moss, only here and
there clattering over a small, open, gravel flat.
There were flowers of autumn in the open places
—red and yellow paint-brushes and lilac-coloured
asters ; and at first all was moist and cool and
pleasant; then the sun grew hot toward midday,
the river turned to a muddy, foaming torrent, and
the bulldogs and buffalo flies drove the horses
At noon there was a good feed for the animals,
for the sward was kept green by innumerable small
_ The Canadian Rockies
rills of cool water;   but they preferred to line up
in the drifting smoke of the smudge built for their
benefit, since sand-flies and black flies had now;'
joined forces with the other tormentors.
Less than an hour's journey after lunch brought
us to a pond sending a little stream down the
valley, and we had reached the headwaters of the
Whirlpool. From the other end of the pond a rill
flowed southwards, doubtless to the Columbia ; and
we halted on the green shore of the Committee's
Punch Bowl, which sends its waters to two oceans
nearly two thousand miles apart. Some of the
maps make the Punch Bowl a lake ten miles long,
but here in real life it was only a small pool less
than two hundred yards long. There could be%
no doubt that it was the Punch Bowl, for beyond
it the water flowed in the opposite direction. We
were on the Great Divide, the ridge pole of North^
America, but we felt no enthusiasm. Instead, we
felt disillusioned.
If this was the Punch Bowl, where were the
giant mountains Brown and Hooker?
We looked in vain for magnificent summits rising
ten thousand feet above the pass, one on each
side. Instead, we saw commonplace mountains!
with nothing distinguished in their appearance, undoubtedly lower than half a dozen peaks we had
climbed as incidents along the way for the fun of
the thing, or as lookout points from which to choose
our route. It was clear that our glacier rope and
ice equipment would not be needed.
We got the saddles off the ponies and pitched  it»
the tent beside the Punch Bowl silently. We had
reached our point after six weeks of toil and
anxiety, after three summers of effort, and we
did not even raise a cheer. Mount Brown and
Mount Hooker were frauds, and we were disgusted
at having been humbugged by them1. Personally,
I found some solace for the disappointment, as I
hobbled round camp,, in the thought that if I could
do no climbing it did not really matter mulch, for
there was no glory to be got in climbing Mount
W*e had expected to row our canvas boat round
the lake on the summit, an occupation that would
have suited me, since it did not demand legs; but
the Punch Bowl was too small a pool to make it
worth while, and the boat remained in its pack
cover of green canvas.
We stayed five days in our camp by the Punch
Bowl. While Stewart and my brother explored the,
surroundings, Frank kept an eye on the ponies, and
I loafed about the camp and fought the pestilent
flies that made life a burden. Our valley was
luxuriantly green, having a short turf of sedge with
black tufts of bloom, beloved of the horses, with
small groves of stubby white spruce, equally green
but of a darker tone. The fragrant spruce-boughs
made our bed^ and a few dead trunks gave firewood that burnt well but sent off many sparks
which perforated clothes and blankets with little
brown holes. We had a large population of
whistlers (marmots) for neighbours, mostly
invisible unless one remained perfectly still for a
while. They were very sociable among themselves,
and their loud whistles were constantly sounding
from among the rocks where they had their
dwellings, and they had also a softer note, almost
bird-like, for private use in the family.
When Erank chopped a dead tree and it fell with
a crash, there was a horrified chorus of whistles
204 On the Roof of Canada
from all sides to express their feelings at so shocking an event.
Two of our neighbours fell to Stewart's rifle
and were put in the pot—fat, pursy fellows almost
as big as a badger, clothed in a nice grey pelt;
but they tasted much like porcupine, and were not
greatly admired at dinner.
We had another visitor in the pass one day when
Stewart and my brother were off climbing. A
full-grown cinnamon bear came sauntering along
the trail toward our tent, evidently, quite at home,
but less than fifty yards away he crossed a point
where Frank had dragged in some firewood, and
caught the scent of man. He lifted his head and
looked at us, while the long hair on his shoulders
rose like bristles, then quietly turned aside, and
we saw his grey-brown body moving off among
the trees.
Frank had the rifle in his hand at the tent door
and was trembling with eagerness to fire at our
visitor ; but it was not a repeater, and I was only
too well aware that I could not climb a tree with
my disabled leg, so his wish was vetoed. However, Frank was not satisfied, and, taking the rifle,
went out to catch Possum', his riding horse, to
follow up the bear and get a shot at him: like a
true cowboy, he felt safe and sure only on horseback. No shot echoed up and down the valley,
for, as Frank told me half shamefacedly afterwards,
he could not get Possum within half a mile of the
bear. The mere smell of his tracks made him
snuff and snort with every sign of fright.
~*M The Canadian Rockies
I did not see exactly why we should be so
impolite as to shoot at our quiet and courteous
neighbour, and very much doubted if a single bullet
would disable him.
Thunder-storms were frequent and magnificent
during our stay, the black clouds roofing us in
and hiding the sunlit snowfields beyond, turning
everything around to chill green and grey, with a
livid whiteness on the snow across the Bowl. The
thunder was repeated as a lengthened growl from
the mountains and down the valleys, and the scene
was very dreary and sombre when rain fell on
the pass, while the grey water of the Punch Bowl
suggested nothing convivial. Who were the Committee, and why did they need so large a Punch
Bowl on this desolate mountain pass ? Even Highland Scotch fur traders could hardly have done
much carousing on Athabasca Pass.
On the second day I had the valley all to myself
when the others set off to climb Mount Brown.
It was a fine day, which brought out the bulldogs,
and as a consequence sent the ponies into camp
in search of smoke, so that there was plenty of
society. The climbers returned in the afternoon,
reporting an easy ascent over good slopes, including
a mile of snowfield, but ending near the top with1
stiffer work, needing both hands and feet, while the
very top was capped with a heavy snow cornice
which they did not think it wise to attempt. They
estimated the thickness of snow on top at not
more   than   ioo   feet,,  and   if   our   aneroid   and
boiling-point determinations of the height of the
206 On the Roof of Canada
pass are correct—5,710 feet—Mount Brown is
9,050 feet high. If Moberly's determination of
6,025 feet is more exact, Mount Brown reached
9,365 feet. It has a glacier on one flank, but is
by no means a striking peak. That the right
mountain was climbed is certain, since there is
no other even as high wMiin ten miles on the
north-west side of the pass.
The question of Mount Hooker is less certain.
A ridge-like mountain climbed by Stewart and
Lucius rises to 8,600 feet south-east of the pass
at the point where Hooker is indicated on Palliser's
map ; but a much higher, finer peak rises a few
miles east of the Punch Bowl, with fields of snow
and a large glacier, and was estimated at about
eleven thousand feet.
A third day was put on an excursion across the
Mount Hooker ridge into the next valley in search
of a route to Eortress Lake, and the two climbers
had a very rough scramble over the ridge and down
a tributary of Wood River to the main stream at
3,500 feet, which proved to be a violent, turbid
river two thirds as large as the Athabasca. In its
valley there was a dense forest of heavy timber,
including cedars three feet thick and an undergrowth of almost impenetrable, box alder and
devil's club. They were too low down to get a
glimpse into the Fortress Lake Valley and returned
after dark,  quite used up.
Though Fortress Lake was only ten miles away,
there was evidently no way across to it without
an immense amount of chopping, which no one
was anxious for with our dull axes.
207 The Canadian Rockies
There was no object in waiting longer on
Athabasca Pass, and on August 24th we turned our
steps down Whirlpool River on the way home, quite
undated, though we had been completely successful
on our third attempt to reach Mounts Brown and
Hooker. What had gone wrong with these two
mighty peaks that they should suddenly shrink
seven thousand feet in altitude? and how could
any one, even a botanist like Douglas, make so
monumental a blunder?
We asked ourselves all sorts of questions and got
no answers that satisfied us, as we made our way
down the valley toward the Athabasca. That two
commonplace mountains, lower by two thousand or
three thousand feet than some of their neighbours
to the south-east, should masquerade for generations
as the highest points in North America seems
absurd; and it is n°t surprising that Dr. Collie
ten years later should wonder if we had not reached
the wrong pass, and should make a new search
for these high mountains.1
1 Stuttfield and Collie,  "Climbs and  Explorations  in  the
Canadian Rockies."
Our return trip to the Athabasca was uneventful
except for wet and wintry weather. At a camp
half way to the main river we found in a ruined
log shanty, a board with pencillings of some agent
of the railway exploring parties in 1872, speaking
of the snowy weather and of the dog trains
coming in.
Following too closely the edge of the Whirlpool
River at one place, the bank caved under my horse
and we rolled over almost to the water. Just afterwards clumsy Pinto stepped into the same hole and
plunged right into the river, swimming across
to a bar in the middle, so that we had to set
up the boat and paddle after him. The same
evening we ferried across the Athabasca, finding
it still so high that the ponies had to swim in the
One morning when the ponies were tracked and
brought in by Frank, Pinto was missing. But our
loads were now light and none of us was sorry to
lose him, so we left him behind. Though he was
more trouble as a packhorse than all the others
209 o The Canadian Rockies
put together, we immortalised him by giving his
name to an exquisite lake near the head of Cataract
The grouse chicks were now in good trim for
broiling, and Stewart secured a number of them,
most delicious after a constant diet of rusty ham
or bacon.
After our disappointment on Athabasca Pass, we
determined on a holiday trip to rejoice our eyes
once more with beautiful Fortress Lake ; and there
we opened out the folding boat for a bit of comfortable exploration, rowing to the farther end to see
its outlet toward Wood River. The little canvas
punt was no racing shell, but in three hours, taking
turns at the oars against a gentle head wind, we
covered the eight miles, and landed to look down
the densely wooded gorge leading toward the
Columbia Valley in the distance. The ]ake has
splendid surroundings, including Misty Mountain
with its great glacier and the snowy pyramid we
thought last year might be Mount Hooker, and is
immensely more impressive than the poor little
Punch Bowl between insignificant Brown and
While I loitered at the outlet, Stewart and my
brother followed its clear waters down to a muddy
larger river coming from a glacial valley to the
north, the headwaters of Wood River, and afterwards did some climbing to get a broad view at
this end of Fortress Lake. Unluckily, smoke was
drifting up from some forest fire in British
Columbia, hiding all the distance, and they came OUTLET  OF  FORTRESS LAK  Homeward Bound
back to the outlet in the evening without adding
much to the map. It was dark before dinner ended,
and our eight miles' row back to camp was made
through the night, past formless, dusky shores and
vaguely outlined mountains, and we had no end of
trouble picking a way through shoals and floating
timber at the end.
A half-moon suddenly came out from behind
Fortress Mountain and somewhat enlightened our
darkness, but it was one o'clock before we got
home, and Frank had given us up and gone to
sleep long ago.
Next day was Sunday, so we got up late, picked
a few berries, watched ducks of two kinds feeding
tamely a little way off, and heard the loneliness of
the lovely spot voiced by the wail of a loon. A
short distance down the shore we found that a
little digging would send the waters of the lake
into the Athabasca by an open-air channel instead
of the present subterranean outlet.
Since its discovery Fortress Lake has been
visited by three exploring parties, those of Wilcox,
•Habel, and Mrs. Schaeffer; and more recently
lumber-men have taken up the region as a timber
limit. If they have their way, the most beautiful
lake in the Rocky Mountains will be desolate.
Now that the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway is
pushing through Yellowhead Pass, this lake can
be reached by a horseback journey of not more
than fifty miles, and an excellent trail could be put
through without much trouble.
At the time we were there no other white men The Canadian Rockies
had ever visited the valley, and, so far as we could
learn, only one party of Indians, headed by that
born explorer Job Beaver, had been before us.
He was certainly the most enterprising of the
Stonies, chopping trails into new valleys with as
sharp an axe as a white man, and I have always
been sorry not to have met him. We had followed
his trails for many miles, and last year Jimmy used
to say in Cree " Joby chungo " when we asked
about any scrap of trail picked up beyond the usual
limit of Stony travels.
On our return to Morley there was sad news of
Job Beaver. His elder son, who had travelled for
a time with us on our way home last summer, died
of that scourge so fatal to Indians, consumption.
Job was inconsolable, and the white men of the
region say committed suicide in his grief, whiL the
Indians hint that Job was not right in his head!
before he died.
Handsome young Samson, who had visited us
with Mark Two-young-men, was now the head of
the family.
During our three days' holiday on Fortress Lake
we had followed one of Job's trails over rough
ground along the north side of the lake, and found
the fallen teepee poles of one of his old camps
near the outlet of the lake.
On September 4th we started for home.    It was
high time, for our supplies were very low, but with|
light ponies and familiar trails we expected to make
good time.
As far as the Saskatchewan we had the usual Homeward Bound
succession of muskegs, rock slopes, mossy-floored
green bush, and turmoil of fallen trees in the burnt
timber, and found that even in our short absence
fresh trees had fallen across the path and sometimes had to be cut out, though we were willing to
go any distance round to avoid using our dull axes.
Not even an Indian could surpass our avoidance
of extra labour. Going up Jonas Pass a hustling
west wind was blowing through the enchanted forest
of black and white trees, leafless and barkless,
and it was inhabited by imps that shrieked, hissed,
whistled, and howled as we passed. Now and then
an over-strained tree crashed down amongst its
fellows, and we were glad to escape with nothing
worse than a little chopping.
On Cataract Pass the snow slide made us more
trouble than on the outward journey, since it was
now loose and soft from the summer sun, and it
took the ponies half an hour to wallow through a
half-mile of it.
On the Kootenay Plains Stewart left us to run
down the Saskatchewan in the canvas boat, so we
apportioned to him his share of the dwindling
supplies, and bade him goodbye with some anxiety
as to his trip down the rapids and swift currents
to Edmonton. He had 250 miles of river before
him, and the little 12-foot craft with its dingy
green canvas looked very frail for such a journey;
but we afterwards learned that all went well, and
that Stewart had only one regret: he had failed
to hit a grizzly which he fired at on the shore.
We were sorry to part from Stewart, the most
213 The Canadian Rockies
trusty, active, and cheerful of fellow-travellers, and
a man of cool nerve in emergencies ; but it was
a relief to the ponies to be rid of the boat, our
most troublesome pack, for two of our animals had
sore backs from carrying it during our last few
days of bad trails and rapid travel.
The Saskatchewan had fallen so as to be
fordable, and Lucius led the way skilfully over
branch after branch till we reached the eastern
shore, our feet somewhat wet from the depth of
the water, but otherwise none the worse.
Provisions had so nearly reached their end that
we made a forced march of thirty-five miles from
the Saskatchewan to the Clear Water, travelling
four and a half hours in the morning, and as
many in the afternoon, and crossing two passes
three thousand feet above the valleys, halting late
in the evening at the point named by Chief Jonas
on our outward journey " The -camp- where-tfoi|M
Sibbald is called Fox in Stony, and he had committed the crime of chopping up teepee poles for
our fire, finding no other dry wood handy. It is
really unfair to the Stony women to burn the poles,
which they have often cut in some distant grove and
dragged a mile or more before they could make
On our way down the pass to the Red Deer
Valley we saw the first recent evidence of men,
fresh horse tracks ; and then, through the woods,
noticed ponies tethered, with saddles on the ground
near by.    The trees opened as the trail began to
214 Homeward Bound
slope down into the valley, and below us on the
yellow prairie of the Mountain Park stood twenty-
one lodges, a temporary village, some of the teepees
brown with years of use, others cones of clean
white almost to the top, from which the smoke
curled. Not far off there were spots of varied
colour on the dun grass, where perhaps a hundred
ponies were feeding.
Just then my horse shied, and I saw an Indian
woman gathering firewood among the trees. Then
he shied again because a little girl with a still
tinier one in the blanket on her back suddenly
appeared beyond the bushes.
Before long we drew near to the camp, where
dogs barked and children shouted, and for the
first time my horse Andy refused to follow the
trail. It led through the village, and he and the
other ponies were panic-stricken at so much bustle.
Frank's pony, Possum, showed least trepidation,
so Frank went ahead and the rest dashed after
in a wild trot, breaking into a frantic gallop as
the village dogs sprang out yelping after us. The
women and children laughed and shouted and
wondered, and we swept past them into the prairie
without a word of salutation on either side.
This large party had just come from Morley
after treaty payments, and the men were off for
the hunt when we passed.
Our horses were now very footsore and would
trot only on the yielding prairie turf or the softer
trails through the wood ; but we had to urge them
on, for the flour was all gone, and we were living
215 The Canadian Rockies
on short allowance of boiled rice and apple-sauce.
There were plenty of grouse sitting temptingly on
low spruce branches, but Stewart had taken his
rifle on the boat journey to Edmonton, and we
failed to get any with sticks and stones.
Our last day was rainy, but we kept on with
the usual journey, lunching at Little Red Deer
and trotting into Morley in the evening, drenched
and hungry, but happy to get home. We had
made the 210 or 220 miles from Fortress Lake
in just ten days, with an average of more than
twenty miles a day, very fast travel on mountain
Erank Sibbald, our packer and general helper,
was worth twice as much as Jimmy Jacob and
Mark Two-young-men put together. He was not
only an excellent horseman and as skilful in tracking a strayed pony as an Indian, but a very fair
camp cook; and his uniform readiness and good-
humour added much to the comfort of a journey
in which every side of a man's character and
physique is often sorely tried. Sibbald has since
developed into a prosperous ranchman.
During the journey home my damaged knee
hampered me so much that most of the work fell
on the others, who loyally did their 'utmost to keep
things moving, and in this my brother's share was
most efficient and indispensable.
Though our main ambition had been satisfied
in the climbing, by Stewart and my brother, of
Mount Brown and of the mountain nearest to the
position on the map of Mount Hooker, their very
216 Homeward Bound
modest height had been a sore disappointment, and
in night camps on the way home before going
to sleep we seldom failed to speculate on the
extravagant estimate that had ruled so long in
the atlases.
The solution of the mystery was given years later
by Dr. Collie in " Climbs and Exploration in the
Canadian Rockies," a most delightful book in every
way. He had the good fortune to find Douglas's
Journal, published in the Companion to the
Botanical Magazine, vol. xi., pp. 132-7, with
an account of the journey over Athabasca Pass
in 1827 and the climbing of Mount Brown.
Douglas is quoted as saying :—
" Being well rested by one o'clock, I set out
with the view of ascending what seemed to be
the highest peak on the north. Its height does
not appear to be less than sixteen thousand or
seventeen thousand feet above the level of the sea.
After passing over the lower ridge I came to about
1,200 feet of by far the most difficult and fatiguing
walking I have ever experienced, and the utmost
care was required to tread safely over the crust
of snow. . . . The view from the summit is of
too awful a cast to afford pleasure. Nothing can
be seen, in every direction as far as the eye can
reach, except mountains towering above each other,
rugged beyond description. . . . This peak, the
highest yet known in the northern continent of
America, I feel a sincere pleasure in naming
* Mount  Brown,'  in  honour of R.  Brown,  Esq.,
the illustrious botanist.  ...  A little to the south -
217 The Canadian Rockies
ward is one nearly the same height, rising into
a sharper point; this I named Mount Hooker, in
honour of my early patron, the Professor of Botany
in the University of Glasgow. This mountain, however, I was not able to climb. * The Committee's
Punch Bowl ' is a small circular lake twenty yards
in diameter, with a small outlet on the west end,
namely, one of the branches of the Athabasca."
It is not surprising that Professor Collie adds :—
" If Douglas climbed a seventeen-thousand-feet
peak alone on a May afternoon, when the snow
must have been pretty deep on the ground, all
one can say is that he must have been an uncommonly active person. What, of course, he
really did was to ascend the Mount Brown of Professor Coleman, which is about nine thousand feet
high. These two fabulous Titans, therefore, which
for nearly seventy years have been masquerading
as the monarchs of the Canadian Rockies, must now
be finally deposed." *
1 Loc. cit., pp. 151-4.
218 PART    VI
Nine years passed before my next visit to the
Rocky Mountains, and in the meantime others had
done much climbing and exploring in the parts
near the Canadian Pacific Railway, and several
delightful accounts had been published of travel
and adventure in our Rockies. My thoughts
during summer heats in the east had often run
longingly to the high slopes above timber-line
where snowbanks were just melting and the spring
flowers of July were hustling one another in the
race to get their blossoms open first. To think of
8o° or 900 in the shade in a starched shirt, when
one could be on a bare mountain-top looking over
a thousand square miles of rock, snojw, and ice, and
green, dusky valleys, with a Clean wind sweeping
past from the snowfields !
The month of August was to spare in   1902,
and my  brother,  the  rancher,  and  I  planned a
little   expedition  to   a  mountain   we   had  looked
longingly at but never visited.    Starting along the
219 The Canadian Rockies
old trails, we would branch off at a new valley
and refresh ourselves with unsoiled slopes and
The expeditions into the mountains since our
earlier explorations had all started from points
farther west, especially from Laggan on the
C. P. R., but we held to our old route, following
the Mountain Stony trail, through the tumble of
foot-hills with their valleys floored with meadow
or muskeg, to the Red Deer River, then through
the lower eastern mountains to the Clearwater and
the Saskatchewan, after which we followed our own
This route is longer, but has several advantages
over those from Laggan, such as a drier climate
and better beaten trails, a greater varietv of
scenery, and often picturesque meetings with the
Indians following up the mountain sheep in the
We found many changes in the trail, due to time
and the cutting of the streams, which had been unusually busy during a succession of rainy seasons,
but little that needs description. The strawberri^B
were ripe and delicious on the lower levels, the
roses were past, but harebells and wild peas and
vetches were full of colour and tempting to
loitering ponies.
The spruce-groves with their boughs grey-
bearded with lichens were as solemn and cool as
ever, and the burnt tracts were worse than ever,
since more trees had fallen. In one place we
found the Clearwater, belieing its name, now muddy
220 Brazeau Mountain
and quite out of its  bed,  spreading in a dozen
small channels through the woods.
On the passes to the north all the flowers were
in blossom—white, yellow, and red heather,
anemones, low buttercups, saxifrage, yellow columbine, and monk's-hood, reduced to a minimum, with
one full-sized dark blue cowl on a stalk two inches
high. There was a snowstorm on the pass and
then hot weather on the Kootenay plains, where
we found fifteen lodges of Stonies camped this
side of the Saskatchewan, waiting for it to become
fordable. Usually at this late time in the summer
it is crossed with no trouble. Toi avoid the work
of putting together the boat and ferrying I got
Samson Beaver, now a married man with a family
in a teepee near by, to come as guide to the
ford, which he had looked at the day before.
Samson can talk no English; he was too sad
a truant from the Mission school as a boy ever to
learn it; but his sister Becky, a smiling, bright-
faced girl, came along as interpreter. While we
were securing Samson I met our former guide,
Jimmy Jacob, who looked no older than before.
Evidently the Indians had decided to cross the
river too, for they were just breaking camp in
picturesque confusion, dogs barking, women taking
down the canvas from the conical frame of poles
and looking up piebald or buckskin ponies to pack
their household gods upon, while the men were
saddling up their riding ponies.
We went on without waiting for them, Samson
riding   ahead,   to   the   ford,   where   the   muddy
__ The Canadian Rockies
Saskatchewan is split into half a dozen branches
with long, low-wooded islands between. To test
the ford Samson dropped his garments behind
a bush, and mounted his horse stripped to his
breechcloth, so as to swim with less trouble if
the horse got beyond his depth. He was a very
lively and graceful bronze statue as he rode into
the water, but still the exact opposite of a
Samson. A half-hour later our guide returned,
splashing and glistening, to take the lead across
the river, and we followed, the horses sinking to
their breast, meeting no mishap except for one to
pack pony which edged too much down-stream
and had to swim for a while, wetting its pack but
doing little damage. Samson caught sight of
a bear on the mountain-side half a mile away,
and Bur wash was so eager to join in the chase
that we waited for the hunt, Becky staying with
Mrs. Coleman ; but Burwash's pony Buck neighed
so continuously on leaving his friends that the
bear took warning and got away.
The Indians had already shot three bears, one
a grizzly, as well as some sheep, so we had bear
meat for breakfast and mountain mutton for dinner,
for which Samson and Burwash were on hand,
the former smiling as ever and bargaining for
bacon as part pay for guiding us across the ford.
We left the level prairie of the Kootenay plains,
now lively with fifty or sixty Indians, 150 motley-
coloured ponies, and dogs too numerous and active
to count, and began our journey up the Cataract
River to its forks, following a bad trail, seldom Brazeau  Mountain
travelled of late years. We scrambled down the
side of the steep canyon of Coral Creek and wound
our way up to the hilly mountain 'flank beyond,
keeping Sentinel Mountain behind and passing on
the left Minster Mountain, near whose foot the
northern fork of the Cataract River comes in from
the unexplored valley we had planned to follow.
On our way we had more chopping than had
been expected, since many trees had fallen in the
burnt wood. At one point I looked ahead and
saw a mountain ram with shaggy coat and a fine
pair of horns facing me a hundred yards off as
if to dispute our passage. Burwash got his rifle
and came to the front, all excitement, but his
shot missed the ram, who disappeared without loss
of time, giving no chance for another shot.
Turning north-west into the unexplored valley,
we advanced over all sorts of difficulties, here and
there cheered by an elusive bit of trail, very old
and evidently not travelled for many years, since
the teepee-poles found in two places on grassy
spots were completely rotten. The valley ran
between a ridge of rooflike mountains of slate
sloping steeply toward us on :the north-east, and
a row of four fine cathedrals with splendid walls
and buttresses on the south-west. We named them
the Cloister Mountains, to match the Minster
Mountain across the main fork of Cataract River.
After ten miles of straight valley the north fork
splits up into small streams heading in little lakes
or glaciers, and there we kept on our course northwest, clambering by zigzags up a steep, wooded
223 The Canadian Rockies
slope to 7,200 feet, where we camped just under
timber-line. We were on the brow of the hill
with the valley opening below us, and several great
springs gushed out near by, forming thick beds
of travertine. Across the valley there were two
small glaciers and several little lakes, jewels in
their rich blue and green, and above them rose
the lofty cliffs of the Cloisters.
The lakes are as beautiful as Lake Louise at
Laggan, though a little smaller, and occupy basins
carved by* the ice when the snow-line was lower
than now, toward the close of the Ice Age. The
lowest stands at seven thousand feet, with forest-
covered shores, and after a striking waterfall there
is another rock-enclosed lake above timber-line fed;
by streams from a glacier near by, while a third,
on a tributary stream, is the most striking of all,
since on one side a cliff rises 1,500 feet above it.
My brother climbed without much difficulty the
mountain north-west of our camp, determining its
height at nine thousand feet, and naming it Mount
Next day we continued our route north-west,
soon rising above the trees and pushing over easy
moorland slopes toward the lowest yoke in the
mountain wall.
We had not gone far before a flock of seven
sheep appeared on the rocky slopes to the southwest, almost invisible in their kaki disguise when
on the actual rocks, but rather conspicuous on
patches of green. At first they were grazing and
moving along quite unconscious of danger, but
224 Brazeau Mountain
afterwards they saw us and began to run; I felt
inclined to respect their privacy, but Burwash had
not brought his rifle for nothing, and could not
resist going after them, while the rest of the party
kept the caravan in motion.
He did not expect to drop far behind; but
it was hours afterward before he came up on the
trot, greatly elated. He had left his pony tethered,
and followed up the sheep, taking cover behind
rocks till he was within range, and had shot his
first bighorn and dragged it to the trail, but could
not get it on his wild little pony. Going back
with my quiet nag, Jones, who takes everything
philosophically, even the smell of blood, he
managed to tie the sheep to the saddle and overtake us before evening, tired out with travel and
excitement, but in fine spirits.
Meantime we had passed beyond the ragged
tree-line spruces, dwarfed and deformed by
centuries of strife with the storms, had picked
a way across the soaked moorland turf of alpine
plants, and had crossed a lichen-covered talus of
limestone, torturing our unshod animals.
In front of us was the steep ridge of crumbled
slate which formed the yoke, sweeping in a graceful
curve between the cliffs on either side of the valley,
and crossed by sheep-tracks. Getting down from
our saddles, we made the climb on foot, leading
the riding ponies and driving the struggling pack
beasts up the incline. Their feet sank deep into
the scree at every step and we 'had to give them
time ; but at last the two or three hundred feet of
225 p The Canadian Rockies
ascent were accomplished, and we made a long
halt for breath on top of the yoke.
We stood 8,600 feet above the sea, and before
us lay the wooded Brazeau valley, the river itself
being two miles off and nearly three thousand feet
below. Above and around us there were splendid
mountains, some reaching at least eleven thousand
feet and carrying snowfields and glaciers ; but most
interesting of all was Brazeau Lake to the northwest and Brazeau Mountain in the distance beyond
it, with its gleaming snowfield, the largest in the
region, the goal we had set ourselves in the
The pass thus far had been fairly good, but
what lay before us on the way to the Brazeau?
So far as we could see there were snowfields and
steep slopes of talus below us to the north, beyond
which there was a sudden dip toward the valley.
It was late in the afternoon. Should we risk the
unknown descent or go back the way we came?
We decided to go ahead, and soon our ponies
were stumbling or slipping on their haunches down
the steep incline over soft snowfields or loose debris
that rolled and slid beneath them. Reaching the
valley of a snow-fed stream, we had rather better
going, until this cut its bed down a canyon, and
just below tree-line plunged over a vertical fall of
a hundred feet or more.
After trying  in vain to  pick a  way over  the
mountain we at last led our tired ponies  down
the rocky bed of the torrent almost to the edge
of   the   fall,   and   then   two   men   dragged  them
226 Brazeau  Mountain
up on the rocks to the right, while the third man
urged from behind. We found ourselves on a
small shelf with some grass and scattered trees
above the main forest belt of the valley, and were
happy to pitch camp as the darkness fell. It
would have been too heartbreaking to go back
after coming to the very edge of the valley, and
we were not sorry to have run the risk; but the
route cannot be recommended. Cataract Pass to
the south-west, on the main valley of the river,
is decidedly less dangerous.
We were still 1,500 feet above the Brazeau, but
stayed for a Sunday's rest in our eyrie among
the scrubby spruces above the valley before going
down the river. Water was hard to get, and the
horses had to wander for pasture, and it rained
most of the day, yet we enjoyed our situation.
Burwash had butchered his sheep, the meat proving
delicious after a steady diet of bacon, and was
preparing the skin and skull with the horns for
transportation. Although it was only a moderately
good head and was an awful trouble to pack, he
seemed happy. The sixty or seventy pounds of
good meat helped out our rations famously, and
not a pound of it was wasted under Mrs. Coleman's
skilful management.
On Monday morning, with a drizzle still falling,
we dragged our unwilling ponies through wet
underbrush and dense woods to the bottom of the
valley, where we came out once more upon a well-
beaten trail, the best since leaving the Saskatchewan. This was followed only for a few miles to
227 The Canadian Rockies
the forks, where we forded and turned west to
Brazeau Lake, passing rapids with two hundred
feet of fall on the way.
Every mountain lake has some attraction, if
nothing more than the reflection of the peaks
around ; but much of the shore of Lake Brazeau
had been burnt, and compared poorly with Pinto
Lake, twenty miles to the south-east, and still more
so with Fortress Lake. The mountains around
looked more impressive than usual, however, with
the fresh snow which had fallen as low as timber-
line in the last day or two; but this presaged
bad going for us on our expected climb.
For five miles we followed a trail along the
shore of the lake with the brown cliffs and snowy
summits of the Poboktan Mountains on the other
side, and then lost it where it was most needed
in the woods beyond, coming to a fullstop six
miles up the valley at the foot of a huge moraine
of limestone blocks as large as a cottage. This
walled the valley from side to side except where
the river had dug itself an impassable canyon, and
it looked as though we should get no farther with
After wasting much time exploring, a way was
found among the boulders, and beyond the moraine
there opened an enchanting little valley, 7,000 feet
above the sea, with half a mile of prairie for the
horses, with groves of stunted spruces for fuel,
and as a water supply a clear stream leaping from
a cliff and filling a pond, beside which we camped.
The pond had no visible outlet, but drained, no
228 Brazeau Mountain
doubt, through the boulders of the moraine to the
river below.
The valley seems to have belonged to the river
before the Ice Age, but the great moraine had
forced it to find a new channel in the canyon to the
From our beautiful camp ground we had a broad
view of the mountain and icefield four miles to
the north-west, and arranged for an attack upon it
next day. For various reasons we were late in
starting next morning, so that by the time the valley
had been skirted, a desolate lake passed, and a
rocky ascent climbed to the edge of the glacier
the sun began to be strong.
The icefield is broken by a long and precipitous mountain ridge beside which we had planned
our course. The going was good for a mile on
the bare glacier until the snow was reached, but
this proved to be soft in the sun and the steep
slope meant very heavy walking. Tiring of it,
the mountain-side was tried, but turned out to be
worse still, so we returned to the slow trudging
through the snow, and at one o'clock had reached
the upper end of the ridge, where we halted on
the rocks for lunch at i o, i oo feet as shown by
the aneroids.
The highest point of the mountain rose in sheer
cliffs above a very wild valley less than a mile
ahead, and we changed our course so as to attack
it by a snow-slope on the south side. At this
elevation the walking was fairly good, though we
had to make a circuit round some large crevasses.
229 The Canadian Rockies
Soon the slope became stiffer, so that the footholds were hard to make, and finally the steep
surface of loose snow, softened by the south-western
sun, began to slip in great sheets on a layer of
ice beneath, threatening to sweep us with it.
Halting on some projecting rocks at i o, 5 5 o feet,
we held a council of war and decided that further
climbing was too dangerous to risk. From
clinometer readings made at our earlier halts the
top of Brazeau Mountain, as we named it, is about
five hundred feet above our stopping-point.
From our perch on the rocks there was a
magnificent view of the central Rockies, including
the Columbia icefield, and the bearings of a
number of points were taken ; but to fix exactly
the mountain summits mapped by Collie twenty
miles to the south proved very difficult.
Just below us lay the Brazeau snowfield, eight
miles long by four broad, swelling into two white
domes toward the south and sinking away to dirty
surfaces of ice in the valleys to the east. From
its glacier tongues several muddy torrents flowed,
joining to make the head-waters of Brazeau River.
Toward the north there was a profound and desolate
valley whose outlet we could not see, while to the
west we looked down into the green valley of
Poboktan, or Owl Creek, a tributary of the
Sunwapta, the eastern branch of Athabasca River.
We had followed this valley on our first journey
in search of Mount Brown.
The mountains toward the east were somewhat
lower than to the south and west, but almost every
230 I
ON THE BRAZEAU  GLACIER.  Brazeau Mountain
peak in sight carried snowfields and glaciers, none
of them, however, except in the far south, as large
as the one we had crossed, for Mount Brazeau is
a somewhat isolated peak, with no mountains of
equal height for a number of miles around.
Glissading on the steeper slopes and wading
through soft snow on gentler parts, we made haste-
to reach camp before nightfall, but had one mishap
before leaving the snowfield. Taking the lead and
following our morning's footsteps somewhat carelessly, I plunged through the snow into a large
crevasse which had seemed well bridged on the way
up; but my alpenstock happened to cross the
chasm as I fell, and my brother and Burwash
tightened the rope and quickly helped me out of
an uncomfortable position.
After more than eight hours on the snow we were
glad to reach the rocks again between the ends
of two glacier tongues. We raced past the dreary
little lake, halted a few minutes to watch a flock
of five mountain sheep with a big ram at the head
skim up a terrific slope of rock as if they never
needed to take breath, and reached camp just at
dusk, where Mrs. Coleman, a little anxious at
our lateness, had a satisfying dinner of mountain
mutton waiting for us.
It was now August 21st and we could afford
only one day more at Moraine camp before turning homeward, and used it in studying the icefield
and its surroundings, wading the muddy river where
it is split into many channels in the way usual at
the front of the ice. At one point the glacier
231 The Canadian Rockies
descends over rocks to the valley in a splendid
cascade of blue ice with daring seracs fifty feet
high, in other places the lower end is gently sloped
and partly buried under clay and stones.
The ice is retreating, as in almost all the Rocky
Mountain glaciers, leaving bare, striated surfaces
of rock still uncovered even by, lichens for several
hundred yards. Beyond this are moraines with a
beginning of green, and two miles away, near our
camp, is the great moraine with short, stubby
trees two feet through that must have taken root
centuries ago, for near timber-line growth is very
Climbing up an easy slope on one of the glacial
tongues, I made my way toward an island of rock
rising through the snowfield, and was surprised to
find on the way a small flock of birds like sandpipers breakfasting on insects picked from the ice,
no doubt driven up by the wind from the warmer
valley to perish here of cold.
The island of rock, or nunatak, was a crag a few
acres in size a mile and a half from the edge
of the icefield, and was probably not so very long
ago buried under the glacier ; but it now had its
plants and animals, a little world enclosed in white.
Beside the expected lichens and mosses were three
flowering plants, pink campion, short-stemmed
daisy-like blossoms, and a low plant with a yellow,
composite bloom. A few flies had escaped the
dangers of the glacier and were on hand to do
their duty to the flowers as carriers of pollen from
plant to plant. In the sun toward the end of
232 Brazeau Mountain
August things seemed cheerful enough, but more
than three-quarters of the year must be winter.
A rather stiff snow slope led up to a col toward
the south-west, where one could look down into
an intensely green little valley leading to Poboktan
Creek, and from this point, 9,800 feet above the
sea, I turned back to the lower edge of the glacier,
waded the streams, now much deeper because of
the day's thaw, and1 went west down the valley to
see the canyon cut by the united river, an almost
impassable gorge even for a man on foot.
The Brazeau snowfield is the main source of the
river, which flows for thirty-five miles through the
mountains and joins the Saskatchewan out on the
plains. A smaller part of the waters of the snow-
field goes west and north to the Sunwapta, and
thus reaches Mackenzie River, so that its drainage
is divided between Hudson Bay and the Arctic
Ocean, more than  1,500 miles apart.
On our way home from Brazeau Lake we
followed Cataract Pass, and found it in worse condition than in former years from the fall of trees.
It seemed to have been very little travelled since
our last journey, perhaps because Job Beaver, the
man of energy in his tribe, was no longer with
the living. The events of the way, the usual incidents of rapid mountain travel with ponies, need
not be recounted; but my brother and I looked
with interest to the peak beyond Pinto Lake,
marked Mount Coleman on Collie's excellent map.
We arrived at Winnow, near Morley, punctually
on the last day of August, rounding out the month,
233 The Canadian Rockies
in which about 250 miles of rough trail had been
covered without guide or packer. The lady of the
party had shirked none of the hardships of the
journey, and had effected a marked improvement
in our camp diet.
Proctor Burwash, though this was his first experience in the mountains, proved quite equal to
the work, and displayed with pride, after his return
to the east, the skin and head of his first mountain
As tangible results of the journey we had
explored and mapped a snowfield of thirty square
miles and two valleys not before travelled by white
men; but the real gain was the filling of our
lungs with mountain air, besides renewing our
acquaintance with mountain trails, those capricious,
tantalising, exasperating, and yet wholly seductive
pathways, leading through bogs and fallen timber
nowhere, and yet opening out the sublime things
of the world and giving many an unforeseen glimpse
of Nature hard at work constructing a world.
If one halts by chance anywhere on a mountain
pass, all sorts of thrilling things are going on
around. Lovely flowers are opening eagerly to the
sun and wind of Spring—in mid-August, with
September snows just at hand, a whole year's work
of blossom and seed to be accomplished before the
ten months' winter sleep begins. Bees are tumbling
over them intoxicated with honey and the joy of
life while it is summer. Even the humming-birds,
with jewels on their breast as if straight from the
tropics, are not afraid to skim up the mountain
Brazeau Mountain
sides, poise over a bunch of white heather, and
pass with a flash from flower to flower. The
marmots with aldermanic vests are whistling and
I making hay while the sun shines," and one may
see their bundles of choice herbs spread on a flat
stone to dry, while the little striped gophers are
busy too.    Time enough to rest in the winter.
Everything full of bustle and haste and of joy,
what could be more inspiring than the flowery
meadows above tree-line when the warm sun shines
in the six weeks of summer ! The full splendour
and ecstasy of a whole year's life piled into six
weeks after the snow has thawed and before it falls
again !
Higher up even the snow itself is alive with the
red snow plant and the black glacier flea, like the
rest of the world making the most of summer ; and
as you take your way across the snow to the
mountain top, what a wonderful world opens out!
How strangely the world has been built, bed after
bed of limestone or slate or quartzite, pale grey
or pale green or dark red or purple, built into
cathedrals or castles, or crumpled like coloured
cloths from the rag-bag, squeezed together into
arches and troughs, into V's and S's and M's ten
miles long and two miles high ; or else sheets of
rock twenty thousand feet thick have been sliced
into blocks and tilted up to play leap-frog with
one another.
And then the sculpturing that is going on ! One
is right in the midst of the workshop bustle where
mountains are being carved into pinnacles, magnifi-
235 The Canadian Rockies
cent cathedral doors that never open, towers that
never had a keeper—all being shaped before one's
eyes out of the mighty beds and blocks of limestone and quartzite that were once the sea bottom.
You can watch the tools at work, the chisel and
gouge, the file and the sandpaper. All the workmen are hard at it this spring morning in August I
the quarryman Frost has been busy over night, as
you hear from the thunder of big blocks quarried
from the cliffs across the valley ; there is a dazzling
gleam on the moist, polished rock which craftsman
Glacier has just handed over to the daylight; and
you can watch how recklessly the waterfall is cutting
its way down, slicing the great banks of rock with
canyons !
It is inspiring to visit the mountains any day in
the year, but especially so in the July or August
springtime, when a fresh start is made, and plants,
animals, patient glaciers, hustling torrents, roaring
rivers, shining lakes are all hard at work rough-
hewing or putting finishing touches on an ever
new world.
236 PART    VII
Mount Brown and Mount Hooker had been
dethroned from their undeserved place among the
mountains of Canada and had sunk to third-rate
plebeians, lower than scores of other peaks in the
Central Rockies. Collie's map shows a dozen
mountains reaching eleven thousand feet or over
within a hundred miles of the Canadian Pacific
Railway, and there are probably hundreds that
reach ten thousand as compared with the paltry
nine thousand feet of Mount Brown. But very few
aspire to twelve thousand feet, and probably no
peak in the region explored rises above 12,500,
though several had been estimated in earlier times
at thirteen thousand or fourteen thousand feet.
Each one when climbed or carefully triangulated
had to descend below the fatal limit of 12,500 feet.
In most mountain regions there is a curious law
of Nature forbidding supereminence for any one
peak, so that a single mountain is seldom permitted
to rise thousands of feet above its neighbours.
237 The Canadian Rockies
Generally dozens of peaks approach the limit within
one or two thousand feet, and a few come still
closer, so that the highest is not more than a few
hundred feet above its rivals.
There are reasons for this law which need not
be discussed here. In brief, it may be said
that to be a head taller than your neighbours
means a greater likelihood of having your head
sliced off.
The rumours, therefore, of the unrivalled height
and splendour of Mount Robson, fifty miles to
the north of Mount Brown, did not entirely
carry conviction. Had it not been over-estimated
When the Alpine Club of Canada was founded
at Winnipeg in 1906 Mr. A. O. Wheeler, the first
President, suggested that my brother and myself
should visit, and if possible climb, Mount Robson
to settle the matter.
Mount Robson was, of course, no new discovery,
for one had only to turn up Milton and Cheadle's
" North-west Passage by Land " to find a glowing
description of it, published in 1865.
At the Grand Forks of the Fraser they
write :—
" Immediately behind us, a giant among giants,
and immeasurably supreme, rose Robson's Peak.
This magnificent mountain is of conical form,
glacier clothed and rugged. When we first caught
sight of it, a shroud of mist partially enveloped
the summit, but this presently rolled away, and we
saw its upper portion dimmed by a necklace of
238 Choosing a Route to Mount Robson
light, feathery clouds, beyond which its pointed apex
of ice, glittering in the morning sun, shot up far
into the blue heaven above, to a height of probably
ten thousand or fifteen thousand feet.
I It was a glorious sight, and one which the
Shushwaps of the Cache assured us had rarely been
seen by human eyes, the summit being generally
hidden by clouds." l
This almost ecstatic description of a peak shooting up ten thousand or fifteen thousand feet into
the heavens looked decidedly exaggerated, and the
illustrations in the book give to much lower
mountains quite absurd pinnacles and precipices,
so that one naturally doubted the evidence as to
However, in the Report of the Geological Survey
of Canada for 1898, James McEvoy, a cool scientific observer, puts the height at 13,700 feet, and
its elevation above the Grand Forks of Eraser River
at over 1 o, 5 00 feet .2 McEvoy's distant photograph
of the peak looked seductive, and still more
seductive was the fact that apparently no white
man had ever set foot upon the mountain. Those
who mentioned it had looked upon it only from
the Grand Forks, several miles away.
The highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies,
known for more than forty years, passed within a
few miles by explorers, geologists, and the location
engineers of three trans-continental railways, and
yet never actually visited by a white man !    The
finest virgin  peak in  America awaited  conquest.
1 Pp. 252-3. 2 P. 15 D.
239 The Canadian Rockies
. .
We made up our minds to reach and climb Mount
Robson if it were at all possible.
The best way to reach the mountain was the
first problem. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway
would pass within fifteen miles of it after crossing
Yellowhead Pass, but trains would not be running
through the pass for years, while we wanted to
go without delay.
Inquiries made from various authorities as to
routes soon made it appear that Mount RotoseM
could be reached from almost anywhere in the west.
Some thought Edmonton the best jumping-off
place, others favoured Kamloops or Golden or
Laggan. It was comforting to find that all
mountain trails seemed to lead to Mount Robson, so
that it should not be hard to get there.
Now began the study of maps—vague maps, fragmentary maps—so as to settle the question of route.
A little measurement showed that the shortest road
from a point on the railway to Mount Robson would
begin at Beavermouth on the Columbia, which was
nearly thirty miles closer to the point than Golden.
In a straight line Beavermouth was only, 130 miles
from the Grand Forks of Fraser River, but Frank
Stover and I had not fallen in love with the trail
when we had toiled along it with packs on our
backs in the fruitless pursuit of Mount Brown.
It was the shortest way in miles, but what heartbreaking miles of rock and swamp and fallen
timber, not to speak of all the big rivers that had
to be crossed 1
The   Golden   route   was   given   up,   and   the
240 Choosing a Route to Mount  Robson
Kamloops route came next in apparent brevity;
but so far as could be learned no one had ever
travelled directly from Kamloops to Mount Robson,
and no one knew just what difficulties lay in
the way.
As all the western routes were abandoned, the
choice lay between Edmonton, Morley, and
Laggan. The road from Edmonton was the
longest of all, ran much of the way through uninteresting country, and was reputed to be mostly
over muskegs. My brother and I abominated
muskegs, from whose miry depths we had dragged
many a pack pony, and the Edmonton route was
eliminated, so that the question was narrowed to
a choice between Morley and Laggan as starting-
The Morley route, the old Mountain Stony trail,
we knew well for most of the way, since we had
already travelled it several times, and we had even
reached a point on Miette River within fifty miles
of Mount Robson on our last expedition to Mount
Brown ; but the Stony trail was falling into disuse,
since the Indians had nearly destroyed the mountain sheep ; and it was no longer easy travelling.
It was forty miles shorter to go from Laggan than
from Morley; and there were other reasons in
its favour ; all the white explorers of the mountains had started from Laggan, so that everywhere
trails had been worked out through the mountains.
Were they not all marked in red on Collie's map ?
A wThite man's trail is usually better blazed and
cut out than an Indian trail, and, finally, starting
241 Q The Canadian Rockies
from Laggan we should pass through territory new
to us and highly praised by every visitor for its
mountain scenery.
From Laggan, therefore, the start should be
made, and we should travel through the heart of
the Rockies, making the direct journey from Bow
Pass on the Canadian Pacific to Yellowhead Pass
on the Grand Trunk Pacific. No former expedition had ever done this, which would be an added
point of interest.
Professor Stewart could not go with us, and
we arranged with Rev. George Kinney to join us
as a third partner, since three are better than two
for mountain work. My brother provided the
necessary ponies, and secured Jack Boker, a
stalwart English rancher, to come along as packer.
The outfit was to come from Morley to Laggan
by trail in time to start northward about the ist
of August, since my fieldwork in the east would
keep me till the end of July.
On August i, 1907, I arrived at Laggan, but
found that the ponies had been delayed, so that
it was the 3rd before a start was made. This
gave me a chance to go up through the groves of
pitch-pine to beautiful Lake Louise, known to all
travellers who halt on their way through the
Rocky Mountains. Twenty years before I had
scrambled up to the lake, then lonely and unnamed, and had loitered on its shore where now
great beds of orange and yellow poppies were in
bloom between the chalet and the water. Looking lakewards, the scene was unchanged. The
243 The Canadian Rockies
woods and cliffs and mountains and glaciers were
as faithfully mirrored now as they had been before
throngs of tourists from all over the world halted
for a day or two at the comfortable hotel.
The cirque in the mountains beyond, above Lake
Agnes, is still as clean a cupful of snow as it
had been, and the sky-line of mountains reaching
ten thousand or eleven thousand feet was serene
and unchanged; for you cannot vulgarise high
mountains and snowpeaks.
We started north with ten ponies, six carrying
packs, and of the two possible routes, up Bow
River valley or up the valley of the Pipestone,
chose the latter on the advice of a well-known " outfitter " who knew the mountains well. The season
was wet and the Bow valley had many muskegs.
These   trails   had   been   followed   by   several
parties   of   distinguished  mountain-climbers   from
Britain and the United States, and had been more
or less cut out and put in order, so that we hoped
for   plain   sailing.     Alas !  before  we  were   three
miles out of Laggan a pack pony was mired, and
we had to perform the familiar and exasperating
process   of  unpacking   the   animal   in   the   mud,
dragging it out convulsively struggling to dry land,
and then repacking.    Moreover, Pipestone Creek
wras full, and fording it was not a joke,  so that
Maria lost her foothold and had to swim, wetting
her pack.    It was, however, cloudy and showery,
which meant  falling  rivers,   for  things  work by
contraries in the mountains, dry weather and hot
sun rather than rain  bringing  down the  floods.
244   The Trail North from Laggan
The scenery along the Pipestone is fine; the
mountains are fairly high with small glaciers, but
are generally of the " writing-desk " type, scorned
by some British climbers for the ease with which
one can ascend the moderate slope of the " desk."
Most of the north-eastern ranges of the Rockies
are made up of tilted blocks of this kind, with
splendid cliffs toward the prairies and gentler slopes
to the south-west.
We were ascending toward Pipestone Pass, jack-
pines had ceased, the spruces were becoming
gnarled and stunted, and the open ground was often
blue with larkspurs or red or yellow with the Indian
We camped picturesquely not far below timber-
line, and in the morning met our first misadventure,
when Boker, going to the stack of saddles before
breakfast, put his hand under the canvas for something and snatched it out again filled with porcupine quills. The enemy was soon dispatched, but
that hardly atoned for the saddle that had been
gnawed and almost destroyed.
We were soon rising above timber-line in a rapid
climb to flowery meadows, and then over bare slopes
to the col, occupied by a large snowfield at a
height of 8,300 feet, where the trail vanished as
usual, though the general direction was evident.
After several miles of snow and sodden bushes
we reached stunted timber again on Sifleur River,
in the midst of a heavy snowstorm' which hid the
surroundings, though slackening now and then
enough to show dim glimpses of high and snowy
peaks, probably of Mount Hector and Mount Molar.
245 The Canadian Rockies
At our first camp on the Sifleur a broad blaze
on a tree bore an inscription proving that shortly
before a party had travelled here in great state,
wTith twenty horses, a dog, and a chef named Muy.
With only ten ponies and no dog we could only
balance things by claiming four chefs.
At lower levels rain fell instead of snow, but
was even more uncomfortable, so that the weather
by no means suited us, while our rate of travel
was slower than we had planned, and we wejre
disgusted to find that some of the ponies were
getting sore backs. We were all green to the
work, and it takes some time to fall into the routine
of skilful packing. " Throwing the rope " and
adjusting the " diamond hitch " are arts so hard
to learn and so easy to forget !
When leaving Laggan it was discovered that
two axes had been forgotten, and to replace them
I had bought from a lumber-man one of the two-
edged or double-bitted axes often used in the
woods. To one used to the common single-edged
variety these axes are troublesome, and Boker had
the ill luck to cut his knee rather seriously, making
us short-handed for hard work.
With our various troubles it was the sixth day
before we came down over moraines and broad,
yellow terraces to the Kootenay plains on the
Saskatchewan, where we speculated as to whether we
should unroll the canvas boat and ferry across or go-
up stream and reach a ford of which we had heard.
The trail up river looked well beaten, and we
followed it, leaving behind the prairie flowers of the
246 The Trail North from Laggan
plains, but soon regretting our choice among heavy
fallen timber on a steep wooded slope. However,
we pushed on, with enchanting glimpses of
mountains under a sunny sky, and of intensely
coloured lakes in the valley below us, basins of
indigo with emerald margins, or of black with rims
of brown, green, and yellow, according to the source
of their water, in a glacial stream or in a muskeg.
These colours were quite unnaturally vivid, pools
of unmitigated colour that needed softening to
blend properly with the landscape. The Saskatchewan itself flowed as a turbid green flood, often
broken by flat, gravelly islands, just at the foot
of the ridges we followed, which were lateral
moraines left by the giant glacier filling the valley
in the Ice Age.
We were at the gathering of the waters which
unite to make the great Saskatchewan, the broad
river that for the rest of its life flows 1,200 miles
across the plains to Lake Winnipeg, and then,
under the name of Nelson River, discharges the
melted snows of the Rocky Mountains in Hudson
Bay 1,600 miles away.
Passing to the north of Mount Murchison,
thought by Hector to be thirteen thousand or
fourteen thousand feet high, but reduced by the
iconoclast Collie to the more modest though still
respectable height of 11,100 feet, we forded Bear
Creek, a. clear and rapid stream, and then crossed
the southern fork of the Saskatchewan, broad and
muddy, but spreading, fortunately for us, in several
channels over a wide flat, so that our ponies had
247 The Canadian Rockies
no trouble in fording. After leaving Bear Creek we
no longer had the footprints of the party of twenty
horses to guide us, as they probably came down by
the Bow route and returned by the Pipestone.
Following an old trail over open grassy hills
between the two arms of the river, we presently
found it necessary to cross the north or main
branch, which we dreaded a little. All went well,
and we were soon travelling north-west, but with
trouble here and there where torrents, now almost
dry, had ploughed chasms in the coarse gravel
of the valley slopes. These small ravines were
steep-walled, and as we were climbing out of one
my riding pony, Betty, broke through the bank
with her hind feet and fell back upon me, pinning
me down under her until the others came up and
rolled the mare over. Fortunately, nothing worse
came of it than a bad bruise.
On the way up the north fork we had the usual
rainy weather, heavy showers pattering on the tent
at night, and light fugitive ones driving up and
beating in our faces at least once a day while on
the trail, making things damp and miserable, but
furnishing fine cloud scenery about the mountain-
tops and keeping all the waterfalls in prime condition to spring as bridal veils from the lofty cliffs.'
The gravel flats customary in a glacially-fed
river near its source spread broadly out beneath
tremendous walls of rock, sometimes even two
thousand feet high, and we had to pick our way,
usually with no visible trail, fording one arm after
another to keep on a reasonably straight course
248 The Trail North from Laggan
up the valley. Our unshod horses now had not
only sore backs but sore feet, and were very
troublesome to keep in motion. A buffalo-bird
which had adopted us kept flitting from pony to
pony to pick off flies, often within a few feet of
the drivers, whom she watched out of a bright
and friendly eye, but avoided too near an approach.
I tried a snapshot of her on Topsy's neck, but
without success. 3
We were now passing Mount Coleman, as shown
on Collie's map, but the lofty wall of cliff prevented any view of its summit. Camping just
beyond the great cliff at a spot where there was
a little pasture, a porcupine perched in a tree just
over us like a grey lump of rubbish was shot for
the sake of our precious saddles, and dropped dead
to the ground.
We had nearly reached the head of the
Saskatchewan, and, following instructions, turned
aside from the river, now an easily fordable creek,
and clambered up a very steep trail through the
timber. A thousand feet of climbing, stiff work
for the pack horses, brought us to fairly level
side-hill trails, with marvellous views of mountains and canyons and a splendid waterfall, which
seemed to spring out of an opening in the rock,
apparently the source of the main branch of the
Pushing on toward the watershed between the
Saskatchewan and the Athabasca, we camped late
in the evening on a  flat of boulder clay above
the valley, where there was grass for the horses.
249 The Canadian Rockies
Next morning the regular night's rain had turned
the clay into mud, and then snow began to fall
heavily. We knew from the map that there was a
camp ground a little way beyond, and my brother
walked on to see if there were not same better
place to spend Sunday than our present mud and
slush. To his astonishment he found a party in
camp near by—Mrs. Schaeffer, Miss Adams, and
their guide and packer.
When the horses were rounded up to be saddled,
Topsy, a regular misanthrope, avoiding human
or equine society, was missing, and no amount of
searching in the glades between the snow-laden
spruces brought to light the black mare. When
the storm was over we left camp without her,
intending to come back and look her up.
With snow driving fiercely in their faces it was
no easy matter to hold our ponies to the trail
through the matted bushes. Presently we met Mrs.
Schaeffer's party coming like ghosts out of the
grey, but it needed such strenuous work to keep
our beasts from turning back with them that our
greetings were of the briefest, and soon they were
out of sight on their way southwards.
To make a comfortable camp in the snow took
a good deal of time, and when our tent was up
and a big fire was blazing we were surprised to
see two people riding up through the trees, Mrs.
Schaeffer and her outfitter, Warren, with dejected
little Topsy in tow. They had picked her up on
the way, and, like true friends, had brought her
back lest she might follow them to the next camp.
250 The Trail North from Laggan
It was a delightful surprise to have a charming
woman ride in out of the snow in the midst
of the Rockies and join us at our lunch of bannock,
bacon, and tea ; and we got some very useful hints
for the future from our guests, for Warren is an
experienced and resourceful man who knows most
of the mountain trails that can be reached from
Laggan. We were interested to hear that they
had lately been at Fortress Lake, apparently the
fourth party to visit that beautiful sheet of water.
They reported bad trails needing much chopping
on the Sunwapta.
Though it was the 17th of August when we set
about gathering brush for our bed that evening,
all the trees were Christmas-trees, and even dry
branches from under the spruces got snowy while
one was carrying them to the tent. In the midst
of the snow my brother saw a humming-bird
poising over the flowers beyond the grove, evidently
bound to have honey in spite of the storm. The
buffalo-bird seemed to have deserted us, however.
Sunday saw the end of the blizzard, and presently
the sun came out, slowly melting the soft snow
from the valley, but leaving all the upper levels
clean and white, so that Mount Athabasca opposite
was dazzling when the cap of clouds drifted from it.
In the afternoon the shallow valley had dried up and
we picked strawberries on the sun-warmed slope.
Whiskey-jacks had looked us up and made themselves a nuisance, attacking the bacon when they
got the chance, but they are such jolly birds that
one's resentment is not very enduring.
251 The Canadian Rockies
As our loads were heavy and some of the horses
had sore backs we cached the folding-boat and
fifty pounds of supplies, enough to take us home
from this point, in a thick spruce-tree, fastening
everything up tight in bags to keep out winged
or four-footed marauders. We hoped thus to make
better time.
This cache we were fated never to see again,
and if some later traveller has not lifted it from
the crotch among the branches of the old spruce,
it may be there still in its waterproof wrappings.
It is very likely, however, that the whiskey-jacks
and the squirrels may have found their way into
it before this and have made away with the flour
and beans and bacon, but the canvas boat must
have tried their  patience,  if not their digestion.
On Monday morning we climbed through the
stunted spruces to Wilcox Pass, crossing to a small
tributary creek instead of the main river, which
is lost in a canyon for the first few miles. The
pass is high and was snowy after the storm, but
overhead there was brilliant sunshine, lighting up
Mount Athabasca most dazzlingly in its fresh
white, and we thought it one of the most splendid
mountains we had seen. In former journeys we
had gazed at it from twenty miles away.
With the sunshine our buffalo-bird turned up
again, perching on the horses' manes or hopping
on the ground in front of us as I led my horse
up the pass, as if to hurry us out of these inhospitable heights ; but when we reached the valley
she finally deserted a party that knew no better
than to get up among the snows.
down whose valley we had once travelled, a fan
of stones and gravel had been piled, almost filling |
the valley and crowding the Sunwapta, here quite
unambitious, to the other wall, and making us considerable   trouble.     And   now   began   the   well-
remembered fallen timber and rock slides varied]
with swamps and muskegs of the Sunwapta.    The*
black   pony   Topsy   abominated   soft   spots   and
several times  jumped into  the river to  avoid a
mud hole, when some one had to splash after and
•persuade  her  forcibly to  scramble  up  the  bank
To find a better trail we took the risk of fording,
though the river was high, and a mile afterwards
ran into a worse tangle of fallen trees than before.
Gradually, however, we worked down the wide
synclinal valley between low mountains, to the falls,
and at last approached the main Athabasca, where
we hoped most of our difficulties would be over.
We could look up the Chaba valley and admire;
Fortress and Quincy Mountains and the Mountain
of the Cross, and we talked over old struggles*
among the unknown peaks around Fortress Lake
while in search of the fabulous Mount Brown.
In the main Athabasca valley, after the two
branches met, our road was good at first, over
morainic ridges burnt nearly bare, but beyond the
second falls in the canyon our hopes of rapid travel
were dashed again, for the burnt and fallen timber
was more abominable than ever, and in one slimier!
muskeg than usual several horses were mired at
once. We turned up the side of the valley to escape
254 The Tete Jaune Trail
the bogs, and there had to chop a way by main
force through piled up logs hidden from sight by
a forest of young pitch-pines ten feet high.
A fine silver-tip bear came out to look at us
from' the other side of the canyon while we were
in search of a feasible route across the creek, but
with the usual courtesy of the grizzly he turned
quietly into the woods again.
We had passed the mouth of Whirlpool River,
and on August 28th, two weeks after our expected
time, came out of the fallen timber of the moraines
upon the belt of prairie-land alon^ the Athabasca,
so as to cross over to the Miette valley and
make the sharp turn westward to Yellowhead
Pass.    Hitherto our course had been north.
We had been disgusted to find the upper
Athabasca valley burnt and the trail ruined by fallen
trees during the years since we had been there
before ; but the promised land was now in sight
after our long battle with outrageous trails, and we
should soon be on the well-beaten road used by
hundreds of packers and railway engineers on their
way from Edmonton to the Tete Jaune Cache.
As our canvas boat was snugly fastened in the
branches of the spruce on Wilcox Pass, we tried
to ford the Athabasca at points where it looked
broad and shallow, but every time the water was
too deep, and we did not care to emulate the
courage of Mrs. Schaeffer and Warren, who calmly
swim on horseback to cross a deep river, coming
out wet but safe on the other side. We might have
risked the water for ourselves, but could not trust
the pack ponies with the supplies.
255 The Canadian Rockies
Then we remembered the halfbreed Warren had
mentioned as keeping a canoe a few miles down the
river to ferry people over, and two of the party
trotted down the trail along the beach to look for
him, but came back without finding either half-
breed or canoe. They did not go far enough, as
we learned afterwards.
A raft was the next thought, and we picked
out a good place a mile or two down the shore, I
and came back to move our camp to the spot; but |
when the ponies were rounded up three were missing. That meant a hot half-day searching for
them over miles of grassy glades among the trees,
until we were in despair, when they turned up at
last quietly resting in the shade within fifty yards
of the trail.
We followed the bank for two miles before
dropping our loads beside a lovely small lake in a
little amphitheatre beside the Athabasca, and on
the way we heard strange music, the sound of bells
across the river, and on the other side we saw
horses grazing. After days of snowy passes and
tangles of fallen logs, the peaceful sounds and the
meadows with pasturing horses seemed enchanting.
We had reached civilisation again.
The raft was finished in a couple of hours, and
half an hour later the tent was rising on a bit of
dry turf near the gravel beach where we landed,
and the dripping ponies had found a path up the
side of the beach and were disappearing in the
direction of the bells.
In the dusk after supper we followed the ponies
256   The Tete Jaune Trail
up the path through the trees to the grassy bench
and walked a mile or two towards a fire, where the
party whose horse-bells had charmed us in the
distance  were  camped.
There were three men in charge of twenty-one
horses, packing in supplies for the railway engineers
locating the line  of the  Grand Trunk Pacific.
We had a long chat beside their fire, hearing
little about the outside world, but learning all the
ins and outs of the trail to the Tete Jaune Cache,
and of the worries of packing 200 lb. each on
eighteen horses. Tete Jaune in the mouths of all
western men has become 1 Teet John," which I
thought at first meant " Petite John." Their wages
of $50 per month seemed well earned in that endless campaign against swollen rivers and muddy
trails and obstinate horseflesh, but they were contented and in good spirits. Their board came out
of the supplies they were packing, and they were
saving their wages to take up land half-way to
We stumbled back to our camp by the river,
and next morning made a rush to get off before
our neighbours, since we intended to travel faster
with our light loads ; but in spite of their eighteen
horses to pack they were gone before we reached
their camp, and it was a couple of hours later
before we caught up to them where a narrow bit
of trail winding through trees made it impossible
to pass the train.
After the silences of former trails it was strange
to hear the shouts and jeers and whistlings that
257 R The Canadian Rockies
seemed indispensable to keep the caravan in motion
even at their slow rate of two miles an hour. One
man rode ahead, and each of the other two had to
keep nine hungry, used-up animals on the move.
The man in the rear was a German, and his prayers,
entreaties, and commands in broken English as he
rode just before me were at first funny and at
last unspeakably tiresome. The ugly pack beast,
Maud, the most woebegone of the lot, was his
special tribulation, and when she got absolutely
mired in crossing a muddy creek flowing into the
Miette, his rage and pathos would have been comic
if we had not been in a hurry and exasperated by
the delay.
We helped poor mud-spattered Maud out of the
hole, and soon after managed to get ahead of the
pack train.
Once past them, the trail was a joy in its
picturesque variety. Sometimes it followed rocky
ridges in the sun, where the mountain rims of the I
valley stood bare against the sky on each side,
then it slipped down into the green twilight of
spruces and balsams on the low ground ox tunnelled
through thickets of willow and alder, once in a
while fording the Miette at some shallow place
where it rustled mildly over a gravel bar. The
water was so absolutely clear that every pebble
could be seen on the bottom. Evidently no glacier
fed its headwaters.
After the vanishing* trails of the past, it was an
enormous comfort to follow a well-beaten road impossible to lose;  and after days of hard chopping
2$8 The Tete Jaune Trail
in slashes of fallen timber on the untraveiled ways
of the mountains it was a joyous relief to fasten
up the axes and travel on a well-cut-out path
that needed no adjustment. There were drawbacks,
however, to the Yellowhead trail. In the soft parts
it was too well beaten down by hundreds of hoofs
into pools of foul mud with the odour of a dunghill, and sometimes just to one side lay the festering
carcass of a beast that had gone that way once too
After a day full of interest and variety for backwoodsmen like ourselves, we camped twenty-one
miles up the valley on the Dominion prairie, where
the ponies had miles of good pasture, a little yellowed
by autumn, for it was the last day of August.
Here we stayed for Sunday, and our friends the
packers, who knew no Sunday, came in that
evening,  having made the distance in two days.
They were up early on Monday morning, and we
could see them across the creek methodically
saddling up and quickly flinging a hundred-pound
pack on each side of the raw-boned animals. They
once more got off before us, so that we had another
experience of following up the noisy rear of a pack
train, till an open space let us go by.
Before we knew it we were at the watershed on
Yellowhead Pass, where clear streams flowed over
gravel beds among the timber, and three benchmarks made by the engineers of three great railway
lines announced the summit.
They did not agree very well as to level, showing
3>747> 3>6$2>. and 3,722 feet, the last bench-mark
259 The Canadian Rockies
being that of the Grand Trunk Pacific. This is
the lowest parting of the waters in the Rockies,
except Pine River and Peace River passes still
farther to the north, and in three or four years the
trans-continental trains of two railways will probably be running across the divide that we had
reached only after a month of hard travel.
We passed into British Columbia over a quick
descent through fallen timber, and came out on the
shore of beautiful Yellowhead Lake, reflecting the
handsome peak of Mount Pelee toward the southeast, while T6te Jaune or Yellowhead Mountain rose
to the north. For Alpine scenery the pass will
not compare with Bow Pass on the Canadian
Pacific Railway, since the mountains along the
Miette are low and almost free from snow.
Four miles below Yellowhead Lake we reached
the famous Fraser River, already bustling and important, much larger than the Miette and muddy
from the drainage of the glaciers on Mount Geikie,
which rises to eleven thousand feet a few miles
to the south-east.
The trail led down the Fraser Valley at the
foot of Yellowhead Mountain, crossing boisterous
creeks, fording Moose River, nearly up to the
horses' backs, and running for a mile or two along
a steep hillside above rich, marshy meadows where
the river was building its delta at the head of Moose
Lake. Here all pack trains have to halt for a night,
since the worst part of the Tete Jaune trail lies
along the north shore of the lake with no pasture
for eight or ten miles.
260 The Tete Jaune Trail
We splashed across a muddy channel from the
trail at the foot of the hill to the sandbar at the
end of the delta, and in a few minutes our ponies
joined those of an earlier party feeding in the
marsh. Our neighbours proved to be Mr. England,
engineer in charge of the railway location, and his
packer. Not long afterwards the pack train arrived,
dropping its burdens in systematic order, and the
twenty-one horses moved off to pasture with the
others, so that there was a full chorus of horse-
bells from the combined outfits, all ringing
methodically as the animals grazed. Now and then,
however, one of the bell-bearers would disturb the
harmony by a furious jangling as it nibbled some
point on its skin tormented by flies.
The sun set with glowing reflections beyond the
lake, columns of smoke rose from our camp fires,
ducks paddled about not far off, and after supper
nine men from various directions met to swap
month old news and compare notes on horses and
Next morning by dint of early rising we were
off before the pack train, climbing the stiff trail
up the mountain-side above Moose Lake, where the
mists still hovered. The trail went up and down
among the trees, sometimes hundreds of feet above
the water, with lovely pictures between the trunks,
at others scrambling along a shore of angular
pebbles, which our unshod ponies hated. The trail
deserved its ill name.
After a hot noon halt on Government prairie,
already eaten bare by earlier parties, we continued
261 The Canadian Rockies
down the river, now of a clear turquoise blue after
losing its mud in the lake, and boiling and leaping
in rapids and falls, with a drop of seven hundred
feet in a few miles.
By this time we were beginning to worry about
Mount Robson. It could not be more than a few
miles away, with only the low, snowless Rainbow
Mountains between, yet we had not caught a
glimpse of the white summit, 13,700 feet high. Had
there been some mistake about its height, and were
we fated to humble another giant as we had Mount
Brown? Mr. Hastings has told me since that there
is one point in the valley where a part of the peak
can be seen, but we had missed it, probably because
of cloudy weather.
We camped on a little stream coming from a
ridge only three or four miles from the top of
Robson, according to McEvoy's map, and hoping
that the ravine might give a way up to it. Mr.
Kinney and my brother employed the afternoon in
climbing the valley wall to spy out the promised
While they were gone there was a chance to
study the Fraser valley, which was typically British
Columbian, for things were too luxuriant for
Alberta. Spruce-trees five feet through grew near
the river, and under them devil's clubs rioted among
the ferns. There were all sorts of fruits—black-,
currants, scotch-caps, raspberries, blueberries, and
saskatoons, for men and bears, and the acid little
cherries and rowan-berries for the fowls of the air
—so that no one need want; but the autumn colours
262 The Tete Jaune Trail
on the bushes troubled me, for we were fully two
weeks late, and it was the 5th of September. Might
we not be too late for our climbing?
Presently the mailman passed on his way west
and stopped for a chat before going on to the
engineers' camp at the M Teet John." Then there
was a confused and threatening noise coming from
the east and the pack train left behind in the morning slowly passed, the forlorn pack brutes splashing
the mud high on the bushes as they floundered
up the bank of the creek. The drivers mechanically shouted, " Hi, there ! " " Whey ! " " Go
on ahead ! " with no apparent effect on the tired
beasts, and made futile slashes with their whips, to
which no attention was paid. The last man, my
German friend, ceased his hoarse cry long enough
to tell me resignedly that three animals had been
done up on the bad trail yesterday, and were left
behind, including old Maud, who had delayed us in
a mud hole some days ago.
The poor animals were ravenous, for the feed
had been all eaten off at their last camp ground,
and they were snatching at the willows by the
creek. Now they had all gone by at their loitering
gait of a mile and a half an hour, and the clamour
died away. " Whey, there ! " sounded dull in the
distance, and then nothing but the music of the
horse-bells could be heard.
Except for the stirred surface of the trail and the
fresh mud splashes on the bushes beside the creek
there was nothing to remind one of the turmoil and
rank smells of the pack train.     One could look
263 The Canadian Rockies
up to the bright cliffs' of the Rainbow Mountains
or down at the blue ribbon of river once more in
peace, and one woke up from a bad dream of pandemonium, but after all it was the advanced guard
of civilisation which had passed along the trail.
The two climbers came down with mysterious
accounts of the strange country beyond, where rain-
clouds had hidden the north, breaking at intervals,
but never opening up things clearly. There were
glaciers beyond a valley and vague heights rising
above them, but whether they had actually looked
upon Mount Robson was uncertain. One thing
was certain, that ponies could never be taken to
Robson by that route. Our course was clear. We
must go to Grand Forks and make our way to
the foot of the mountain by that valley.
A few miles' travel along the lowering ridge
between the Fraser and Grand Forks Rivers
brought us to the turn, and) at last Mount Robson
burst upon us in reality, and we knew that the
monarch deserved his reputation.
Six miles up the valley mighty cliffs rose,
crowned by a pyramid of snow, often hidden by
clouds, but now and then gleaming above them
white against a blue-black sky. According to Mr.
McEvoy the top was more than ten thousand feet
above the valley where we were camped, and his
determination did not seem excessive; so that
Milton and Cheadle, in their glowing description
forty-five years before, had not exaggerated when
they made it rise ten thousand or fifteen thousand
feet into the heavens.
It was delightful and inspiring to gaze on the
highest peak of the Rockies, with its thousands of
feet of cliffs capped with a steep pyramid of snow ;
but it was also disquieting. A frontal attack on
those vertical cliffs seemed hopeless, and it was
clear that we must come to close quarters and try
the mountain from the flank.
Without delay we explored up the valley, and
found a most disheartening tangle of fallen logs
separating us from the green timber near the head
of Grand Forks River. Once more we had to
chop our way, this time through logs of British
Columbian timber often two feet or more in thickness, far worse than the windfalls of Alberta.
Years ago some one had cut out a trail for at
least five miles up, but it was so encumbered
with fallen trees in the burnt part that we found
it better to choose a new route.
Who had done the work no one knew, unless
possibly the family of Shuswap Indians across the
river, and none of us had enough command of the
Chinook jargon to inquire of them.
265 The Canadian Rockies
The green timber was impressive when at last
we had cut a road to it just passable for ponies,
and had picked up the old trail, which wound
between big cedars and hemlocks, hoary with
long, grey lichens hanging froim their limbs, and
deeply padded with soft green moss under foqH
except where thickets of ferns and devils clubs
hid the fallen logs in the wetter places.
It was the ioth of September before we could
drag or drive our ponies along the half-cut trail,
where logs had to be jumped and rocks scrambled
over; and several of them had wounds on their
legs before we reached the chosen camp ground
among the trees by a rapid of Grand Forks River.
When unloaded they were taken over a still more
fearful bit of trail to a steep slope, where rank
grass grew among the fallen logs. The shaded
path upwards, through an almost tropical growth
of bushes, made the grassy opening above the
timber quite dazzling in its sunshine.
Going back to our camp beside the rapids, devil's
clubs had to be cleared away under the big hemlocks before we could make ourselves at home,
and I was reminded of far-off camps among the
timber along the Columbia many years before.
Just behind the tent, by leaning over the rapids,
one could look up toward the Robson cliffs, which
rose a mile or two away, but the top of the
mountain was cloud-covered.
There was no time to be lost, and next day
packs of about forty pounds each were made up
for the attack on Mount Robson.    Boker was to
266 Mount Robson from the South
look after the horses, while the other three set out
with supplies for five days, which, with fine
weather, we hoped would serve us for the climb.
Through the bush along the river our loads were
an immense nuisance, but presently we reached the
forks, where we crossed the smaller branch on
a log, and then had good going on the shore of a
beautiful lake, which had been visited by Mr.
Kinney the day before, and has been named Lake
Kinney in honour of our indefatigable comrade.
Here we had open views everywhere, except
toward the top of Robson, which was out of sight
behind immense cliffs rising for several thousand
feet, but broken by rows of dark spruces where
some softer layer gave a gentler slope.
Presently the lake was passed, and the valley, of
the main branch of Grand Forks River opened out
into a marvellous amphitheatre—first the flat plain
of the delta, then a climb of a few hundred feet
among tumbling brooks to an upper level, with
Robson to the right and an unnamed range of
mountains to the left, snowy and with two small
glaciers. At the head of the valley a larger glacier
reached far below tree-line, and sent a tributary
down to the river.
The colouring of the amphitheatre was wonderfully rich, with the greys and purples and ruddy
browns of the rocks forming the cliffs, and the
different tones of green on patches of forest and
on bare slopes, while the waterfalls that dropped
over the cliffs by the dozen made the whole scene
alive with motion and music.
267 The Canadian Rockies
We advanced up the valley, picking our way
among the vast blocks which had rolled down from
the cliffs of Mount Robson, finding very bad going
until we drew near to the greatest waterfalls of
all, where the main river plunged down from the
north-east through rugged canyons, with a drop
of two thousand feet. Looking up at the final wall
of rock that ended the valley, one could see the,
white gleam of four or five of these falls, but the
rest of the river was hidden except for spray rising
here and there like mist. Where the great volume
of water came from was mysterious, and we
imagined rugged tablelands behind Robson to
supply the drainage.
This large river, coming apparently from the
skies, and leaping so easily over the cliffs, was our
natural route to attack the mountain from the rear,
but the sheer walls of rock were very serious
obstacles for three wingless humans with 40-lb.
packs. We dropped our loads and looked for a
possible ascent, but in an hour or two gave up
trying to scale the barrier and turned back through
the chaos of fallen rocks to the lake, deciding to
try the valley of the smaller branch of the river,
which had an easier slope.
The flow of water among the rocks was beautiful
and puzzling—clear streams gushing out of talus-
heaps, flowing for a while in daylight and then;
vanishing again. The whole valley seemed honeycombed with subterranean channels. Near our
camp, by a bay with a gravel beach and wooded
shores, a huge bastion of Mount Robson rose
268 Mount Robson from the South
behind a fringe of forest; and from its edge leaped
a stream for a thousand feet, its source out of sight
and its lower end lost in a mass of loose rocks.
It reappeared on the shore, not far from us. The
air was still, but full of murmurs of running water
and of little waves lapping the shore, and the night
clear and soft as we went to sleep ; but our comfortable night ended in a troubled dawn, with
gathering clouds, as we started next morning up
the smaller branch of the Grand Forks. Our fine
weather was at an end; we had spent it all in
chopping our way into the valley.
On the shore of the lake Mr. Kinney found a
small dead fish, which he believed to be a salmon.
If so, these fine fish must have a famous struggle
up the wild rapids of Fraser River and of the
Grand Forks to this mountain lake 3,500 feet
above the sea. I have seen shoals of salmon,
bruised and battered till they were raw and red,
at nearly an equal height on Thompson River,
another tributary of the Fraser, so that it is quite
probable that they reach the foot of Mount Robson.
When the lake was passed, climbing began in
earnest up the steep canyon of the smaller fork,
bare rock encumbered with fallen logs that we
sometimes followed for fifty feet. On one smooth
stem a grizzly had left deep claw-marks. The
packs spoiled our balance for acrobatics on the
logs, and, in fact, a heavy load on the back robs
climbing of most of its joys. But there were worse
troubles in store, for rain began to fall, so that
the smooth slopes of quartzite that reached up for
269 The Canadian Rockies
a thousand feet and the limestones above them
proved very slippery climbing ; and in the gentler
part of the valley beyond the long grass and
bushes were already soaked with water. There was
no timber for about a mile, because everything
had been swept down and flattened by snowslides
from the cliffs of Robson. At one place a large
block of stone had ploughed a long furrow through
the debris of the valley floor, no doubt driven by
the force of the avalanche behind it.
We were moving towards a cirque of singular
beauty at the head of the valley, with cup-shaped
bottom and steep sides of wonderful green, down
which flowed white torrents from all sides, combining to form the little river we were following.
Two of these streams, on the Robson side, drained
cliff glaciers, and a third seemed to come from
nowhere, spouting clear of the cliff as if projected
from a nozzle. However, the valley was soon
hidden from us, for sleet began to fall from the
roof of clouds, dimming everything.
It was now necessary to scale the wall of the
cirque towards the flanks of Mount Robson, so as
to reach one of the high belts of timber where
we intended to camp for the night; and we followed up one of the cascades over glacia^H
smoothed cliffs dangerously slippery in their wet
At last we reached the timber, now half lost in
driving snow.   We were not far below timber-line,
and it was time to camp ;   but nowhere could we
find a bit of level ground on the continuous slope,
270 Mount Robson from the South
and we had to roll logs against two trees and
build up a platform large enough for a bed before
there could be any rest after an exhausting day.
It was dusk under the snow-laden spruces before
we got supper and were ready to crawl into the
sleeping-bags and pull up the waterproof cover.
In the morning more than a foot of snow had
fallen, and it lay thick on the sloping branches
and on the lower end of our bed, though the well-
thatched old spruce had kept it from our heads. We
lay in our bags and listened to a group of magpies in the branches above, speculating harshly
about us and apparently amused at our predicament. With snow still falling heavily, and nothing
visible but the nearer trees, there was no chance of
climbing, and we lay till hunger drove us out to
light a fire and melt snow for tea. Without birch-
bark or dry wood, fire-lighting needed some skill.
It was September 14th, and we had only three
days' supplies left. There seemed no hope of clear
weather and reasonable conditions for climbing
within that limit, and so at length we gave upi
the contest. We had climbed three thousand feet,
and had slept a night at timber-line about a third
of the way up Mount Robson (6,300 feet above
sea); and before this we had explored the valleys
on two sides of the 'mountain, but we had not once
caught a glimpse of its summit. Some dim
pinnacles of rock had been visible when the snowfall slackened a little, and that was all we saw of
Robson as we turned downwards toward our main
camp on Grand Forks River. It was clear that if
271 The Canadian Rockies
a change did not come within a few days we should
be driven homeward without ever having a chance
at the real mountain at all, for we had only scaled1
its lower buttresses and not reached its higher
flanks. Our following summer's work made it
probable, however, that we should never have
reached the top even with fine weather, since the
way is blocked by very serious cliffs on the south
To avoid risks on the way down we kept to the
woods in the first thousand feet of steep descent,
wallowing and slipping through the snowy bushes
and letting ourselves down from tree to tree.
Lower down the snow became moist and turned
to sleet and rain, soaking us with ice-water among
the bushes of the level parts and making the rocky,
cliffs and slopes of the canyon very risky to
Five or six hours of slipping and stumbling
brought us to the junction of the two river
branches; and soon after we were at home in the
old tent, a little drizzle falling outside, through
which the low western sun glanced now and then,
while up the valley Mount Robson was robed in
mist and cloud for several thousand feet, only the
lower cliffs showing distinctly.
We had heard Boker shouting to the horses on
the way toward camp, and presently he came back,
rejoiced to see us, and we had a good dinner, with
beans and peaches, and talked over all the events.
Next day it still snowed from time to time, and
even  the   bottom   of   the   valley,  was   whitened,
2*72 Mount Robson from the South
making the half-frozen devil's clubs droop,
dejectedly under the load of sleet, and sending
big drops down here and there from the trees at
whose roots our fire was burning.
We spent a depressing day in the old camp,
and then, on September 16th, packed our ponies
and turned towards home; but we were shocked
to find that several of the animals looked quite
used up, as ijF they had not fed properly among
the fallen timber on the mountain-side. Linda
especially, my brother's riding horse, a well-bred
and valuable mare, was only skin and bone, and old
Whitey and Maria were both lame.
We loaded what was left of our belongings on
the stronger horses, and set out in doleful trim1
over the four miles of fallen logs ; but about halfway over Linda collapsed altogether, and had to be
left behind. She had lost all heart, and made no
effort to follow the others.
Next morning my brother and I came back to
see if she had not revived enough to be helpe.d
along to the meadows near the forks. She whinnied to us as we came up, and tried to eat a little
grass we had brought, but no pushing nor pulling
could help her over the fallen logs, and to save
her from worse suffering she was put an end to.
Her death scream! will always be a distressing
memory to me.
This seemed the final blow in our defeat, and
rankled in my brother's mind as we passed for
the last time over the trampled moss and the dull
red of rotten wood on our disastrous trail.
273 s The Canadian Rockies
Our last glimpse of Robson showed clouds
driving past a vast cone of white, broken in the
lower parts by bands of nearly horizontal cliff;
and then we turned up the Fraser valley and saw
no more of the fascinating peak that had cost us
so much toil. Often we talked over the camp
fire of what might have been done if we had
reached our point two weeks earlier, as we had
hoped to do in the beginning, and often planned
ways of attacking the mountain from the rear
instead of from in front, for we were thoroughly
beaten and naturally wanted another chance under
better conditions.
On our return to the Athabasca we had all the
look of a defeated army, and poor old Whitey
came limping in two hours after the other animals
had been unpacked, in spite of the fact that his
load had been divided among the rest.
It was very late in the season, and we felt
obliged to hurry; but our crippled horses made
this very difficult, especially as the mud holes were
worse than ever and, except on the larger prairies,
the grass had been eaten bare. Even where the
grass was still untouched it did not seem to cure
on the stalk as it does in the Alberta stock ranges,
and had little nourishment for the horses. At night
the frosts were hard, and ice formed on the pools.
Our supplies were nearly done when we once more
touched the Athabasca River, and we went down
stream a few miles to Swift's ranch, of which we
had heard much from all travellers to and from
Tete Jaune Cache. Passing through the open
prairie-land, sear and brown with autumn, but still
having plenty of feed for horses, we decided to:
leave behind pur two worst cripples, Whitey and
Maria,   in  charge   of   Swift,   since   in   that   open
275 The Canadian Rockies
country they could look out for themselves in the
Swift is a most interesting character, a white
man of some energy and resource who married a
woman of the country, an Iroquois half-breed,
many years ago, and had now a brood of
wholesome-looking children playing about his log
house. He had fenced and ploughed some fields,
from which wheat and oats and barley had just
been harvested, and had built a watermill on the
stream that irrigated his farm' to grind his wheat
into flour, somewhat brown in colour, but making
good bread ; so that, except for sugar, tea, and
tobacco, he was as nearly independent as a man
can be.
He reached this valley in 1894, the year when
we had mistaken the Miette for Whirlpool River,
had seen our tracks and wondered at them, just
as we had pondered over the big hoof-prints of his
horses. It was strange that two parties of white
men, one from' Morley, the other from Edmonton,
then only a fur-trading post, should so nearly have
met at the sources of the Athabasca.
We had a long and interesting talk with Swift,
admired the children, and the bread and potatoes
from his garden, and praised deservedly the
artistic buckskin suits embroidered with rich-
coloured silks by Mrs. Swift—true works of art
made from her own designs. We also laid in
supplies, for our flour and beans had vanished and
the bacon was nearly done when Swift's hospitable
roofs hove in sight.
276 Swift and His Neighbours
We had intended to return through the mountains the way we came, but it was now so late
in the season that the snow would be very deep
on the passes, and our used-up beasts were in no
trim for the rocky trails through the mountains.
On Swift's advice we took the trail for Edmonton,
a hundred miles longer, but through more or less
civilised country.
Swift's ranch was a delightful oasis pf prairie
in the heart of the mountains, and the brown and
yellow terraces along the river might have been in
the cattle country at Morley, so that we were not
surprised when Swift told us that horses winter
safely. The warm Chinook wind's, the special
providence of the Alberta rancher, lick up the
snow from time to time in the winter just as they
do farther south.
The broad river valley had a beauty all its own
as we turned eastwards, and below the mountain
cliffs there are belts of evergreen forest, pine and
spruce; while among the meadows of the lower
ground there are groves of aspens on the drier
spots, and balsam poplars along the river, and
here and there great Douglas firs rise like steeples
above the other trees.
The river winds from side to side, enclosing
islands at some points and expanding to lakes at
others; and from the heights behind the ranch
these are spread out as on a map, while other
lakes, hidden among the trees, come into view.
If one is to be a recluse like Swift, it is well to
choose as romantic surroundings as he has done.
277 The Canadian Rockies
Down the valley, and also on the other side of
the river, Swift has neighbours, about a hundred
in all, a colony of Iroquois half-breeds, many of
them named Moberly, from a white ancestor. They
are fairly civilised, and some of them are well off I
and since they were introduced as hunters in the
early days by the fur companies they seem to have
thriven in their new quarters.
They have certainly changed many of their
habits, for they are now horsemen and mountain,
climbers instead of men of the birch canoe and
the snowshoe, like their forefathers in the eastern?
forests ; but they seem quite as well adapted to
a mountain life as the Stonies, and appear to live
more  comfortably.
Swift could not spare all the supplies we needed,
so a few miles down the valley we called on one
of his half-breed neighbours, named Iwan Moberly,
a shrewd-looking, swarthy man who came out of..
a well-built house a little off from the rjver to
see us.
On the way down misfortune had still followed
us, and Baldy, one of the best of our seven remaining horses, suddenly went lame, leaving us in a
very awkward position for the rapid journey east.
We tried to arrange a horse trade with Moberly,
but the only animal he would exchange was one
which he admitted was hard to catch, and after-
half an hour of lively exercise we failed to catch'
him and had to go on with Baldy.
Moberly   took  us   into  his   house,   where   the
women were at work, one a very pretty girl, and
278 Swift and His Neighbours
we were rather surprised to see a sewing-machine
and a battered phonograph in the room, the latter
singing a ragtime song in a very brazen voice.
At first I wan answered our questions in Cree,
the lingua franca of the plains, nemo ya ("no")
being a very prominent word ; but presently he
melted into very fair English, and admitted that he
had nearly everything humanity could want except
bacon, which he was short of ; but flour, beans,
rice, raisins, even some canned stuff, he could
supply. Taking us into his smoke-house, we saw
irov^s of whitefish hanging from the roof, seven
big ones for a dollar, also a bony side of bear-
meat, very dirty-looking, which he did not recommend because the animal was old and tough. We
then went into his store, where flour and other
things were measured out to us in a free-and-easy
way without using the huge pair of steelyards
hanging on the wall.
With fish and bear-meat and flour we were safet
for some time, and went on, worried only by the
increasing lameness of Baldy, which made it necessary for some one to walk all the time and delayed^
us where the going was good.
It was the 24th of September, and the autumn
colouring was growing more splendid every day,f
the poplars taking on every rich and delicate tint,
between soft green and pure gold, while the evergreens among and behind them kept their sombre
green and brown. The smaller plants, roses, berry-
bushes, and mountain ash, glowed scarlet and
purple, and with the fine blue and green of Jasper
Lake as our trail climbed upon a rocky terrace
some hundreds of feet above the river there was
a marvellous display of colour, quite too gorgeous
to fit with our battered and worn-out horses and
dirty and tattered clothes.
There was much to enjoy even though we were
coming back utterly routed, leaving behind a horse
from point to point, for the route was new to all
of us, with fine though not very lofty mountain
forms, and the trail was in general easy to follow,
280 Out of the Mountains to the Big Eddy
well beaten by all the weary pack trains that had
trodden it during the summer. It was a little
rocky for unshod horses, but as compensation there
were few soft spots. One thing, however, roused
a little anxiety. We had to ford the Athabasca
with no guide to lead the way, and from old
experience we knew that the Athabasca was not
a river to be trifled with.
We had reached a point where one trail led
down the valley, another toward the river, evidently
to the ford, long and intricate, as described to
us at Swift's ; and we were not quite sure where
to start in, for the path branched and came out
at several points on the shore. Watching carefully, we tracked the latest footprints out upon a
gravel beach and saw some marks in the gravel
across the water, so that the beginning of the long
ford made no trouble. The tracks on this gravel
bar led down stream and passed into the water of
a much wider stretch of river, and on the other
side no hint of a landing could be seen. As the
leader, I urged the reluctant Betty in and we
explored in various directions, stopping short when
the water reached the saddle, and at last a zigzag
course following under water bars or riffles was
picked out and the six other ponies followed safely.
We were now on a larger island with bushes, and
a trail, freshly marked, led along it to the edge
of a channel with a much stronger current and
nothing in sight to suggest a landing on the other
side, where a thicket came down to the edge of
the water.
281 The Canadian Rockies
Once more the unwilling Betty was forced into
the murky water, and turned just before losing
her hold on the bottom; but a second trial at
a new place was not so lucky, for Betty was swept
off her feet and out into the current, where there
was nothing for it but to swim. As Betty swims
low, I slipped off and swam beside her till we
reached the bushy shore, where I caught a branch
and held on, still clinging to the bridle. She tried
bravely to make a landing, but the bank was undercut by the swift current, and I had to let her go*
She made two or three attempts to climb on shorer
among the bushes lower down, and then turned
toward the other side, where she landed on the
bar some hundreds of yards below the rest of the
party, who were waiting anxiously to see what
would happen.
Dragging myself up among the bushes, I immediately found a trail leading to the head of the
island, above the scene of our mishap, and there
on a gravel bar were fresh hoof-marks that told
the tale. We should have followed a shoal a
quarter of a mile up stream, and then have turned
sharply downward to the head of the island. I
could hardly make myself heard across the rapids,
but by playing the semaphore the others soon
grasped the situation, and, one of them leading
Betty, presently all were on the right side of the
channel. There was another arm of the river to
be crossed, but this was shallow, and soon we werii
on solid land near the foot of the bold cliffs of
Roche Miette. Out of the Mountains to the Big Eddy
It was early in the afternoon, but I was shivering
from the icy water of the Athabasca, and besides,
my aneroid and watch needed prompt aid if they
were to be of any more service ; so we halted and
soon two brisk fires were blazing and all the wet
things, including myself stripped to underwear,
were spread out to dry. The watch and aneroid
were dried in time to save the hair-spring, that
sensitive soul of the machinery that so quickly
perishes from rust after drowning unless revived
by fire. The kodak, strapped to Betty's saddle-
horn, and the sketch-book and notebooks in the
rucksack were not improved by their wetting and
drying, but after all things might have gone worse
than they did.
We were now in a region, of sharply-folded
mountains, and a splendid anticlinal arch,
thousands of feet high, rose just across the
river, a fitting doorway to a superhuman cathedral,
for ever closed to man. Farther up there were
synclinal mountains, where the anticlinal arches
had been ruptured and destroyed, leaving what
was once the bottom of the valley high up in
the sky as jagged pinnacles, convincing instances
of the lofty being humbled and the lowly exalted.
Other folds had been flung over on their side
and had then been carved by frost and torrents
into all sorts of adventurous shapes, which, though
not very lofty, were far more exciting to a geologist
than the huge blocks tilted up to the north-east
found in the other main valleys, such as the
Brazeau, the Clearwater, and the Bow.
283 The Canadian Rockies
The stiff beds of limestone, quartzite, and slate
of the Athabasca Mountains must have been buried
under a far thicker load of overlying rock than was
the case farther south-east to make them so much
more plastic, and one must imagine them to have
been thousands of feet below the original surface
when they were crumpled and contorted into their
present daring forms.
Roche Miette, round whose projecting cliffs the
trail curved beside the river, is the most impressive
bit of architecture along the Athabasca, pushing
its bold front out into the valley like a commanding fort with unscalable walls three thousand feet
high, and a flat top somewhat parapeted and loop-
holed . Though it belongs to the third range inward
from the edge of the mountains, the nearly vertical
cliff and the square and massive front can be seen
many miles out on the plains.
Beyond it to the east the lower outlying range
has been severely folded, so that one mass has
been named by McEvoy Folding Mountain. We
lunched near the foot of this peak, where there
was plenty of grass in the little openings among
the poplars, so that our horses could fill up satisfactorily before entering the wooded foot-hills just
outside the mountains.
In the afternoon we passed through the " gap §
between the bluish cliffs of ancient limestone and
turned into a black forest of spruce and pine that
marked the beginning of the plains. Beyond this
dark belt of evergreens our way was to lead through
the parkland of poplar-groves and meadows that
284   Out of the Mountains to the Big Eddy
separates Edmonton from the Rockies. The route
to be travelled was unknown to us except for depressing reports that it crossed many miles of
muskegs. In any case there would be soft trails
for our horses, now so footsore from the rocks
that they would turn out of the way to avoid the
smoothest pebble.
We were far from easy in our minds as to the
journey of two hundred miles still to come, for
Baldy was now a limping cripple and had to be
driven slowly, hobbling into camp hours after the
others had arrived, while Moberly's bear-meat and
smoked fish had been eaten up, leaving us again
on the verge of hunger. However, we expected
to reach Big Eddy, where there was a store, in
about two days, and hoped the storekeeper would
accept a cheque in payment for supplies, for our
money had quickly vanished at Swift's and
Moberly's, where prices were very high because
all except fish and bear-meat and potatoes had
to come in 250 miles on the backs of .ponies.
A day's journey took us out through the foothills, now brownish with1 sear grass or bright
yellow with poplar-leaves, and presently we climbed
far above the valley and could look down on the
blue-green of the Athabasca, winding between
groves and islands. With a last look at the great
river, we turned toward the McLeod valley across
a divide which was abominable with mud-holes and
fallen timber, but gave a fine view of the Rockies,
sweeping for more than a hundred miles across
the south-west, somewhat atoning! for the toil and
285 The Canadian Rockies
trouble. Then came a quick descent into the
charming McLeod valley, where meadows alternated with groves of straight, white-stemmed
The weather had justified the westerner's pet
title of *- Sunny Alberta " since we had turned down
the Athabasca; but reaching the McLeod cloudy
skies covered us, and the only sunshine was the
golden gleam of the poplar-leaves, just in their
perfection of autumn colour.
We camped near the river, which is very small
compared with the Athabasca, near a party of
packers on their way westward with loaded ponies.
They reported a snowstorm and rough weather •
farther east, and informed us that we were at the
" Leavings " of the McLeod, one of several
" Leavings " on the plains, points where the trail
bends off from one river valley to another. Here
my brother sold poor Baldy to the head packer,
since it was hopeless to expect the crippled beast
ever to reach Edmonton. It needed rest and a
chance to recover, instead of the forced marches
we felt obliged to make; so we agreed to take
it on with us to the Big Eddy and leave it there.
For some time its pack had been divided up among
the riding ponies.
The next day's journey was sunless but almost
dazzling with the poplars against the grey sky and
with the golden pathway over their fallen leaves,
making a splendour of one vivid colour such as I
never before saw in nature. Our eastern autumn
colours are more glorious in their range of rich
286 Out of the  Mountains  to  the Big Eddy
hues, but have not the same effect as the western
poplars, here and there pierced by a spire of dark
Of White Mud and Sundance Creeks nothing
need be said, for we were hurrying to reach that
metropolis, Big Eddy, which at last'was announced
by a chorus of horse-bells. Its two tents and
one log-house lay before us, with the fine ox-bow
curve of the river below ; and a picturesque medley
of barking dogs and variously-coloured ponies
showed that other travellers were there before us.
The French storekeeper, white-haired but rather
youthful in face, welcomed us and 'offered supplies
at prices reasonable for the region ; and as we
were to leave Baldy, the fourth of our horses,
it was necessary if we were \o keep up our rate
of travel to get another horse. We soon learned
that our only chance of doing this was from John
Yates, the mail-carrier, who was just making ready
to (start for Edmonton.
We halted a day to make rearrangements, and
Yates agreed to lend usa " blue " pony for packing purposes, and also to take me on with him,
by which some days might be saved, since he
would travel with fresh horses. It was the end
of September and I was already due in Toronto,
while time was not of quite so much importance
to the other three.
We had a splendid breakfast on bull trout,
caught in the eddy by the Frenchman's night-
line, and then I mounted little Clydesdale, so
named from its diminutive size, and followed' White
I ;li The Canadian Rockies
Rabbit (Whitey for short), the pack pony, while
Yates rode ahead on a powerful mare.
I was sorry to leave the old party which had
loyally and good-temperedly borne so many trials
and hardships together in the past two months, but
they were now in good trim, with six horses for
three people, and should follow without trouble
over well-beaten trails. It turned out later, however, that before reaching the end of the journey
another horse went lame and had to be left behind,
the black mare Topsy, so that six out of our
original ten died or were disabled in this unlucky
288 &f$A3RTER   XXXIII
So far as I was concerned,^thWrout was now transformed into headlong flight, since Yates was behind
time with nis Majesty's mails, and kept his big
mare on the trot wherever the road allowed,0 while
the pack pony w^'light of heel and of load and
trotted most of the way also, that Clydesdale,
r\vh6se ponderous name I abbreviated tOi Clyde, with
his short legs often had to lope to keep up.
Muskegs were all too comriftm, and there the
trail inevitably split up, each horse looking for
an unbroken surface of green on the quaking bog.
Waiitey was special!^ original in thts0fnatter, always
choosing a fresh route, generally through the
thickest bushes, because thSrroots stiffened! $p 'the
skin of tun^ and Clyde folKSwed her farthfully, so
tnat often my hat was knocked off and I was nearly
dragged from the saddle in the tangled byways.
Yates wanted to reach Forsyth's ranch for the
night ;jflbut we were Wee in starting and it was
dusk before the trail turned down through the
woods 6J°tHe river, and for the last mile or ft#D
I had to leave everything to Clyde, who followed The Canadian Rockies
Whitey's ghostly form through the blackness under
trees until we came out beside the gleam of water.
I could see nothing of a ranch, but Yates presently
shouted, and as a result there was a light, the
dwelling glowing from the candlelight within, and
proving to be an arched wagon-cover placed tentlike on the ground. We went in and found Forsyth
lighting a fire in a minute tin stove to get us
some supper. Presently fried venison, bannock,
and tea filled the aching void, while Eorsyth explained the meat, which was out of season, by
a hideous joke as to a colt which had departed
this life. We found the venison savoursome in
spite of the story.
Next morning Forsyth joined us on the journey,
but our start was delayed because Clyde and two
of his horses were hard to find. The ranch proved
by daylight to be a beautiful flat with groves and
rich pasture beside the clear river, and on the
other side of the McLeod we could see the smoke
of another party of ranchers, Englishmen banished
here, but expecting the railway to bring civilisation to them in a year or two.
On the trail again, we climbed out of the valley
and crossed poplar-covered hills, where the leaves
had almost all fallen and the magic colour of the
past few days had departed. For a day or two
our path had been paved with clean, round disks
of brass or gold, but now they were shrivelled
and brown and drifting in windrows among the
bushes. There was a shrewd briskness in the
morning air and ice on the water-pail, for autumn
290 The Edmonton Trail
was well under way on the 2nd of October. The
day's journey was through attractive scenery, and
once on the highest hill we caught a last glimpse
of mountains nearly a hundred miles away.
We travelled late and camped in the red of the
evening, using methods new to me, old camper
as I was. A fire was lit and the baking of bannocks
began, and during this operation one of the party
had tied three poles together at the proper length,
lifting them up as a tripod, and so placing them
that the fire was in the centre. Other poles lying
round were methodically stacked against them at
even distances, leaving one gap, when the last pole,
tied to the inner side of a semicircle of canvas,
was lifted along with the voluminous canvas and
laid in the missing place. Then the canvas was
drawn round the cone of poles and fastened up
the front with little pins of wood above the opening
for the door. If it was breezy, an extra pole was
put up to spread a flap of the canvas and give the
right draught to the fire within. By this time
it was night and the two> men, who had finished
their work outside, went into the teepee, where the
third one had the bannock browning before the
fire and a savoury stew of dried fish and desiccated
potato ready to dish.
It was my first experience of teepee life, and
I found the cosy firelight and the great shadows
against the canvas cone behind us most picturesque,
while it was decidedly cheerful to be sheltered
from the chill without as we ate a jolly supper
together. Henceforth it was my duty to build
291 The Canadian Rockies
our house each evening, with the fireplace as focus,
and I soon became an adept in the operation,
while one of the others cooked, and the third
attended to the saddles and gear or hobbled one
or two horses.
Our forced marches were largely through park
scenery, with here and there a few red-granite
boulders scattered over the rolling hills, ice-borne
erratics from the Laurentians, hundreds of miles
to the east. The country looked fertile, and often
the bottom lands were rankly grown with wild
vetches and peas, from which the ponies snatched
long, trailing vines in passing—good horse-ranch
country, according to Yates.
We began to meet men once more, pack trains
heading for the west, and at last one black, rainy
evening rode into Lac Ste. Anne over a broad
road where wheels had actually run. In the rainy
darkness my leader trotted ahead up hill and down
into groves of trees and across muddy creek
bottoms, and little Clyde trotted his best to keep
up, neighing to his friends not to go so fast when
he fell behind. Now and then, looking up from
a valley, I could see a black silhouette of a man
on horseback against a grey sky.
There was confusion, followed by strong
language from Forsyth, for we had run into
a band of cows sleeping on the road, and the
pack beasts had stampeded, making much trouble
to get them together again, when once more the
race continued. A house with a lighted window
appeared on one side, and a door opened where
292 The Edmonton Trail
a man stood framed in light from behind, asking,
"Where you come from?" but before there was
time to answer we were past. More houses
appeared, and at last there was a hotel with lights
and sounds and men, but every room was full^
so I spread my blankets on the dining-room table
and slept comfortably till morning.
We had reached the first outpost of civilisation, where a famous old Hudson Bay post was
surrounded ,by a scattered Erench half-breed
settlement, not far from the flat shores of Lac
Ste. Anne.
While Yates was scouring the settlement for a
team and a buckboard, I walked about this quaint
little village, with the pretty whitewashed buildings of the Hudson Bay Company against a background of still yellow poplars and the grey Roman
Catholic church, toward which gaily-dressed half-
breeds were sauntering, the oldest Mission in this
part of the west. There was brilliant sunshine and
the whole scene was attractive.
We had travelled forty or forty-five miles the
day before over heavy muddy trails, and my little
charger Clyde had borne me famously. To
keep down the load for White Rabbit, the pack
pony, Yates and I put our blankets under our
saddles, and for comfort in the frosty autumn
nights two good blankets were not too much. Poor
Clyde when saddled gained nearly double his girth
and was distinctly comic in effect.
There was still a strenuous day's drive to be
accomplished over roads savouring of the back-
•    i The Canadian Rockies
woods, but which had actually been ridged up and
provided with bridges, running most of the way
through land which had been taken up as farms
and showed some clearing and cultivation. The
settlers were largely English families, sturdy and
comfortable-looking, very different from the French
half-breeds of Lac Ste. Anne, and many of them
were of good education, one gentleman met being
a Fellow of a great English university.
We failed to reach Edmonton in one day, and
passed the night at the village of St. Albert, lying
in a river valley, dominated by a feudal-looking
group of buildings on high ground, a Roman
Catholic educational institution dating back to the
times of earliest settlement, when French fathers
looked after the spiritual welfare of Indians and
The hotel was comfort itself compared with
the rough and dirty accommodation of Lac Ste.
Two hours' spin in the morning over good roads
between splendid fields of rich black soil where
crops of grain had been cut brought us to Edmonton, the northern capital of Alberta, and I paid
my first visit to this ambitious young city, laid
out with streets wide enough for a metropolis.
My funds were almost out, owing to the heavy
cost of supplies along the western end of the
Edmonton trail, and it was needful to visit a banker,
clothed as I was in worn-out boots and a patched
suit, in a city where I had no references ; but
a pencilled note from Boker, our packer, was my
294 The Edmonton Trail
introduction, and there was no difficulty in getting!
what money was needed.
Before bidding goodbye to Yates, the hustler,
born in England and brought up in California,
I sounded him as to another expedition the
following summer, and found him willing to.
arrange for horses if I wanted to go.
On July 31, 1908, Mr. Kinney, my brother, and
myself were in Edmonton once more, buying
supplies, comparing aneroids and! boiling-point
apparatus at the meteorological observatory, and
getting waterproof dunnage-bags to preserve our
special treasures from1 unlucky spills in the rivers.
On August 4th we were at the Hobo ranch, a
few miles west of Lac Ste. Anne, John Yates's
headquarters, getting an obstreperous set of ponies
saddled and packed. An hour's ride away from'
the ranch it was remembered that our future homfe,
the teepee, had been left behind, and also a bell,
desirable to make strayed horses audible if riot
visible ; and Yates went back with two horses for
these indispensables, leaving us to prepare lunch
near a little stream'. While busy in this way we
observed that the other seven horses had turned
east to follow Yates's pair, and we hurried! after
296 The Yellowhead Trail
them, but a stern chase by men on foot after lively
ponies was, of course, in vain. They never stopped
till they reached the Hobo again.
There John, with aid from Mr. Kinney, who had
followed on foot, forced the unwilling ones back
to their burdens, and we proceeded on our way
late in the afternoon, camping at dusk in splendid
wild-hay meadows beside Island Lake. We
followed the new t6te road prepared to haul in
supplies for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway,
largely corduroy over swampy lowlands, but often
cut straight through avenues of tall poplars. The
road was so well beaten by heavy teaming that
no wayfarer could err from it.
When John and Mr. Kinney came back from
the ranch, whooping up the recreant ponies at a
good round trot, it was evident that another member
had joined our party self-invited, for Hoodoo, the
pet bull terrier of the Hobo, was joyously barking
in the rear and helping on the tumult.
I was sorry to see him come, for he might be
a great nuisance, but there was no easy way to send
him back and Hoodoo went with us to Mount
Robson. He made the least possible trouble,
accepted all hardships philosophically, and I have
no doubt believed himself an important portion of
the expedition. On the trail he was in his element,
hunting a squirrel here or scenting a grouse there,
always slipping back along the line and then darting
forward beyond the first horse, in narrow and
crooked trails dodging into the bushes on one side
to escape the feet of the horses. On Jmuskegs
297 The Canadian Rockies
where the ponies floundered his light weight left
him as free as air to enjoy himself, while toiling men helped the plunging ponies on to dry
On good trail one might see him halt somewhere
near the front to look back and see if all were
coming on in good order, and if there was any
lagging among the rear animals he felt it his duty
to go back and investigate and add his advice and
persuasive powers to those of the rider in the rear.
That he aided much in this was evident to himself
if not to others, and he bounded forward again
with a self-satisfied air to report all well at the
head of the column.
I was somewhat worried for the little fellow
when we forded the first wide river; but he was
quite equal to the occasion—went up stream to a
good starting-point and plunged recklessly in,
swimming strongly where the ponies waded, often
carried hundreds of yards down, but always landing
safely and trotting up to us with many a shake to
dislodge the cold water. At one or two of the worst
fords his master carried' him, but in most cases he
looked out for himself with perfect independence
and a well-justified trust in his own prowess..
On the next day we reached Pembina River,
where we added some trifles to our outfit at a big
supply-store. We then forded the shallow, muddy,
river where a sixteen-foot seam of coal showed
black at the foot of the bank, clintbed the steep
hill beyond, and were once more on an prthodox
pony trail wriggling, its way through groves and
298 The Yellowhead Trail
meadows with soft spots uncorduroyed and hard
ones ungraded, while our ponies kept snatching for
mouthfuls of the rank growth of vetches and grass.
Here and there larkspurs rose four feet high with
rich spikes of purplish blue, and though they are
reported poisonous, humble-bees were gathering
honey from them, and my pony plucked and ate
one stalk with no observable effects.
It was nearly eight o'clock and threatening rain
when we pitched our teepee where an pld set of
poles lay on the border of a great natural meadow,
and the mosquitoes invited themselves to share our
chamber and had to be smoked out, showing that
a tent with a good front of cheesecloth has at
least one advantage over a teepee.
To recount our journeys and our camps is unnecessary. Up to McLeod River the trail led
through the charming park scenery of northern
Alberta with gentle hills and valleys, meadows and
poplar-woods, threaded here and there by a creek
of brown water, lukewarm in the August sun, but
wholesome enough. Even Poison Creek, in jts
lovely and peaceful surroundings, we drank from
without harm, if without enthusiasm.
Haymakers were at work in several places
cutting the natural meadows and stacking up
excellent fodder, which they hoped to sell in the
winter for $20 or even $50 per ton.
After fording the cool, clear McLeod there was
high   ground   from   which   we   looked   longingly
toward the Rockies, a mere rim of faint blue at
the   horizon;    and   that   night   we   camped   at
Mm The Canadian Rockies
Eorsyth's, where John and) I had passed a night
the year before. Here we stayed for Sunday,
giving the ponies a rest after twenty miles a day
up to this point; and along the shore of the river
I found fossil tree-stumps undermined from the
soft cretaceous shales of its banks. In the afternoon we forded! over to the ranch of the Englishmen, who received us hospitably, and in the evening
a young Bostonian living in the unchinked log
house with them' gave us a concert of pperatiif
music from an excellent phonograph.
At this ranch my brother recovered Topsy,
left behind totally exhausted on our disastrous
homeward trip last autumn. Topsy was fat and
frisky and had no intention of being caughlt, but
at last succumbed to the rope in skilful hands,
and soon after had1 a saddle tightly cinched and a
load on her back. Evidently the winter in the open
had done her no harm1.
Between Forsyth's and Big Eddy came an
appalling bit of mucky ground, and every animal
sought in desperation for a new route through the
muskeg where the sod had1 not yet been broken.
It was a foretaste of much that was to come, for
the season had been rainy.
Near the Leavings of the McLeod a stray horse
was handed to John to return to its owner pn
Prairie Creek, and the thrifty John made it work
its passage by carrying White Rabbit's load, so that
she might go light and avoid a sore back. It was
funny to see how our horses despised and ostracised
the new-comer, even the little ones nabbing it with
300 Xft?
inf  The Yellowhead Trail
vicious countenance, while the big, raw-boned
creature accepted it all meekly.
Our next camp was on rough morainic country
beside a silvery creek, from whose transparent
waters Mr. Kinney, our sportsman, extracted half
a dozen rainbow trout and one bullhead, making a
magnificent breakfast, before we crossed the divide
to the Athabasca. On the rolling summit one
hundred miles of the Rockies were once more
spread before us, the lower rocky cliffs in the front
ranks and the higher snowy peaks of the interior
ranges lifting themselves proudly as belonging to
a different, superior world from that of the grubbing
farmers and haymakers of the plains. One cannot
avoid a thrill at the first broad view of the
Coming down to the river the mountains were
lost again behind foot-hills, and once more we
trotted through rich grass fields to Prairie Creek,
where the mowers were at work and where the
submissive stray horse was handed over to its
owners, soon to draw its share pf a hay-wagon
instead of carrying a pack.
Then came the imposing, portal of limestone
cliffs, and once more the majesty of the mountains
engulfed us, the huge block of Roche Miette overshadowing us for half a day. We did not ford at
the old place, the water being too high, but kept
to the south bank of the Athabasca, with most
varied trails, on narrow sandy ridges between blue
lakes and the river, or clambering up the rocky
mountain-side for 1,100 feet to avoid muskeg flats
to;<! The Canadian Rockies
at the bottom, then zig-zagging with glorious views
of valleys and mountains to the river flat again.
From above we could look down on the tangle of
channels and tributaries of the river and on Jasper
and Fishing Lakes, the whole geography of a
puzzling valley made clear at a glance.
The trail was now through thickets and bogs
which none of us had traversed, and it was nearly
nine o'clock and quite dark when we reached our
camp ground at John Moberly's, whose dug-out
canoe was to carry us across.
We spent a Sunday at this half breed's ranch,
nearly opposite Swift's, enjoying an ancient and
well-ordered civilisation in comparison with the
squalid tents and shacks of the hay-cutters passed
along the trail. Fields of oats were ripening, well
fenced in, and cows and horses were quietly feeding
or lining up behind smudges to escape the flies.
Mrs. Moberly, like Mrs. Swift, makes embroidered buckskin suits, fringed and tasselled and
margined with otter fur, worth $60 each, but far
too magnificent for ordinary life. John Moberly
is not only rancher and ferryman, but, like his
brother I wan on the other side of the river, keeps
a store where most backwpods necessaries can be
purchased at high prices. We bought mainly dried
and pounded goat-meat, cheap because manufactured in the country, though some of us invested
in grizzly bear claws and other frontier trifles.
On our way to Moberly's two. young halfbreed
swells passed us in the same direction on fine horses
with showy trappings, and later we made the closer
302 The Yellowhead Trail
acquaintance of one of them, Adolphus Moberly,
resplendent in one of the silk-embroidered buckskin suits just mentioned and with a mirror flashing
on the brow of his sleek black pony. We engaged
him as guide to the rear of Mount Robson.
On Monday there was trouble, since two of the
horses could not be found when we wanted to cross
the river ; and while we were out after the two the
other six wandered off and had to be sought for in
the tangle of groves and meadows stretching along
the river. When they were all rounded up John
Moberly pushed off his cranky canoe, hollowed out
of a log of balsam poplar, and in three trips ferried
us and our outfit across the Athabasca, here a
broad and placid river reflecting trees and distant
mountains. Before the last canoe-load was sent
across the eight ponies were driven into the water
and swam easily in the gentle current.
A short visit was made at Swift's, where some
supplies were added to our loads ; and then we set
out up the now well-known valley of the Athabasca,
leaving behind the pretty settlement of Iroquois
half breeds and the one white man. Our first camp
was on Caledonia Creek, in the Miette valley, and
we fared sumptuously at this time, mainly owing
to Mr. Kinney's prowess with the revolver and the
fishing-line, having spruce grouse and mallard as
well as plenty of trout in our larder.
At our next camp, on Dominion prairie, Adolphus
Moberly and his family, with some relations, joined
us, being rather tardy in their start; and henceforth
our cavalcade was most picturesque, the stylish
303 The Canadian Rockies
Adolphus riding ahead and a party of Indians,
including men, women, children, and dogs, with a
mob of ponies, following at their leisure behind.
We camped at the South of Moose River, whose
valley we were to follow into the mountains,
Adolphus going off alone to select and blaze out the
little travelled and poorly marked trail.
Moose River plunges at least three hundred feet
over vertical quartzite ridges in the last quarter of
a mile before reaching the Fraser valley, the falls
being hidden in a narrow canyon. Though quite
a large river and not easy to ford below or above
the falls, the canyon is at one point only ten feet
wide, so that four spruce-sticks have been thrown
across as a bridge by some of the engineers.'toJB
would need a steady head to cross them, however,
with the white foam a hundred feet below.
We were now in British Columbia and wild fruit
was waiting to be gathered—raspberries, blueberries, and black huckleberries.
The route picked out by Adolphus zig-zagged
at a steep grade up the mountain-side some
distance west of the canyon and then turned toward
the bank of Moose River, where I commenced
a rough survey, as this was new ground. Our
first camp was beside the river at 4,100 feet in
most picturesque surroundings, with a view far up
the valley toward a high mountain and a large
glacier, while near at hand were splendid cliffs
rising from the parklike river flat. We had just
got our camp set when the Iroquois came cantering up in joyous confusion, the women carrying
their young children in their arms instead of in
the blanket on their back as the Stony women do.
Beside the Moberlys there was a related family of
Adairs in the party, Adair himself being -rather
a curious compound of civilisation and savagery,
who had been educated for the priesthood in an
eastern college and spoke English and French as
well as his native tongue. He talked intelligently
305 u The Canadian Rockies
and looked somewhat delicate and refined, yet here
he was living meagrely by the hunt, not more than
supporting his small family, and far less efficient
than brawny Adolphus, who was ignorant but a
mighty hunter and a born leader.
The women of the party were handsome, and
some of the children very pretty, but in accordance with etiquette they kept to themselves and
we saw little of them. They were to be left behind
at this camp, for which I was not sorry, since
they decidedly hampered us in travelling.
Our next day's journey led up the valley
north-westward toward the great icefield, with
scarcely any trail, so that we had a great deal
of chopping to do. On the way Adolphus shot a
caribou across the river, and we forded over to
the spot, where he proceeded in the most businesslike way to skin and disembowel the animal, which
was then covered with moss and brushwood to
await his return.
The river forked near this, one fork continuing
in the valley we had been following, and draining
the glacier to be seen five or six miles away. I
was inclined to follow up this fork, which pointed
straight towards Mount Robson; but Adolphus
made it clear that the other fork was best, since it
would take us to the foot of the mountain instead of
to a broad icefield. The English party which visited
Mount Robson the year after explored this valley
and reached the glacier.
Crossing over a low-wooded ridge, we reached
the other fork of Moose River in a narrow and
306 ■■■■
W$1h  Moose and Smoky Rivers
wide valley, and followed it up for ten miles, camping at 5,300 feet near its headwaters in splendid
surroundings, among mountains which had been
growing higher and more rugged as we advanced,
almost all of them carrying small glaciers.
When we had flung down our saddles and let
loose the ponies, Adolphus caught sight of a goat
on the steep mountain-side about 1,500 feet above
us, and started after it, walking up the rough slope
with an angle of about 450 as rapidly as most men
would travel on level ground. We could watch
the whole drama, the unconscious goat feeding
among the bushes, the stealthy figure within two
hundred yards of it, taking cover behind rocks and
bushes. Then came a shot, quickly followed by
another, when the goat leaped and fell lifeless,
rolling part way down, and the tragedy was over.
Adolphus rolled it still farther, but found it top'
heavy to handle, and presently came down to camp,
as it was late, leaving the carcass to be cut up the
next day.
I was putting up the teepee and asked him to
show me how to do it properly, but he smiled
contemptuously and said, " Don't know." It was
woman's work, quite beneath the dignity of a man
who could shoot caribou and goat.
Next day was Sunday, a chill, cloudy day with
showers. Adolphus and Mr. Kinney went up the
mountain and brought down the goat, which was
skinned and cut up ready to dry over a slow fire,
Adolphus doing the unpleasant but necessary work
with the skill of an expert butcher.
3°7 The Canadian Rockies
In the afternoon, with two others, he set off on
horseback, ostensibly to follow the tracks of a
grizzly, but really to point out to his companions,
Mr. Kinney and John, the route toward Mount
Robson; and on their return he announced that
his family needed meat, so that he had to go back
with the goat and caribou to save them from
hunger. This was probably only an excuse to
leave us, for an Indian alone is uncomfortable
with white men; however, I was willing to let
him go, since we were not far from our goal.
Monday morning, therefore, Adolphus loaded his
powerful black pony with the skin and meat of
the goat, fastening it in front of and behind his
saddle, and took his way down the valley, while
we turned up toward the pass.
He was the most typical and efficient savage I
ever encountered, a striking figure, of powerful
physique and tireless muscles, and thoroughly
master of everything necessary for the hunter
in the mountains. His fine black horse was like
unto him, and quite ruled over our bunch of
ponies, in spite of being a stranger among them.
Mounted erect on his horse, with gay clothing and
trappings, Adolphus was the ideal centaur, at home
in the wilderness, and quite naturally dominated
the little party of Indians who had been travelling
with us, though he was not more than twenty-one,
while Adair must have been thirty-five.
Going up the valley we passed the last trees at
6,300 feet, much lower than on passes farther
south; and at 6,500 feet entered a barren valley
308 Moose and Smoky Rivers
filled with small, sharp bits of limestone which had
slipped and rolled from the mountain to the east,
while on the west rose stern cliffs and a glacier.
From beneath this rock slide the headstream of
Moose River flows, while beyond it an icy lake
represents the real source of the stream. The
actual summit of the pass is a mile or two northeast, at 6,800 or 7,000 feet, where the valley
turns to the west and suddenly drops down
to one of the headwaters of Smoky River. As
this flows into Peace River, a tributary of the
Mackenzie, we had crossed the main continental
The mountains beside the pass reach heights of
eight thousand and nine thousand feet above the sea.
Smoky River.
Before long we decided to cut across a wooded
ridge toward the other fork of Smoky River, which,
according to Adolphus's instructions, should be
followed up to its source at the foot of Mount
We turned across too soon, however, and had
a rough scramble through the woods up stiff slopes,
here and there broken by limestone crags, finally
rising several hundred feet above the valley. On
the way a terrific thunderstorm broke upon us,
with rain and hail, and soon everything was streaming with water and there was a gloom like dusk
in the woods, giving us scarcely a glimpse of the
mountains around. Slipping and slumping through
the spruce-trees, soaked to the skin, we led our
'to The Canadian Rockies
ponies down to the other fork of the Smoky, a
raging, muddy mountain torrent where we encountered it; but after going up stream a mile or two,
still in the pouring rain, it became evident that
we were moving in the wrong direction.
We had to take a dangerous ford through a
powerful current flowing over slippery, round
boulders ; and then, crossing a small flat, reachw|
another river, undoubtedly the right branch, since
it had clear blue water, and we knew from Adolphus
that the river we were to follow came from a
This branch, too, we forded and then followed
up its bank, presently coming to a splendid series
of waterfalls, where we had to turn aside over
precipitous slopes among scattered clumps of trees.
Beyond this sudden rise in the valley there was
a wide grassy flat flooded with water from the
storm, and after splashing for two miles through
the muddy water we came to another slight rise,
with a turn in the valley toward the south-west.
Here a charming little lake in the woods, with some
teepee-poles in an opening near by, offered a camp
ground, and as it was nearly eight o'clock and
we were soaked and exhausted and famished, we
We had hoped to end our journey at the foot
of Robson, of which we had caught exciting
glimpses through driving clouds, but to go on
would have meant camping in the dark in a region
soaked with water.
The steaming ponies  soon disappeared behind
310  OUR TEEPEE AFTER A SNOWSTORM. Moose and Smoky Rivers
the trees, and we set to work to build fires and
dry our blankets and clothes, finishing the work
by firelight. At dusk the weather was clearing,
and we hoped in the morning to select a final camp
ground a mile or two up the valley close to the
foot of the mountain.
On the morrow, however, Mount Robson, which
had risen threateningly before us the evening
before, was completely lost to sight in a heavy
storm of rain and sleet, which turned to a snowstorm, lasting all day. Mr. Kinney sallied out
through the snow Robsonwards, and returned with
reports of lakes and glaciers ; but the rest of us
busied ourselves with cutting wood, baking bread,
and drying things up round the fire in the middle
of the teepee.
This snowstorm was ominous. It was the 28th
of August, and we had hoped to be at Mount
Robson by the 18th or 20th; so that we were
several days behind time, mostly because of the
slowness of Adolphus's party. Had we been delayed
till the beginning of the autumn storms?
As we sat round the fire of dozy wood with
nothing in sight but the brown walls of canvas
and the smoke curling up to the opening where
the black poles crossed at the top, chill memories
came of the snowstorm that conquered us last
September, and we were by no means a cheerful
party. However, it was much earlier in the season,
and a week's bright weather ought to make all
right as to the climbing of Robson.
When at dinner-time John took the pot off the
3" The Canadian Rockies
fire and gave us a savoury stew of dried goat-
meat, with rice and curry, followed by tapioca and
raisins, things looked more hopeful. The snowstorm could not last for ever, and we were nearly
three thousand feet higher up than last year for
the beginning of our climb, so that three clear
days might see the work accomplished.
The fire cast ruddy gleams on the faces and
blankets, and we felt very comfortable in spite of
the thickly falling snow outside. For this work
a teepee is far ahead of a tent, for all the cooking
and most of the necessary duties of life might g©
on under cover ; and so, once more comforted,
each turned into his blankets in his own particular
quarter of the circle, piling up any extra garments
on the side away from the fire; for a teepee isj
simply a conical chimney, and cold-air currents
must come in beneath the canvas to replace the
smoky, warm air that ascends among the poles
at the summit.
Next morning the snow was melting and things
were more promising, though clouds still clung
round the mountains. A little journey of a mile
or two past a lake and over the gravelly flat at
the head of Smoky River brought us to a grove
of spruce and balsam, protected by a massive
shoulder of rock from the great glacier coming
down from Robson. Here we should have shelter
and plenty of dry wood from the dead trees, while
one thread of the glacial drainage passed close to
our door as a water supply, and on the lower slopes
of the mountain across the valley there was pasture
for the horses.
It cost some labour to shape the poles for our
teepee out of the clumsy spruce saplings, short
of stature and thick at the butt, according to the
fashion of trees near timber-line ; but at length
we were snugly housed at exactly the proper place
for our work. It seemed probable that the glacier
would prove our best highway toward the top,
and it ended on each side of us less than two
hundred yards away, where the ridge of rock which
3*3 Ife The Canadian Rockies
protected the grove from destruction sloped down
to the valley. Our camp was at about 5,700 feet
above sea-level, and was less than eight miles in
a straight line from where we had camped beside
Grand Forks River the year before, so that it had
required a circuit of forty miles through the mountains to turn the flank of Robson and place us
at a point of vantage in his rear.
A more delightful and inspiring camp could not
be imagined, and from our door we could look
across to a fine row of mountains, rising perhaps
to nine thousand feet, their peaks now and then
standing dark against the sky when the clouds
thinned. Between them small blue glaciers crept
a little way into the gorges, below which was rock
and dark timber, and then parkland where small
coloured spots were the ponies feeding. Much
of the valley bottom was of gravel, cut by almost
numberless strands of muddy water pouring from
the two branches of the main glacier behind us. To
the north-west was a pretty lake, which we named
after Adolphus, and to the south-west a somewhat larger sheet of water of an exquisite turquoise
blue, named Berg Lake, because Blue Glacier ends
in it and calves off small icebergs. The mile's
space between the two lakes is the watershed, since
Berg Lake drains into Grand Forks River.
Just in front of us the gravel flats were nearly
bare, but both to right and left there were scattered
bushes, followed by spruce-groves on old moraines,
and rising on mountain-sides several hundred feet
above us.
3*4 At the Foot of Mount Robson
By walking a hundred yards from our camp into
the valley Mount Robson came into view during
the rare intervals when the clouds drifted away,
disclosing an imposing dome of white rising eight
thousand feet above our valley, the lower part
banded with courses of rock. Immediately behind
our little grove a half-mile of glacier flowed,
separating us from the cliffs of the Rearguard, one
of the subordinate peaks, which reached a height
of about nine thousand feet.
Rain fell in the valley and snow on the heights
day after day, making a heart-breaking delay after
our last year's experience ; and as the upper part
of the mountain was shrouded there was nothing
to do except map the surroundings and get things
ready for a start. Every morning I rose at 3.30
to look at the weather, and then turned in again
when the upper part of Robson was invisible.
A study of the immediate neighbourhood gave
some interesting results. The glacier was evidently
in retreat, like most Rocky Mountain glaciers, for
a bare surface of boulder clay and smoothed rock
stretched for fifty feet between the dripping end of
the ice and the last moraine, and after a depression
there was a second moraine ; both were of stony
blue clay, without vegetation, so that they could
not have been freed from ice for any length of
time. Beyond this there are more ancient morainic
ridges, the first one with willow-bushes having
thirteen annual rings, the next covered with
spruce-trees, some more than a hundred years
old, while our little corner of forest must have been
»tar The Canadian Rockies
screened from the ice by its background of rocks
for at least four hundred years, since trees cut for
wood show that number of rings.
From the end of the glacier several streams
flowed, those from the south-western side all
making their way to Berg Lake, while the largest
came from beneath the north-eastern ice-lobe,
immediately tumbling as a waterfall down a ridge
of rocks and then spreading out into several
branches on the fan of gravel below. Most of
these branches reach Lake Adolphus, but two or
three bend off to the south-west and join forces
wTith those entering Berg Lake.
The branches feeding Berg Lake make their way
to Fraser River and the Pacific at Vancouver, while
the other branches flow northwards through Smoky
and Peace Rivers to the Mackenzie and the Arctic
Ocean, so far as I am aware, a unique instance
of a river dividing and flowing in opposite
directions  to  separate  oceans.
A curious geographical puzzle attaches to this
stream leaping from its ice cavern, since the region
drained by Smoky River belongs to Alberta and
that by Fraser River to British Columbia, the
watershed forming the boundary of the two
provinces. What part of the glacier and of the
mountain belongs to each province?
Until our arrival at Mount Robson from the
north side, it had always been supposed that the
whole mountain and a large stretch of territory to
the north-east belonged to British Columbia, and
all the maps indicate the boundary so; but the
THE PACIFIC AND  At the Foot of Mount Robson
discovery that Smoky River has its head at Mount
Robson transfers hundreds of square miles of
mountains from that province to Alberta.
Years before, when we found Fortress Lake,
British Columbia had gained from Alberta, but now
the process was reversed.
The rivers on the gravel flat were most uncertain
quantities, however, since after a frosty night
sjeveral of them disappeared altogether, and the
others were so low that one could easily leap or
wade them by choosing the narrowest or the
broadest places. On the evening of a warm day,
on the other hand, all were full of muddy water,
and once or twice we began to fear that the rivulet
a few feet from our door might rise and flood us
One cold morning the main stream to the south
of us practically ceased to flow, and one could
enter its dripping cavern for twenty or thirty feet
and see how things were arranged; but the larger
river, coming from the ice-cave to the north, always
had a considerable volume of water, and must
represent the main drainage system flowing for
three or four miles beneath the ice.
At intervals between showers the longest baseline possible on the gravel flat was taped out, and
used to triangulate the top of Mount Robson and
several other points. Once while at this work the
sun actually gleamed for a moment on its surface
of fresh, white snow, dazzling against a cloudy
background, and we rushed to the teepee for
cameras, but found swirling cloud wreaths dim-
3*7 The Canadian Rockies
ming the brilliance once more before the picture
could be taken.
With spits of rain in the valley and on the roof
of the teepee, and snow falling on the mountain,
things looked gloomy; and when we heard the
thunder of avalanches on the slope of the dome
above us, invisible among the clouds, our hearts
sank, lest we should miss our chance a second
At length a fine day greeted us, on August 30th;
but it was Sunday, and in deference to the
minister's wishes we did not climb, hoping that the
spell was broken and we should now have a few
days pf clear weather.
The day was spent exploring past Berg Lake,
getting magnificent views of Blue Glacier cascading down from' the Helmet to end in the lake,
or rather to be doubled up by reflection in that
mirror, occasionally broken by a puff of wind.
Beyond it there was another glacier descending
from between the Helmet and Robson, and then
came the series of falls and cascades into the valley
where we had turned back the year before, some
of these falls making a sheer leap of more than
a hundred feet.
The river once made its way down in gentler
fashion through an almost dry canyon to the north,
which may have been dug before the great extension of ice in the glacial period, while the later
course is so recent that the river has not had time
to cut its way deep into the rock.
Robson itself, seen from the new angle, had
318 At the Foot of Mount Robson
completely changed in shape. Instead of a somewhat irregular, flat-sided dome, it was a daring
pyramid in the sky, with filmy clouds sweeping
across, casting blue shadows on the pure white
of the snow.
Monday morning dashed our hopes, for at dawn
the top of Robson was once more wrapped in
clouds, and on Tuesday morning the whole valley
was roofed with vapours hanging so low as to
hide all the mountain-tops, and sending down
showers of fine rain.
To fill the time during these days of waiting
I measured up the moraines, and fixed the distance
between the end of the ice and a conspicuous
boulder ; while Mr. Kinney was more energetic,
and, when the weather relaxed at all, climbed some
of the nearer mountains or went in search of
grouse, many of which fell to his unerring revolver.
They were very tame little creatures, so that one
could get within a few feet of them and hated to
kill them, but they were delicious eating and saved
our rapidly diminishing bacon.
My brother one day climbed Ptarmigan Mountain to have a look over that side of Mount Robson,
but saw little through the clouds. He also explored the main glacier for two or three miles up,
making the curious find of the bones of a lynx
among some morainic debris on the ice. Why had
the animal chosen that out-of-the-way desert of
ice as a burial-place? We named the nearest
mountain to the west Lynx Mountain, in his
iiii The Canadian Rockies
John, when not cooking or looking after the
horses, played with the bull terrier or took his
gun in quest of goats, which never presented themselves, though he once saw a beaver at work near
Lake Adolphus and was wicked enough to shoot at
him, without success. A day or two before the,
horses were stampeded by this beaver slapping his
tail on the water.
We were beginning to worry about the food
question, and deliberately slept late and went to
bed early so as to do with two meals a day ; but
our appetites, unfortunately, were never more
vigorous than now in this  cool mountain valley.
Almost always we were watching Mount Robson,
or gazing at the clouds in his direction, sometimes catching a gleam of sunshine through the
slanting raindrops, while blue gloom hid the mountains down the Grand Forks* At other times the
top of Robson was caught by winds from the southwest, tumbling over its summit a grey cowl of
flying clouds that hid the sun from us, but left
the mountains to right and left more or less clear.
Then there was often a brilliant rainbow spanning
the Smoky Valley.
On the 3rd of September John announced that
there were only one week's supplies left, and we
held a council as to ways and means, to decide
whether John should go on foot down the Grand
Forks to Tete Jaune Cache or should take ponies
and make a rush to Swift's. The latter seemed
safest, and next morning I woke him at five and
he was off with two ponies by seven, expecting
320 At the Foot of Mount Robson
to go and come in about a week.    It was now the
tenth day of suspense for us, and we were growing
During John's absence we had to do our own
cooking, which helped to fill the hours of a miserably rainy day, while avalanches could be heard
roaring down the mountain-side from time to time,
since the rain below was snow aloft. When our
climb did come, it would evidently be through deep,
fresh snow.
Toward evening on the second day, when we
were bestirring ourselves about supper inside the
teepee, there was a blood-curdling shout, and we
looked out to see John with the two ponies. He
had found Adolphus and the half-breed party only
a day's journey down the Moose valley, had stayed
the night with them, and had brought three-quarters
of fresh goat-meat and twenty pounds of dried
and pounded meat, so that the food problem was
The fresh meat was put in cold storage in a
crevasse at the end of the glacier, and henceforth
we lived mainly on the flesh of the mountain goat,
rather strong-flavoured but nourishing enough.
Next morning, the 5th of September, the top of
Robson was cloudless at 3.30, and fantastic
streamers of aurora danced behind it against a
clear, starry sky. I rubbed my sleepy eyes, and
woke to the fact that for the first time there was
a chance of climbing. Soon the others were
roused, while I lighted a fire in the middle of the
teepee, and all made haste to get ready. Yates
warmed up the goat-meat stew and presently had
the pot of tea boiling, and we ate breakfast with
the dull appetite of four o'clock in the morning.
Some grouse that Mr. Kinney had shot a few days
before had been cooked, and kept on ice, so that a
lunch was all ready. Each took a grouse and
a bannock and a bottle of tea in his sack, and as
soon as it was light enough we began the stiff
climb up the front of the glacier, winding and
scrambling along ice-ridges separated by deep
crevasses. The three principals had ice-axes, and
John Yates, who was eager to come with us for a
first experience of the ice, had made himself an
alpenstock pn Sunday out of a pole and a heavy
wire nail. Our First Climb
The work at the lower end of the glacier was
tedious but not difficult, and above us the top of
Robson was delightfully rosy with the dawn, a little
fleecy cloud clinging to it. Our chance had come,
and we were in good spirits as we followed the
crooked route among the crevasses picked out
during earlier exploring trips. Then the great
purple bulk of the Rearguard rose to the right,
a massive outlier that hid the main mountain. We
were now on the medial moraine with good
walking, and in less than two hours had passed
the Rearguard and once more looked up at ;the
great peak of Robson, white with early sunshine.
At a bold tower of rock, which had been nicknamed the Extinguisher, the glacier widens out
and bends nearly at a right angle towards the main
peak. Here it has a rapid fall, and is cut by long
crevasses mostly too wide to jump, so that the
distance to the head of the glacier was quite
doubled. The main glacier ends at the foot of the
steepest mountain slope, where it is fed by falls
of snow and ice from above.
Up to this the ice had been nearly bare and
made fair going, yet the four miles of glacier had
cost us the morning, and at about noon we stopped
to lunch in full view of cliffs topped with magnificent hanging glaciers, from which tremendous ice-
falls thundered down under the strong sunshine.
They looked like short-lived waterfalls, and as we
munched our grouse and bannock with chocolate
for dessert, our feelings were not of the pleasantest,
for huge trains of ice-blocks kept rushing farther
323 The Canadian Rockies
and farther out on the tumbled surface of the main
glacier, threatening to cut off the route we had
planned to follow.
After lunch we crossed the wide avalanche path,
bending away from the cliffs to get beyond the
range of the rolling blocks ; and then began the
stiffest part of the climb, on a slope of snow and
ice with an angle of more than 500. This led up
to a broad bastion with a dome-like surface of
ice, from which no hanging glaciers threatened to
send down avalanches, and from the foot of the
Extinguisher we had chosen it as the safest route.
Mr. Kinney, my brother, and Yates took turns in
kicking in steps as long as the snow was suitable,
but soon it formed only a film over ice, and then
steps had to be cut. A recently sprained knee
kept me from joining in this work, so that my
ice-axe went to Yates, and I had to be content
with his rough alpenstock, which could scarcely
be stuck into the ice at all.
Yates suffered from cold feet, for his boots were
never meant for climbing, and the hobnails he had
put into the thin soles reached right through the
leather and conducted away the warmth of his f eet.
Altogether, he was very badly equipped for the
ice, which was getting so steep that it was hard
work for the second man in the row to spell the
first, since side steps had to be cut to let hiiaa!
past. Poor Yates's sensations during this first
experience on steep ice could not have been
enviable, but he was too plucky to show any discomfort, and he was so powerful with the ice-axe,
324 Our First Climb
once he had learned to use it, that the other two
were glad to have him take his turn.
At length we drew near the low, grey cliffs that
ended the slope, where from below we had hoped
to find a reasonably good bit of rock-climbing;
but from our present footholds on the steep ice-
slope this obstacle looked far more formidable than
we had expected.
Our step-cutting had been slow, with arms unaccustomed to the work ; and it was now getting
on in the afternoon and we were only at ,10,300
feet, with 3,400 feet of even more difficult climbing
before us. Cutting somewhat deeper footholds
than usual, we halted for a second lunch, finishing
the grouse and chocolate ; and Yates was a good
deal worried to find his feet completely benumbed
with the cold. It seemed risl^y to try the
treacherous-looking chimneys in the cliff above,
and since reaching the top of the mountain at that
hour was hopeless, it was decided to turn back
after photographing the slopes beside us and the
Ptarmigan Mountains beyond the glacier in front.
All of the more distant peaks were below our level,
most of them probably not rising above nine
thousand feet, though in this northern latitude they
all bore snowfields and glaciers.
Clinging to our doubtful footholds, we were not
in a mood to delay long at the highest point, and
yet we could not help delighting in the marvellous
view over the great glacier, the Helmet, the Rearguard, the lovely lakes in the valley to the north,
and white-robed Mount Resplendent rising prob-
■111 The Canadian Rockies
ably a thousand feet above us close by to the east,
with numberless mountains in all directions beyond
these nearer summits.
We began the descent face to face with the
mountain, carefully feeling with the toes for the
old steps cut in the ice ; but after some hundreds
of feet of this ignominious work the slope became
gentler, and we could turn our eyes toward the
glacier below, and finally there was a glissade
to the flatter part of the ice-sheet, where one could
get up some speed in walking.
Coming up in the shadow and chill of the
morning, the glacier had been silent and dead,
bound by the frost of the night; but now, towards
evening of a warm day, all was gay and full of life
—rills leaping and tinkling on all sides, joining to
make brooks of crystalline water, often too wide to
leap. Here and there these streams had cut their
way down into ice canyons by no means easy#B
cross, and in one place we halted to see such a
stream plunge with hollow reverberations into a
" mill," disappearing into mysterious blue depths.
The hollow funnel of ice round this natural penstock was of contorted blue and white ice, like
delicately veined marble. This was, no doubt, one
of the sources of the subglacial river flowing over
the rocks near our camp.
We could not halt long to admire it, for we did
not care to negotiate the narrow ice-ridges between
the crevasses after dark, so we pushed on to the
steep end of the glacier, reaching our snug camp
among the trees in the dusk after thirteen hours on
326    •  CAMP AMONG  LAST BUSHES,  7,000 FEET.
ice and snow. Hoodoo had never been left alone
so long before, and was overwhelming in his
welcome of Yates, his lord and master.
Over the supper, in the warm, fire-lighted teepee,
our spirits revived after the disappointment of our
failure, and we concluded that with what we had
learned the next attempt must surely be a success.
The minister even joked Yates half-heartedly about
his | cold feet," a term of somewhat unflattering
significance in the west. It was not surprising
that Yates, the plainsman, who knew everything
about a horse but nothing about a glacier, except
that it was made of ice, did not care to join us
a second time. With his thin boots and crude
alpenstock, very few trained mountaineers would
have cared to attack Mount Robson.
Next day was Sunday, and we basked in the sun
and rested, meantime laying plans for our next
climb, cheered by the belief that the weather had
really changed, for the snowy top of Robson
gleamed in the sunshine like burnished silver. Not
even the fact that we were now on short allowance
of everything except rank old goat-meat dashed
our spirits.
Towards evening, after we were well rested, we
loaded up with blankets and supplies and pnce
more trudged up the glacier, this time very
cautiously, since our rather heavy loads made
balancing on ice-ridges with a blue crevasse on
each side more troublesome. As darkness settled
down we reached the last bit of moraine uncovered
by snow, two miles up the glacier and near the
327 The Canadian Rockies
point where it bends towards the north. The only
spot bare of snow and ice beyond this, as we had
noted on the day of our climb, was a few hundred
yards onwards, near the foot of the steep cliffs of
the Extinguisher, and there angular rocks gave
poor materials for a bed. While I set to work
levelling the surface for our blankets in a sheltered
nook of the moraine, the others scrambled over to
an older moraine on the flanks of Lynx Mountain
to gather some dead wood where the last bushes
were fighting for their lives. Soon a fire was
blazing, giving light to finish making the bed ; and
not long after we were wrapped in our blankets,
looking across toward the pallid face of Mount
Robson, on which the moon was shining. About
us everything was submerged in darkness by
the shadow of the Lynx behind us, so that the
moonlit hanging glaciers and the snow dome rose
above the dark glacier at our feet like a lovely
vision outlined against a nearly black sky sprinkled
with stars.
It was comforting to think that two hours of
tedious glacier work and 1,400 feet of ascent above
our main camp would be saved in the morning, no
insignificant gain in the shortening September days.
A brilliant day, followed by a brilliant night,
sent us to sleep in good-humour, with hopes of
fine climbing in the morning.
Some time before morning, however, I woke up
uneasily and pulled the blankets over my head,
and my bedfellows stirred in the same way half-
unconsciously, for a bitterly cold breeze had sprung
328 Our First Climb
i r i'
up. Then drops began to fall, and we looked out
on a troubled, stormy sky, and adjusted the tarpaulin to keep the blankets dry, hoping it would
be only a passing shower. The few drops swelled
to a downpour, with flashes of lightning followed
by thunder reverberating among the mountains,
and soon everything became soaked, including the
soil and the blankets  under us.
There was a wan, grey light at five o'clock,
and the rain had ceased, so we lit a puny fire
with a few sticks of wood left and made[ our breakfast of goat-meat, bread, and tea, which, though
sugarless, was most comforting ; but after a, lull
heavy rain began again, and the mountains were
There was nothing to do but pack up our
belongings and go home over the slippery hummocks of the glacier, our loads doubled in weight
by the soaking of the blankets ; and by half-past
eight our wet garments were hanging to the poles
of the teepee, while we were crouching underneath
round a hot fire.
For the rest of the day showers of heavy rain,
driven by a fierce wind, alternated with ;streaks
of pale sunshine, and at night there was heavy
frost and snow, whitening the trees in the little
grove behind us, while dry snow could be seen
drifting on the glacier above. The flow of water
ceased completely in the cave south of the camp,
and I explored it for fully a hundred feet, under
a roof of ice with a marvellous depth of blue.
Toward evening there were clearing skies, and
;ill 1' II
41 The Canadian Rockies
we decided to make another attempt on Robson,
trudging once more over the glacier with packs on
our backs, balancing on ice-ridges, and leaping
open crevasses where not too wide, but prodding
carefully with our ice-axes where drifted snow
might conceal a hidden opening, and finally
clambering over the moraine where we had camped
'before to the last bushes on the mountain-side.
We found the stunted things loaded with deep
snow, but managed to clear off a sheltered space
among them for our bed, which we feathered well
with the stumpy little spruce-boughs. John had
brought up a load of wood and the food, and after
supper by an economical fire made his way down
in the twilight, after which we gathered some more
dead bushes for fuel, watched a rather threatening
sunset sky of violet and gold behind the Lynx
Mountains, and turned into a comfortable bed.
Some time during the night, however, the snowstorm began again, and when we got up, about five,
hating to pull out of our blanket bags, a blizzard
was raging along the mountain-side, threatening to
bury our camp among the bushes.
Despondently we packed our bundles, without
attempting to light a fire with the remaining twigs,
and turned down the glacier, as we supposed for the
last time, picking our course among the crevasses
cautiously, with the gale hustling us from behind.
Lower down there was shelter from the wind,
and at the main camp, where the snow was melting
as fast as it fell, Hoodoo, the bull terrier, came out
to   welcome  us,  and  we   roused  John   from  his
33° wwkxkksom
£   .; • '       :*.*>to   /Mt
_  Our First Climb
slumbers to wash in the glacial stream before the
door and get us a warm breakfast. Once more the
teepee was encumbered with blankets hung from
the poles to dry before a hot fire.
It was September 9th, and to all appearance our
chance of reaching the top of Robson was over;
but Mr. Kinney, with immense pluck and a well-
justified confidence in his powers as a climber,
wanted to make one more effort, this time by a
new route which he had been planning, attacking
the mountain from the north-west side instead of
the east, where we had met the difficulties of hanging glaciers. On the north-west there were no
glaciers, and, so far as we had seen, very little
snow, so that the climb would be mainly rockwork.
My. brother thought for a time of joining him,
but the effort seemed so hopeless that he gave it
up, and Mr. Kinney set out alone.
It seemed a foolhardy thing to do, but we knew
that our friend was used to working alone and was
at his best when depending on himself; so we
wished him good luck, but watched him disappear
in the direction of Berg Lake without much hope
that he would succeed.
He had to carry a rather heavy load consisting
of blankets and food for two days, but expected to
reach about nine thousand feet before night, where
he would camp and go on to the summit in the
morning. As his proposed camp ground was far
above the highest bushes, he would have to do
without fire, the climber's main comfort on a cold
33i The Canadian Rockies
Next day John baked our last flour, eked out
with remnants of oatmeal, into two bannocks, which
must last us to Swift's, with the aid of plenty of
goat-meat, while my brother and I began packiiaH
up in readiness to start for Edmonton as soon as
Mr. Kinney came back.
He had expected to need two days for his climb,
but late in the evening the plucky fellow turned up,
soaked and defeated, though still in good spirits.
He had a thrilling story to tell of his forlorn hope
expedition. The climb over thousands of feet of
rough talus, with here and there a cliff of rotten
limestone, had cost more trouble than he had
expected, so that night caught him at about seven
thousand feet in a most inhospitable place, without
a bush for fuel or shelter, or a moss or lichen to
make his bed upon. He ate his cold supper, and
then, wrapped in his blanket, snuggled down into a
nook between blocks of slate, where he shivered
through the night in a cold wind and was glad
to uncoil his stiffened limbs on the coming of dawn.
Breakfast without even a cup of hot tea was more
miserable than supper. He now cached his
blankets and most of the supplies and pushed
toward the top in the lightest marching order, glad
to get warmed up by hard work.
Of hard work he soon had a plenty, for near the
head of the steepest slope his only chance was to
wriggle up a chimney with loose blocks coming
down upon him when touched. After this the
corner was turned toward the Grand Forks valley,
six thousand feet below him, and at one point he
332 Our First Climb
passed under a projecting cliff from which immense
icicles hung down between him and the abyss.
The usual snow-squalls struck him after rounding
the edge of the pyramid above the deep valley,
and progress upward could only be made by
cautiously picking a way up snow couloirs between
cliffs where loose blocks were ready to fall. The
snow-squalls became fierce little tempests that
nearly swept him from his footing and hid everything above, so that advance was impossible.
Finally, in a howling blizzard at a point well above
ten thousand feet as shown by aneroid, he decided
that to go farther would be madness, and turned
back, facing even worse risks, to his night camp
among the slate blocks.
Though it was getting late and a drizzle made
the rocks  slippery,  he would not  spend another
night there for any reason, and made his way down.
to the  valley  by  a  better  route,   reaching   level
ground before dark.
There are few men who would have run the
risks alone which Mr. Kinney had braved in his
splendid struggle for the top, and we were all
greatly relieved to hear his voice come cheerily
out of the darkness when he reached camp.
After Mr. Kinney's defeat all that was possible
seemed to have been done, and we went to bed
fully determined to start for the east next day ; but
with the morning came the finest weather of the
season, and we could not resist the temptation to
make another assault on Mount Robson, which
stood clear cut against the sky without a wreath of
vapour, though the White Horn and the Lynx
harboured a few clouds.
Once more we toiled up the glacier with packs
on our shoulders to the high camp among the
bushes, getting there in good time so as to gather
a heap of gnarled sticks, small, but hundreds of
years old, from the dead bushes near by. With
these we made a comfortable fire, which was very
welcome after the ruddy evening sunshine departed
and a cold breeze swept up from the glacier.
We studied anxiously the face of the mountain
opposite, so as to pick out the best possible route
for the morrow, and decided not to follow our
former course of a frontal attack on the great southeastern spur of the mountain, but to turn up before
334  m m
this along snow slopes which seemed to reach up
between the hanging glaciers to about the same
level. We should have to cross the hummocky
surface of the ice avalanches for this, but all was
absolutely quiet along their line of fall, and we
hoped to pass the point of danger before the sun
had done much work in the morning.
John had come along to help with the loads and
stayed to supper, hot dried goat-stew with no bread,
and only hot water to drink, because the tea had
been forgotten. He left us with good wishes, and
soon after the harvest moon began to gleam over
the snows, and we got into our bags after levelling
up the bed with some fresh boughs. It was a
little windy, but a marvellous night, with everything steeped in a pearly light except the dirty
glacier below us, dark grey in the shadow of our
mountain-side, for the moon had risen behind us.
Waking during the night, the wind had stilled and
the moon was lower, but delicately coloured
northern lights were darting and pulsing behind
Mount Robson.
Our start in the morning was made at 4.50,
almost before the dawn made it safe to venture on
the glacier, and out of our grey gloom under the
mountain shadows we looked up almost with awe
toward the great snowy peak with its top tinged
with heavenly rose, while a low moon hung in the
blue-black sky to the west. Slowly the colour
changed to orange and yellow and then to the white
of day as the sun burst upon it. We had at last
the perfect weather we had been waiting for, and
m The Canadian Rockies
struck out briskly over the rough main glacier
toward the foot of the cliffs under the hanging
glaciers, where we crossed to and fro to pass the
many crevasses, and following nearly our old route,
began to rise upon the surface of ice which had
slid from above, now more or less covered with
new snow.
There was unlooked for trouble in store, however,
for tremendous avalanches of crushed ice had swept
across since our last venture, leaving a broad track
of loose blocks, large and small, ridged and piled
into hills in some places, and in others ploughed
clean to the smooth slopes of solid ice beneath.
We hurried across this chaos, though in the cool
morning no avalanches were stirring. Then, at
7.45, began the steeper slopes, where we had to
kick steps in crusty snow, and afterwards to cut
steps in an icy surface under a thin sheet of partly
frozen snow. Then came fifty feet or more of sheer
ice at the foot of the hanging glacier we planned
to climb, and under the warming sun the icicles
from the top of the cliff began to drip upon us.
My brother, our best axe-man, took the lead,
steadily cutting steps up slopes so steep that every
one had to keep himself constantly braced, but
presently, getting round the dangerous corner of the
cliff, there were steep snow slopes again, where
one could kick in his toes for part of the ascent.
Mr. Kinney then went ahead, doing the same kind
of work, winding round snow-Covered seracs and
cutting steps up stiffer slopes till, after hours, ol
work, we found ourselves completely tangled among
336 Our Last Climb
huge ice-blocks fallen from the glacier, that now
looked enormous as it towered just above us.
Among these vast blocks of blue ice separated
by terrible crevasses we halted for lunch and to
consider the situation. The sheer faces of ice above
us were clearly impossible, and we gingerly made
our way down for a hundred feet or two, and
crossed a jumble of big and little blocks to the
other side of an ice-ravine separating us from the
next hanging glacier to the south. The snow was
deep over the loose blocks in the ravine, and it
was most uncomfortable to set your foot on a block
and have it sink beneath you.
We halted again for a while in the wildest
of surroundings, with cubes of blue-green ice a
hundred feet in diameter, tilted at all angles,
propped with smaller blocks, but apparently just
ready to topple over, the fresh snow on the upper
surfaces making the situation even more alarming,
for it was loose and gave little support for the foot.
At last Mr. Kinney, with sharp eyes, picked out
a practicable way across the ravine, going from one
great block to another on snow bridges, sometimes
narrow and with unattractive abyss