Early Mountaineering in British Columbia
VOL. VIII, NO. 4
Please note: This is a digital file.
In the Western Mountains is a collection of first-person accounts of experiences in the Rockies, the Selkirks and the Coast Range. It is not a history of mountaineering in Western Canada. Most of the stories published here are not of famous mountains or daring first ascents; indeed, by modern standards, some of the climbs described would only be pleasant rambles. But in the days before nylon ropes, climbing hardware, vibram soles, down jackets and freeze-dried food, getting up any sort of mountain was a much more ambitious venture than it seems now.
If you have never climbed a mountain, you may wonder why it matters when of how a mountain was climbed. Mountaineering is, after all, just a sport. It exposes people to needless risk, and it consumes money and energy that might be spent on more productive activities. And if you have never stood on a mountain top, or walked on a glacier or slept in an alpine meadow, you may be inclined to dismiss mountaineering as a form of eccentric recreation, a pastime less useful that gardening and more dangerous than bridge. Perhaps the recollections published here will change your mind.
These interviews all deal with climbing experiences in western Canada before the Second World War; some date back to nearly the turn of the century. Most of the interviews were recorded in 1978 and 1979; the two oldest mountaineers who appear in this collection—Tom Fyles and Edward Feuz, Jr.—were interviewed some years earlier.
The interviews have been divided into four chapters, which represent the major chronological and regional divisions in the development of climbing in western Canada. The first two chapters deal with the pioneering era in the Rockies and the Selkirks. Since that era is now some eighty years distant, there are few people alive who can tell us about it. Consequently, these two chapters include some accounts that were written and published shortly after the climbs were first made. The third and fourth chapters deal with exploration in the Coast Range, a more recent development. These chapters rely exclusively on first person aural accounts, tape recorded in the 1970s.