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Order the book "Beyond Nootka" by Lindsay ElmsBEYOND NOOTKA:

A Historical Perspective
of Vancouver Island Mountains
Misthorn Press ISBN 0968015905

by Lindsay Elms
Introduction by Sandy Briggs

About the Book:
[ Site updated: October 15, 2013 5:22 PM ]

BEYOND NOOTKA is the first comprehensive history of the mountain regions of Vancouver Island. It recounts the tales of the early explorers, prospectors, surveyors and mountaineers as they pushed into ever more remote regions of Vancouver Island. In the introduction Sandy Briggs, a well known Vancouver Island mountaineer and arctic adventurer writes: "BEYOND NOOTKA guides its readers through a history not previously available in one volume and reveals several surprises from interviews with the mountain pioneers."

The first two chapters cover the periods 1579 - 1892 and 1894 - 1910. It begins with the possible sighting of Vancouver Island by the famous British navigator Sir Francis Drake to contact with the First Nations People by the Spaniard Captain Juan Perez off Estevan Point and the landing by Captain James Cook at Nootka Sound to the purchasing of land by Captain John Meares from Chief Maquinna. Due to land claims on the west coast by both Spain and Britain, a war between the two almost broke out but was quelled by the signing of the Nootka Convention. Eventually the British government granted Vancouver Island to the Hudson's Bay Company on the understanding that they establish settlements on the island within five years. Thus began the age of exploration on Vancouver Island.

Explorers such as Captain Hamilton Moffat, Adam Horne, Joseph Pemberton, Dr. Robert Brown, John Buttle, Joe Drinkwater and Rev. William Bolton traversed the island in various places, some covering old native trade routes while others endured the challenges of exploring completely uncharted regions. In one of the stories it is suggested that John Buttle, the commander of the 1865 Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition and thought to be the first European to see Buttle Lake, the crown of lakes on the island, was in fact looking at Great Central Lake. Other stories deal with the meetings between the explorers and Indians. In 1856 Adam Bill Moffat, George Colwell on the summit of Kings Peak, 1936Horne's party paddled canoes to the mouth of the Qualicum River and there hid while a large party of Haida Indians approached the river. After waiting several hours the Haida finally came back into view, renting the air with shouts and yells and holding human heads by the hair. This was one of the worst massacres on the west coast.

Of course not all the explorers had to deal with such atrocities. Many hired the native people as guides and without their aid would not have been as successful as they were. In some cases it was the hardship of the weather and environment that they had to deal with. The hardships endured can only be judged by the names they gave to some of the rivers: Misery Creek, Hungry Creek, Famine River and Starvation Creek.

It was the reports from the early explorers which led the British Columbia Provincial Government to propose that a park be established in the interior of the island. In 1910 an expedition was organized to visit the area around Buttle Lake and during the course of the expedition Crown Mountain was climbed. On this expedition twenty year old Myra Ellison was the first to reach the summit. One year later Strathcona Park, British Columbia's first provincial park, was established.


The next six chapters cover six of the most significant mountains on Vancouver Island. The Golden Hinde is the highest at 2200m, named after Sir Francis Drake's flagship, a mountain whose early climbing history was only revealed through an interview with a climbing/surveying pioneer as late as 1990. Elkhorn is the second highest at 2166m named by the Alpine Club of Canada expedition who in 1912 were the first to scale the mountain. Originally called the Strathcona Matterhorn because of its resemblance to the famous Matterhorn mountain in Switzerland, it became known as Elkhorn because it towered above the Elk valley. Big Interior Mountain, whose history is shrouded by mining dating back to 1899. Big Interior has both gold and copper interspersed throughout its granite and limestone folds. The mine sites near the summit were visited by South African and English gentry in 1913: The Earl of Denbigh, Lady Marjorie Feilding, Major Frank Johnson and Sir James Sivewright. Lower down on the mountain is the beautiful Della Lake, source of Della Falls, the highest waterfall in Canada.


The most spectacular mountain is Mount Colonel Foster, a mountain whose 1000m high East Face offers some of the hardest climbing on Vancouver Island. A mountain which has seen some of the greatest climbers test their skills in both summer and winter: Doug Scott, Greg Child, Rob Wood, Joe Bajan and Mike Walsh. Mount Arrowsmith which for many years was thought to be the highest mountain on the island. It's lofty summit stands out above the towns of Nanaimo and Port Alberni, and can be seen from Vancouver. At the turn of the twentieth century the famous Swiss mountaineer Edward Whymper (of the Matterhorn fame) was reported to have climbed to the summit of Arrowsmith. Finally toward the north end of the island is Rugged Mountain in the Haihte Range. Although its climbing history Wendy Richardson, Don Berryman on East Ridge of Rugged Mountainis relatively recent it had a story of a mystery summit box and bottle of champagne that piqued the curiosity of climber Sandy Briggs.
The mountains of the Haihte Range were scoured until it was finally found but the question remains why it was not found where it was said to be.

The last chapter covers the topographical surveyors who surveyed the mountain regions of Vancouver Island between 1913 - 1941. Their achievements have been little acknowledged but their detailed maps that they spent years compiling information for have become objects that we take for granted. Little do we realize the effort that went into these maps, maps that we are wise to always take into the mountains.

The stories in BEYOND NOOTKA are not all full of "pitons" and "belays." The major themes of climbing on Vancouver Island have been covered - from its struggles and disappointments to its sense of camaraderie, triumph and humour. From the long warm summer climbs to the harrowing accounts of trying to achieve first winter ascents, BEYOND NOOTKA brings to life the true emotional feel of a successful climb. BEYOND NOOTKA has a complete bibliography, footnotes for those interested in further research, copies of some of the old explorers' maps dating back to 1792 and a lots of historical black and white photographs and colour photographs of modern climbers in action on the mountains of Vancouver Island.

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