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Mount Albert Edward 1927

From the Victoria Daily Colonist, September 25, 1927. p.3.

Mount Albert Edward Is Conquered by Expedition.

Remarkably Interesting Climb Is Made by Party Which Included Hon. T.D. Pattullo, Surveyor-General, and Chief Forester

Several interesting climbs have been reported from Up-Island areas during the past few weeks, but none more ambitious character than that undertaken by a party which set out from Courtenay on August 27 with the summit of Mount Albert Edward as its objective. Although only three of the party actually achieved the goal, the expedition was unanimously declared to have been a great success, and the record of the outing, The Colonist correspondent states, has awakened renewed interest in the possibilities of the mountain as a climbers' paradise. Glaciers and "red snow" were found, and bear, and ptarmigan and quantities of deer, wild geese, grouse and other game were seen.

Mount Albert Edward is east of Buttle Lake, and just outside the Strathcona Park area. It is about twenty miles west, in direct line from Courtenay. Shown on the map as 6,968 feet in altitude; an aneroid record taken at the summit indicates over 8,000 feet. But some doubt as to the veracity of the latter figure is entertained by climbers themselves, as they reached the summit during a hurricane and in dense fog, with the barometer falling. Altogether the expedition took five days, during which about sixty miles of country were traversed, and some secondary exploration work accomplished.

The party comprised Mayor [John] McKenzie of Courtenay; Alderman W. [William] Douglas, who was appointed "horse wrangler"; Constable M. Condon, self appointed chef; and Messrs, John [Nigger] Brown and [Bob] Gibson, who made up the vanguard; and the Hon. T.D. [Thomas "Duff"] Pattullo, Minister of Lands; Surveyor-General J.E. Umbach, Chief Forester P.Z. Caverhill; Mayor A. Maxwell of Cumberland; Alderman H.E. Wallis, Alderman T. [Theed] Pearse, Dr. Moore, Surveyor Donald Cameron, and Mr. V. Bonora.


The vanguard of the expedition left Courtenay at 4. p.m., on Saturday, August 27, led by Mayor McKenzie, Alderman Douglas, Constables Condon, and Messrs. John Brown and Gibson, the vanguard also including seven horse and four mules which were used as mounts and for packing the tents, sleeping bags, commissariat supplies, etc.

The Puntledge River was crossed early in the evening on the bridge owned by the Comox Logging Company, and before dark camp was pitched immediately opposite the Bevan Mine.

The advanced party had just finished breakfast the following morning when they were joined by the Hon. T.D. Pattullo, Mr. J.E. Umbach, and the eight other members of the party mentioned above. By 9 a.m. the whole group was on the march and by 1:30 p.m., after a brisk mornings work, they had reached the top of Quartzcreek [Mount Becher] Mountain (4,000 feet). After luncheon the party took a survey of their surroundings discovering that the mountain offers a magnificent view, not only of the Comox Valley and Cumberland, but of the Gulf Islands, Powell River, and other Mainland points were clearly visible.

After about an hours rest the party proceeded over a picturesque trail to Goose [McKenzie] Lake where tents were pitched and a bivouac made for the night. Abundant fodder for horses and mules was found in the big natural meadows surrounding the camp. The evening was spent around a roaring camp fire with yarns and pipe tales, but everyone was tired enough to turn in by eleven.

Monday, August 29, the self-appointed chef and the "horse-wrangler" were astir by 4:30 a.m., and the Minister of Lands was a close third as an early riser, taking a dip in the stream at 5 a.m. The fine weather of the previous day had passed and "cloudy and foggy" took the zest off the third day's programme. It was 10 a.m. before the expedition broke camp at Goose Lake. The Up-Island correspondent's description of the remainder of the day's programme is reproduced verbatim:

Crossed a seventy-five acre natural meadow, and through winding canyons and draws reached "Forbidden Plateau," 4,100 feet above sea-level. Here the scenery was truly grand. Occasionally we would glimpse the snow-clad peaks of the Dome Glacier [Comox Glacier] and Mount Albert Edward.

Numerous lakes were seen, some small and some quite large, but each one was a mountain jewel in its own particular setting. Several flocks of geese were seen, and judging by their excited honking they evidently resented the invasion of their sanctuary. We descended from the plateau into Panther Lake Basin. Here the trail follows the shoreline of the lake, affording a splendid view of this beautiful body of water, with Mount Albert Edward for a background. Mushrooms the size of cabbage were found along this trail. After traversing a number of natural meadows and passing several more unnamed lakes we came to our camping site located about one mile from the base of Mount Albert Edward. Game appeared very plentiful in this section as several deer, coveys of grouse, and one black bear were seen by the members of the party.

At this stage the party were beginning to get "trailbroke," and every member, without a single exception, got busy and assisted in pitching tents, getting firewood, hobbling horses, and other chores. Our chef excelled himself in "slinging out" good eats, and after the repast was over willing volunteers helped to wash up the dishes. After camp cleaning a roaring camp fire was built and was soon surrounded by the entire party, as we were now at an elevation of 4,100 feet, and it was quite chilly. Constable Condon, our chef, appointed himself chairman, and each member of the party was compelled to tell a bed-time story. Everybody complied. By 11 p.m. lights were out and the camp fire was burning low.

Tuesday, August 30, the day on which the actual ascent of Mount Albert Edward was planned, furnished but poor weather for the crucial part of the expedition. Rain and fog made even the lighting of the morning camp fire difficult, and breakfast was carried to the tents to be eaten. Only three enthusiasts could be found willing to venture the climb to the summit of Mount Albert Edward, viz, Mayor McKenzie, Mayor Maxwell, and Alderman Douglas. Leaving camp at 8 a.m. they reached the base of the mountain and took a preliminary survey, ultimately deciding, as deer hunters accustomed to spending the day in wet clothes during the hunting season, that the weather could do them no particular hurt, and that having gone so far they might as well attain their objective.

After a stiff climb they got above the timber line, and here, among the eternal snow, they found instances of the peculiar phenomenon known as "red snow," well known in certain localities of the Alaskan coastal glaciers, and also in Greenland, but rarely recorded on Vancouver Island. The color arises from a slow-germinating microscopic plant which thrives in the snowfields. "Snow which has its surface periodically disturbed offers the "red snow" plant little chance for growth. It resembles fresh blood, and the illusion can hardly be dispelled when handfuls are taken up and examined," reports The Colonist correspondent.

Ptarmigan were found quite plentiful up among the snow. The climbers encountered a terrific gale blowing from the southeast, and the thermometer registered just eight degrees above freezing, so a conference was held in the middle of a snowfield before proceeding. It was decided, however, that the programme must be adhered to despite the weather, so pressing through the storm they reached the summit at 1:10 p.m.

A hurricane was blowing, but a momentary glimpse was secured of a lake surrounded by snowfields in a canyon about 3,000 feet below. As in the case of the Mount Arrowsmith expedition of a week later, fog was encountered at the summit in conjunction with the high wind. The aneroid, which had been carefully checked after leaving Courtenay, showed an altitude of slightly over 8,000 feet, but as the glass was falling a little doubt was felt by the mountaineers as to the veracity of their instruments.

Remaining at the summit of Mount Albert Edward long enough to inscribe their names, the trio started back to camp once more. On their way back down the mountain they saw numerous deer. It was still foggy, but as they descended the wind lessened. Hungry and wet through they reached camp shortly after 4 p.m., and were greeted with a welcome hot meal. The day's achievement was the main subject of discussion at dinner, served at 7 p.m., when the successful climbers were heartily congratulated on their feat.

Mr. Pattullo having to return to Victoria, camp was broken early the following morning. Mr. Pattullo being accompanied by Messrs Caverhill, Umbach and McKenzie. This section of the party made the twenty mile trip back to Courtenay the same day, and attended a dance in the evening. The remainder of the party took the return in more leisurely fashion, pitching camp about 3 p.m. at Goose Lake, and after a preliminary survey of the country, spend the night there. Next morning Mr. Donald Cameron, surveyor, assisted by Alderman W. Douglas, chained off Goose Lake so that Mr. Cameron could compute the area. This done the party continued on its way to Quartzcreek Mountain, lunching at the top for the second time in five days, and reaching Courtenay about dark.


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