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Comox Glacier 1922:
Comox Lake to Buttle Lake Traverse

by Lindsay Elms

The following is an account of a traverse from Comox Lake to Buttle Lake via the Comox Glacier and on to Campbell River by four men from August 16 to 26, 1922. The account relates the first ascent of the Comox Glacier and several peaks surrounding the Aureole Snowfield. It was told by Cumberland's Harold Edwin "Bing" Banks (1901 - 1987) to his wife Beatrice Ellen "Nellie" Banks. This account is the first draft copy of her husband's trip and then is followed by the final transcript after his wife tidied up the punctuation to the best of her ability from the original notes she made. For the most part the route and descriptions balance each other; however, there is one glaring discrepancy which is the description of the "huge tree only five feet high that covered an area of a city lot." In the first draft it is camped under on the 5th day, while in the final draft it is camped under on the 3rd day. Unfortunately we will never know for sure which the accurate version is, but through intimate knowledge of the route into the Comox Glacier it would be safe to say that the tree is not located on the final approach to the glacier above Lone Tree Pass but more than likely on Rees Ridge.

First draft
Ten Days of Thrills on the Glacier's and Buttles Lake
By Harold Banks

Being one of three men who planned on a holiday in the woods, we were in doubt on where to go, after much thought it was decided we would try and get on the glacier [Comox Glacier]. About this time Rev. G. Kinney made himself known and was asked to accompany us. The party now consists of James Tremlett, Alfred McNevin, George Kinney and yours truly. Mr. Kinney has got the credit of being the leader which is not the truth as A. McNevin and myself were the ones to first plan the trip.

With 75 lbs of a pack we set out for the Trout or Little Lakes. Here we made our first and only mistake, we started the climb from the First Lake [Willemar Lake] and had to retrace our steps back to the Third Lake [Forbush Lake] because to the conditions on the South Cruikshank. We then climbed Mount Evans [Kookjai Mountain] and dropped from here down to what is now called Ester Lake [Tatsno Lake]. We camped for the night. This is a wonderful spot for the camp as at that time there was an abundance of flowers and we saw plenty of game.

On the third morning we left here and followed the ridge clear through to the glacier. We took a good number of pictures along the way and they were used to good advantage on our return. We pitched camp on the ridge about 400 feet below the ice. Here in the evening we got a big pile of bush and after dark it was set on fire. This fire was seen by some of the Courtenay people as we were told after. During this we had the unusual pleasure of being above a good heavy thunder storm. We could see the clouds rolling up the valleys and after an hour or so it started. The lightning and rolling of the cloud was a sight never to be forgot. We turned in at about 9 under a clear sky.

The next morning the 4th day found us not so lucky about weather as the storm had raised and settled over the glacier. We packed up and got up on the ice, crossing over to the south corner to the Dome. It was so foggy we did not attempt to climb so retraced our steps to the site of the present cairn which we put up calling this Point Bing after me. Here we came on to a wonderful view. Looking down at our feet were two lakes. The one to our left and looking north had a hanging glacier that has a sheer drop of 50 to 60 feet into the lake and the lake itself was of a skimmed milk color and was full of ice bergs. This we called Milk Lake [Milla Lake] which is at the head of the Shepard [Shepherd] River which drains into Buttles Lake.

The other on our right was of a different nature. Here you look down on a small stand of timber and rock slides at the head of the lake. We decided to drop down on this side as it was pretty wet and the weather was getting thick with poor visibility. I think if we had of known what we were in for we would have chosen some other route. Here we dropped down a hanging leg of the glacier and had a number of close calls. At the lower end of this ice there is a good sized stream [Kweishun Creek] of water and from a distance ice and water flow of indigo color and one has to pause and take a second look. From here we had some pretty stiff rock work with no bush for hand or foot hold. There was plenty of heather but it is poor stuff to risk a handhold on. Here we struck another large body of snow, which hangs at an angle of 45 degrees down to within a few feet of the lake. In crossing this we broke into a small stand of timber and as we are good and wet from the rain we pitch camp and after a good drink of hot tomato soup and a change of clothes we soon feel ourselves again. We roll in under our fly and wake up to a clear morning sun.

This being Sunday the 19th, our 5th day, we decide we wont make an early start. Mr. Kinney reads for a while to us all from his bible and after lunch we pack up and cross around the head of the lake. Here we encounter a monstrous rock slide. Boulders as large as a house, but the going was quite easy and after you leave the slide and come around onto the north shore of the lake you can with a little hunting pick up some fine specimens of crystle (sic). Because of this reason we named this Crystle Lake [Mirren Lake].

We now climb a small hogsback and too our delight can see a third lake to the north east and still at our feet. We did not drop down to this lake and called it Nevin Lake [Memory Lake] after one of our party. Here in a small hollow we pitched camp under a huge tree that only stood about 6 feet high but a trunk as large as a mans body and covered an area of 50 sq ft. We spent two glorious days here. You can roam from this camp on to the second glacier [Aureole Snowfield] which is only a few mins of a walk away. We split up here into 2 parties and started out taking pictures.

We would have had a wonderful group if all had turned out, but bad luck seemed to dog Mr. Kinney for he only got half a dozen pictures out of 12 rolls. Myself took the pictures on number 2 group and got a good bunch of snaps of this glacier.

We roamed around here for two days and climbed the main peaks which are all named after one of our group. The peak on the south end of this glacier is Sky Pilot Peak [Iceberg Peak] after Mr. Kinney. The one that juts out on the northwest corner is Tremlett Point [Mount Celeste or Rees Ridge]. These are not really large peaks but points of rock that jut out of the ends of the glacier.

On top during the day the sun was real hot and would melt the ice so that by mid afternoon there would e ruts in the ice and surface of the glacier a foot deep and wide. It froze hard at nights and these would be all smoothed out in the morning.

Here we encountered numerous wild flowers which Mr. Kinney picked and pressed for future reference. This book got lost or we should have had a good collection of flowers.

Ptarmigan were plenty full here and so tame you could go right up a covey and walk in among them. Here we made a mistake we did not take any pictures of them at all. From here you can see over the whole distance and what an eye full there is.

Very much to out regret we had to move on as not knowing how long it would take us to reach Buttles Lake we could not tarry.

Leaving camp we traveled across the glacier, turned north west and after such wonderful sights stopped for lunch. While we were resting here we could by looking west and see Buttles Lake. We were in between Shepard [Shepherd] and Ralph Rivers which drained into Buttles. Dropping down here we crossed the Shepard about a mile up from the lake and turning followed the course of the river we came out on the lake shore at exactly 6 in the evening.

While we traveled pretty fast this is not a hard trip for a one day hike, and I don't think that a better route could be found, as Mr. Reece [Harold Rees] and party came along by pretty near the same.

Here while the rest were making camp I put up our one rod and rigged up some flies. Going back to the mouth of the river I had a dozen of the finest trout in so many minutes. This sure is one paradise for the fisherman. At that particular season you can get all the fish you could use in a very few minutes.

The next morning we started in to build a raft, after a little discussion we changed this to two because of the lighter weight. Two cedar logs about the size of a telephone pole were used with a couple of split pieces to tie them together, on this we put cedar bark and a mast, hoisted a blanket and at dusk set out for the bottom.

At daylight we put into shore and had breakfast. While here we spotted a boat coming down the lake and after much shouting and a few shots of our gun they came over. They turned out to be Americans and the whole bunch of us piled into the boat and in half an hour reached the cabin. Here we spent the day and a night. The next morning we left here at day light and after a hard day travel pitched camp at a lake just above Forbes Landing. From here the next morning we traveled to Campbell River and on reaching here we indulged in our first big home cooked meal for 10 days, traveling by car we reached Cumberland completing a round trip of the grandest mountain and lake trip in the world.

Final draft
Ten Days of Thrills on the Glacier's and Buttles Lake
By Harold Banks

Being one of three men, James Tremlett, Alf McNevin and Myself, who were planning a trip, but did not know what we wanted, it was finally settled to try and get on the Glaciers and cross over to Buttles [Buttle] Lake. About this time Mr. [George] Kinney asked if he could make a fourth member and was readily accepted.

With Seventy-five lbs of a pack we set out for Trout Lakes as we had decided that this should be our route. We had spent a lot of time climbing the different mountains around the lake looking for an easy way in. Arriving here we made our only blunder. We climbed from the First Lake [Willemar Lake] and after a hard day's climb found we could not go that way. We dropped down to the Third Lake [Forbush Lake] and spent the night here.

The next morning we were off early and climbing Mount Evans [Kookjai Mountain]. We continued along the ridge and camped at what is now called Ester Lake [Tatsno Lake]. This is a wonderful spot. Plenty of game to be seen in the evening coming down to the lake to drink.

The following morning (the third) we got a good start and continued along the ridge taking many snaps [photos] as we went along. This is the best and the easiest route into that country as has since proven. Coming up to within 400 feet below the glacier we made camp. Here we were lucky in running onto an old Red Cedar for wood, as we were now far above the timber line. The only evergreen to be seen was here in the small hollow. It was not more than 5 feet high, had a trunk as large as a man and had a spread of branches that covered a good city lot.

After supper we had the unusual sight of watching a good sized thunder storm. We could see the mass of cloud rolling up the valleys below us. It was sure a sight, having a blue sky above our heads, stars by the thousands and a full moon. In our blankets under our strange tree we were all soon asleep.

After a hasty breakfast (our fourth) we were all excited to be away. Now we were so near the ice. The weather was beginning to look bad. The storm of the evening before had risen and was above our own heads and the mists and fog was beginning to drift around us, with a spatter of rain.

After a short climb we were on the ice. Crossing to a point of rock we built the cairn which now stands calling this Point Bing. The fog had settled in by now and we had very poor visibility. Crossing to the south end of the Dome we found as well that it was too foggy to attempt the climb. Coming back to the cairn we had to travel very slowly as we could hardly see a yard. There was a good many crevices [crevasses] in the ice. Some of these were only a few inches in width at the top but opened up as they got deeper. Others were too far to jump as we had to follow along till we could cross. Some were so deep we could not see bottom and could faintly hear running water in them. Later in the day we had the best of luck as the fog broke for a short while and we got a wonderful snap of the open end of one of these crevices. On returning to our camp we had a wonderful view from here. Looking north we could see another large glacier [Aureole Snowfield]. At our feet, a thousand or more feet below us were two lakes. The one on our left was a wonderful sight. Like an opal in its setting. There was a hanging glacier which extended down into the lake. With its sheer ice face of 40 or 50 feet into the water which was of a skimmed milk color. The lake was full of ice bergs which had broken off the face of the glacier.

The lake on our right was of a different nature. It was crystle clear (with a small stand of trees at one corner) set in a small nitch in the almost sheer rock walls that surrounded it. There was a large rock slide at the head end. We decided to drop down to this lake and make camp in the trees. Here we encountered a dangerous task. We had to drop down almost a sheer wall of ice and rock. It had started to rain and the fog had begun to get thick again. After some tense moments we were safely down and after looking back up, we wondered how we had completed such a feat.

We made camp in the trees and soon had our fly up, a good fire going, hot soup and dry clothes on. We were all happy. With a light rain falling, we were soon asleep.

On waking in the morning it had stopped raining. Being Sunday, our 5th day out, we decided on a rest. After a good breakfast Mr. Kinney read to us for a while from the Bible. After lunch, we packed up and made a short climb to the mountain on the other side of the lake. On coming around the end of the lake we found some very fine specimens of crystles and more were to be found on the small mountain. Hence we gave this lake and mountain the name Crystle [Crystal] Mountain and Crystle Lake [Mirren Lake]. We made camp on the ridge that runs from this mountain to the second glacier [Aureole Snowfield]. At our feet we could see a third lake and this we called Nevin Lake [Memory Lake] after Alf McNevin. Here we took a number of wonderful snaps looking back the way we had come.

After supper we made a hurried trip up onto the ice of the second glacier. Arriving back in camp we soon were in our blankets asleep.

The morning sun woke us to a clear frosty world. Our water hole had frozen over to a thickness of half an inch of ice. We soon had breakfast over and were away to a day spent in seeing all we could, getting as many pictures as possible.

Climbing up on the ice we could see the lower end of Comox Lake, and over the valley. Continuing along we came to a point of rock sticking out of the ice. This we climbed and called Point Tremlett [Mount Celeste or Rees Ridge]. Here we ate our lunch and after gazing at the wonderful view we started back. Dropping down to the south east corner we found ourselves looking at Milk Lake [Milla Lake]. From the north end this was a wonderful sight. We took pictures here and they are among our most prized pictures. The Hanging Glacier with its sheer fall into the lake, while above this is the point we called Point Bing, on the left with the back of the glacier in the top centre and the Dome looming up on the top right corner.

Returning we came to another small peak at the extreme end of the ice. This Mr. Kinney said he wanted to climb. The rest of us went on to camp and soon had supper ready. Mr Kinney returning stated he had built a cairn on top of the rock. After we decided to call this point after him. So it was called Sky Pilot Peak [Iceberg Peak]. After supper we soon were all in our blankets and asleep.

The next morning our 7th day saw us under pack and off to new sights. Crossing the glacier we headed for Buttles Lake. Following the ridge pretty well all the way we dropped down to a small lake in a wonderful meadow. Here flowers of all hues and shapes were blooming. Deer were plentiful and we saw elk tracks in a patch of snow. Continuing along this ridge we soon came to the outer end and, behold, we got our first glimpse of Buttles Lake.

We ate lunch and were soon on our way. Dropping down into the timber we crossed the Shepard [Shepherd] River turned and followed the river down to its mouth. Here we pitched camp at exactly 6 P.M. having made the trip from the second glacier out to the lake in the one day. Putting our only fishing rod up we soon had a fine catch of trout for supper.

The following morning (our 8th day) found us making a couple of rafts. Taking two cedar logs about the size of a telephone pole we spiked these together. We had packed these same spikes with us. Then cutting a small sapling for a mallet we made two long sweeps for each raft. By evening we were on our way. With a blanket for a sail and our own sweeps going, we traveled all night.

Going into the beach we had breakfast and while we were resting a boat came down the lake. We hailed the rowers and they came in. The pair turned out to be a couple of USA tourists who asked us to hop in and ride with them. This we did and were sure glad to be rid of our crude rafts.

After a short while we reached the Government Cabin at the lower end of the lake. We spent the rest of the day here resting and fishing in turns with one rod. Plenty of fish were there in the catching.

We turned in early and were soon asleep. Rising early we were off to Campbell Lake reaching it at noon. Here we had lunch and continued on till dark were we ate cold kippers and rolled in tired out. On awaking we found we were only about a mile above Forbes Landing. Getting breakfast we started out for Campbell River, reaching it at noon. We phoned for a car to come for us and we were back in Cumberland for supper ending a trip not one of us will ever forget.

Summary of the route taken during the 1922 expedition:
by Lindsay Elms
After leaving Cumberland, the party traveled up Comox Lake and the Puntledge River to Willemar and Forbush Lakes. From Forbush Lake they climbed up to Comox Gap and ascended Mount Evans (Kookjai Mountain) and camped (day 2) at Ester Lake (Tatsno Lake.) They then continued over Blackcat Mountain and down to Lone Tree Pass and then up onto the Comox Glacier, however, camp at the end of the 3rd day was on the slopes between Lone Tree Pass and the glacier. The next day they climbed up and over the glacier and then descended down to the Kweishun Creek where they camped in a grove of trees at Mirren Lake. Days five and six were then spend at a camp near the Aureole Snowfield where they climbed Point Tremlett (Mount Celeste or Rees Ridge) while George Kinney climbed Sky Pilot Peak (Iceberg Peak.) Day seven they descended off the ridge and down to Shepherds Creek which they then hiked out to Buttle Lake. Days eight and nine were spent traveling down Buttle Lake and the Campbell River. Their last night appears they spent at McIvor Lake near Forbes Landing. Finally after ten days they arrived in Campbell River and were picked up and driven back to Cumberland.


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