Rooster's Comb 1913/14:
After the glowing reports by the early explorers of the mountainous interior of Vancouver Island, the provincial premier Sir Richard McBride had his Minister of Lands, Price Ellison, organize what was called the 1910 Exploratory Survey Trip. This trip was planned to assess a large triangle of land that had been set aside in the centre of the island as a park. In July of 1910, Price Ellison, his daughter Myra, and twenty-one others left Campbell River with the intention of climbing Crown Mountain, the northern most point of the proposed park. The survey trip was heralded a success and in the spring of 1911 Strathcona Provincial Park was established as the first provincial park in British Columbia. The following winter (1912) the Victoria section of the Alpine Club of Canada was formed and the main club asked that the section chairman Colonel William Foster organize an expedition to the new park as it wanted to assess Strathcona's potential for mountaineering. Again this trip was a huge success as the party under the leadership of Edward Wheeler made the first ascent of Elkhorn. The second half of the trip, led by Arthur Wheeler, travelled south down Buttle Lake and through the southern region of the park, eventually arriving in Alberni.
With the establishment of Strathcona Park, legal surveys of its boundaries were required, its mountains had to be mapped and plans made to extol the parks virtues for tourists. In 1911 a Civil Engineer from Seattle, Colonel Reginald H. Thomson, was hired to begin this undertaking. Several years later Thomson wrote: "I am able to most positively affirm that there are not only the elements of a park, but the elements of a most extraordinarily interesting park which can be made easy access from at least two conveniently located centers of radiation." In 1912 a survey was began to locate a road from Campbell River to Buttle Lake to bring tourists to two planned hotels: One at the mouth of Shepherds Creek on Buttle Lake and the other at the junction of Cervus Creek and the Elk River near Lady Falls. By 1915 the road went as far as Upper Campbell Lake. Prior to the road, the only way to get supplies to the Government cabin on Buttle Lake was by pack horse. The brothers Bill and Walter Sutherland, and Jim Forbes used a pack train consisting of about thirty pack horses. Unfortunately, with the outbreak of the Great World War these grand plans for the Strathcona Park never came to fruition.
Meanwhile, Colonel William J.H. Holmes, assisted by a young William DeVoe was surveying the northern boundaries while the interior of the park was being surveyed by W.W. Urquhart. Urquhart was assisted by W.R. Kent, a photographer who during the two summers (1913-14) travelled over eleven hundred miles in the park and made five hundred and sixty-four exposures for photographs. The majority of these photographs were taken to illustrate the topography and only a few were taken as pictures for display. At the completion, a photo album of Kent's photos was given as a gift to Donald Alexander Smith, the Right Honorable Lord Strathcona, for whom the park was named. Assisting Urquhart and Kent in the field was a young teenager named Einar Anderson. Anderson had recently immigrated to Canada from Denmark and was living in Campbell River and working with the road building crew in 1912. His job was limbing the trees and packing water for the workers. The next year he left the road clearing work to join a survey party. At the outlet of Buttle Lake the Government built a large log cabin where the surveyors made their headquarters. It was from here that the various field parties headed into the mountains. Urquhart took Anderson under his wings and used him to carry an altimeter to the top of the mountains and lesser outcroppings to provide him with the data of his climbs. It was most likely during the summer of 1914 (in an interview by Lindsay Elms in 1990 with Anderson he was unable to accurately recall which year) that Urquhart, Kent and Anderson found themselves at the base of a mountain called The Rooster's Comb. It is unknown who bestowed the barnyard name to the peak but the nomenclature was written onto the topographical map Urquhart produced of the park at the end of the season.
Urquhart was always stressing safety and Anderson was told never to travel in the mountains after dark. However, one afternoon, Kent wanted to go to the top of what was known as The Rooster's Comb. When Kent asked Anderson to guide him, Anderson said there wasn't time to go up and return before dark, but the photographer insisted. As Anderson had predicted, darkness overtook them as they were descending and Anderson wanted to make camp and stay put for the night, especially since Kent had poor eyesight. Kent could make out the glow from Urquhart's campfire and was determined to get back to the tent instead of sleeping out. Anderson found a piece of wood about eight feet long and he held the leading end with Kent holding the other as they slowly inched their way back to camp.
On returning, Urquhart berated Anderson for not following his instructions, but Kent admitted his insistence. The next day when Urquhart learned from them that The Rooster's Comb was the highest mountain on the island, he asked Anderson to also guide him to the top. Anderson found a piece of yellow cedar, carved their names on it and carried it to the summit. At the top they built a rock cairn and inside placed the carved cedar.
Those who subsequently climbed The Rooster's Comb in 1937 never reported a cairn or a piece of carved cedar at the summit and claimed the first two ascent themselves. Urquhart, Kent or Anderson had never recorded their ascent of The Rooster's Comb and the fact never came to light until the interview with Anderson in 1990 when he was ninety-four. Lucid and coherent, Anderson was able to provide details of the climb and showed his ascent route on old photographs. He also said that the mountain clearly appeared to be substantially higher than any of the other surrounding peaks. Together, these two clues suggest that perhaps some of the summit was lost in the earthquake of 1918, lowering the height and scattering evidence of that first ascent.
Anderson made many ascents of the less technical peaks within Strathcona Park during his two summers working in the field. He and the surveyors never had the benefit of trails to follow (except game trails) and their equipment was cumbersome and heavy compared to today's light weight gear. At the end of the season, Urquhart was in a hurry to catch a boat back to Victoria from Campbell River when Anderson asked him for his pay. Urquhart grabbed a brown paper bag and wrote on it asking that the bearer be paid the given figure and then quickly signed it. He then told Anderson to take it to the Thulin store where he would be paid. A skeptical Anderson proceeded to the store thinking that he would never see any money, however, after handing the paper bag to the storekeeper he promptly counted out, to a surprised Anderson, his seasons wages. Anderson went to work in the logging industry in Campbell River and is now rightfully credited with the first ascent of the highest mountain on Vancouver Island.