At the invitation of Captain Best of Ganges, Colonel Greer and I went
to Salt Spring Island on August 18  to attempt to scale the 700-foot
rock wall which forms the upper portion of the southwest face of Maxwell's
Mountain, which is so clearly seen in profile as Fulford Harbor is entered
from the sea.
Saturday, August 19, we motored from Captain Best's home at Ganges to
the Fulford-Burgoyne Bay Road and from Maxwell's farm had a good look
at the rock face. It appeared from this viewpoint that a way might be
forced up the cliff by a shallow scoop which terminates on the rock face
in a deeply cut chimney a few feet from the right of the main buttress.
Continuing to the Burgoyne Bay wharf, we had another view of our objective
from a different angle, and still the same chimney offered the best route
to attempt, affording, as it did, a possible way up the cliff at its highest
point. Other chimneys both to right and left of the main buttress would
have been an evasion of the rock face at its best, and we therefore decided
not to consider them at present.
Setting the aneroid down by the sea at zero, we struck into the bush by
a logging trail accompanied by Captain Best and two of his boys, who very
kindly carried our ruck-sac and climbing rope for us. About an hour's
steady walking took us to the broken ledges below the cliff and a few
minutes easy scrambling to the foot of the great wall, where we halted
for a rest and a sandwich before tackling the difficult part of the climb;
the aneroid here read 1,350 feet above sea level. After staving off the
cravings of the inner man, Colonel Greer and I roped up, and, taking leave
of our companions, who intended to return from this point. I took the
lead, and traversing round the foot of the main buttress, made two unsuccessful
attempts to lead up the initial 50 feet of rock face, but at a third attempt
a little further to the right was more successful.
Our great difficulty was the nature of the rock. The whole 700 feet of
the cliff is "conglomerate" and the embedded pebbles and "cobble
stones" came away when tested as holds in a most treacherous and
disconcerting manner, and as heavy showers of rain had now commenced to
fall, the whole surface of the rock was slippery. A few short pitches
from ledge to ledge brought us to the foot of the shallow chimney we had
selected from below. From here the leads were exceptionally long. Several
times in succession the writer led out 85 to 90 feet of rope before reaching
a stance from which he could be confident of holding the second man in
case of slip.
The type of climbing was unpleasant, there being a good deal of vegetation
in the back of the shallow chimney. This vegetation was alternately a
help or a source of danger, as it was, respectively, firm or loose. There
was also a prevalence of moss, which when cleared away, revealed only
smooth roundnesses and not the clean-cut holds we hoped for. Whenever
possible we employed the method known to climbers as "backing up,"
but for considerable distances the walls of our chimney were either too
indefinite or too far apart to permit of it. The leader found the long
length of rain sodden rope from his waist a serious handicap to balance,
and after a particularly steep 90-foot lead up the wet rocks it was a
relief to find the chimney cut deeply into the face of the cliff, forming
a narrow cave, on the sloping floor of which it was possible to lie down
in temporary safety and comparative comfort for a breather before singing
out the customary "Come on" to Colonel Greer and gathering in
the slack of the rope as he mounted slowly upwards to this airy haven
On his arrival we studied the prospect before us. High above our heads
the smooth wall of the chimney projected out over the shear face of the
cliff. Direct progress upwards was barred by the overhanging roof of the
cave, and though we thought it possible to overcome the difficulties of
the chimney itself by back and knee methods, whether or not a way could
be forced out of the cleft to the rock face either to right or left we
could not foresee. From where we rested the true right wall appeared the
more possible of the two, and when the second man had anchored himself
facing the right wall, by bracing myself across the chimney and raising
each shoulder alternately to gain a little height in the strenuous method
known to mountaineers as "backing up," it was possible to progress
slowly upwards. On this occasion the "backing up" was rendered
a little more strenuous than usual by the overhang of the retaining wall.
Some twenty feet of this brought me to the outside edge of the top of
the chimney on a level with its roof, and if we were to succeed in our
attempt an exit had to be made on to the rock face to the right or left.
The right wall on which we had pinned our hopes proved to be unclimbable,
wet and holdless. The left wall was more broken, though offering rounded
and moss covered holds. However, twelve feet up the face, growing plucky
in a crevice in the rock, was a sturdy little pine, affording a belay
from which to manipulate the rope for the second man as he climbed the
difficult chimney, and further, a safe starting point for the final pitches
above. I therefore decided to endeavor to reach this tree.
For this change of plan it was necessary to turn and face the left wall,
and in this exposed position, with inadequate holds, great care was required,
and even when the movement was completed position was only maintained
by bracing a leg across the chimney, not by any definite holds. I did
not envy Colonel Greer who was waiting below, doubtless wondering whether
or not the pitch would "go," and, if it would, why I did not
get on with it. Feeling that I would need all the intrepidity ascribed
to mountaineers by a certain parson during a sermon he preached in Keswick,
of all places, who likened the steadfastness required in the endeavor
of life to that "of the intrepid mountaineer who courageously climbs
upwards, cutting his steps in the roaring avalanche." I pulled myself
cautiously round the edge of the rock wall to the exposed rock face, and
by careful balance worked my way slowly upwards until I could thankfully
grasp the friendly pine and belay myself behind it. Greer then came up
in much better time, and victory was in sight, for only two problems remained
- steep rock face above us and then a short traverse to the right. A possible
solution of the steep face above us could be seen where great masses of
the conglomerate were split in huge poised blocks, but a closer inspection
showed them to be unsafe. I then tried a little to the right, but fifteen
feet up found the slippery holds inadequate, and had to descend. A few
feet to the left the rock was steep to the verge of overhanging, but there
were small holes here and there which looked firm. The situation was almost
Dolomitten in the sheerness of the direct plunge downwards of over 600
feet "as straight as a beggar can spit, " and the firmness of
those holds was comforting. Greer, looking upwards, could see little excepting
the well nailed soles of my climbing boots. Our friends below, just as
I was on the worst part, were calling anxiously, as they could not see
us in the driving mists, and I had the same sensation as a golfer when
someone speaks in the middle of his swing. Every faculty was required
to preserve balance or the slippery rocks, and the calls were a distraction.
The rope swinging from my waist dislodged a small piece of rock, which
struck Greer on the forehead, but, seeing my precarious position, and
having heard my muttered remarks on the subject of the people who shouted
unnecessarily, he with the self-restraint of a stoic, remained silent.
The pitches had increased in severity as we climbed higher up the face,
but this was the last real difficulty, and after some thirty feet I was
able to crawl onto a safe resting place, a shelf of rock with a shallow
cave-like roof. Colonel Greer joined me on this shelf, and from it we
traversed to the right along a narrow ledge requiring a delicate touch
to the top of the cliff. The aneroid read just under 2000 feet. The rock
wall had given us a climb of nearly 700 feet, and we had taken over four
hours over it.
We announced success to our, by now anxious friends in a triumphant Engadine
yell, coiled our hundred-foot Alpine Club rope, lighted our pipes, and
with thoughts turning to hot tea swung along through the mists in a wide
detour to avoid further contact with the cliff, and sloped down to Burgoyne
Bay, where a most hospitable welcome awaited us, tea, bully beef and cucumber
sandwiches being the much appreciated order of the day.
We were informed by the islanders that the face had not been ascended
in the past, and we cannot recommend it as a rock climb in the future.
The conglomerate is treacherous and insecure, and the cliff is excessively,
steep and forbidding. We enjoyed the climb, for there is always joy in
the successful overcoming of difficulties, and there is a curious sense
of enjoyment to be derived from being wet through and very tired. A legend
is told of an Indian maiden who stilled the flutterings of her broken
heart by jumping from the top of the rock to the abyss below. Probably
the cliff is better suited to that purpose than as a playground for cragsmen.
This feature had been named Mount Baynes c1859 by Captain Richards, RN,
and so-labelled on British Admiralty Chart 2840, 1861, however local residents
began calling this Mount Maxwell at about the same time, resulting in
the May 2, 1911 decision to adopt "Mount Maxwell (not Mount Baynes)".
Through correspondence with local authorities on Saltspring Island, it
was agreed in 1939 to designate the highest point on the landmass Baynes
Peak, and name the newly-created surrounding park Mount Maxwell Park.
The following information comes from British Columbia Coast Names,
1592-1906 by John T. Walbran. "[Saltspring Island] ...Captain
Richards when surveying here evidently wished to associate the island
with Rear Admiral Baynes, commanding at the time, 1857-1860, the Pacific
station, his flagship, staff and officers etc. He therefore named the
highest mountain Baynes, after the Admiral; Ganges Harbour after the flagship;
Fulford Harbour after the captain; Burgoyne Bay after the commander; Southey
Point after the admiral's secretary; Mount Bruce after the previous commander
in chief; and Cape Keppel after a friend of Admiral Baynes."