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Ralph Rosseau 1947:
A Solo Trip from Della Falls to the Aureole Snowfield and Back

From the diaries of Ralph Rosseau courtesy of Louise Eck (nee Rosseau).

Thursday July 24th
Ralph arrives at Della Falls

Friday July 25th
Takes grub up to Camp 1

Saturday July 26th
S.B. to Camp 2 and back to "7"

Sunday July 27th
To Camp 1 over Septimus

Monday July 28th
Weather looks threatening. Down to P.D.Q.* for nails, wire, lumber. Explored mines [Sherwood Mine]. Showers, so hurried back to camp. Rain continues intermittently all day so fired up comfortable camp. Shelter, fireplace, spring. Busy day. Dry under trees. Sky cleared at 5:00. Hurried supper. Left at 6:15 for Camp 2 with pack. Up correct pass on Mount Septimus but could not get down slide on north side. Dangerous. So had to go higher up and down north spur. Hard work with pack. Reached Camp 2 at 9:15. Wonderful spot. Cached grub and started right back. (9:30). Lost route in dark. No flash or candle. Snow hardened so had to cut steps. Feet wet and cold. Startled ptarmigan. White heather showed in dark. Reached summit in wrong place. Moonlight helped difficult descent. Crossed glacier. Hard to find camp. Cloud. Arrived camp 1:00 a.m. Fire. Food. Bed 2:30 a.m.

Tuesday July 29th
Awaked at 7:00 by grouse drumming ten feet from shelter. Left Camp 1 for Camp 2 at 9:30 a.m. Heavy pack. Good sky but heavy fogs kept pouring in. Visibility altered constantly. Went to east end of Septimus and spent two hours on pictures at top of glacier. Went around E. Septimus to avoid climb and crossed North West Glacier, keeping low. Reached Camp 2 at 6:00. Too much supper. Kept awake by slides into Iceberg Lake [Green Lake]. Ice constantly breaking off - splashes. Dream synchronized with one slide's roar. Marvellous campsite. Shelter and view. Plenty of fuel. Water close. Bad night and noises. Too much food.

Wednesday July 30th
Took pictures from vicinity of Camp 2. 10:00 a.m. Started up Flower Ridge with three days rations. Saw three dear. Tried for picture. Left pack at top of ridge and went off for pictures. Doe examining pack when returned. Many ups and downs across divide. Ptarmigan and two chicks. Geology interesting. Camped at 5500 ft. at 6:00 p.m. Took pictures of Tzela Lake, Cliffe Glacier and attempted one of beautiful sunset. Local storm over Elkhorn (?) Beautiful moonlight night. Can see Tzela, Oshinow, Great Central and smaller lakes gleaming. All mountains silhouetted. "Big Three" look formidable. Camped in sheltered depression. Plenty of fuel from dead trees. Pond ten feet away.

Thursday July 31st
Up at seven. Beautiful morning with cumulus clouds. Breafast. Took pictures. Left camp with full pack at 9:00. Around Mount …. to Tzela Pass [between Shephards Ridge and Tzela Mountain] (5000')? Up Mount Tzela (6181). Down east side to Cliffe Glacier. Saw three deer. Cougar tracks in snow. Bad rock climbing off Tzela. Circled Harmston to upper Cliffe and crossed Glacier to Milla Pass [between Mount Harmston and Argus Mountain]. Dangerous couloir down to Moving Glacier. Ice. Snow. Loose rock slide. Jumped form ledge to snow below, turning in air to land face down. Slid 30 ft. and checked with axe blade. Shower of snow. Stopped to regain composure. Snow gave way and slid another ten feet. Edged off to rock but pack too wide for bergshrund. Cut steps and worked down in zig zag. Got on rock slide but too dangerous so back on snow. Stopped on ice block unexpectedly, fell back on pack, which tobogganed me down one hundred feet before able to roll over and use axe. Getting worried, so unstrapped one arm from pack and cut steps with one hand. Lost snow glasses somewhere, but to hell with them. Finally reached bottom. Large rocks frozen in ice. Moving Glacier badly crevassed, but in uniform pattern. Chose to traverse part where crevasses visible. Mostly 75 to 100 ft. deep and 2 to 6 ft. wide. Bottom of glacier rutted and cracked and dropping bergs into lake. Pattern of ice floes on lake changes with the wind. Chose point on North shore of lake with marvelous view both ways, water, fuel and shelter. Left pack and climbed ridge to N.E. Full view of Mirren Lake. Back to camp (7:00 p.m.) Enjoyed supper. Wonderful sunset on lake, glacier and mountains. Not a cloud in sky tonight. Moonlight on ice floes.

Friday August 1st
Spent morning exploring and photographing the Moving Glacier. Crossed the crevasses. Climbed down into some. Walked along knife-edge ridges. Broke a snow bride, got trapped on way back. Step-cutting hard work. Crevasses near lake 75-100 ft. deep and have slushy ice floating on bottom. Farther back, same depth but rocky bottom. Run in semi-circular pattern. "White" snow dangerous. One hole ten feet in diameter and one hundred feet deep covered by patch. Interesting study of glaciation. Rocks slide on to glacier. Warmth makes holes. Then frozen in. Carried on and in bergs to far end of lake. Trees ground into soil.

Spectacular slide occurred in gully I came down yesterday. Rocks rolled off Harmston in night. Left camp at 11:30 a.m. Took pack to the top of Mirren Pass [between Iceberg Peak and Comox Glacier]. Continued towards Memory Lake with rucksack only. Had to climb around head of several deep gullies. Saw Memory at 2:00 p.m. Beautiful but not spectacular. Not much ice or snow. Climbed Iceberg Peak (6519) from Memory Pass [between Mirren and Memory Lake]. Saw Comox Airport. Down from Iceberg. Crossed upper Aureole Snowfield. One mile to Mount Celeste (6695). Climbed Celeste [high point on Rees Ridge]. Getting tired and had decided to head back when caught glimpse of Ink Lake. Worked over to N.W. spur of Celeste and got beautiful view. 6:00 p.m. but last chance to make Ink Lake, so glissaded, scrambled and ran down N.E. Celeste into Crimson Cauldron. Bottom of cauldron frozen lake with piles of moraine floating on ice rafts. Crossed low divide between Cauldron and Ink. Beautiful view of N. end. Glacial flood plain. Two magnificent waterfalls. Small patch of trees. Meadow. Fine campsite. Gets setting sun. 7:30. Eight hours from camp! Decided to go as far as I could then build fire and sit out. Not as tired now as was on top of Celeste. Climbed around E. wall of Cauldron, up giant fissure with waterfall on one side. Great pictures but too dark. Along "goat ledge" to pass between Cauldron and Aureole Snowfield. Tried to photo sunset from pass. (1/25 - 4.5 Meter reg. 50-75). Crossed Aureole Snowfield in twilight. Dips over to Memory Lake. Full view of Comox Valley. Lights. Took 1hr. to cross 1 and ½ miles. Round scree on S, Iceberg and down to Rees Ridge. Devilish mess of scree, gullies, etc. Moon up now. Beautiful panorama. Down Rees Ridge to Mirren Pass. Arrived at pack at 11:30 p.m. No supper. Found campsite and turned in. (Ptarmigan on Rees Ridge. Deer in Aureole Snowfields).

Saturday August 2nd
Worried about route out of Milla Basin. Can't get up to pass. Had swim in natural bathtub at campsite. Left campsite at 9:30. Up north wall towards Comox Glacier. Not as bad as appeared. On top of Glacier Peak (6440) by noon. Traversed upper glacier to S. peak. Mist rising from snow. Wonderful view. Back across glacier to Argus Mountain. Hoped to get around N. side to Cliffe Glacier but blocked by deep canyon. Had to climb Argus with pack. Up N. col - bad ice and rock - stuck in bergshrund with pack. Reached depression between two peaks. Left pack there and went to top of higher peak (6542). Ptarmigan (friendly). Only route off peak down S. side so had to go back for pack. Over peak and off Argus across Cliffe Glacier to base of Red Pillar. No apparent route up. 8:00 o'clock so decided to camp on ledge. Changed mind and made for top. Difficult climb complicated by pack. Reached top at 9:45. Half bare rock and half snow covered. Unpacking when "attacked" by mother ptarmigan. Looked huge in twilight. Slipped down snow bank. Kept me under observation. No fuel except heather which burned poorly, but warmed up some soup. Made T.P. shelter with packboard and rocks. Wind howling. Cold. Slept with all clothes and mitts on. Moonlight.

Sunday August 3rd
Up at 7:00 Birds (swallows?) feeding on dead mosquioes on snow. Took pictures, some on Infra Red. Searched for fuel and water. Few dead heather roots and juniper. Found trickle of water from snow. Used T.P. for fuel and made breakfast. Clouds blew in, ruining photography. Looked like a storm so packed in hurry and started down. Tried better looking route. Got nearly to bottom and came to straight cliff. No alternative but to climb back up. Took nearly same route as down. Tough with pack. About 3 and ½ hours getting down. Went down to Tzela Lake. - Deer - Duck and family. Around Tzela to south and west sides. Beautiful meadows with glacial streams. Profusion of flowers. Red Pillar meadows. "The Reaper". Dense woods. Left Tzela at 5:30 very tired. Climbed 2000 ft. to Skyline route. Passed former camp at 7:00. Over Skyline to Camp 2. Up Flower Ridge in dark, then waited for moon. Down S. side by moonlight. Some difficulty. Reached Camp 2 at 11:30. Too tired to eat so went right to bed.

Monday August 4th
Up early. Big breakfast from cached food. Boots playing out - me too. Made good cache, then up Septimus. Waited on top for sun to break through. No luck, so down Rusty pass across Septimus Glacier to Camp 1. Noticed big difference in snow on way back. Took down and cached shelter at Camp 1. Down to P.D. Q. and Cangold Trail. Left pack and went up to Cangold to return borrowed items. Back down to Della cabin. Arrived 9:15. Too tired to light Coleman. Just crawled in.

Tuesday August 5th
Up at 7:00. Breakfast. Shave. Cache. Cleaned up cabin. Put in wood. Down to Lake (Great Central) Time 2:35. Paddy's boat there but no Paddy (Burke). Had swim. Paddy, sister and brother-in-law arrived with kicker. Troubles all over now.

* P.D.Q. is the name of the mining claim above the Drinkwater valley and just below Love Lake. The mine site was known as the Sherwood Mine after W.J. Sherwood who staked the first claim in 1938. In the mid 1940's Cangold Mining and Exploration Co. Ltd, ("Cangold") was incorporated for the purpose of raising money to develop the Sherwood mine. Cangold was actively engaged exploring the subject property in the summer of 1945. The company also cleared 2700 feet of underground workings. During this period surface crews discovered 12 new veins on the subject property. In 1946, 18,000 feet of road was constructed from the end of an old logging-grade to a proposed mill-site in the vicinity of the Sherwood mine. At that point Cangold ran out of money and was unable to raise additional funds through the sale of debentures. In result, a mill to be built with production scheduled to start in October, 1946, never materialized.

by Lindsay Elms
It is not known the exact route that Ralph Rosseau took from Love Lake when crossing the ridge of Mount Septimus but this is mostly likely the first ascent of the mountain. If he had crossed further along the ridge bewteen Mount Rosseau and the Misthorn he would have descended onto Price Pass but it appears that after climbing Mount Septimus he descended the glaciers to Green Lake. It can't be confirmed that his was the first ascent of Tzela Mountain as this could have been made by the surveyors in the 1930's, however, his climb of Argus Mountain was most likely its first ascent, two years before Bill and Alec Bell claimed the first ascent. Both Iceberg Peak and Mount Celeste (Rees Ridge) had been climbed previously by the surveyors and the same goes for the Red Pillar. This trip in 1947 was an incredible acheivement at the time considering it was undertaken solo but also by the distance that he travelled each day where there were no trails. Most days he was moving for more than twelve hours and usually late into the evening where he arrived in camp sometimes too worn out to cook any supper. It is an amazing journey which demonstrates his incredible stamina but also his keeness to explore and photograph the remote regions of Strathcona Park.

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