Geoffrey Bernard Capes
1889 - 1961
Geoffrey Bernard Capes was born in England on November 13, 1889, and emigrated to Vancouver in 1911. He met a fellow émigré, Helen Cooke, affectionately known as Nell and the two were married on December 26, 1912. Capes found employment with the British North American Bank (BNA) in Vancouver which eventually merged to become part of the Bank of Commerce (CIBC.). Following overseas service with the Canadian Army, Capes brought his family to the valley in 1920, where he worked as an accountant at the Soldiers Settlement Board office in Merville. Two years later in 1922 was the big Merville fire which changed the life of many. After the fire Capes and Captain George Halley (who was in charge pf the Merville settlement office) purchased the Courtenay Builders Supply Company on 5th Street. A few years later Halley sold his share to Capes. On November 24, 1930, the building was razed by fire and Capes relocated the business to the corner of England Avenue and 6th Street. In 1956 the Bank of Montreal purchased the property when Capes retired.
On November 4, 1927 Capes was present at the founding meeting of the Courtenay/Comox Mountaineering Club, nowadays called the Comox District Mountaineering Club, and became a director serving for many years. One of Capes' early trips into the local mountains was an attempt to reach the Comox Glacier in August 1925 with Adrian Paul. He also made regular trips onto Mount Becher in both summer and winter. In 1929 he travelled from Forbidden Plateau up Mount Albert Edward and then down to Ralph Lake and out to Buttle Lake with Barty Harvey, the local Game Warden. Also in that year he finally reached the summit of the Comox Glacier with Ben Hughes, Adrian Paul, Arthur Leighton, Mr. C. Berkeley and his daughter Alfreda via Kookjai Mountain. Then in July 1936 Capes joined Sid Williams and Roger Schjelderup on a trip to the Roosters Comb (Golden Hinde) the islands highest mountain. As they reached the base camp on the mountain they met the surveyor Norman Stewart and his assistant Dan Harris who had made the ascent earlier that day. However, at the time neither party knew of the ascent by W.W. Urquhart, W.R. Kent and Einar Anderson in 1913 or 1914 during their survey of Strathcona Park. Capes went on to make the second ascent of Elkhorn in 1949 with Bill Lash and his son Mallory, and Charley Nash. Capes loved the mountains of Forbidden Plateau and Strathcona Park and kept detailed diaries of his trips some of which were printed in the Canadian Alpine Journal's.
Geoffrey Capes was meticulous at keeping a day-to-day diary which has recorded daily life in the valley. On February 25, 1961, Geoffrey Bernard Capes passed away at the age of seventy-one a few months after his beloved wife "Nell" passed away, however, he has not been forgotten. Halfway between Courtenay and Cumberland near Arden Road is a "little treasure" that very few people are aware exists called Capes Park. In August 1968, the Arden Improvement district purchased the five and three quarter acres of wooded area from the Capes family to reflect the unique beauty of the Arden area. Capes had acquired this property through the Soldier Settlement Board "salvage" properties after he had lost everything in the 1922 fire.
In Capes' diary his entry for September 20, 1935 read: "Attended a meeting with Mr. [Norman] Stewart, the surveyor of our mountains, about suggesting 75 names, we covered about 50. [Roger] Schjelderup, [Ben] Hughes, Mrs. [Elma]Theed Pearse, Peggy Watt, Rev. Chapman, Sid Williams, Dick Idiens were present. A lake was named after me, one [Adrian] Paul and I discovered years ago when we climbed the wrong mountain." Capes Lake is located on a ridge near the Comox Glacier and nearby is Idiens Lake named after his close friend Richard (Dick) Idiens.
Capes, Geoffrey. "Gould's Dome." Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 12. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1921-22. p. 185-186.
Hagen, Judy. "Hidden park tells a story." The Record. [Courtenay, B.C.] (July 29, 1994)
"The Glacier." Comox Argus. [Courtenay, B.C.] (August 13, 1925) p. 1, 3 & 8.
"Mountaineering." Comox Argus. [Courtenay, B.C.] (August 14, 1930)
Brief obituary. Comox District Free Press. [Courtenay, B.C.] (March 1, 1961) p. 1.