John A. Cowlin
John A. Cowlin was born in the summer of 1926 in Victoria, British Columbia and went to school in Greater Victoria. In 1952 he graduated from the University of British Columbia in Civil Engineering with a Bachelor of Applied Science. In 1954 he started work in municipal engineering, a branch of civil engineering, for the municipality of Saanich where he stayed for nineteen years. In 1973 he resigned and started his own private business as a consulting engineering. His business helped land developers to design and install roads, sewers and other services for residential and commercial developments. He sold this business in 1981 and there after worked with another consultant until he retired in 1992. John's precision in recording engineering data continued on into his passion with mountaineering where he has kept accurate climbing details of the total elevations climbed on each successive trip. He admits to being a numbers guys and says he has to count the number of cars as a train goes by and according to John "I'm still counting."
One of John's early hiking experiences was with the Outdoor Club of Victoria in 1957 where he met Syd Watts. He was also to meet his future wife on one of the club trips and for both John and Doreen they have expressed their indebtedness to Watts for introducing them to many of the island peaks and wilderness travel. Incidentally, it was while on a hike on the Malahat near Victoria that the Cowlin's, Watts and Harry Winstone came up with the name Island Mountain Ramblers for a new club they formed in 1958.
In August 1963 John and Doreen were part of a party of eighteen from the Outdoor Club of Victoria and Island Mountain Ramblers who flew into Burman Lake. They made an ascent of Mount Burman and then the following day four of the party climbed the Golden Hinde while the Cowlin's and some of the others climbed to within fifty feet of the summit of what they called The Pimple, now known as the Behinde. However, two years later the Cowlin's were back again and made their first ascent of the Golden Hinde with Syd Watts and a number of others
In 1966 John and Doreen were again part of a large party of Island Mountain Ramblers that flew into Elk Pass by helicopter. Over the week the Cowlin's spent in the area they made the first ascent of El Piveto Mountain with Mike Walsh, Bob Tustin, Mike Hanry, Syd Watts, Elizabeth and Patrick Guilbride, and Ray Paine, and ascended Rambler Peak and the Southeast Summit of Mount Colonel Foster.
When the Island Mountain Ramblers celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1983, the president Bob Tustin and several others decided to create two "lifetime objectives" for its members: one for climbing twenty predetermined peaks and the other for sixteen predetermined hikes. In 1987, after thirty years of hiking the Cowlin's were the first to receive an engraved wooden plaque from the Ramblers for completing the hikes, however, they only completed eleven of the twenty mountains required for the "lifetime objective" for climbing. Many of the Cowlin's hikes and climbs were written up in the Timberline Tales the newsletter of the Island Mountain Ramblers.
In the spring of 1970 John and Doreen Cowlin had the privilege to meet and hike with legendary Sir Edmund Hillary. Hillary had been invited by the University of Victoria to address the graduating class. As one of the Ramblers was an instructor at the university, he asked the administration if he could join the welcoming party at the airport. Presumably he drove Hillary to his hotel whereupon he and his wife were invited by Hillary to dinner. As a result of this, arrangements were hastily made and people phoned to join Hillary for a hike up Mount Finlayson the next day. Later that year John and Doreen trekked in the Annapurna region of Nepal. Two years later they explored the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan and in 1979 they visited India and hiked in the remote mountains of Bhutan. In the late 1980's John Cowlin hung up his crampons, giving notice that the serious climbing phase of his life was over, but both have continued to hike on the island, in the lower mainland and overseas. In 1990 they hiked the Milford trail in New Zealand.
John's climbing partner for all but a few peaks has been his wife Doreen. In the Canadian Rockies the two climbed Mount Victoria and Mount Athabaska while John climbed Mount Lefroy, and then in the USA they climbed Mount Baker and Mount Whitney while John went on to climb Mount Rainer. They have hiked around Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helens and on part of the Pacific Crest Trail.
John was on the Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee (SPPAC) for seven years and was the first elected chairman. In the 1960's he obtained permission from BC Parks on behalf of the Island Mountain Ramblers to build a trail from Buttle Lake to Marble Meadows which was opened in 1970 and has also worked on many of the other trails in Strathcona Park including the Elk River Trail. He was chairman for the Island Mountain Ramblers about twelve times and is now the district representative for Victoria while Doreen is the historian.
Both John and Doreen Cowlin have continued to be involved with the Island Mountain Ramblers and not only attend every meeting but encourage others to experience the beauty of the outdoors. They were both voted life members of the club. Although their climbing days are over John and Doreen now spend their time exploring beautiful British Columbia and some of the other Canadian provinces and territories. They still live in Victoria and although trees have nearly obscured their view of the Olympic Mountains, they can still look out at the Sooke Hills and the Malahat. "Although our bodies are slow, our desire to travel and hike is keen."
"Outdoor Club, Island Ramblers Beat Golden Hinde." Daily Colonist. [Victoria, B.C.] (September 1, 1963) p. 11.
Carter, Robin. "The Ascent of Finlayson, with Sir Edmund Hillary." Timberline Tales. Published by the Island Mountain Ramblers. Nanaimo, BC. No 6, January 1971. p.13-14.
"John's Still Climbing, Counting." Times Colonist: Islander
Magazine. [Victoria, B.C.] (January 16, 1994) p. M1.