1907 - 2005
Len Rossiter was born in London, England, on July 10, 1907, one of a family of four; three boys and one girl. He grew up in a poor neighborhood near London and finished his formal schooling at age thirteen. The family emigrated to Canada in 1925 under the sponsorship of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, as farmers. As city dwellers, they had a little difficulty in qualifying as farmers, but when it was discovered that they had maintained a couple of bee hives in their back garden, the family was granted emigrant status as bee farmers. Len sailed with his family from England on his eighteenth birthday, coming directly to Vancouver Island where they bought a small farm on the bluffs overlooking Georgia Straits near Comox. The farm house burned to the ground in 1927 and Len and his father built the house that still stands on the property today.
The mountains of Vancouver Island gained Len's attention and undying love soon after his arrival on the island. In 1926, Ben Hughes, the publisher of the Comox Argus wrote an article after exploring the Forbidden Plateau area adding a mysterious flavour incorporating local Native legends. Shortly after reading that article Len made his first trip up Mount Becher. The trip was led by Clinton Wood, a Courtenay City clerk and Power and Water Superintendent who was looking for water and storage in the area. By 1928, Len was in charge of scout camps at Lake Beautiful in Strathcona Provincial Park.
In 1929, further adventures unveiled the treasures of Mount Albert Edward and a variety of alpine lakes. Dove Creek Trail was built and officially opened by Lt. Governor Randolph Bruce. Originally financed as a mining trail, Dove Creek Trail was the first government support for the development of Forbidden Plateau.
In 1930, Mr. Regan, the head land surveyor for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), was inventorying the land assets granted to the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railroad to build a track from Victoria to Campbell River and had a camp located at Circle (Circlet) Lake on Forbidden Plateau. At the time Len was working as a guide for Eugene Croteau who had established the first tourist camp at Summit Lake, later Croteau Lake. Regan honoured Len by naming a lake after him although it never became offical unitl December 1939 when the Comox Distrcit Mountaineering Club submitted the name. Len worked as a guide and assisted Eugene Croteau with the tourist camps for four years on Forbidden Plateau. During that time several lakes were stocked with fish eggs resulting in the area being deemed a Game Reserve.
Clinton Wood started the Forbidden Plateau Lodge on Mount Becher at the
top of the Comox Logging Co. abandoned railway grade. They used only shovels
and a car to make the road up thirteen switchbacks. Len was an active
guide and was fundamental in the creation and development of Mariwood
and Mackenzie Lake camps.
In 1936 Len met Phyllis Roberts while hiking Forbidden Plateau. After strenuously resisting marriage for a decade, in 1947 he finally gave in and they tied the knot.
In the winter of 1938, Len joined Dick Idiens, Ethne Gale, Rex Gibson, and Don and Phyllis Munday on an attempt to make the first winter ascent of Mount Albert Edward. They started out from Clinton Wood's Forbidden Plateau Lodge and skiied up to the Mount Becher Cabin where they stayed the first night. The next day they only made it as far and as Wood's cabin at MacKenzie Lake before calling it a day. Don Munday wrote: "Dense clouds smothered the Plateau when we started the third morning. The map told us that ahead sprawled broad ridges, hummocky hollows, scores of meadows and lakes, all without an orderly drainage system. Our course would be too devious to make travel by compass really practicable. Only the winter traveler in the mountains knows how 10 feet of snow alters summer landmarks, but Rossiter displayed now - as throughout the trip - thorough knowledge of the Plateau as well as mountaineering instinct for the line demanding least outlay of energy." On the morning of January 23, the weather was still blustery and overcast but they successfully negotiated their way to the summit of Mount Albert Edward on skis and back to Croteau's Cabin, eventually returning to the Forbidden Plateau Lodge.
Their ascent of Mount Albert Edward in 1938 belies not only their skill and determination but the sheer guts of the individuals to ski from Forbidden Plateau Lodge, up and over Mount Becher to Mount Albert Edward and back. Even today very few ascents are made of the mountain in January via the much shorter route from Raven Lodge on Mount Washington. Technology in the form of equipment and clothing has improved significantly but weather and conditions can still be just as demanding today as what they were seventy years ago.
Although Len preferred the trade of carpentry, electricity offered more opportunities and he eventually became a journeyman electrician. He started a part time business in 1940 after working on the first Hydro transmission line project linking Courtenay to Campbell River and founded Rossiter Electrical Service in 1946. In 1947 he moved to Campbell River and joined the Campbell River Rotary Club in August of 1947 where he served as club president for the 1953-54 Rotary year.
contribution to Rotary was his service as club historian. His office was
crammed with archives going back to the beginning of the Campbell River
Rotary. One could spend many hours poring through the old files, going
back to the early years of the club. If there was a question about Rotary
in the past, Len was the one to ask. With a history of forty-eight years
of service to Rotary and the Campbell River community, Len Rossiter exemplified
the credence of Rotary, Service above Self.
Divers and Rossiter Lakes were added to Strathcona Provincial Park in
a land swap with Timberwest. Len regularly hiked Forbidden Plateau through
to Moat Lake and Mount Albert Edward and made his last trip up the mountain
when he was eighty-eight. When asked about the secret to his long and
productive life he responded, "ask me when I turn 100". Len
does allow that a healthy, active community minded life style, with a
good number of friends thrown in, seems to make a difference. Unfortunately
Len never got to answer that question as he passed away on January 29,
2005, at the age of ninety-seven.
"Plateau Guide Breaks Leg." The Comox Argus. [Courtenay, B.C.] (April 1, 1937) p. 1..
Munday, Don. "Mount Albert Edward Climbed in Winter." Victoria Daily Times. [Victoria, B.C.] (February 19, 1938) p.
Thompson, Warren. "Len Rossiter." The Spokesman - Newsletter for the Rotary Club of Campbell River. Volume .., Number ... May 3, 1995.
Thompson, Warren. "Len Rossiter 1907 - 2005." The Spokesman - Newsletter for the Rotary Club of Campbell River. Volume 59, Number 30. February 2, 2005. p. 3
Thompson, Warren. "The Story of Rossiter Lake - as told by Klaus vonPoser." The Spokesman - Newsletter for the Rotary Club of Campbell River. Volume 59, Number 30. February 2, 2005. p. 4.
Obituary. Len Rossiter, North Island Weekend. [Campbell River, B.C.] (February 5, 2005.) p. .