Sydney Charles John Watts
1927 - 2013
Syd Watts was born in Olds, Alberta on July 22, 1927, and moved to Duncan with his family in 1937. Upon leaving school Watts became an apprentice mechanic for Wilson Motors in Duncan which underwent several changes over the years. In 1958 Watts became the Service Manager, a position he held until 1977 when he retired at the age of fifty. Watts had worked for the car dealer for thirty-four years.
Soon after arriving in Duncan Watts joined the local scouting movement and had his first mountain experience on nearby Mount Prevost. It wasn't until later in 1952 when Watts went on a trip to the Comox Glacier with Connie Bonner, Ruth Masters, Geoffrey Capes, Herb Bradley and Sid Williams that he joined the Victoria Outdoor Club and the Victoria Section of the Alpine Club of Canada. In 1953 Watts attended the ACC Hooker Glacier summer camp and graduated on Mount Scott, and then over the Labour Day weekend he joined a trip led by the experienced mountaineer Rex Gibson and Mark Mitchell to Big Interior Mountain via Della Falls. With his deep love of the mountains and innate mountain sense it wasn't long before Watts was leading his own trips into the mountains on Vancouver Island.
In the summer of 1954 Syd Watts, Bill Lash and his son Mallory, Pat Guilbride, Connie Bonner and several others made their first trip up the Elk River Valley to Landslide Lake following Elk Trails. They were the first to see up close the devastation from the earthquake in 1946 that caused part of Mount Colonel Foster to disintegrate and come barreling down the mountainside and into the lake. This in-turn created a huge displacement wave which caused havoc for several kilometres clearing all vegetation from the valley floor. The party then proceeded up to the South Col and onto the Southeast Peak of Mount Colonel Foster making the second ascent after Alfred Slocomb and Jack Horbury's ascent in 1936.
In 1958 Syd Watts and Harry Winstone formed the Island Mountain Ramblers, a mountaineering club whose objectives were mainly island based. At the time the Alpine Club had many trips off the island, something Watts wasn't interested in. He found there was more then enough to keep him happy locally, however, he did make a few trips off the island to Mount Shuksan, the Olympic Mountains in Washington and Garibaldi Park.
The next year (1959) Watts led the first post war trip to the Golden Hinde. At the time float planes were allowed to land on the lakes in Strathcona Park, so taking advantage of fact the group flew into Burman Lake. The party that made the ascent of the Golden Hinde was Watts, Ted Grieg, Jack Ware, Elizabeth and Patrick Guilbride, Bill Lash and his daughter Sylvia, Connie Bonner, and Bob Aherns and one other from BC Parks. This was also the first ascent of the Golden Hinde by women. After the climb Watts, Ware and Ahrens hiked out via Marble Meadows to Buttle Lake. Syd Watts eventually climbed the Golden Hinde five times.
In August 1963 Watts led a party from the Victoria Outdoor Club and the Island Mountain Ramblers into Burman Lake. The party of eighteen flew into Burman Lake then climbed Mount Burman. The following day Ron Facer and three others climbed the Golden Hinde while the rest, which included Doreen and John Cowlin, Joyce Clearihue, Jane Waddell and John Richardson, climbed to within fifty feet of the summit of what they called The Pimple, now known as The Behinde. The rock was too loose and dangerous for such a large group to climb safely to the untouched summit. Two days of bad weather followed before the group was picked up and flown out to Buttle Lake.
Watts went on to lead an Island Mountain Ramblers trip in 1965 to Victoria Peak, the third highest peak on the island. On the trip was Emily Prout who was not really a mountaineer but loved the outdoors and was a keen naturalist. Three years later Syd and Emily were married.
In the 1970's Watts met John Gibson on a trip to Mount Cokely and together they formed a climbing partnership that saw them exploring many remote island peaks. Together they made a number of first ascents and from Gibson's dairies many of the accounts were written up in the Timberline Tales for the Island Mountain Ramblers and the Island Bushwhacker for the Vancouver Island section of the ACC over the years. From 1970 to 1972, Watts was the Chairman of the Vancouver Island section.
After many of his early trips Watts realized that others would soon want to visit some of the spectacular areas he had climbed. At the time there were only game trails to follow but in the late 1950's Watts encouraged others to come and help him built a trail up the Elk River Valley. Then in 1965 he began working on the Marble Meadows Trail which was completed in 1969. A fellow climber, Don Apps, who worked at Westmin Mines at the southern end of Buttle Lake almost single-handed built the Phillips Ridge Trail to Arnica Lake.
Syd Watts has climbed and hiked on Vancouver Island for over fifty years and has gained such a knowledge of that back-country that he is the first person anyone considers contacting when they want information about many areas. He has also contributed immensely to all the Hiking Trails books on the island.
Although Syd Watts no longer goes into the mountains as frequently as he use to he now gains a lot of pleasure in the conservation of sensitive ecological reserves. Syd and Emily Watts joined the Cowichan Valley Naturalist's Society early in their life together and regularly hiked on local Mount Tzuhalem near Duncan. In 1984 they were able to get part of the mountain that had beautiful flower meadows set aside as an Ecological Reserve. Since then Watts has been the warden, or as some say the "eyes" of the reserve, visiting it at least twice a week. In 2007 the Environment Minister Barry Penner recognized Syd Watts devotion and presented him with the Volunteer of the Year Award for his long-term contributions in Strathcona Provincial Park and the Mount Tzuhalem Ecological Reserve. Sadly Emily passed away several years ago and wasn't able to share Syd's recognition but her name is forever linked with Syd's in the preservation of the Mount Tzuhalem Ecological Reserve.
passed away on the evening of May 25, 2013 at the hospital in Duncan after
many months of illness. Friends from the local naturalist club were with
him at his side. On the east side of Buttle Lake, near Augerpoint Mountain,
Syd Watts Peak was officially recognized several years ago as a memorial
to him. It was fortunate that Syd got to see this recognition before he
passed away and to take pleasure in knowing that his love of the mountains
"Local Alpine Club Members Scale Strathcona Park Peak." Daily Colonist. [Victoria, B.C.] (September 11, 1953) p. 6.
"Outdoor Club, Island Ramblers Beat Golden Hinde." Daily Colonist. [Victoria, B.C.] (September 1, 1963) p. 11.
"Strathcona Trail Groups Reap BC Parks Award." Comox Valley Record. [Courtenay, B.C.] (April 20, 2007) p. 3.
Mitchell, Helen. "Climbers Make Toast in Clouds to Hikers on Marble Mountain." Daily Colonist. [Victoria, B.C.] (September 9, 1970) p. 23.
Watts, Syd. "Crown Mountain, 6,057'." Timberline Tales. Published by the Island Mountain Ramblers. Nanaimo, B.C. No 6, January 1971. p. 5-6.
Watts, Syd. "Golden Hinde 7,219'." Timberline Tales. Published by the Island Mountain Ramblers. Nanaimo, B.C. No 6, January 1971. p. 10.
Ware, Jack. "Marble Meadows Work Party." Timberline Tales. Published by the Island Mountain Ramblers. Nanaimo, B.C. No 6, January 1971. p. 8.
Robinson, Alan. "Marble Meadows Official Opening." Timberline Tales. Published by the Island Mountain Ramblers. Nanaimo, B.C. No 6, January 1971. p. 17.
Watts, Syd. "Bedwell Lake Trip." Timberline Tales. Published by the Island Mountain Ramblers. Nanaimo, B.C. No. 8, January 1973. p. 13.
Singleton, Genevieve and Dave Polster. "Mt. Tzuhalem Ecological Reserve #112 and Syd Watts." The Log. Friends of Ecological Reserves Newsletter. Winter 2005. p. 12-13.
Syroid, Cliff. "Comox Glacier (Red Pillar)." The Island Bushwhacker. The Alpine Club of Canada Vancouver Island section newsletter. (November 1976) Vol. 4:4. p. 7.
Gibson, John. "Mt. Matchlee." Island Bushwhacker. The Alpine Club of Canada Vancouver Island section newsletter. (October 1978) Vol. 6:5. p. 1-2.
Gibson, John. "Bonanza Peak (Mt. Ashwood North)." Island Bushwhacker. The Alpine Club of Canada Vancouver Island section newsletter. (October 1979) Vol. 7:5. p. 13.
Brown, Ian. "Following our noses on Shepherd Ridge." Island Bushwhacker. The Alpine Club of Canada Vancouver Island section newsletter. (Autumn 1984) Vol. 12:3. p. 2-3.
Gibson, John. "A Traverse of Conuma Peak." Island Bushwhacker. The Alpine Club of Canada Vancouver Island section newsletter. (Fall 1989) Vol. 17:4. p. 20-21.
Watts, Syd. "A Reconnoiter of a Route to Mts. Alava and Bate via Sebalhall Creek." Island Bushwhacker. The Alpine Club of Canada Vancouver Island section newsletter. (Fall 1989) Vol. 17:4. p. 22.