Canadian Alpine Journal/Volume 1/Number 1/Camping in the Canadian Rockies

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Canadian Alpine Journal I, 1, 021.jpg

Photo, Mary M. Vaux



By Mary M. Vaux

We may take Laggan as a starting point, as more good trips are available from there than from any other point in the mountains. The trip may be either long or short, varying from a day's ride to Moraine lake or Paradise valley, a three-day excursion to Lake O'Hara and McArthur lake, to a week or more as far as the Pipestone pass, returning by the Bow. On any of these trips, it is well to make an elastic arrangement, so that one can stay a day or two longer than the actual time required; for there is much delight in a quiet day in camp, when you do not have to do your twelve miles on foot, or your fifteen miles on horseback, and can sleep as long in the morning as you wish, get acquainted with the flowers and birds, and enjoy the delights of a quiet walk; where there is really time to receive deep mental impressions.

For a four-days' trip, there is no place more delightful than Lake O'Hara—a lovely clear sheet of water, filtered through the rock slide at its head. Its banks are carpeted with flowers; in front are seen, in succession, Mts. Biddle, Hungabee, Yukness, Lefroy, Victoria, Huber, and Wiwaxy peaks, while behind come Cathedral, Stephen and Oderay; so that one is almost bewildered by the number and grandeur of them all. Then, a short walk of three miles brings you to Lake McArthur, a true alpine lake, with glaciers from the slopes of Mt. Biddle breaking off in miniature icebergs; and where the grassy moss-grown slopes are a favorite feeding ground of the mountain goat. Their beds and rolling places are frequently seen; and the noise of falling rocks, as they climb to a point of vantage, aids you in discerning their retreating forms.

By following the stream that feeds Lake O'Hara, a beautiful chain of lakes is discovered, with cascades and waterfalls between, ending in Lake Oesa, whose surface is only melted for a very few weeks at midsummer. Or, if one wishes a still higher climb, one can venture across Abbot pass (9000 feet above sea) and down the Victoria glacier to Lake Louise. But this is only safe with an experienced Swiss guide, as the pass is frequently traversed by avalanches on its northern side. Unfortunately, there are no fish in any of these waters, although it is stated that the lakes are well provided with trout-food.

From Hector station to Lake O'Hara it is about ten miles, over a good trail. The earlier miles are marred by burnt timber, but the lake and its surroundings well repay any discomfort of this part of the way. In addition, several other short excursions can be made to advantage, and a little exploring done on one's own account.

Now as to appliances and outfit: To begin with, a good tent is required, plenty of warm blankets, and a canvas sheet to spread under and over the blankets on the bough-bed, to prevent dampness from above and below; then, a small pillow is a great luxury, and takes but little room in the pack. Of course, it is presupposed that the women of the party wear rational clothes: knickerbockers, a flannel shirtwaist, and knotted kerchief at the neck; stout boots, with hobnails, laced to the knee, or arranged for puttees; woollen stockings, a felt hat with moderate brim, and a sweater or short coat completing the outfit. A light waterproof coat, opened well behind, to allow it to part over the horse's back, and which may be fastened to the saddle, is very necessary in a region where storms must be expected frequently. Each person should be provided with a canvas bag, which can be securely buttoned, wherein to place the necessary toilet articles. An extra pair of light shoes, a short skirt to wear in camp and a golf cape with hood, add greatly to the comfort of the camper; also a good-sized piece of mosquito netting, to keep off intruding bulldogs, if you wish to rest in the tent in the heat of the mid-day sun; while a hot water bottle and a box of mustard may be tucked in along with a few simple medicines in case of emergency. On two occasions I would have given a great deal for a mustard plaster, and on a third occasion it was of great value.

The food taken is largely a matter for personal selection. We have eliminated canned things very largely, and find the change to dried foods not at all distasteful—of course, with the proviso that they are properly cooked. Bacon, ham, tea, coffee, evaporated cream, butter, oatmeal, rice, beans, flour, canned tomatoes, canned soup, onions, potatoes, pickles, marmalade, cheese and dried fruits can be so prepared that, with hunger sauce, there is nothing left to be desired in the way of a larger bill of fare. Trout and game are always a welcome addition to the larder. Cakes of chocolate and raisins may be added to the list, when it is desirable to have something in the pocket on a day's climb, and the return to camp is uncertain. In all preparations it must be remembered that the altitude at which we camp is considerable, and that a necessary attribute towards a good time is to be warm and comfortable at night, when the thermometer may probably fall to 28°, and there will be ice along the brook-sides, in the morning. Then, do not forget the cold dip in the mountain stream, as the crowning luxury of all.

A camera is a very delightful adjunct, for it is pleasant to have some tangible results to show, on your return home. A kodak, if no larger instrument can be managed, yields most satisfactory results, although the better records from a larger-sized camera are an increased delight, when one has the patience and skill to obtain them. For changing plates in camp, an improvised tepee can be made of the blankets, and, if this is done after sundown, is quite satisfactory. We have never known plates to be fogged by the operation. Cut films are more convenient than glass plates, as they are so much lighter and not subject to breakage, although not so easily handled. The actinic properties of the light are very great and care must be used to avoid over-exposure. It is very desirable to develope the plates as soon as possible, for in this way you can more readily understand the conditions and change the exposures to suit. We have found medium plates better than the quick ones, especially with a rapid lens. Telephoto work has not been very satisfactory, as on high places the wind is so great that it is not possible to obtain a sharp picture, with the unsteady condition of the camera, when the long draw is in use. We have also found that panoramas, made with the ordinary camera, give a better idea of extended views than can be had by any other method. The panoram cameras, as a rule, distort so much that they are useless when great heights and depths are to be rendered.

Then, when you return to civilization, you will have many happy memories, and the "call of the wild" will so enter your blood, that you will count the days till you can again be free among the everlasting hills.

Canadian Alpine Journal I, 1, 022.jpg

Photo, Frank Yeigh


Canadian Alpine Journal I, 1, 023.jpg

Photo, D. Warner


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1940, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 75 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.


This work is now in the public domain because it originates from Canada and its term of copyright has expired.

The author died in 1940, so this work is in the public domain in Canada because, according to Canadian copyright law, all private copyrights expire fifty years after the year marking the death of the author. This work also in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.