« PreviousContinue »
Just beyond Berg Lake lay our camp at Robson Pass, the site of the Canadian Alpine Club camp of 1913. We started afoot with Donald next morning over the Robson Glacier to Snowbird Pass. It was a day of easy climbing, up the glacier for three or four miles and then along grassy slopes and rocky ledges. The mountain tops were still hidden, though now and again the clouds would sweep apart and disclose the icy crown of Whitehorn, the saurian head of “Mugger," the sharp tooth of the Lynx, or white Resplendent, the snowiest and most radiant of them all.
From Snowbird Pass we climbed to the summit of Ptarmigan Peak whence we overlooked the Coleman Glacier and the deep blue rift of the Smoky River Valley. A timely break in the clouds showed us an avalanche on Robson, tons of powdered ice pouring down for a thousand feet like the mist of a waterfall. The Robson Glacier, whose whole length we could see, is the fountain of rivers flowing into two oceans. Its terminal is split by a rocky point. The northern half of the ice stream drains into Lake Adolphus, whence it flows to the Smoky River and ultimately to the Peace; the southern half is the source of a branch of the Fraser.
Not until morning did we see the whole of Robson. Donald called us at sunrise, and we looked from our tent to see it shining in golden glory in a cloudless sky. We were close under it, hardly more than a mile from its base; it rose abrupt, nearly eight thousand feet above us. From a snow cornice at the summit the Tumbling Glacier swept down the whole flank of the mountain, each ice pinnacle alight and glittering. The right hand slope was a long rock ridge, broken by ledges and precipices; that on the left swung around in an icy ridge toward black Rearguard. Even more cruel and formidable did
. the mountain appear in its sharp-cut brilliance than as we had heretofore seen it in fleeting glimpses through the clouds.
By this time we were ready to admit that Robson was no mountain for women to climb—not for two women with only one man at any rate. So that afternoon we decided to move camp about ten miles northeastward to Moose Pass. From this camp we made the ascent of Mount Pam, about ten thousand feet, a snow peak of little difficulty or danger except
from hidden crevasses, which with so small a party are always something of a menace. We roped together, however, and had no misadventure.
Mount Pam stands out beyond the main axis of the wildest, snowiest mountain chain that I have ever seen. All around us shone literally hundreds of white summits, of which not one in fifty had ever been climbed or named. Far away to the northwest, almost like a cloud on the horizon, Donald pointed out the great peak "Kitchie,” visited by Miss Mary Jobe several seasons ago, but as yet unclimbed. Close beneath us were high, bare plateau regions, the range of caribou herds; blue lakes and dusky valleys showed farther to the east. The whole horizon was rimmed with shining mountains, Robson towering above them all, visible now from its snow cornice to the blue depths of Lake Adolphus at its base.
Our return late that afternoon over glaciers and down long heather slopes gave a new and still more glorious impression of the wild sea of mountains. The peaks burned with the sunset; the velvety slopes of Moose Pass grew purple and shadowy in the dusk. Our camp was in a flowery park among groves of spiry balsams. Purple asters and yellow compositae, blue gentians and shaggy anemone heads—"little owls” Donald called them-made bright garden patches among the trees. We held campfire that night in a tepee, sitting around the tiny blaze on blankets. Many a story Donald told us of trapping days in winter, or of Hudson's Bay Company men, grown old in the wilderness before the railroad came. As we talked and our fire burned low, a strange, unearthly glow shone upon our faces.
“Northern lights !” said Donald, and we crept outside.
Flickering bands of greenish light were moving across the sky like figures in a ghostly dance. Suddenly great shafts of light shot upward toward the zenith. All around the horizon, though fainter toward the south, they shone, a tepee of the Great Manitou set in the starry meadows of the sky.
Here at Moose Pass we were on the outskirts of one of the finest big game regions of the north. We had seen the tracks of moose and caribou and grizzly bears, but except for two goats on Mount Pam, no living animal larger than a porcupine.
As we rode down the pass on our way to the Smoky River, however, Donald pointed out a caribou far down in the valley of Calumet Creek.
"Ride on steadily without speaking," he said. "We may be able to get quite close.”
We were perhaps within an eighth of a mile when the caribou first saw us. Instead of running, he wheeled about once and stood looking at us as we rode forward. We had approached within a hundred yards before he showed any signs of fear. Then he merely circled and came back to look again. We got near enough to photograph him several times before he decided we were dangerous and swung away into the woods. He was a magnificent fellow, with glossy dark coat and great spreading antlers. In response to our surprise at his coolness Donald told us that he had killed one out of a herd the year before and the rest had stood around to watch him skin it.
That was my day to ride behind the caravan. Donald led always, as the way was often obscure. One lady was priviledged to ride behind him, free from care, while the other kept the pack animals in motion. One of them, the Kid, reminded me of an elderly lady I once knew, who under a very meek ex
I terior hid an iron determination to go her own way. Left to his own devices, however, the Kid would never quite drop out of sight, so I learned to let him follow at his own pace, and behind old Roanie rode on unfretted, enjoying the new snow peaks rising in every notch of the valley and the picturesque maneuvers of our train. We followed an old Indian trail, scarcely a trail at all, that forded the river about forty times that day.
As fresh tributaries were added the fords became more and more disturbing. At lunch time Donald shook his head.
“The river's mighty high,” said he. "It's been rising for two days. We may have to swim the horses below.”
“Can my horse swim and carry me too?” I demanded in some trepidation.
"Oh, he can a little way,” said Donald. “But if the current's too swift you'd better hop off.”
“Hop off !” said I. "Yes—just hang on to the pommel and he'll pull you