Great Canadian Parks / British Columbia

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The Parks / British Columbia / Glacier National Park


The CPR knew immediately they had a prime tourist attraction at their rails. After covering most of the treacherous track sections with snow sheds, they built a second line outside the sheds for summer use, so that its passengers could have full view of the mountain splendour through which they travelled. Glacier House was constructed in 1886, primarily as a dining room, so that trains would not have to haul heavy dining cars up the steep grade to Rogers Pass. By 1906, the property had been enlarged and it was operating as a 90 room CPR Hotel.

 

Most of Europe's major peaks had been conquered, so the mountains of Canada's western frontier held the promise of new challenges. The Reverends Henry Swanzy and William Spotswood Green made the first ascent of Mount Bonney in 1888, believed to be one of the first recreational climbs in North America making Glacier National Park the birthplace of recreational mountaineering in North America. Recognising the economic potential of the sport, the CPR brought two accredited guides from Interlaken, Switzerland, to serve their adventuresome guests at Glacier House. It was the beginning of a tradition that was to continue in Glacier for close to thirty years.

 

The Swiss Guides worked from bases in Glacier, Field and Lake Louise, and as the popularity of the sport increased, more trained mountaineers joined Edward Feuz and Christian Hasler, guiding even novice climbers in major ascents. By 1903, some 40 peaks in the Glacier area had been conquered. The programme was such a success that the CPR built houses for the guides in 1911, hoping they would make Canada their home.

 

But Glacier House closed in 1925, no longer a convenient stop on the line once the railway had abandoned Rogers Pass. The guides moved to Lake Louise and visitor numbers in Glacier declined. While a few climbers still attacked the mighty Selkirks, there were no facilities until the Alpine Club of Canada erected the A.O. Wheeler Hut near the site of the former Glacier House.

 

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