Tag: Garibaldi Provincial Park

Carter and the MundaysCarter and the Mundays


In 1923, prior to his September expedition with Charles Townsend, Neal Carter spent the summer in the midst of a waterpower survey covering the area from Brandywine Falls to Green Lake. Though this work used up most of his time, Carter took every chance he could to take in his surroundings and note what peaks he was interested in climbing.

As a result, Carter wrote to his friends Don and Phyllis Munday, two experienced mountaineers living on the North Shore. In his letter, he described all the mountaineering possibilities of the local mountains, convincing them to make the trek up. While here, the couple made the first recorded ascent of Blackcomb Mountain, as well as Overlord Mountain. Though Carter could not join them for these climbs due to his work, they shared their findings, which contributed to Carter’s research of the area and, subsequently, his 1924 map of Garibaldi Park.

A photograph taken by Neal Carter of Charles Townsend, returning from the summit of Overlord Mountain on September 18, 1923. Carter Collection

The Mundays were well known and heavily involved in the mountaineering community by this time. Both were members of the BC Mountaineering Club (BCMC) and the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC).

The couple found their passion for climbing mountains prior to meeting each other in 1918. Don moved to Vancouver in 1909 and started his mountaineering career soon after, joining the BCMC in 1910. However, mountaineering was put on pause when the First World War broke out and he enlisted in the Canadian Forces. After serving for almost two years, Don suffered an injury and eventually made his way back to Vancouver. Soon after, he met Phyllis and resumed his climbing ventures.

During this time, Phyllis joined the Girl Guides and climbed the local Vancouver with her troop or on her own. She joined the BCMC in 1915 and continued to be involved with Girl Guides for more than 60 years.

Neal Carter beside a cairn on the summit of Wedge Mountain, September 10, 1923. Carter Collection

Together, the Mundays surveyed and climbed more than 150 mountains in British Columbia and Alberta, even taking their daughter Edith with them when she was just eleven weeks old.

Like Carter, the Mundays had an impact on the early development of Garibaldi Park, and the Coast Mountains more generally. Most notably, they spent nearly a decade exploring Mount Waddington (the highest peak in the Coast Mountains) and the surrounding region. Though unsuccessful in ascending what they dubbed “Mystery Mountain,” they climbed many surrounding peaks, and their meticulous surveying opened it up more for others to make their own attempts.

Carter was one of those mountaineers. In 1934, he, along with representatives from both the BCMC and ACC, started a journey that was unfortunately cut short due to tragedy. The mountain was eventually ascended two years later by Fritz Wiessney and Bill House, two American mountaineers.

According to Phyllis, “We didn’t go into the Waddington country just to climb one mountain and run out… we went into the Waddington country to find out all we possibly could about glaciers and mountains and animals and nature and everything about that particular area.”

Charles Townsend on the summit of Mt. James Turner, September 12, 1923, demonstrating the possible risks of mountaineering. Carter Collection

As mentioned in an earlier article, these mountaineers had a strong purpose to map the regions they explored and share their knowledge. Though there is a risk to this activity, the passion for outdoors exhibited by Carter, the Mundays, and many more was unwavering.

Mapping the Mountains, our temporary exhibit showcasing photographs and stories from the 1923 Carter/Townsend expedition, is on at the Whistler Museum until November 14.

Early Mountaineering in the Coast MountainsEarly Mountaineering in the Coast Mountains


This September marked the 100th anniversary of the 1923 Neal Carter and Charles Townsend expedition. These two avid explorers climbed several of our local mountains, starting with Wedge Mountain and ending with the “most exciting” Mt Diavolo. It was a two week journey from September 9 to 20. Many of these climbs were recorded as first ascents, in which they gave their own names to some of the peaks, ridges, glaciers, and lakes they encountered.

During this expedition, the pair took photographs and detailed notes. A collection of these photographs were given by Carter to Myrtle Philip, who hosted them at Rainbow Lodge. They used the lodge as their starting off point and rest stop in between destinations.

Though small, each image has detailed labels and notes on the back. Combined with Townsend’s comprehensive accounts in “The B.C. Mountaineer,” we can get a pretty good picture of their venture. Carter and Townsend traversed through difficult, untracked terrain and changing conditions, but also witnessed spectacular views and were even treated to an eclipse.

Charles Townsend beside a cairn on the summit of Wedge, with Mt. James Turner in the background (September 10, 1923). Carter Collection

It was not just for kicks that these two went out to explore the area. There was a strong purpose amongst mountaineers at the time to map the region and share what they had learned with others. Carter was a talented cartographer and created topographical maps from this trip and several subsequent ones. His insight into the region assisted in the first official Garibaldi Park map in 1928.

However, these were not the only two that contributed to this major development. A group of Vancouver mountaineers formed the B.C. Mountaineering Club (BCMC) in 1907 and focused on exploring the Coast Mountains. As far as they knew, there were no records or maps of the mountains they set their sights on and they assumed that they were largely unexplored.

The mountaineering community in Vancouver started off small, consisting of both men and women, and grew over time. The BCMC welcomed newcomers through their summer camps, at which both Carter and Townsend joined in the early 1920s.

Neal Carter on Chaos Glacier (formally Turner Glacier), on Mt. James Turner (September 12, 1923). Carter Collection

By this time, the BCMC had covered much of the area surrounding Garibaldi Lake. William Gray, president of the club in 1912, developed a sketch map that showed Black Tusk as the northernmost part of the district.

From years of exploring the Garibaldi region, the group was captivated by its natural environment and grew interested in its preservation. Logging and mining companies had establishments throughout the corridor, so the group campaigned to the provincial government to protect this area. In 1920, the Garibaldi district became a park and, before the decade was out, was then designated as a Provincial Park.

The latest temporary exhibit at the Whistler Museum, Mapping the Mountains, takes a closer look at Carter and Townsend’s 1923 expedition and its cartographic results. Visit the Museum to learn more and see closeups of some photographs until November 14.

Shaping the landscape with fire and iceShaping the landscape with fire and ice


In the weekly Museum Musings column in Pique Newsmagazine, we mostly explore and share stories of the past. Rarely, however, do we go back thousands or millions of years as is required when talking about the geological history of our region. In celebration of the Sea to Sky Fire and Ice Aspiring GeoRegion, the Museum is showcasing the landscape in the new exhibition Shaping the Landscape with Fire & Ice.

Throughout time, fire and ice have played an important part in shaping the land. Whistler sits in the subduction zone of converging tectonic plates, where the Juan De Fuca plate is being pushed under the North American plate, creating the Coast Mountains. All of the volcanoes considered active in Canada are found in BC and the Yukon along tectonic plate boundaries, and all are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Garibaldi Provincial Park is named after Mount Garibaldi, the largest mountain in the park and a potentially active stratovolcano. While the last eruption was around 13,000 years ago, this is still relatively recent in geological time (Black Tusk, on the other hand, likely erupted approximately 170,000 years ago). Volcanoes can erupt again after being dormant for thousands of years. Thankfully, if Mount Garibaldi was to rumble back life to we would start seeing warnings such as hot springs, hot spots and seismic activity in the region from rising magma.

Fire and ice shaped this region, creating the unique mountains that are popular for recreation. Greg Griffith Collection.

While Mount Baker is instantly recognisable as a volcano, Mount Garibaldi is harder to distinguish because it is not a typical cone shaped volcano. When Mount Garibaldi erupted during the last ice age, one half of the volcanic cone formed on a rock foundation, while the west side settled on top of a glacier. As the glacier melted and receded the mountain collapsed, changing shape. Giant landslides spread the volcanic debris across the Squamish Valley.

We can thank this active volcanic region for the formation of Garibaldi Lake. Also around the end of the last glaciation, Clinker Peak on the shoulder of Mount Price erupted. The Cheakamus Valley had been full of ice over 1.3 km above sea level that was rapidly melting. Lava from the Clinker Peak eruption flowed towards the valley below where it hit the Cheakamus Valley glacier. There it cooled rapidly against the wall of ice, solidifying to create a dam across the mountain valley. As snow and ice melted from the mountains above it became trapped behind this wall, known as The Barrier, creating Garibaldi Lake.

Garibaldi Lake. Cliff Fenner Collection.

The only water that leaves Garibaldi Lake year round gushes from springs coming through the scree slope below The Barrier. This consistent flow of water lubricates the bottom of the naturally unstable dam and poses a significant geological hazard, with some scientists worried it could one day collapse. It is not uncommon to see rocks fall from The Barrier, hence the name of Rubble Creek below, and according to indigenous oral histories a major landslide occurred 1855 when a slab of rock fell from The Barrier. With approximately 1.28 trillion litres of water trapped by an unstable dam wall at 1400 metres of elevation, a collapse could be catastrophic. It is for this reason that an evacuation order of Garibaldi Townsite was issued in 1980, with the last residents leaving the town in 1986. Today the Garibaldi Townsite no longer exists. 

Hikers looking at The Barrier around the 1960s or 1970s. Cliff Fenner Collection.

Shaping the Landscape with Fire & Ice is on now at the Whistler Museum, open from 11am every day except Wednesday. Entry is by donation, and you can further support the Whistler Museum by becoming a Museum Member.

Celebrating Whistler’s Olympic MilestonesCelebrating Whistler’s Olympic Milestones


Over the coming weeks, there will be plenty of opportunities in Whistler to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games (including the Whistler Museum’s next temporary exhibit highlighting the volunteers of the Games, opening Friday, February 28!).  While many people may still be wondering how a decade has passed, this week we took a look even further back, to when the first Olympic bid was submitted by the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association (GODA) sixty years ago.

Following the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, a group from Vancouver very quickly organized a committee to explore the idea of hosting the Games in the Garibaldi Park region.  The California Games ended on February 28, and in March GODA invited Sidney Dawes, the Canadian representative to the International Olympic Committee, to assist in the search for an Olympic venue. Cliff Fenner, the Park Supervisor for Garibaldi Park, also assisted in the search, which included reconnaissance flights, snowmobile explorations, and test skiers.  London Mountain (now known as Whistler Mountain) was chosen as “a highly desirable area”, and by November 1960 GODA had put together a bid for the 1968 Olympic Winter Games which would have seen all events take place within the Whistler valley.

A group heads out to explore Garibaldi Park in search of an Olympic site, 1960. Cliff Fenner Collection

Creating a bid for the chosen site meant planning to build an entire Olympic site from scratch.  Alta Lake, as the area was known at the time, was comprised of a few lodges, summer cabins, and logging operations.  The valley was accessible by rail and courageous drivers could make their way up via service roads in the summer.  According to the 1968 bid book, prior to exploring possible Olympic sites, the provincial government had already spoken publicly of extended the highway that ran from North Vancouver to Squamish further north to Pemberton.

Other services we often take for granted today had also not yet reached Alta Lake.  The list of venues and facilities to be built in the valley for 1968 included not just sporting venues, but also a water supply system, sewers, sewage disposal, a substation for power supply, a fire station, and a hospital.

An official pamphlet promoting GODA’s 1968 Olympic bid.

Though the prospect of building all of this was daunting, in the bid book GODA pointed out that it had been done before, for the British Empire and Commonwealth Games that were held in Vancouver in 1954.  As they put it, “Here, too, a project was begun with nothing more than an idea, a desire to hold the event here, and an enthusiasm that made the project become a reality… Given the go-ahead, work will begin to transform the Whistler Mountain area into one of the finest sites ever developed for the Olympic Winter Games.”

This site became the gondola base, today known as Creekside, but before 1965 it was pretty bare. Wilhelmsen Collection

As we know, the 1968 Olympic Winter Games were not held on Whistler Mountain (they were held in Grenoble, France), but that did not mean that all of the work of surveying, planning, and negotiating with provincial powers was for nought.  Instead, GODA formed a sister organization, Garibaldi Lifts Ltd., to develop Whistler Mountain as a ski resort, Olympics or not.

Like the bid for 1968, a tremendous amount of work was done in a relatively short time in order to open Whistler Mountain for skiing in January 1966.  The ideas and enthusiasm of GODA were finally fulfilled in 2010 and, though it took muck longer and looked very different that they had first planned, it five decades the Whistler Mountain area had been significantly transformed.