Discussion: Where did this rescue actually take place?

David Dornian has the first crack…

“From the look of the photo, they pulled Humphrey Cooper off a ledge around the north side on the colloquially-named “End Mountain”, above Old Fort Creek. This is not the End Mountain as marked on Google Earth or NPS Topo maps, but is the scarp we referred to by that name while we worked at Hector, almost for sure. The arrow in the photo points to place that looks like it is a little to the east of the gully route we occasionally used to scramble up with campers when we could muster up enough ambition in the group.

This would put the site of the accident – or the recovery route, anyway – upstream on Old Fort Creek from its junction with ‘Loggers’ Creek (the rill that runs down behind Yamnuska). So that would be the cliffs above to the south as one moved upstream past the campsite we used to call Shangri-la, toward the place we called A-1. I recall a shit non-campsite between the two which I could never figure out why anyone would stop there, named on that plywood map that used to hang in the Dining Hall – coincidentally? – “Cooperstown”.

Memory checks welcome…”

Gary Luthy replies….

“After reading the story again I am wondering if the rescue took place up toward the end of Loggers Valley.  I.e. the access to Loggers in those days might have been up Bowfort Creek and then up Loggers Creek. This would be consist with the description;


– Northward from the Y.M.C.A. camp the trail leads up the Bowfort Creek over an abandoned tote road

– Rocky trail leading to the foot of YamNuska and End Mountain,

– Deadfall from the charred timer from the forest fire of 1912 (I remember there was still fire deadfall at Loggers in the sixties)

– On three side the peaks rise naked of vegetation and buttressed by shifting “screes” (More descriptive of the area well up Loggers Valley than the area around the A1 campsite)

– Four miles up this desolate valley an old lumber camp provides shelter (Sounds like Loggers – i.e. the CMC cabins)

– Eight miles further, over terrain which is passable only on foot or by pack pony. (Note: I think they overestimated the distances but surely they won’t have estimated 12 miles if they had been just up the trail from the junction of Bowfort and Loggers Creeks)

Also, the photo which is described as  “A general view or the rocky terrain looking towards the “Y” camp at Bowfort. is shown in the upper right hand picture.”  While this is not a great photo I think it would be much by likely to be taken well up the Logger’s Valley looking back to the north side of Yamnuska

Thats my theory.  What do you think?”

Richard Harding enters the conversation….

I’m in agreement with Gary, based on the newspaper description, I think they were just at the high end of the Loggers valley behind Yam, and, yes, I think they over-estimated distances all round.  Not surprising given the mapping technology of the day compared with the accuracy we take for granted, and the quite emotional dramatic reporting.

Also nice to hear of old Moses Jimmy John being actively involved.

David Dornian responds….

You might be right, or we could be talking about an entirely different area. The whole front ranges are like that, with similar valleys and cirques allthe way north past Waiparous. I am perplexed a bit by the continual reference to “Northward from the YMCA Camp” which puts the accident location
further up toward Brokenleg Lake.

Bill Halliday gives a detailed reply…..

“What a fun read!  Your emails about the big rescue of 1937 stimulated a host of memories and occasioned getting my old maps out for detailed study.

My delay in responding was a result of my finding that the more I tried to match the story with the “facts,” that I had at hand, the more confusing it all became!

My findings concur with most of those of yourself and the others who have shared their recollections.

The mountain rescue of 1937 was still a popular fireside story when I became a  camper in 1945, but it began to run short of details.  The most durable parts of the tale were the “all in a day’s work” comment of Victor Kutschera, and the added detail that this guide and hero was last seen hitch-hiking back to Banff.

Somewhere along the way,the site of the story changed to Yamnuska.   Then, before I became a counsellor in 1949, the legend became lost  as an active teepee tale.  Actually, the articles that you have sent to us suggest to me that the stories that I was told were rather short on facts and long on misinterpretation from the start.

George Page, the Y Physical Director, mentioned as the one who “went to Camp Chief Hector to obtain aid and arrange for rescue parties”, was likely sent up to camp to provide the presence of a more senior  organizer to help Frank Hall who was the Camp Director.  As Physical Director, George was not in regular attendance at Camp and hence was probably not particularly familiar with the wider area.  He did, however, return to Hector again in 1950, after Murray Faulkner had arrived to replace Ray Atkinson as Boys Work Secretary and Camp Director. Since Murray had no previous camping experience, George came to help him get started. That summer, my second season as a Counsellor, George revived the rescue tale and added some new details.

I recall that, when I became Camp Director in 1965, that now long-lost Calgary Herald clipping was in the camp files. To the best of my recollection, the article, or articles, that had been saved did not name the specific mountain involved.  I say this because my erroneous impression that the event occurred on Yamnuska, was not disturbed by what I found.

About the location–

The Calgary Daily Herald pictures and details of the story that you sent to us, first led me to suspect that the the mountain in question was not the official End Mountain on the topographic maps which we called “Association (named for its upside-down resemblance to the YMCA triangle insignia), but rather that it was “our End Mountain” located between Yamnuska and “our Association”.

The arrow in the Herald picture points to what first appeared to me to be one of the series of chimneys on the Loggers or south side of the rampart which encircles the peak of “our End Mt.” on the south, east and north sides.  At least two of these chimneys were regularly used to ascend the rampart to gain access to the gentle slope of hard-packed stones leading to the summit. However, on closer inspection, I noted that the summit appearing over the top of the wall is not at all like my recollection of that gentle upper slope to the summit of “our End Mt.” and is rather more like the much steeper top slope of “our Association”.

Study of my old 1959 topo map (Canmore 82 O/3 East–attached with notations), confirmed that difference in relative grades.

Furthermore, the only places on our routes up “our End Mt.” where one could fall 30 ft. are in the chimneys where such a fall would occur down the decent route, and hence would not require the victim to be hauled back up (and certainly not back up 1,000 or 1150 ft. to the summit).  Certainly, there is no place where one could incur a fall of 30 feet from that summit.

The old map provided some new confusion when I found that the notation “END MOUNTAIN 7940 (ft)” does not designate the highest peak of that mountain (i.e. the summit that we called Association).  Surprisingly, that notation is on a peak at least 60 ft. lower and directly west of “our Association”–hence not visible from Camp.

This did not concur with what we had been told, and had passed along to our Campers, i.e. that reason behind the official name “End Mt.” was that it was the farthest east of all the peaks in the area.  I was doubly surprised to note that the first peak of Yamnuska is even even further east that the summit of “our Association”.  The moral, of course, is “Don’t believe everything your Counsellor tells you!”

About the distances–

When I began measuring distances, I became further convinced that the End Mt., on which the accident occurred could not have been “our End Mt.”, and must have been “our Association Mt.”.

Logger’s Base Camp was always considered to be 4 miles from Hector by way of the old logging road which coursed around the end of the the Hog’s Back, past the fence line, and then straight down to the remains of the old logging camp on Logger’s Creek.  As I recall, that steep downhill path is where we had to cross a number of charred logs left by the the 1912 fire.

[That road was built prior to the fire, and before the Bow River was dammed, to haul logs by wagon from the Hog’s Back to be floated in the Bow River to the Eau Claire sawmill by Louise Bridge in Calgary. When I was last there in 1962, remains of the log loading ramps were still visible along the road near the fence line which we ascended to reach the ridge and the east end of Yamnuska]

From Loggers, the route up “our End Mt.”, consisted of:

  • a gentle climb to the rampart;
  • some easy rock work in one of the chimneys;
  • and then another gentle climb up hard packed surface to the summit.

This could have added 1.5 mi at the most. This total of 5.5 miles could hardly have been confused with a 10 or 12 mile trip–especially by someone who had accurately assessed the first four miles.

On the other hand, my estimation of the total distance to the top of “our Association” by our usual route, does come reasonably close to ten miles.

That route consisted of:

  • 4 miles to Loggers Camp via the logging road;
  • about 2 miles up to and along the what we called “the goat trail” (although I never did hear of any goat sightings), which traversed around the base of the rampart of “our End Mt.” to its NE side, then back down to “Association base camp”, located where upper Oldfort Creek is joined by the tributary that we called “Association Creek;
  • and finally about another 3 miles of climbing to the summit.

Those three miles started on a gentle wooded slope beside “Association Creek”, or what was more fun, jumping from boulder to boulder in the creek itself.  The creek bed gradually became steeper and then petered out where the gully turned into an even steeper scree slope.  There I recall looking down on eagles which became truly golden by reflecting sunlight with their backs while circling their nest on the vertical bank of the gully below.  (One of those banks could conceivable be where the accident took place)

When we reached the col between the summit of “our Association” on the right and the headdress of the Sleeping Indian on the left, the long hard-packed slope to the summit became a welcome relief.

The lower slope, beside “Association Creek” was, to the best of my recollection, heavily wooded and strewn with deadfall, leading us to travel up the creek itself.  Above this was a steeper, boulder-strewn part of the climb leading to an even steeper loose scree slope to the col .  This area certainly corresponds with the description of the part of the trail said to be rocky and impassable to horses.  Deadfall was present at the lower levels, but not any that was charred from fire.

I recall, and the map verifies, that the east face, below the summit does offer places where the 30 ft fall could easily have occurred.  This could not have been the case on “our End Mt.” as that summit is ringed by gentle slopes.

Nevertheless, none of this, other than the place where we saw the eagles’ nest, can account for the part of the story that says Kutschera had to haul Cooper back up 1,000 or 1150 ft to the summit!   All that I can think of that could account for that situation would be if Cooper and Kansen had mistakenly climbed down that vertical distance on the wrong route before the 30 ft. fall occurred.  That would require Kutschera get the injured Cooper back up another 1,000 odd ft. before descending on the correct route.   This kind of error could, of course have happened on either peak!

It has puzzled me for some time that we we used such a circuitous route to reach Association Base Camp.  We crossed two strenuous up and downhill grades when a very gradual grade was available by just going up Oldfort Creek!  Since I never used the Oldfort route other than to travel to Shangri la, and to Broken Leg Lake, I would be grateful if someone who has, could shed light on why someone like Moses Jimmy-John who travelled our circuitous route, would ride his horse up and along the “goat trail” and not have instead advised and led the rescue party along the route up Oldfort Creek?

I do understand why we did not avoid climbing up and around the Hog’s Back to access Loggers Camp, and instead, travel up Logger’s Creek from Shangri la.  This route remained Uncleared until some time in the late 50’s or early 60’s when a seismic crew chewed its way up that creek to open an alternate trail to Loggers.  (I would appreciate hearing the correct date and what kind of a trail they left?).  However, in 1945, a hardy group from Hector did bushwhack down Loggers Creek to establish Shangri-la and put into use the trail up Oldfort Creek.

What is left unexplained is how it would take 525 feet of rope for one man to get Cooper back to the top after a 30 foot fall?  In those days all they used was hemp rope and ice axes–not direct aid!

I look forward to reading more comments and memories.  In particular, I would like to know where the ice cave were (I never could find them and suspect that they are melted now).

PS. No, I never met Humphrey Cooper.  He would have been 19 years older than me. He seems to have “dropped out of sight” again before my time began in ’45.”

Gary Luthy replies….

“Wow Bill…  What a great response and some great memories!

I remember seeing the clipping you refer to in an old box at the Y.  I actually had this box at home for a few months when I was doing something for Golden Teepee around 1968. Regret ably, I was too responsible and returned the stuff to Terry Patterson at the Y office, whereupon it got lost or tossed when the residence annex was torn down and the health club facility built around that time.

CCH Hiking Area

The fact that Hector hikes previously accessed the upper Oldfort (Bowfort) creek via Loggers is a stunning revelation.  It never occurred to any of us latter day folks that trips wouldn’t come directly up the creek from the Oldfort trail above Moses’  I suppose it makes sense if there was no useful trail alongside the portion of the creek above the big waterfall upstream from Moses’ cabin. The trail that we used in the 60’s and 70’s was high above the creek and traversed the fairly steep foothill on the east side. Perhaps this had not yet been fully developed in 1937 or perhaps the Stonies did not want Hector groups using that route.  And, I would guess the Stonies, if they wanted to access the upper Oldfort Creek Drainage might also access it by travelling west from Broken Leg Lake down the intermittent creek from Broken Leg to Oldfort stream bed.  I believe that this, in fact, was the route taken by the bulldozer which built a rough fireroad in 1961 or 1962.

As you say, when you start with Loggers as the base camp mentioned and then add in the trip around “our End Mtn” on the goat trail and then up Oldfort to Association Creek the estimated distances, treachery of the travel etc. begins to make more sense.   Also, the reference to the accident side being north of camp make more sense. While not directly north, it is more north than if it were in the Loggers valley.  And it would be almost due north from Loggers.

As to why Moses did not suggest a more direct route, I guess there could be a few explanations.  1. He didn’t actually know where the accident site was located until he got there.  2. A direct route up Oldfort didn’t yet exist. 3. the route via Broken Leg etc. wasn’t any easier or 4. Pack Horse rental and guide fees were based on distance and difficulty of travel.

By way of further interest if you refer to current google maps you will note that End Mountain Label has now been moved over to the east and is located where you show “Our Association MT” AND  “Association Peak” is shown just south of End. I.e. Ones perspective of where End Mountain is located will depend on what era is referred to.  However, the current labeling DOES make it the furthest east peak!

Based on your analysis I would agree that rescue probably took place somewhere in the Association area, probably in an area accessed via “Association Creek”. There is not a lot of reference in the story but it appears that a Hector camper group accompanied Cooper and Kansen for part of the trip but that they separated during the trip “up to the mountains”. Cooper and Kansen might have been trying to climb the traditional route (as you describe) to Association and gotten lost or perhaps they were exploring the area and trying to  get to End Mountain (wherever it was on that day) and had descended somewhat on the North side (into the Ghost Watershed) and this is the reason Cooper had to be brought up the mountain before he could be brought down.

Further to your comment about the “Ice Caves” I did visit these on a couple of occasions.  They were located at the very head of Oldfort Creek.  The caves were formed under the avalanche snow under the steep head walls of the creek.I would guess that their size and even their existence in a particular year was dependant upon snowfall and seasonal weather conditions. I believe I heard that there might have been a similar situation at the headwaters of Loggers Creek but I never saw same.

With regard to Loggers Creek.  I remember as an Intermediate Camper in 1960 boulder hopping part way up the creek from Shanga-la.  (at the confluence of Loggers and Oldfort) We didn’t get to Loggers Campsite but probably ascended a mile or so. There was no trail along Loggers Creek at that point. I think a fireroad or survey road was bulldozed in from the Broken Leg area around 1961 or or 1962. This crossed Oldfort just above Shangr-la and continued a fair distance up Loggers Creek, well past the campsite. It was a very rough road but did make it possible to hike a lower route between Loggers and Shangr-la campsites.  FYI, I don’t recall Hector using this road very much.  Groups either went to Loggers via the hogsback or to the campsites on Oldfort using the trail above Oldfort Creek. I’m not sure if this road still exists…. it may be grown over by now,

Bulldozed at the same time, another branch of the fireroad headed up the east side of Old Fort Creek from Shangr-la.  In 1962 our Pit Hike went to Association 1 (A1) campsite to clean it up from all the trees etc that had been knocked over by the dozer as it pushed up the creek.  The road crossed to west side of Oldfort right at A1 and then stopped at some point before it reached the Endsville Campsite.  Note: I believe the hiking trail to A1 and A2 etc originally crossed to the west side of Oldfort just above Shangr-la and then continued on past the “Ink Pots” a series of artesian pools which were reputed to have the best water on the trail.  The location of these pools was lost to later campers and staff as the new fireroad became the defacto route up Oldfort between Shangra-la and A1.”

“Association” Mountain (Sleeping Indian to left) as seen from waterfront at Camp Chief Hector on Bowfort Lake (circa 1970)


Bill Halliday responds….

Thanks, Gary. Good to know the location of the Ice Caves.  When I reviewed the map (which I didn’t have in ’51, when I went looking for the them and ended up continuing on to make my first ascent of Association, just to make the trip worthwhile) I suspected that they would have to be in a spot with steep slopes and shade from the sun.  That little pocket is the ideal place!

Thanks for the picture of Association.  Looking at it, I can see that you are quite right in noting “Association Peak” as you did.  It must be as you marked it, i.e.at the top of the triangle.  The one I marked as “our Association” fit the ten mile distance better, but I can now see that it is not what we climbed.  I guess the higher, more northern peak looks lower from camp because it is further away.

Sixty one, the year before the clean-up that you mentioned, must be when the bulldozer went in.  I say that because I recall our first trips returning with the ugly news–and I wasn’t there in sixty two.

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