Wednesday, 30 December 2015
Impressions of Mount Robson
By W. Lacey Amy
From The Canadian Magazine, March 1913. Digitized by Doug Frizzle, Dec. 2015.
Mount Robson, said to be the highest peak yet discovered in the Canadian Rockies, is perhaps the most talked of mountain in
at the present time, and withal one of the least known. Until the new
transcontinental railway, the Grand Trunk Pacific came within sight of it
during last summer this spectacular peak was almost a myth to the general
public. Even yet only about a score
have been in at its base, and but one
expedition of two men has
managed to reach its cloud-capped peak. From a distance of
ten miles it overlooks the new
railway through the Yellowhead Pass, and
those few who have explored around its base declare that it is the
centre of a new world of wonders. Regarding it as a mountain
of impressions, Mr. Amy has
endeavoured to present its effect upon him.—Editor America
The towering mass of rock and snow and ice is a living personality. It is a king, an emperor, a god. Its natural state is dignified privacy. Its moments of unveiling are as the thriceloved smiles of kindly regal grace.
Our special train of government and railway officials was creeping slowly down the steep grade of the Fraser canyon on the way to a huge engineering difficulty in the
. The warning had
been given out by the superintendent that just ahead of us, around a mountain
spur that pushed to the edge of the river, Mount Robson would come into view,
and every face was turned towards the monster of the Tete Jaune
No faster than a man’s walk, we gingerly crawled down the mountain rails of
recent construction, the rushing Fraser hundreds of feet below, and mountains
crowding the car windows on the other side. Yellowhead Pass.
It was too slow a pace for approach to the storied mountain, and the minutes passed wearily. The superintendent came from his private compartment and we complained of the delay in
Mount Robson’s appearance. The
official glanced through the window for a landmark. Then he leaned in close to
the glass and looked up, far up, and pointed. “There,” he said. And the tension
of the moment threw into the voice of this workaday man the thrill of a dramatic
Up higher we looked, higher and higher. There, far above where any eye in the car had been searching gleamed dimly a whiteness of serrated shades, a patch of dreamy solidity in a garment of fleecy clouds. Over the very car top it seemed to hang, so high was it; and yet to that peak was ten miles of air line.
In its frame of clouds it was like the pictured Yuletide dream of a hungry child. It was an intangible, implacable, ununderstandable spot in the heavens—something created for the eye of faith alone, a filmy revelation of promise and conviction, a lowering from Heaven of a touch of unknown glories.
Its effect on the group of watchers was but a sigh—the sincerest homage in man’s vocabulary. Even
Mount Robson smiled. The clouds began to roll slowly
aside, or rather to melt, as if the mountain had withdrawn them within itself
as too intimate for dispersion.
The spot of whiteness enlarged into less of vapour and more of gleam. The bright sunlight in which we bathed swung up and softly for a moment touched the peak. Then the mountain recovered its head but in acknowledgment of reverence pushed the lower clouds down until a black ridge came through the snow; then another and another, until in hard lines and spots of gray rock and black shadow the lower reaches came to view.
But always around the peak floated that vapour.
Mount Robson was
not prepared to come wholly forth. Its face was too much glory for a first
view. Men have waited weeks for a glimpse of its peak and been forced to leave
unsatisfied. Humble admirers have travelled for months for Mount
Robson alone, and the peak has rebuked their worship by holding
itself secluded. But one Power can melt those clouds—and
man never forgets it in sight of the king of the Pass.
Gradually the train swung into line with the
Grand Forks valley that
leads to the very base of Mount Robson, and
for miles we gazed back the rift over the tree tops to the rugged sides and
shoulders that opened up in succession. The train stopped where a mountain
stream had foiled the best efforts of the engineers; but only three men left
the car to consider the problem.
One thought had come into mind at the moment the snowclad peak had peeped through the clouds. Awe was there—scorn for the puny things of men. And with it came almost a blush for the two men who dared to breast that height. Kinney shows to the world an intrepid mountain climber, a man of iron nerve and muscle and daring. But that first thrill of awe drove away even respect for the man who would break through those clouds, drive his hob nails into that virgin snow, glory in violating the mountain holy of holies. It was temerity, not bravery.
At Tete Jaune we dropped the engineers; and in the evening the car, with but five aboard climbed the- grade for the little switch in the mountains where it would lie all night. It was a clear bright evening, as clear as only mountain air ean be, and on the platform of the car backing shakily upward we anxiously awaited
Mount Robson’s mood.
Under any condition
Mount Robson is grand. But there is nothing in man’s
experience to prepare him for what broke forth around the curve as the car
swung into line with the
valley. For once, the only time in an extended visit, the mountain stood forth
clear to the last inch of its peak. And then was visible the reason for its
position among mountains. Grand Forks
Veiled, it is the symbol of dignity and distinction. Awe and reverence and silent applause are its by right divine. Unclouded and clear there is almost the same grandeur; but in the watcher there is little awe, little humility. Instead of a sigh,, there breaks forth an exclammation of praise and wonder. The giant is still dignified, cold, superior; but it is the borrowed dignity of a May Queen, not of a god; the superiority of a cabinet minister, not of a king.
In the picture
Mount Robson was a piece by itself. The other mountains
shrank aside to leave it the centre of the stage. The highest peaks around
were bare of snow, but Mount Robson was white
to the waist. Down its gleaming sides splashed three glaciers, solid lines of
white, ending in glistening bulbs that tried to reach out to the valley at its
feet. The sun threw into relief every hollow and line in its craggy side. As
reverence lessened the mountain glowed and obtruded like a crude splotch in a
Man may push his way over the pathless wilds to the mountain’s foot, and there stand beneath a clifflike side that climbs thousands of feet straight above one’s head. He may listen in there to the roar of a thousand avalanches where not even a tremble is seen. In cloud and sunlight, in snow and rain, in daylight and moonlight he may wait and watch for
Mount Robson’s varying
moods. But never will leave him the memory of that feeling of respect and
humility that surged over him as his eyes went up and up from the car window to
where there was thought of nothing but sky and Heaven.
- ► 2016 (74)
- Impressions of Mount Robson
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- The Life and Opinions of William Lacey Amy
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.