Tag Archives: Garibaldi Park

Lodges of Garibaldi

Hearing the name Alpine Lodge, many people may assume it refers to a lodge located in the alpine or in the neighbourhood of Alpine Meadows.  Alpine Lodge, however, is actually one of the three lodges we have information about that were located around the Garibaldi Townsite.

The Garibaldi Townsite and several other small communities formed in the Cheakamus Valley near Daisy Lake around the Garibaldi Station of the PGE Railway that opened in 1914.  Much of the information the museum has on the area has been provided by Betty Forbes who, along with Ian Barnet, gathered interviews and other documents to put together what Betty called “a record of the history for generations to come.”

Betty (seated on suitcase) and Doug Forbes (third from right) wait for the train at Garibaldi Station with three other couples. The pair visited Alpine Lodge on their honeymoon in 1945. Forbes Collection.

The first lodge, Garibaldi Lodge, was built by Tom Nye in 1014 on the east side of the Cheakamus River.  Like Rainbow Lodge, it included a post office and a store.  The lodge was operated by Tom Nye and his family until the late 1930s.  Garibaldi Lodge was largely inactive during the Second World War until it was reopened by Bill Howard and his father in 1946.  According to Bill, one of the more popular trips they offered was up to Black Tusk by horseback.  As he recalled, “Very few ever hiked it – very few of our guests anyway.  It was a 12-mile (9km) trail that used to go way out by old Daisy Lake.  It took about four hours on horseback to get to the top.”  Often these excursions would be camping trips, with pack horses carrying supplies to stay overnight.

The Howards operated Garibaldi Lodge for only two years before selling to the Walshes in 1946, who later sold the lodge to Pat Crean and Ian Barnbet in 1970.  They winterized the lodge to serve the growing number of skiers heading to Whistler Mountain.

Members of the “Alive Club” outside Alpine Lodge in 1979. Forbes Collection.

Alpine Lodge, further along the Cheakamus River, was built by the Cranes in 1922.  A store was later added in 1926 and a post office.  Alpine Lodge was operated by members of the Crane family through the 1940s.  In 1970 it was bought by Doug and Diane McDonald and, like Garibaldi Lodge, was winterized.  Both lodges appear in hotel directories in publications such as Garibaldi’s Whistler News from the 1970s.

A third lodge, Lake Lucille Lodge, did not make it the 1970s.  Built by Shorty Knight in 1929 and close to the lake, it was very popular for fishing.  The lodge went through various owners before it was bought by BC Electric in 1957 and used as a construction camp during the building of the Daisy Lake Dam.  The lodge was burnt down in 1959 after construction of the dam was completed.

Tongue in cheek signs at Garibaldi – Alpine Lodge signs Northbound (l) and Southbound (r).  Whistler Question Collection.

Both Garibaldi and Alpine Lodges were still operating in 1980 when the provincial government issued an Order-in-Council declaring Garibaldi Townsite unsafe due to the instability of the Barrier, a naturally formed lava dam retaining the Garibaldi Lake system.

Despite opposition from the residents, the townsite, which had grown considerably by this time, was to be emptied.  One of the last community gatherings was held at Alpine Lodge.  As Betty Forbes recalled, “The McDonalds at Alpine Lodge opened their whole lobby, kitchen, and dining to the residents of Garibaldi for a pot-luck supper…  It was rather lake a wake, but it was a happy wake.”

Garibaldi Lodge was sold to the government in 1982 and most of the structures were destroyed (one cabin was moved to Pinecrest).  Alpine Lodge followed the same fate in 1986.

While the museum has transcripts of oral-history interviews and various photos, it is difficult to create a cohesive history of Garibaldi.  Recently, however, Victoria Crompton took over the project from Betty Forbes and Ian Barnet and has now published a book, Garibaldi Townsite: Life & Times, for those interested in learning more about the area.

Advertisements

Mountain Profile: The Table

Of all the glorious mountains the surround Whistler, The Table has got to be one of the most unique.

pacific.jpg

Approaching the Table in a helicopter with Pacific Ski Air, circa 1970. Cliff Jennings Photo

This curious flat-topped mountain near Garibaldi Lake was formed when a volcanic eruption burst up through a massive glacier, roughly 10-15,000 years ago. The fast-melting ice kept the lava flow contained on the sides and forced it to cool off and solidify quickly, while the pull of gravity caused the nearly perfect flat top.

Scientists have been able to date it to quite recently since there are no signs of glacial erosion along the sides or base. This indicates that the initial eruption and formation occurred after the great Holocene ice sheets were in retreat, but obviously before they were completely gone, roughly 10-12,000 years ago.

In geological terms, a flat-topped volcano formed through this spectacular interaction between fire and ice is called a tuya. These are extremely rare, being found in Antarctica, Iceland, Siberia, Coastal BC, the Oregon Cascades, and not much else.

bury.jpg

As seen from Panorama Ridge during the 1939 George Bury ski expedition.

The Table sits within the midst of a highly active and scenic volcanic setting, with the Black Tusk, Cinder Cone, Mount Price, Mount Garibaldi, The Barrier, and several other nearby volcanic features. As a whole this area is called the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt, which is considered to mark the northern terminus of the Cascade Volcanoes that follow the Pacific Coast down to northern California.

First climbed by BC Mountaineering Club member Tom Fyles in 1916, The Table’s steep, rotten flanks repel all but the boldest climbers. It is rarely repeated, and prospective climbers are strongly dissuaded from attempting.

mount.jpg

The Table’s distinct flat top can be seen silhouetted in front of Mount Garibaldi.

No, there are no known ski descents. Maybe a local BASE jumper or speed-flyer would like to give it a shot? After all you need to get on top is shoot a rock video.

With such a rare and distinct shape, it’s not surprising that this mountain has made a few appearances in pop culture. The Table served as the world’s most over-sized and epic stage for Canadian rockers Glass Tiger in their 1986 video “I Will Be There.” Make sure to keep watching for the incredible guitar solo on the Table’s edge.

Also, in the sci-fi film Stargate: The Ark of Truth, The Table was used as some sort of underground spaceship base/hangar. We’re not really sure because we haven’t actually watched the film.

Jump ahead to 47:30 for a few more shots of a wild man from the future (past?) trekking around Garibaldi PArk. Presumably the giant flat zone is where The Table used to be.

 

Trick Question: Ever been to Red Mountain?

Most would agree that the physical landscape has played as much a role in our region’s history as the people, so we figured we’d give Mother Nature her due by profiling some of the amazing natural features and landmarks surrounding Whistler.

As with any history, it’s easiest to start at the beginning, so it only makes sense to go way back and profile the oldest thing in Whistler, Fissile Mountain.

Beginning over 200 million years ago sediment deposited in a large basin that was forming between the west coast of North America and smaller tectonic plates incoming from the Pacific. The ensuing tectonic clash created the Coast Mountains and left much of the ancient sediment basin covered with younger rock.

Fissile Mountain is our region’s notable exception, as it’s steep slopes of rotten shale and sandstone are actually a persistent exposure of this ancient sedimentary rock. For tens of millions of years now, Fissile has weathered stoically all the while witnessing the creation and growth of surrounding, much younger peaks.

Fissile Mountain is full of character. This rock face can be found between the Banana Couloir and the Northwest Face.

Undoubtedly local First Nations have their own set of stories from millennia of hunting goats, climbing around, or simply admiring the striking peak from a distance. Fissile’s first modern ascent is unrecorded, and was likely achieved by prospectors around the turn of the twentieth century. The Singing Pass area between Fissile and Whistler saw a fair bit of mining activity at the time, and for decades an old prospecting hut doubled as a popular hiking destination for residents and visitors to Alta Lake. Back then, however, there was no Fissile, it being known instead as “Red Mountain.”

Myrtle Philip takes in the sublime setting at “Red Mountain,” 1928. William “Mac” MacDermott photo.

For a long time we weren’t sure whether “Red Mountain” was today’s Fissile or it’s neighbour Overlord, both are in the same general area and composed of rotten, rust-coloured rock, but one of Neal Carter’s old climbing photos fully convinced us it was Fissile.

Shown below, the annotations on the backside of this 1923 Neal Carter photograph, which looks south from the near the summit of Wedge Mountain, clearly identified Fissile (only the top of which is visible) as “Red Mountain” while identifying Overlord as well. Note how the foreground peaks and glaciers (the Blackcomb backcountry, including Mount Pattison, Mount Trorey, and Mount Decker) are unidentified because at this time they were still unclimbed and unnamed.

Neal Carter’s 1923 photograph. The digital scan of the backside of the print has been reversed. Carter actually wrote the mountain annotations backwards. If you hold the original print up to a light, they can be seen through the image, appearing the right way around, pointing to their respective peaks. All the other writing (that which appears backwards here) doesn’t really show through the darker parts of the image.  “C.T.T.” (backwards) refers to Charles T. Townsend, Carter’s climbing partner who is visible in the right-hand foreground.

Red Mountain received its current name in 1965, based on a suggestion from the Fitzsimmons Names Committee, which consisted of local mountain-lover Karl Ricker, and interestingly enough, Neal Carter. “Fissile” is an adjective used by geologists for rocks that split easily, which will make sense to anyone who has ever slipped and skidded up (or down!) the loose, sharp rocks which cover Fissile’s flanks.

In 1968, the British Columbia Mountaineering Club, led by local climbing veteran Werner Himmelsbach, built a small backcountry hut at the base of Fissile beside Russett Lake. Now known as the Himmelsbach Hut and administered by BC Parks, the compact, sturdy, and easy-assembly Gothic Arch design has been replicated with several other backcountry huts throughout the Coast Mountains. In ensuing years the area grew in renown as a summer hiking and climbing area (the rotten rock isn’t pleasant to climb, but the north-facing snow and ice routes stay in great shape all summer long).

With the rapid growth of Whistler Mountain, and major advancements in ski technique and equipment, it wasn’t long before skiers followed suit. Many pioneers have been forgotten with the passage of time, but John Baldwin’s “Whistler Backcountry” map credits Jim Vaillancourt with the Saddle Chute’s first descent way back in 1980, and the imposing Northeast Face route was first skied by the prolific skiing/climbing duo of Jia Condon and Rich Prohaska in 1990.

As a result the entire north side of Fissile Mountain has become an absolute classic among steep-ski enthusiasts, with close to a dozen named runs. These days it’s a genuine race across the Musical Bumps to get there first when in prime condition. (Don’t be fooled though, folks. This is serious mountain terrain that deserves caution and respect.)

This is why Fissile is such a favourite among backcountry skiers.

Fissile is undoubtedly one of Whistler’s most iconic peaks. Even if you’ve never skied or climbed its flanks it has probably left an impression on you, as the jagged pyramid is plainly visible from all over the ski resort.

Fissile dominates the view from many points within Whistler-Blackcomb, including here at the top of the old Orange Chair. George Benjamin photo.

It’s visual impact is so strong that when Eldon Beck first began conceiving the layout for Whistler Village in the late 1970s, his starting point was the Village Gate entrance, which he designed specifically so that Fissile would be visible to greet incoming tourists. On one of Beck’s original drawings held in our archives, he even labelled “an entrance of importance with a view of Mt. Fissel [sic].” (For more on the design of Whistler Village, check this post.) Inspired viewscapes such as this have shaped the experiences of countless visitors to Whistler over the years, and convinced more than a few of us to stay.

How about you? Do you have any interesting Fissile stories? What is your favourite local peak?

Frontier Fish

When  Vancouver-based mountaineers first began exploring around and beyond Mount Garibaldi in the early 1900s, they encountered vast mountainscapes that soon became the focal point of their clubs’ activities. Beyond the allure of the regions countless mountaineering challenges, these early visitors were equally enthralled with the overwhelming beauty of what they took to be a pristine wilderness.

In some regards the Garibaldi landscape was too pure. For example, despite providing some quality habitat, Garibaldi Lake was completely devoid of fish. Garibaldi Lake was formed relatively recently (geologically speaking) when a massive lava flow from Mount Garibaldi slammed into a glacier and was frozen in its tracks, leaving behind what is now known simply as The Barrier.

This vertical wall blocked off an ancient valley that subsequently filled with water to form Garibaldi Lake. Since the lake’s outlet flows underground through The Barrier to become Rubble Creek (named after the frequent landslides falling from the Barrier’s unstable volcanic rock), no fish population was ever able to colonize Garibaldi’s glacial-fed waters.

And so, despite the celebrated “purity” of Garibaldi’s pristine alpine expanses, its earliest proponents foresaw the district’s potential as a tourism destination and hoped to develop the landscape in that manner. From the beginning they set about building trails and identifying the best  sites to hold summer camps (Paul Ridge, Black Tusk Meadows, Singing Pass, etc). A few years later when these mountaineers began advocating for the creation for a provincial park to preserve the Garibaldi wilderness (mainly from logging and other industrial activities), plans for the development of alpine hotels and a road through the park were key elements of their campaigning.

While the Great Depression and Provincial-Federal government squabbling prevented these more ambitious developments from coming to pass (thankfully, most would argue today), other more modest environmental modifications were pursued.

In 1928, for example, 2 years after Garibaldi Provincial Park was established, 5,000 Kamloops Trout eggs from the federal hatchery at Pemberton were planted in a promising tributary stream of  Garibaldi Lake (Mimulus Creek), and an additional 12,500 were placed there again the next year.

“Kamloops Trout” were a popular game-stocking fish because of its size and strong fight that was believed at the time to be a distinct species. It is now considered a sub-species of Rainbow whose excessive size was probably caused at least as much by environmental factors as it was genetics. The widespread stocking of the Kamloops Trout throughout BC has, according to some fish researchers, led to a substantial decrease in the genetic diversity of the province’s rainbow trout population.

According to the BC Ministry of Environment’s fish stocking database, there has been no further stocking at Garibaldi Lake since 1929. And none further was needed.

When some recreational anglers reported the successful catch of 3 mature trout in 1933, 4 years after the last stocking, the Vancouver Province was ready to deem Garibaldi Lake the second successful stocking of a barren lake in British Columbia. (Does anyone know the first? We don’t.)

Even by 1930, the fish seem to have flourished. In that year the Vancouver Province (a zealous booster of Garibaldi Park throughout this period), joked that the fish should be renamed “Pontoon Trout” since they resembled the pontoons of a  float-plane which had ushered one of their journalists to the lake to write a feature article.

Scientifically, the Garibaldi experiment was a resounding success. The trout population continues to thrive in Garibaldi without further support through stocking.

Garibaldi continues to offer decent, if not outstanding fishing, but angling has never become one of the park’s major attractions. However, a friend of mine did catch what he claims was the “skinniest trout ever”: 17 inches long but “thin as a broom-handle.” A product of the marginal alpine environment, isolated genetic population, or simply an aberration? (Any icthyologists in the house?) In any case, freak fish or not, for enduring and thriving amongst Garibaldi’s once-barren waters, these trout deserve recognition as some of our region’s hardiest and most successful pioneers.

Fishing on Garibaldi Lake, opposite The Table. Circa 1960s. Photo by Cliff Fenner.

***

Earlier this summer Pique Newsmagazine published an interesting feature on the history of fish and fishing in the Whistler region entitled “The Ultimate Whistler Fish Story”. Check it here .