By Lloyd Jeck
In 1906 the Mountaineers group came into being in the state of Washington, USA. It is still an active group boasting 15,000 + members, with the largest branch being in Seattle. In 1927 this group of outdoor enthusiasts arranged an extensive exploration of the Mount Robson area in B.C. They chose Dennison & Brittain at Mount Robson as their hosting outfitters.
Eighty-five Mountaineers signed up for this Canadian adventure. The crowd was comprised of representatives from environmentally oriented disciplines, including botany, geology, glaciology, alpinists, and others, as well as photographers. On Saturday, July 23, 1927, at 5 a.m., they boarded a Seattle train for the trip to New Westminster. At this BC point they had reservations to board the CNR Continental Limited, which carried them to the tiny Robson station that same evening. Staff from the hosting outfitter met the Mountaineers and escorted them the 1.3 mile to the ranch headquarters. George and Flora Dennison welcomed the huge crowd with “a hot supper, and complete encampment consisting of teepees and bough beds,” plus their first view of Mount Robson.
They began their trek to Berg and Adolphus Lakes early Monday morning. The Mountaineers would be walking the entire distance. Ranch hands, using horses, packed the necessary support equipment, including the teepees, to Adolphus Lake that day. For the trekkers, “it will be necessary for the party to establish camp that night under its own shelter.” This overnight camp was a short distance beyond Kinney Lake “on the shores of a small nameless lake, beautifully situated, and ideal for swimming.” Around the campfire that evening, there was “the proper initiating of a series of typical Mountaineer evening programs.” A small alpinist group had started the day early and succeeded in establishing an “advance base of supplies at seven thousand feet on Mount Robson,” with the intention to undergo an attempt on the summit the next day. Unfortunately, this small group was not successful in reaching the summit from this point.
On Tuesday morning, the large party continued their walk to Adolphus Lake, taking note of the waterfalls, including the majestic Emperor Falls, along the way. The trekkers also made passing reference of the “Hanging Trail.” and this must surely have been the wooden trestle built by Curly (Donald) Philips in 1913. Later that day they arrived at the permanent camp which Mr. Dennison and his packers had set up for them at Adolphus Lake. This location will be their home for the next eight days.
Throughout their time spent at this high-altitude site, the Mountaineers formed smaller groups which would allow exploration, in specific areas, to match up with the variety of interests among them. On one day, a group numbering fifty plus, were successful in summiting Mumm Peak, elevation 2,964 m (9,724 ft). Saddle horses and guides were available for the guests to explore Moose Pass, where the river of that name begins its course westward to flow into the Fraser River east of Moose Lake.
Photos supplied with this story will enlighten the reader a bit further as to the people and their activities. When one thinks about Dennison’s life before emigrating to Canada, it is puzzling to understand what prompted him to become a horse packer in a topography as rough as the Canadian Rockies. We can assume that he was an adaptive person under the tutelage of Jack Brewster. Jack had an excellent reputation in that line of work.
It is time now to close the gate on this story with a pat-on-the-back to each of the three main characters and say – Well Done Folks. Below is the date each of the trio passed through to the other side of the gate.
George Middleton Dennison: d. 21 January 1943, Mount Robson, British Columbia.
Harold Brittain: d. 29 June 1943, Moose River, British Columbia.
Flora Elizabeth Dennison nee MacLaurin: d. 6 March 1951 Surrey, British Columbia.
I am indebted to the late Doris Sundling, one of the Mountaineers, for her dedicated recording of trip events in words and photographs and assembling her gatherings into the Album #87. The University of Washington Libraries Special Collections now stores this album in Seattle.
It is through a set of unusual circumstances that I was able to track this Dennison/Brittain detail down. We must go back to the 1990s when my wife and I lived in Vanderhoof, BC. We became good friends with a wonderful lady named Lil who was older and a remarkably interesting person. Lil’s older sister Margaret, in late 1920s-early 1930s, had taught school in South Croydon and Lee School, in the Dunster, BC area. While teaching in the Robson Valley, Margaret obviously enjoyed the outdoors and photography. She assembled an album of old photos in which there were pictures of the Mount Robson area, including the photo of the three individuals standing on the wood deck at Mount Robson station. Lil came into possession of this album and, knowing my connection to that area, gave me the album in 1997. I used the photo of the three mountaineers, including Doris Sundling, to begin my search for details. People at the University of Washington have been immensely helpful, especially Susan M. Fitch and Ruba Sadi. I also acknowledge assistance provided by my capable researcher daughter, Sheila Jeck.