Early Hikers to Mount Robson Provincial Park

Leonard Lea Frazer

Laying the groundwork for the Berg Lake Trail was started, in part, to accommodate the need to find a shorter route to access Mount Robson for climbers that yearned to conquer the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. The other part was for the enjoyment and recreation of visitors to the newly designated Mount Robson Provincial Park (1913).

The new Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was destined to bring the first hikers near to the trailhead of the forest path to Kinney Lake and beyond. Reverend George Kinney was hired by the G.T.P. to promote passenger travel on the new railway after he and Donald “Curly” Phillips had scaled Robson in 1909. George Kinney gave lectures on his exploits on the mountain and at the same time explaining the benefits of train travel. Prior to the arrival of the new railway through the Yellowhead Pass, mountain climbers hiked into the backside of Robson from Jasper National Park, a journey that involved several months time for a return trip.

In 1913 when Conrad Kain, Albert McCarthy and William Foster were successful in reaching the actual summit of Mount Robson (passing a cairn left by Kinney in 1909), it was determined that Kinney and Phillips had not reached the top. Rev. Kinney was stripped of his First Ascent status. However, the seeds of adventure had been planted and hikers would soon appear in the Park intrigued by the stories they’d heard.

Also, in 1913 the Women’s Press Association of Canada helped to promote visitation to the park. From their Women Writer’s Convention in Edmonton, Alberta, female members of the press rode the train out west to the end of the line (Tete Jaune Cache). One of their stops along the way was Mt. Robson Station. The women, over 100 strong, represented newspapers from across Canada and, after their historic rail journey, they proceeded to promote Mt. Robson Provincial Park and other nature spots along the route from Edmonton to Tete Jaune.

Work on the Berg Lake Trail, following the route past Kinney Lake and including the wooden “Flying Trestle” at White Falls, was completed by Curly Phillips and Walter Cochrane from 1912 - 1913. Over the years the trails to Kinney and Berg Lake have been improved and upgraded. During the 70s Youth Work Crews laboured on the trails for several summers, and from 1980 - 1990 hundreds of McBride, Valemount and Prince George student hikers participated in building sections of rock retaining walls supervised by Backcountry Rangers stationed at Berg Lake, further improving the route. The Provincial Park Rangers have been responsible for repairing and maintaining sections of the trail over the years.

Presented here in photographs, courtesy of Betty and Merle Wiekstrand of Blind Bay, BC, are intimate glimpses of a church group from Edmonton who, in August of 1915, rode the train from Alberta all the way to Mount Robson Station and continued, with the aid of pack-horses, to visit the backcountry in the park. The St. Paul’s Club of Edmonton had the “Flying Trestle” to aid them on the long haul up Emperor Hill, but also used ladders and ropes to scale rocky slopes, log jams and fast moving streams. They set up camp and enjoyed simple camp life, day hikes and berry picking. This group was not the first to hike in the park, but certainly the first serious campers of the “Tourist” category.  Theyspent seventeen days total, camping out. Mount Robson Provincial Park continues to welcome visitors to this day.

Early Hikers to Mount Robson Provincial Park
Early Hikers to Mount Robson Provincial Park

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Early Hikers to Mount Robson Provincial Park

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Early Hikers to Mount Robson Provincial Park

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Early Hikers to Mount Robson Provincial Park

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Early Hikers to Mount Robson Provincial Park

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Early Hikers to Mount Robson Provincial Park

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Early Hikers to Mount Robson Provincial Park

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Early Hikers to Mount Robson Provincial Park

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Early Hikers to Mount Robson Provincial Park

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