AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Correspondence – The Cariboo Range

The Editor,

American Alpine Journal.

Dear Sir:

Believing it to be the policy of the American Alpine Journal to seek for accuracy in all matters concerning the mountains, I am enclosing a short article touching on the Cariboo Range, and trust that you will extend to me the courtesy of publishing it in your forthcoming issue.

Yours very truly,

Don Munday.

The account of R. T. Zillmer’s enterprising trip to headwaters of North Thompson River (American Alpine Journal, 1940), unfortunately helps perpetuate a mistaken notion of the extent of explorations in the Cariboo Range by Canadian Pacific Railway surveyors; some of his geographic observations also invite comment.

Sir Sandford Fleming, referring to the Cariboo Range, said, “So far as known, every depression has been examined, and every indentation explored, without success” (in seeking for a practicable pass westward). (C. P. R. Report, 1877, p. 31.)

All climbing articles so far have ignored material plainly indexed in “The Royal Commission Report, 1882, Evidence.” Roderick McClennan said the duties of one of his subordinates, Green, who was stationed at Cranberry Lake, were “to examine the country thoroughly around that region and explore both north and west, particularly with a view of finding a valley or pass through into the Cariboo country westward … they tried by several valleys for about twenty to twenty-five miles westerly…” McClennan was explaining his evidence with a map, so did not always name streams, but of what is now known as Raush River he said “They went up that stream some thirty miles… Having crossed the crest of the range they went down that river some distance.” Evidently down Azure River. (Royal Commission Report, 1882, Evidence, pp. 1520-1533.)

In the light of this knowledge it becomes reasonable to conclude that E. W. Jarvis in 1874 sought a pass farther S. when “the lowest place that could be found on this route was an immense glacier 7,000 feet above sea level.” Walter Moberly had already explored up Canoe River and for an unstated distance up the North Thompson. Moberly and Jarvis both would be in a position to know results of Green and Mahood’s explorations from Castle River all along the range to Canoe River, so it is unlikely either Jarvis or Moberly gave any attention to the Thompson-Azure- Raush pass with its prohibitive gradients in the heads of all three valleys. As the Blue River Pass, only 3800 ft., was discarded, it would be senseless to add greatly to the mileage by using what

Zillmer praises as “an easily found, non-glacial, under-timberline pass,” 5250 ft. high according to his figures, but 6100 ft. according to the Canadian Geological Survey Report, Part A, 1927, pp. 42-46, and 1929, pp. 274-296. Zillmer’s map does not agree altogether with the map in the 1929 report.

It will thus be seen that the “controversy” which Zillmer imagined still existed as to the geography of this region had been settled authoritatively twelve years before his trip. His difficulties in interpreting references of myself and Allen Carpe to this area in various journals might have been less if he had refrained from giving our statements far more narrow meanings of his own, as, for instance, terming one headwater stream the North Thompson source on the strength of its size during summer melting of a glacier. As for there being a low pass between the Raush and North Thompson valleys, “In the mind of a great many people who are not particularly interested in mountain lore the term ‘pass’ merely applies to the summit of a pass, but this, of course, is a misconception.” (R. W. Cautley in C. A. J., 1921-22, p. 155.) Though indirect, the pass does exist.

Referring to the large snowfield which I described as existing between heads of Raush and North Thompson valleys, Zillmer argues “If there is such an icefield, it must be N. and E. of the divide ridge, for there is no such icefield in the basins of the Thompson or in the upper Raush. They may have in mind the large Braithwaite Icefield which is W. of the Azure.”

Yet he refers specifically elsewhere to my illustration at p. 78, C. A. J., 1928, which shows much of this snowfield—exactly where he concedes it must be “if it exists”—prominently in the middle distance, and in which may be identified by one of his illustrations the Braithwaite Icefield in the distance.

Some of his easy assumptions will not stand a moment’s study. Referring to the same illustration of mine, he says it “includes this meadow [in the Azure-Raush Pass], although they assumed it was entirely in the Raush basin.” Actually, Zillmer’s own assumption, but he fails to explain how a meadow at 6100 ft. (5250 ft. is his figure) on the far side of mountains to which he gives a height of about 10,000 ft. could be photographed from 10,500 ft. on a mountain distant not less than six miles, rather obviously placing the meadow several thousand feet below the line of vision.

Zillmer’s enthusiasm for the Cariboo Range may be readily understood by one who has been into it. He was, of course, some distance from the finer peaks. It was a bit unfortunate that his lack of up-to-date information led him to concentrate on an exploration of the passes instead of attaining some of the fine summits.

The foregoing was submitted to Mr. Zillmer, who has consented to the publication of his own comments, only in connection with the statement that he has no wish to be drawn into further argument, since he has only the highest regard for Mr. Munday’s work. The editor feels that Mr. Zillmer’s reply may also be added in the interests of accuracy, and begs to terminate the discussion therewith.

On p. 72, A. A. J., I write, “Mr. Jarvis could not have been near the source of the Thompson River, for there is an easily found non-glacial, under-timberline pass near the source of the Thompson.” The pass I refer to is not the Raush-Azure divide but the Summit Lake divide, which, of course, is S. of the Thompson or the Azure. Mr. Munday apparently thinks I refer to the Raush-Azure divide, so that his comments are not in point. Nor did I state, as Mr. Munday suggests, that Jarvis used the Azure-Raush pass.

Munday suggests that I term “one headwater stream the North Thompson source on the strength of its size during summer melting of a glacier.” I have my article before me. I didn’t compare the water of any of the sources of the North Thompson, for I was not in a place at any time where I could have made such a comparison. I am sure, however, that had Mr. Munday been with me, he, too, would have called the N.E. source the main stream, and for reasons having nothing to do with the amount of water.

Mr. Munday twice refers to the Raush-Azure divide meadow as 6100 ft. and not, as Zillmer says, 5250 ft. This elevation is not mine, for I was not in the meadow. It is taken from the Annual Report of the Minister of Mines of British Columbia (1938), which contains a map opposite p. 4, based on the geological survey reports referred to by Mr. Munday. The map gives the elevation as 5250 ft. I had sent for the geological reports, but no copies were available as the supply was exhausted.

On p. 74, A. A. J., I write, “Carpe and Munday agreed that the sources of the Raush and Thompson were in a common, low pass. By this time, I had come to the conclusion that this probably was not the fact.” I had reached this conclusion at this time because Ella Frye had shown me the 1938 mining report with its map, and also, because Miss Frye had shown me a blueprint sketched map made by her brother-in-law, a trapper and prospector familiar with the district. The map in the 1938 mining report, and I suppose this is true of the Geological Report, contains nothing showing the Thompson or any territory E. of the Raush-Azure meadow.

Mr. Munday refers to the controversy as having been “settled authoritatively twelve years before.”

I had corresponded with the Bureau of Geology and Topography at Ottawa and with G. G. Aitken before taking the trip, and Mr. Aitken particularly went to considerable trouble giving me all material at his command. Portions of the report of the Minister of Mines for 1924 and 1927 were particularly helpful, because one of them contained Angus Horne’s fine sketch map. But the material which I was able to obtain settled nothing. I also corresponded with Angus Horne, who is probably the best informed person on this region. I was partially satisfied then as to the Raush-Azure Pass but not as to the relationship of the Raush to the Thompson, although I had not been able to get, and do not now have the geological report for 1927-9, and had not then seen the 1938 mining report. The Guidebook to the Interior Ranges published in 1937 states that “further investigation will be required to determine exactly the source of the North Thompson River.” G. G. Aitken, the Chief Geographer of British Columbia, should have known if anything had been authoritatively settled, but he wrote me under date of June 5th, 1939, just before I left for the Cariboos, as follows; after noting that he had already given me certain material, he wrote, “Apart from these, we have been unable to find any descriptive material or mapping of the large ice-field reported to be the common source of the North Thompson, Raush and Canoe Rivers. Should you be able to obtain any further mapping data of this apparently unsurveyed area, privately or by your projected reconnaissance this year, I would be grateful if you would furnish us with a copy for our records.” If these matters were so well settled, why was it that Mr. Munday has so long remained silent on the correction of the errors in his own prior accounts?

Green’s trip is entirely new to me, and Mr. Munday’s construction of it hardly seems possible. How could Green, with horses, I presume, have crossed the Cariboos from Cranberry Lake base to the Raush and then from the Raush to the Azure? Is it possible that Green went up the North Thompson for 30 miles (it is 30 miles to where I went over Summit Pass) and over Summit to the Azure? This does not seem likely either, because Moberly, the next year did not deem the North Thompson worth ascending.

Mr. Munday says that Zillmer’s map does not agree “altogether” with the map in the 1929 report. I should be very happy if my map were no more incorrect than is suggested by Mr. Munday. Personally I am satisfied that it will need considerable correction from future exploration, but I feel that it is not in good taste to suggest that a map is incorrect without pointing out in what respect it is incorrect.

Mr. Munday’s remarks relative to the large icefield and to the low pass are so contentious as to deserve no comment. Mr. Munday located the large icefield, 30 to 40 square miles in area, as “on the glacial plateau between the converging upper reaches of the Raush and the North Thompson Rivers.” We, of course, walked in this region. It is not a plateau and it does not contain the large icefield.

In his second paragraph, Mr. Munday’s controversial spirit gets so much the better of him that he suggests that I should have explained how he could have seen certain things from places I have never been to.

I am sorry for Mr. Munday that he wrote the last sentence of the note. He apparently does not know that during the first half of my Canadian vacation I am more interested in mountain exploration than in climbing and do only such climbing as is incidental to exploration; nor does he know that we did not have sufficient time or food to do more than we did. I could not have done any difficult climbing in 1939 for I injured my leg early on the trip and continued with great pain and at some risk; in fact, after the trip I did not spend my usual two weeks in the A. C. C. camp because I thought it too dangerous to climb with my injured leg which was not normal for months.