American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Samuel Evans Stokes Allen, 1874-1945

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1946


1874 -1945

The death of S. E. S. Allen, pioneer in the Lake Louise district, on March 27, 1945, gives release to one whose brilliant mind early became clouded, who had lived in confinement for more than forty years, his only memories being of the mountains he had loved in youth.

Born in Philadelphia on February 8, 1874, the son of Theodore M. and Helen (Stokes) Allen, he graduated from Yale in 1894 and took his M.A. there in 1897. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

In July, 1891, returning from the Sierra Nevada, Allen had his introduction to Canadian mountains. He visited the Illecillewaet névé. Emerald Lake, and the fossil-bed on Mt. Stephen. From Lake Louise he ascended a point which he named Devils Thumb. In 1892 he travelled in Europe, gaining the summit of the Matterhorn in September.

Returning to Canada in 1893, he climbed Mt. Rundle, the view of Mt. Assiniboine making a great impression on him. At Lake Louise he made two unsuccessful attempts to ascend the N. peak of Mt. Victoria, being defeated by avalanches just below the Victoria-Collier notch. After an excursion up Mt. Fairview he, with a white companion, and an Indian, penetrated to a little lake in Paradise Valley (to which he gave the name Wenkchemna), on the east side of Mt. Temple, reaching 10,000 ft. on the S. W. ridge of that mountain.

At Glacier, Allen and W. D. Wilcox made the first ascents of Eagle Pk. and Mt. Cheops, and, with H. P. Nichols, Allen crossed Asulkan Pass to make the second ascent of Mt. Fox.

In the summer of 1894, Allen went to Lake Louise to join a group of Yale students, arriving just after the accident in the Lefroy couloir, when L. F. Frissell was injured by a dislodged boulder. Allen ascended Mt. Piran and began a survey of the region, laying out a base-line for a distance of one mile on the railroad east of Laggan station, continuing with prismatic compass and aneroid.

A few days later, Allen, Henderson, Warrington and Wilcox crossed the east Mitre Pass to Paradise Valley. Soon afterward, Allen and Henderson established camp below Sentinel Pass. Crossing the pass on the following day, Allen again saw the peaks across Moraine Lake and gave them Indian numeral names, from One to Ten. Frissell and Wilcox then rejoined the party; they crossed Wastach and Wenkchemna Passes and saw Opabin Pass, to the top of which Allen went alone next day and named Mts. Biddle, Ringrose and Huber. With Frissell and Wilcox, in this season, Allen took part in the guideless first ascents of Mts. Aberdeen and Temple, the latter the first peak of the Canadian Rockies above 11,000 ft. to be ascended.

In September, Allen completed his summer by a trip to Lake O’Hara, which he named. We also owe to him the names Oesa, Wiwaxy and Yukness. Lacking other companions, he took with him Yule Carryer, an Indian who had been a student at the University of Toronto, and who was then working for the railroad at Field. Together they reached the summit of Abbot Pass (then known as the Death Trap) from the Lake O’Hara side, being the first to attain that saddle. They then returned to the railroad and made a flying trip to Mt. Assiniboine, by way of Vermilion Pass and Cross River, coming out on Healey Creek.

With H. F. Smith, Allen returned to Mt. Assiniboine in July, 1895, by way of Banff. Healey Creek and Simpson Pass, being the first visitors to examine the mountain’s S. W. face.

It was Allen's fate never to see the mountains again. His father did not encourage him, and his privately-printed map (ca. 1894-95) was not widely circulated. This map, now very rare, for the first time presented much of the accepted nomenclature of the Lake Louise area. [Articles by Allen appeared in A.J. 18, 96, 222, 397; and App. vii, 281.] Allen’s mind failed a few years later, symptoms of dementia praecox manifesting themselves. He never knew that one of the finest of the Ten Peaks was at long last given his name. Although not a member of this Club, his pioneer efforts and achievements should be remembered.

J. M. T.

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