American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Edward Feuz Jr., 1884-1981

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1982



At the time of his death at age 96, this patriarch of alpine guides and our honorary member showed that the practice of alpinism, with its associated rigorous activity, was conducive to a long, healthy and productive life. Ed was born near Interlaken, his father’s home, the oldest of the seven children of Edward Feuz (1859-1944), who was one of the first two guides brought out by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1898 to encourage the pursuit of alpinism in western Canada.

Ed received his porter’s license in 1903, and came with his father to Glacier House that summer. With his father, he returned home during the winter months; but in 1912, having passed his final guide’s examination, Ed came to stay and thereafter became ever more deeply involved in the development of Canadian alpinism. Two of Ed’s four brothers, Ernest and Walter, came over with him in 1912 and thereafter became guides, each with his own clientele and special areas of interest. Walter’s first employment was as a busboy at Glacier House, but he ultimately participated in a score of first ascents in the southern Rockies. Ernest (1889-1966) stayed mostly in the Selkirks, maintaining the alpine cabins there; but Ed went everywhere. He participated in countless first ascents from the little-known peaks of the Cougar Valley to the remote and elusive Mount Sir Sandford.

In 1909, Ed married Martha Heimann of Grindelwald and brought his wife and daughter, Gertie, with him in 1912 to make their home in Golden. He also brought his wife’s younger sister, Joanna, who soon married Walter. A second daughter, Heidi, was born that same year. He lived at the Edelweiss Village for three years (in the home now occupied by Joanna and Walter) but then purchased property beside Hospital Creek near the center of town. The hospitality of this home was enjoyed by friends, clients, and casual visitors thenceforth until his death last April 13. Edward never returned to Switzerland, staying close to the beautiful mountains of western Canada he adopted so early in life.

As the years went on and the trend towards guideless climbing came into vogue in North America, his clientele dropped one by one from the alpine scene. A new generation of guides came along and the relatively simple profession at which he had made such a name became a sophisticated and year-round business. Ed finally closed his Führerbuch in 1949, though he continued to take small parties of his friends and older clients on shorter day trips to places like Perley Rock, Asulkan Pass and Lake Oesa. Ed would often sit with telescope in hand on the south lawn of the Chateau Lake Louise, watching parties guided by his successors as they made the ascent of Mount Victoria, almost entirely within sight of his critical eye. One younger guide, knowing of Ed’s displeasure with the manner in which he had handled previous parties, took especial pains one day to ensure that every aspect of his leadership was sure to pass the critical examination he knew was upon him. Returning late to Lake Louise expecting at long last to receive some sort of commendation for his work, he was greeted with “No, no, no, Bruno! Next time, you pee down O’Hara.”

Ed Feuz had to his dying day a perfect memory of every climb he made and every encounter in the mountains of his adopted land. As long as he felt comfortable with a guest, he would open up freely, telling irreverent tales of Edward Whymper running naked down the halls of the Mount Stephen House; and Howard Palmer, so fearful of the final arête on Mount Sir Sandford that Feuz and Aemmer conspired in Schwyzerdütsch that the one would push him from his precarious stance while the other would reel him in so as to overcome his fear of the “nasty spot”.

His most distinguished successor in the ranks of North American guides has lovingly observed “I still vividly remember the scene on top of Bugaboo Glacier with Edward Feuz at 82 years old, standing there looking around with tears in his eyes…. Here is a man who became a guide because of a genuine love of the mountains…."

We have known and loved our Uncle Ed and have been the beneficiaries of his unsurpassed memory and tales of the mountains we now share without him. We remain mindful that without that genuine love of the mountains, guiding merely becomes “plain hard work and a lot of worries.”

William L. Putnam and Andrew John Kauffman, II

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