Intoduction to SNOW PASS - GMC 2003

Welcome to Snow Pass.  This is the first GMC to be held at this location, and as far as we can ascertain, you are only the second group to have ever camped amongst this group of lakes.

Many GMC’s are situated in valleys; however, this site is unusual as you are on the Continental Divide at an E-W “pass” between the Sullivan and Athabasca rivers, this is the arbitrary division between the Columbia Icefield to the south and the Chaba/Clemenceau Icefields to the north.  But, you are also at a N-S pass between the Wales and “Watershed” glaciers, so you are at a “four way intersection” and from Base Camp you can access seven (7) different glacier systems.

An intriguing local feature is the snout of the “Watershed” glacier, which actually divides so that it flows both west to join the Wales Glacier and thus drains to the Pacific and also turns east and feeds to the Arctic, which is why it is called the “Watershed” Glacier.

In 2003, it may not be too obvious why in 1919 the Alberta/British Columbia Interprovincial Survey called this location “Snow Pass” but in the 1930’s (and even ? the early 1950’s) your Base Camp was still completely ice covered!  There was permanent ice/snow from the “Aqueduct” to the “Watershed” to the “Toronto” Glaciers, an area of snow 5 km E-W and 10km N-S.  Thus, in 1919, it really was a “snow pass”.  See the appended “deglaciation” map. There is a wonderful photograph taken from the summit of Sundial peak in 1919 in the A/BC Volume, p. 77 showing the degree of glaciation at that time.

Attached are four (4) appendices containing material which maybe of interest:

(i)                            What has been climbed and what is still unclimbed

(ii)                          A highly selective annotated mountaineering history of the northern Rocky Mountains:  who’s been here before, when, how did they get here and what did they do

(iii)                        The “enigma” of the Lower Wales Glacier, the largest single error by the Alberta/British Columbia Interprovincial survey:  they missed” a 7 km long glacier!

(iv)                        How the physical setting of the area has/is changing.  Route finding at Snow Pass is partly a study in deglaciation!

In the summer of 2000 we camped at the Tsar/Somerell col for a week.  Looking east we could see Chaba Peak-Watershed-Aqueduct Mtns. and so we said, “next year, lets go there”.  In 2000 Wally Joyce, the Toronto Section’s gentleman mountaineer, who has participated in more than 40 GMC’s, then in his 85th year, was with us.  He would have been with us in 2001 on our trip to Snow Pass but the year 2000 was to prove to be his last active year in the mountains; however, Snow Pass is a place Wally really would have enjoyedWe hope you do.

Roger Wallis
Toronto Section,
March, 2003