This Week in History
A Hut in the Clouds
This story was initially published in 1999
On August 3, 1897, the American mountaineer Philip Abbot fell to his death on Mount Lefroy in the Canadian Rockies. Abbot had been drawn to this remote region by Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) advertising promoting unclimbed, unnamed peaks that adventurers could easily reach from the CPR's main line.
The Swiss guides raised the standards of Canadian mountaineering abilities. However, climbing in Canada involved long approaches, which increased the risk of accidents, unlike in Switzerland, where shelters dotted the high valleys. In 1921, the guide, Edward Feuz, suggested a stone hut in the 2926-metre high pass between Mounts Lefroy and Victoria. The CPR and Banff National Park initially disagreed, but Feuz persisted and in the summer of 1922 the guides hauled two tons of supplies up to the pass, where they built what was then the highest stone building in Canada. The 12 x 6 x 6 metre structure could comfortably shelter over twenty climbers, no matter what the weather outside. At the official opening, Feuz said simply, "down in the valley, a house, a big house, is just a house. But up here, in the ice and snow, with all those beautiful peaks everywhere, this simple hut is home."
The Abbot Pass Hut is the only stone alpine shelter ever built in Canada's mountain national parks. For nearly eight decades, it has been a high altitude base for generations of climbers and a unique and enduring monument to the Swiss guides. It was declared of national historic significance in 1992.
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