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National Historic Sites in the Mountain National Parks

Abbot Pass Refuge Cabin National Historic Site of Canada

Map of the National Historic Sites in the vicinity of the Mountain National Parks
Interactive Map of the National Historic Sites in the vicinity of the Mountain National Parks
© Parks Canada

Abbot Pass Refuge Cabin Abbot Pass Refuge Cabin
© Parks Canada





The CPR completed the Transcontinental Railway in 1885. Looking to promote the railroad and draw travellers West, they began to promote tourism in the Rockies. Seeing the popularity of mountain climbing in Europe, they recognized a lucrative new attraction.

Swiss Guides

In 1899, the CPR imported certified Swiss mountain guides and paid them to lead amateur climbers safely up the mountains. One of the first to arrive in the Rocky Mountains was Edouard Feuz Sr., who along with Rudolph Aemmer, sketched the initial plans for Abbot Pass Hut.

Construction

Built largely by Swiss Guides such as Feuz and Aemmer, construction of the high altitude hut was a major undertaking. Materials were hauled by horse across the Victoria Glacier and then carried on the guide’s backs the remainder of the way. Cement, lime, windows, timbers, tools, beds, bedding and a stove were carried in this manner from Lake Louise via the route known as “the Deathtrap.”

Pack horses past the Lower Victoria Glacier
All materials, apart from the stone, were carried by pack horses past the Lower Victoria Glacier, then by the guides to the pass summit.
© Parks Canada

While over two tons of building material was brought in, the hut utilized locally quarried, hand cut stone. Based on local building methods and Swiss design, the hut was built in harmony with its natural surroundings. The motivation to design buildings that fit into their environment is an example of the Rustic Design Tradition, popular in the early 1900s.

In 1922, the hut was complete and at an altitude of 2925 metres (9,598 feet), served as a base for mountaineers attempting to climb Mt. Lefroy and Mt. Victoria.

Abbot Pass Hut
Abbot Pass Hut
© Parks Canada

Climbers

In the race to summit new peaks, climbers travelled to the hut to ascend the two nearby mountains, both over 3,400 metres (11,000 feet). The hut made reaching the summit of two peaks an attainable weekend venture and provided a comfortable alternative to high altitude camping. Nestled between Yoho and Banff National Parks, Abbot Pass is accessible from Lake Louise as well as the Lake O’Hara area.

Alpine Club of Canada

Operated by the CPR for nearly 40 years, possession of the hut was turned over to Parks Canada in 1960. In 1985 the ACC took over operation of the hut and they still operate it today.

Today

The Abbot Pass Hut is still operational and is one of 24 high alpine huts managed by the ACC. Climbers continue to travel to the hut as a base for ascents up the nearby ranges or as a destination in itself. The ascent, while accessible, should only be attempted by skilled alpine hikers.

Abbot Pass Hut Abbot Pass Hut
© Parks Canada
Historic Sites timeline Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site Howse Pass National Historic Site Athabasca Pass National Historic Site Kootenae House National Historic Site Yellowhead Pass National Historic Site Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site Jasper House National Historic Site Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site Fort St. James National Historic Site Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site First Oil Well National Historic Site Skoki Ski Lodge National Historic Site Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site Abbot Pass Refuge Cabin National Historic Site Jasper Information Centre National Historic Site Twin Falls Chalet Historic Site Yellowhead Pass National Historic Site Rogers Pass National Historic Site Banff Park Museum National Historic Site Cave and Basin National Historic Site Bar U Ranch National Historic Site

Abbot Pass Hut National Historic Site of Canada plaque states:
Built in 1922, this sturdy shelter is a unique and enduring monument to the Swiss guides, who first came to the Rocky Mountains in 1899 under the auspices of the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was patterned on examples in the Swiss Alps. All materials, apart from the stone, were carried by pack horses past the Lower Victoria Glacier, then by the guides to the pass summit. Never again was such an arduous feat undertaken in the national parks. The shelter has served as a high-altitude base for generations of climbers, here in the cradle of Canadian mountaineering.

Fast Fact:

Both Abbot Pass and the Abbot Pass Hut were named after Phillip Stanley Abbot, the first mountaineering fatality in North America. Abbot fell to his death in an attempt to make the first ascent of Mount Lefroy in 1896.

Fast Fact:

The "Death Trap" was named after an incident involving Swiss guide, Edward Feuz Jr. While passing over the Victoria Glacier, Feuz and some others were swept down the glacier by an avalanche. Porters carrying loads for the hut found him with only his hand sticking out of the snow and dug him out. It is said that after he regained his composure somewhat his first concern was that he had lost his pipe in the "darned avalanche."

Sources :

“Abbot Pass Refuge Cabin National Historic Site of Canada Commemorative Integrity Statement,” Parks Canada, 2002