Thursday, 13 September 2012

Healy Pass, and Bill Peyto's Cabin

KC and I have been up hiking out of Sunshine Meadows on 2 occasions in the recent past. The first time, we went up Citadel Pass and Quartz Ridge. The next time we hiked the Monarch Ramparts via Simpson Pass and Healy Pass. Yesterday, I was up there with some of the Sunshine Village SnowHosts on a history exploration hike.

A cold front blasted through on Monday and dumped a bunch of snow in the area. At the Sunshine Village elevation, the snow was still there on Wednesday. Not surprising since it was 0° in the parking lot and -2° up in the village itself at the start of the day. But it was sunny and not really windy, and so although it only made it up to 9° during the day, it was pleasant if cool (hat and gloves required, plus hiking poles due to the slippery footing).
Working our way up Meadow Park. Green runs are steep 
On the ridge above Wawa. Delirium Dive in the background 
Mt. Assiniboine in the distance
Around here one of group found fresh bear tracks, which he followed until he saw Mr. Bear went into a copse of trees and didn't come out. We saw a bunch of tracks on the hike.
Healy Pass in the distance in the centre 
Chilly. Mt. Borgeau in the centre 
Wolf track. Big wolf track. ~48 hrs old.
We passed by Simpson Pass, and got into the broad valley below the Ramparts that has a bunch of small ponds in it. At this point, our leader (and historian) took us off the trail, and within 100 m, we were on Bill Peyto's original trail up from Healy Creek. Parks re-routed his trail to protect the history of the area.

Peyto was quite the character. He was the first warden of Banff National Park (from 1913-1936), and guided the first ascent of Mt. Assiniboine in 1901. He was a hunter and trapper, and captured live animals that were put on display in the Luxton Museum in Banff. He also mined talc, and actually held a talc mining lease nearby in BC, subsequently sold to National Talc. To do most of this, he built a private cabin near his talc mine that's in the vicinity of Healy Pass. It's a protected cultural resource, and so I'm not going to describe exactly where it is, but it's not that hard to find if you know where to look (but it does hide in the trees). He lived in this cabin for 30 years, primarily in the winter during mining season, and never let his wife come up here. His cabin (called The Birdcage or The Simpson Pass Cabin) remains, falling down, but full of history.
The front door and collapsed awning 
The rear. Right side collapsed 
Barbed wire on the windows
Inside, there's still lots of stuff from his days there (that ended over 60 years ago).
Stuff on the porch 
Cages where he kept trapped live animals 
His bed and table 
Cans remain
Door made from lard boxes
Trenches in the forest were his mine workings
Apparantly, he also built another cabin for hunting down by Eohippus Lake which is better shape and still full of supplies.

If you successfully find either cabin, please remember it is a protected national historic site. Touch as little as possible. Leave the place alone. Take nothing. Present and future Canadians thank you.

After visiting the cabin, we headed off to Healy Pass.
The pass is just to the left. Easy hills to climb 
The meadows 
Mt. Assiniboine in the distance. Eohippus just visible 
Mt. Ball dominates the view at the pass 
Looking back at Sunshine ski area
Just as we arrived at the pass, we spooked a small grizzly bear who headed down the hill towards Egypt Lake, then cut back up to the trail.
Really fresh tracks 
Us from the tracks
You can see that the larches have not yet begun to turn. Well, we found one that has, but generally no.

Despite being pretty chilly, there was noticeably less snow on the way down. Rather than going back to Sunshine, we walked the (rather boring and uninspired) ~7 km down Healy Creek to the parking lot, crossing it a few times.
The crossing at the Simpson Pass access 
The crossing 2.5 km from the parking lot
This last bit would have been boring if not for my chatting with the daughter of one of the other SnowHosts. 

Remember: please leave the cabin(s) as you found them.


Gary Paukert said...

Was sorta thinkin' 'bout how your house these days sorta resembles Bill Peyto's Cabin.....

Edwin said...

Nice one Gary..

Matt said...


Last weekend we found this cabin - it was pretty cool! Now I'm interested in finding the one near Eohippus Lake, but it's starting to look like it doesn't exist and has been confused with the Simpson Pass one (even good sources refer to the Simpson Pass cabin as both the Birdcage and Bookrest cabin). Do you know of anyone who has actually seen the one near Eohippus Lake? Thanks for any info you can provide!

RyderDA said...

Matthew, I personally don't but know someone who might. I'm checking.