James J. McArthur

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J.J. McArthur, DLS
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Surveyed extensively in the mountains
Known for Mount Aberdeen, End Mountain, Victoria Peak and Mount Victoria were named by him.


James. J. McArthur, a native of Alymer, Quebec, was an inveterate explorer, and Canada's first alpinist in the days before climbing became a pleasure pursuit. In his dogged footsteps many would follow in ascents of the Rocky Mountains. As winter approached in fall 1887, James McArthur, at the end of a second long season surveying along the Canadian Pacific Railway line in the Selkirk mountains, climbed northwest up the Bow Valley through which the Icefields Parkway now runs. Together with his assistant, and a packer who was also cook, McArthur struggled through the snowstorms to reach a camping spot "mid-way between the Bow Lakes" and hunkered down to weather out a four-day blizzard. When it cleared up, McArthur set out with his transit packed in its box to climb the peaks around the valley.

"I occupied three stations," he wrote, "one on a high point on the ridge leading up the pass from Mount Hector, another on the mountain overlooking the first Bow Lake, and the third on the west side and further up the pass. The great quantity of snow rendered these ascents very disagreeable and dangerous, the loose debris being almost entirely covered and rendering it necessary to feel every step without alpenstalks, whilst the descent of fresh snow, when cutting our way up the steep parts of the glaciers, rendered our position sometimes very precarious. When on the summits we suffered greatly from cold. Climbing through the fresh snow, sometimes waist deep, wet our feet and legs above the knees, and on reaching the top and exposed to the cold wind, our boots and pants froze stiff and we were sometimes in great danger of freezing." From those mountain tops, McArthur could see the immense icefield on top of the world and the glacier that fed the streams flowing into the lakes below.

Source: Laying Down the Lines by Judy Larmour, Chapter 7