Friday, 19 October 2018

Thoughts on a People's Vote

I’m not one for posting political views on my blog, but sometimes things just need to be said.

I must admit, I have had my reservations about a People’s Vote. For one thing, if one is ever held soon, it is more than likely to widen the deepening social and political divide in Britain caused in the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum. Nevertheless I will be supporting those who are marching in London this weekend to demand a People’s Vote. I do so on the grounds of the democratic premise of the 2016 referendum being fundamentally flawed. To put it plain and simple: I, along with hundreds of thousands of other UK citizens living in the EU, were denied a vote in a plebiscite that directly affected our rights. These rights, over which we had no say, are now being trashed before our very eyes: that isn’t how democracy is supposed to work.

If media reports are to be believed this shambolic, laughing stock of a Tory government is now earnestly mitigating for a no-deal Brexit, a situation that would leave my country crashing out of a political union which has enabled it to prosper economically and culturally for four decades and – more than anything - has helped keep the peace on a turbulent continent for an unprecedented 70 years.

At the time of the referendum, many of those who now sit at the cabinet table and are personally responsible for the unfolding fiasco scoffed at ‘remoaners’, the harbingers of doom and gloom. They called it Project Fear. Amongst other things, they told us we didn’t need experts, we would hold all the cards in the withdrawal negotiations, and assured us that concluding a free trade deal with our European partners (sic) would be the easiest thing in history: German car manufacturers and Prosecco growers would see to that.
Well, what a surprise: Project Fear is rapidly becoming Project Reality.

I do not believe the option of a no-deal featured on the original ballot paper – at any rate, I can’t recall it being mentioned during the campaign. As it happens, I never saw the ballot paper anyway, because it wasn’t sent to me or to the other 1.2 million UK citizens living on the continent who stand to have their rights swept away by a no-deal Brexit. Mrs May has said that “asking the question all over again would be a gross betrayal of our democracy”. Well, Mrs May, I can tell you it was a gross betrayal to be denied a vote in the first place. It was a gross betrayal to promise from the very start of negotiations that our rights would be protected, only to be later used as bargaining chips. Abandoned in the referendum, we have now been well and truly hung out to dry.
Incredibly, the government has already published over 100 guidance papers on how to prepare for a no-deal Brexit and yet not a single one of them refers to citizens’ rights.  

This current rabble in power doesn’t show any signs of listening. They don’t even listen to themselves. Fed by a frenzied Europhobic media, much of the country seems to be suffering from a delusional take-back-control, will-of-the-people, brexit-means-brexit psychosis that no medication seems capable of curing. Hopefully the thousands attending the march, including many citizens from abroad, denied the vote in the referendum, will be making their voices heard. I wish everyone on the march this weekend a safe and successful day.

Previous thoughts on Brexit: I want my Identity back

Sunday, 23 September 2018

The Invincibles

Castelluzzo. Its very name intimates impregnability, and even though there is no evidence to suggest there was ever a permanent stronghold here, this truncated cone of a peak holds a commanding position above the approach to the valley. On its flanks is a distinctive outcrop of rocks, about 200 metres below the summit, whose crags conceal an almost inaccessible cave known as Bars d’la Tajola, or ‘Cavern of the Ropes’. Accessible only from above, in times of hostilities – of which there were many - this lofty bolt hole offered a place of refuge away from the threat of danger in the valley below.

Tucked away in a small corner of Piemonte on the border with France, Val Pellice has never featured on any Grand Tour. Although it is the gateway to some splendid walking trails in the Cottian Alps on the border with France, without the enticement of a ski resort it attracts little inward tourism. It may not be one of the most majestic of Alpine valleys, but what it lacks in physical grandeur, it makes up for in history and legend.

Bars d’la Tajola is just one of many historical features scattered around the hills and valleys that allude to a turbulent past. At the entrance to the valley is Torre Pellice, the valley’s principal settlement and the centre of the ‘Valdesi’ community, whose peoples also inhabit the adjacent valleys of Val Chisone and Val Germanasca. The cultural roots of this mountain community go back as far as the twelfth century when these whereabouts formed a bastion of a Proto-protestant faith that predated the Reformation by several hundred years.

The ‘Valdesi’– or Waldensians in English – first came onto the scene in the 12th century as part of a religious movement which had turned its back on the worldliness of the Catholic doctrine to observe a simpler way of life. Disillusioned with the traditional teachings of the Church, its founder Peter Waldo was a rich merchant from Lyon whose disciples – known as the ‘Poor Men of Lyon’ - originally met with the approval of the local Catholic archbishop. From the east of France, its teachings quickly spread, initially to Lombardy, but later to other regions of Europe. Over time, the Church of Rome became intransigent to these dissidents and ultimately denounced them as heretics. Hence there followed a policy of persecution and they were forced to go underground, or at least retreat to less obtrusive surroundings on the mountain fringes.

Having adopted the teachings of the Poor Men of Lyon, the fact that the Waldensian communities survived in this region of the Cottian Alps is probably due to a combination of their geographical isolation and their level of organisation. When Luther and other religious reformers emerged in the early sixteenth century, the Waldensians made a conscious decision to join the Reformation. In 1532, at the Synod of Chanforan, in the Agrogna Valley a few miles from Torre Pellice, representatives of the Swiss Protestant movements and the Waldensians resolved to adhere to the principles of the Reformation and to publish a translation of the Bible in French, the language used in the valleys at that time. Emboldened by the changes taking place, the Waldensians came out of hiding and started to build their first temples (hitherto their religious teachings had been served by roaming preachers who travelled following fixed itineraries).

But religious harassment was endemic in the Middle Ages and in the Valli Valdesi persecution came with the territory, quite literally. Periods of uneasy truce were followed by sporadic bouts of brutality. This came to a head in 1685 when the Edict of Nantes, which had granted concessions to the Protestant communities of France (and Savoy) was repealed. A full-scale pogrom followed with 2,000 Waldensians being massacred. Many more thousands were faced with the choice of converting to Catholicism or being incarcerated in prison. Some sought refuge in the mountains and fought a rearguard action against the occupying forces, who had colonised the valleys with their own. The guerrilla tactics deployed by these so-called ‘Invicibili’ resulted in some limited successes and in 1686 they were eventually able to negotiate a deal whereby 2,750 Waldensians were given the option of exile in Geneva.

Banished from their homelands they pinned their hopes of a return on chnaging circumstances. These came about even more quickly than they may have anticipated when, in 1689, there was a decisive shift in the international situation. The king, Louis XIV was caught on the backfoot by Dutch and Austrian troops when invading the Rhineland Palatinate and William, Stadhouder of Holland succeeded to the English throne after James II, a Catholic, had been driven out of the country. Western European geopolitics were shifting. The exiled Waldensians were now in receipt of generous support from Protestant lands to the north and the Huguenots of southern France. On 17 August 1689, Henri Arnaud, one of the leading pastors, assembled an army of a thousand men and set off on a tortuous route across the backbone of the western Alps to evade militias loyal to Savoy. Crossing these hostile and barely impenetrable lands and confronting many hazards along the way, they finally reached the village of Bobbio in Val Pellice on August 31, having overcome all obstacles in their path. At Sibaud, just above the settlement, a thanksgiving service was held in recognition of this epic undertaking. A monument stands there today to commemorate this epic event in Waldensian history, the undertaking having since become known as the ‘Glorious Return’.

The Sibaud monument and bonfire ready for the 16 February festivities

After a period of hostilities, various treaties were signed which made reoccupation of their lands possible. The events should have marked a turning point in their fortunes, but resettlement of their valleys proved problematic, not least because they had been laid waste and local conflicts dragged on. For 150 years the Waldensians led an insular existence in their valleys, hemmed in on all sides by legal restrictions. Contact with the Protestant communities outside Piemonte was however maintained and generous support was offered from active committees in Britain and Holland. Later, the French Revolution brought renewed hope. Because of this almost total isolation, this period was known as the Waldensian Ghetto. Despite being physically hemmed in however, thanks to the religious and cultural relations maintained with outside states and the importance the community gave to education, the best young Waldensians took up studies at illustrious English, Swiss and German universities.

On 17 February 1848, the Albertine Statute was proclaimed in Turin. This was later to become the basis of the legal system for a unified Italy which was declared in 1861. More importantly for the Waldensians it gave them the right to be free citizens with full civil rights. To this day, Waldensians throughout the valleys of Piemonte celebrate this act of enfranchisement annually with great bonfires throughout the valleys on the evening of February 16.

Until this point, because of their isolation, the Waldensian valleys had been forced to align themselves politically and culturally to communities on the other side of the Alps. Over the centuries, Latin, Occitan, Piedmontese, Italian and French had all coexisted as working languages, but to all intents and purposes the latter had become the Lingua Franca of the valleys, reinforced by the adherence to the Reformation in the 16th century, the translation of the Bible into French and the events surrounding the Glorious Return. Furthermore, the use of French, which was the language of the European courts and diplomacy, enabled the Waldensians to escape their isolation and attract the support they needed from outside. French continued to remain the language of the valleys after the unification of Italy, but with their gradual assimilation into mainstream Italian culture and especially the imposition of Italian under Mussolini, Italian gradually became the more dominant language. Television too, has contributed to the decline of French. Today French is still spoken in the home in some of the valleys and is understood by the majority of the population.

The last 150 years or so since the proclamation of the Albertine Statute have been relatively peaceful compared with the religious turmoil of previous centuries. The unification and democratisation of Italy and the onset of secularisation have largely seen to that. Whilst religion may not play such a big part in present-day Italy, the Waldensians are staunchly proud of their cultural heritage. The elegant pedestrianised Via Beckwith in Torre Pellice’s ‘quartiere valdese’, flanked by the Tempio Valdesi on one side, and the Centro Culturale Valdese on the other, provides evidence of this.

The town’s tourist information centre is only too pleased to direct you to some of the historical places in the valleys around, for example: the Sibaud monument near Bobbio Pellice where the covenant of the same name was signed on the Glorious Return; the Ghiesa d’l Tana, a small cleft in the rocks on the wooded hillside above Agrogna where the faithful were said to have worshipped in times when the Waldensian teachings were prohibited; or the memorial at Chanforan commemorating the agreement signed with leaders of the Swiss Reformation to have the bible translated into French in 1532.

Some landmarks of course, require more legwork, such as the Vallone degli Invicibili, the small valley where the ‘Invincibles’ held out after the 1685 massacre. Indeed – as we have already remarked - the Bars d’la Tajola, on Castelluzzo, requires some nifty ropework too.

Further reading:
The Waldensian Valleys, Giorgio Tourn (2005), Claudiana

Internet links:

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

How I fell out of love with cricket (Part 1)

Growing up in the South Manchester suburb of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, on the face of it, I had a fairly unexceptional upbringing. There are doubtless many more exciting places on the planet to spend one’s youth, but the truth of the matter is, none of them had an Old Trafford.

I was a child of the 1960s at a time when Best, Law and Charlton – we called them the ‘Holy Trinity’ – were sweeping all before them on the hallowed turf of Old Trafford football ground. On Saturday afternoons, chaperoned by my eldest brother, we would walk the 2 miles to Manchester United’s stadium where we would click-clack through the turnstiles and, along with 60,000 other devotees, cheer our heroes on from the Scoreboard End terraces. 

In the summers however, I would trade in the Red Devils for my other heroes who played at the other, older ‘Old Trafford’. Lancashire County Cricket Club didn’t have the same star status as their footballing counterparts down the road, who were winning European trophies under the astute guidance of Matt Busby. Lancashire was a strong county side in the 1960s, never quite good enough to walk off with the main prize, the County Championship, but the team was a leading exponent of the one-day game, then still in its infancy. The Gillette Cup, a 60-over-a-side knock-out tournament was cricket’s early equivalent of football’s FA Cup and by the end of the decade, the Lancashire side had an almost vice-like grip on the trophy with the wily Jack Bond, the team captain, at the helm. On one memorable occasion, amongst many others, crowds at Old Trafford witnessed David Hughes hit a superb 25 in a single over to steer Lancashire home in the twilight against Gloucestershire in the 1971 semi-final.

Old Trafford has been Lancashire’s home since 1864, predating football’s younger version by almost 50 years. As well as county cricket, between 1884 and 2018 it hosted no fewer than 75 Test Matches, in addition to countless other one-day internationals featuring England and the other major cricket-playing nations.

The allure of visiting teams from Australia or the West Indies and the spectacle of the one-day game caught the imagination of an impressionable child like myself growing up in 1960s Manchester. When I was in my early teens I took out a junior membership with Lancashire. This entitled you to free admission to all games, including 5-day Test Matches which Old Trafford hosted almost every summer. On weekdays when Lancashire were at home playing one of their 3-day county games, after school, it was our custom - my like-minded friends and I - to walk the 2 miles and watch the final session of the day. During rain breaks in less well-attended county games, we would huddle at the back of gaping stands and listen to our voices reverberate off the roofing whilst we waited impatiently for play to restart. Buit it was on Gillette Cup and Test Match days that Old Trafford came to life. The crowds were drawn in by the big occasions, such as when Ian Chappell’s Aussies came to town in 1972, with upcoming stars like Dennis Lillee, Rodney Marsh and Greg Chappell, who would become household names in the following decade. The England selection too had a sprinkling of ‘Lancastrians’ at the time, including Peter Lever, Barry Wood, David Lloyd and Frank Hayes. If cricket wasn’t being played at Old Trafford, you could invariably watch regular live cricket broadcasts on BBC TV, fronted by Peter West and Jim Laker, or tune in to Test Match Special on the radio with such legendary commentators as John Arlott and Brian Johnston at the microphone. With their team of expert summarisers, including Trevor Bailey and Fred Trueman, they reported on the latest state of play from Lord’s, The Oval or Headingley. Lancashire’s continuing success in the 1970s, particularly in the one-day format, took me to grounds further afield, such as Edgbaston (Birmingham) and Trent Bridge (Nottingham), culminating in Gillette finals at Lord’s, the home of cricket, in 1975 and 1976.

When I wasn’t watching football or cricket, I was at school. Chorlton High was a comprehensive which didn’t have a great tradition for sport, never mind cricket. Nevertheless, our academic year had a fair smattering of cricket enthusiasts and we cobbled together a school team which played its home games at the upper school’s Nell Lane sports facilities. When our school days came to an end, a few of us took the initiative to establish a pub-based team (by now we had moved on to more adult pastimes) and called ourselves the Chorlton Wayfarers. We were a motley bunch, glued together by an enthusiasm for the game and by regular Friday evening sessions at the Trevor Arms on Beech Road. As the name suggests, we were a team of all-comers with no membership requirements, just a love of cricket and beer. Apart from our Friday-night watering hole, we had no home venue, instead arranging weekend and evening fixtures against teams playing in the local leagues in South Manchester and Cheshire. Two years running we took the Wayfarers on tours to Worcestershire and Herefordshire. It didn’t matter whether we won or lost, our passion for cricket was sustained by the camaraderie and, it must be said, our predilection for the amber stuff. I can happily report that friendships which germinated on the cricket field 40 years ago are still intact today and on regular visits ‘home’, I still find myself reminiscing with friends about our ‘Wayfaring’ over a pint or two of beer in a Manchester pub.

In September 1976 I went to study at Newcastle University, marking a new chapter in my hitherto short life. Making new friends and developing new interests, it became inevitable that the sporting ties with my home-town would loosen somewhat. However, the cricketing world didn’t stop revolving and summers would still be spent in Manchester where Old Trafford and Wayfarers’ games were never far away. In 1977, a few of us organised a trip to the Trent Bridge Test Match featuring England and Australia, most notable for Geoff Boycott running out local Nottinghamshire hero Derek Randall. When the Aussies came again in 1981, the whole nation was gripped by the Test Match series, remembered chiefly for the feats of Ian Botham whose extraordinary performances with bat and ball that summer were the stuff of legend.

[To be continued]

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The walk to Kinney Lake

Immediately behind us, a giant among giants, and immeasurably supreme, rose Robson's Peak. This magnificent mountain is of conical form, glacier clothed and rugged. When we first caught sight of it, a shroud of mist partially enveloped the summit, but this presently rolled away, and we saw its upper portion dimmed by a necklace of light, feathery clouds, beyond which its pointed apex of ice, glittering in the morning sun, shot up far into the blue heaven above, to a height of probably ten thousand or fifteen thousand feet.*

Unless you approach from the west on the Yellowhead Highway, Mount Robson remains hidden from view by other mountains in the Rainbow Range. This obscurity might be one explanation as to why the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies was a latecomer to European exploration and mountaineering, despite its elevation. Its presence is often likewise concealed by the prevailing weather conditions which have the mountain covered in cloud for long periods of the year. One early traveller dubbed it Cloud Cap Mountain and another local guide reported that out of the 29 times he had passed it, he had only seen the top once.

How the mountain got its present-day name remains something of a mystery. One possible explanation is that a trading party camping close to the mountain in the 1820s was under the direction of a man named Robson, but this is complete conjecture. The Texqakallt, a First Nations people and the earliest inhabitants of the area, call it Yuh-hai-has-kun, or ‘Mountain of the Spiral Road’, an infinitely more befitting description given its distinctive horizontal bands of snow that taper towards the summit.

The truth is, Mount Robson remained unchartered for a long time by European travellers. The Yellowhead Pass over which fur traders, early explorers and gold prospectors spasmodically journeyed was largely ignored as a realistic option for a major east-west link when the railways arrived in Western Canada, being too far north. However, when the Canadian Pacific Railway finally connected the Atlantic with the Pacific via the Rocking Horse Pass much further south in the 1880s, it did signal the gradual opening-up of the Canadian Rockies.

In 1865, Walter Butler Cheadle and Viscount Milton travelled over the Yellowhead Pass from Edmonton on an expedition to find the Northwest Passage by land. They immediately fell under the spell of the mountain’s beauty. The citation above, a somewhat embellished description of the mountain, comes from the popular account of their adventures.
But since it was only the frontiersmen that ventured this way, trails were few and far between. Until the end of the 19th century, the Mount Robson area and the northern Rockies remained largely untrampled by tourists, let alone mountaineers. Its relative inaccessibility and some of the far-fetched accounts of lofty mountains that travellers came back with only added to the mystique of the region. Some estimates of Mount Robson’s height were wildly exaggerated with early reports of it exceeding 15,000 feet (or 4,600 metres). In 1898, geological surveyor, James McEvoy whittled that down to 13,700 feet (4,174 metres), which still made it the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. More accurate surveying ultimately revealed its height to be 12,972 feet, or 3,954 metres.

Thus established, Mount Robson’s stature was enough to attract a growing number of mountaineers. Alpinism was becoming a popular sport and mountain-bagging was now no less de rigeur here than it had been in the Alps a few decades previously. But make no mistake, early attempts on the peak were a major logistical undertaking.

The first expedition to Mount Robson proper was in 1907, organised by A.P. Coleman and  George Kinney. Coleman was Professor of Geology at the University of Toronto, as well as an accomplished artist who had explored widely in the Rockies in the 1890s. Kinney, a Vancouver-based Methodist minister, was one of the original members of the Alpine Club of Canada who would develop an all-consuming passion for the mountain. Starting out from Laggan (present-day Lake Louise), such were the obstacles they faced on their way – blizzards, snowed-up mountain passes and fallen timber amongst then – that it took them a whole 39 days to reach the base of the mountain. (By contrast, today’s tourist on the Icefields Parkway can complete the same journey in half a day.) By the time they set up camp, it was already 10 September and, with dwindling supplies, there was precious little time to make an attempt on the mountain before the weather closed in again. They reconnoitred the mountain from several sides and Coleman recorded the spectacular beauty of the place in some of the earliest sketches and watercolours of the surroundings.

A 1908 expedition proved similarly frustrating for Coleman and Kinney. The 21 days they spent in the shadow of Mount Robson consisted of further mapping and exploration. Kinney made several forays on the mountain and this time reached a point 1000 metres short of the summit, but supply lines and limited daylight hours ensured that Robson remained unvanquished.

In June 1909, having heard that foreign parties had designs on the mountain, Kinney became so worried that he set out on his own on what was another fraught trip, at one point having to swim for his life after being tossed into a swollen torrent. En route he enlisted the services of Donald “Curly” Phillips, a 25-year-old outfitter, game for the challenge, but who had no experience in the high mountains. On 13 August 1909, after many aborted attempts and close shaves, they made one last, desperate attempt on the south-west face of the mountain. Enveloped by swirling mists and sleet, as they got closer to the top, they had to make their way upwards on all fours. They could only see a few yards ahead of them and Kinney wrote of the ordeal, “our clothes and hair were one frozen mass of snow and ice”. In dense cloud and encountering cliffs covered with overhanging masses of snow and huge cornices, they eventually found themselves on the summit ridge and were at last able to claim the summit. Without the aid of professional guides it was acclaimed by the climbing fraternity as an astonishing accomplishment.

What should have marked the closing of the first chapter in Mount Robson’s mountaineering history however, took another twist …

Following the publicity surrounding attempts on the mountain in previous years and the subsequent construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway beyond Jasper, the Alpine Club of Canada sent an expedition to the region in 1911, not specifically to ascend the mountain, but instead to look at ways of opening up the area to mountaineering and recreation. However, Mount Robson having now been surveyed from almost every conceivable angle, there was a growing scepticism about Kinney and Phillips’ claim of having reached the top via the route they described. A.O. Wheeler, the club’s first president and leader of the ACC expedition, wrote that the route “looked impossible”. And the doubts persisted.
Another Mount Robson Camp took place in 1913, this time with Wheeler organising an expedition to climb the mountain for certain. He called upon the services of Conrad Kain, an Austrian guide (who went on to become one of the most celebrated figures in Canadian mountaineering). This time, Kain - along with Colonel “Billy” Foster and Albert “Mack” McCarthy – attacked the peak from the north side in what was to be another legendary climb. Kain had to cut hundreds of steps through a maze of ice walls near to the summit. “Never before have I seen such ice formations,” he recorded. After setting off at 7.30 a.m. from a  camp high up on the mountain’s flanks, Kain and his team eventually reached the summit at 5.30 p.m., whereupon he is reputed to have said to his two clients, “Gentlemen, that’s so far as I can take you.” When they got back to base camp the next day, around the campfire that evening “Curly” Phillips (who also happened to be part of the 1913 expedition) made the startling revelation that he and Kinney had in fact not attained the summit in 1909 – “We reached an ice-dome fifty or sixty feet high, which we took for the peak. The danger was too great to ascend the dome.”

Though Kinney would always insist that he and Phillips had reached the true top of Mount Robson and despite the remarkable achievement of that unguided climb, the first ascent is now credited to the party led by Kain in 1913.

And thus the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies was conquered.

Dubbed the Monarch of the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson rises a full 3,000 metres from the valley bottom, near to where the Mount Robson Provincial Park visitor centre is situated on the Yellowhead Highway and from where most tourists can marvel at the grandeur of the peak, weather permitting.  From here, walkers can hike the 21-kilometre Berg Lake Trail up the Robson River to a spectacular glacial-blue lake at the top of the trail, which is fed by ice- and waterfalls descending from the heights of Robson. Partly because of the trailhead’s proximity to the east-west highway, this well-maintained path is one of the most popular backpacking trips in the Rockies, with some of the best mountain scenery in British Columbia.

Most tourists to this part of the Rockies are strapped for time and only see the spectacle of Mount Robson from the viewing platform at the visitor centre. When my companion and I stopped by in early June this year, we were fortunate to have most of the day to get close up to the mountain. With the weather set fair for the day, when a cloudless Mount Robson loomed into view that morning, it was a safe bet that the hiking boots we’d thrown into the back of our rental car would be put through their paces. Whilst Berg Lake was sadly out of the question, the short 4.5-kilometre trek to Kinney Lake along the same trail recommended by the park rangers would at least go some way to assuaging my appetite and bring us within spitting distance of the mountain.

As the walk ascends the valley of the Robson river, the sheer scale of the mountain with its precipices closing in doesn’t fail to impress. However, its southern face is partly obscured by forest, which is unusual because the cedar, hemlock and Douglas Fir in abundance here are more akin to the temperate rainforests of British Columbia’s Pacific Rim. But such is the domineering presence of Mount Robson, the prevailing westerly winds laden with moisture get pushed up over the summit here, causing heavier rainfall and producing a unique microclimate. On a clear day like this one, it is also possible to see the ‘gargoyles’ on the summit ridge, weird snow formations sculpted by the wind that whips up over the mountain.

After an hour’s gentle uphill climb, the gradient relents and the forest opens out to reveal Kinney Lake, an expanse of emerald-green water, hemmed in by high cliffs with views of Whitehorn Mountain beyond, a handsome peak that would perhaps draw considerable more attention if located elsewhere. A.P. Coleman decided to name the lake in honour of his good friend George Kinney when it was first ‘discovered’ by his 1907 expedition. If one reason alone was enough to justify our decision to choose Canada as a destination this year, then Kinney Lake was it. And not only that, it was the perfect spot to tuck into a hard-boiled egg.

As if to remind us that we were in the great outdoors, not simply taking a leisurely country stroll, on our return to the trailhead we ran into a black bear sauntering along the path and thus impeding our way. Normally, bears are harmless if you avoid attracting their attention, which is why I was somewhat startled by my companion’s gung-ho impulse of pulling out her camera and wanting to get a closer glimpse. Needless to say, after keeping a safe distance and demonstrating some watchful vigilance, we arrived back at the trailhead in one piece having lived to tell the tale of a bear and an unforgettable walk in the shadow of Mount Robson. 

* opening text from The North-West Passage by Land by William Fitzwilliam Milton, Walter Butler Cheadle, published 1865 

Jane Lytton Gooch, Mount Robson: Spiral Road of Art (2013)
Bill Corbett, The 11,000ers of the Canadian Rockies (2004)
Bart Robinson and Brian Patton, The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide, 9th edition (2011)
Chic Scott, Pushing the Limits: The Story of Canadian Mountaineering (2010)