National Geographic : 1947 Jun
On the Ridgepole of the Rockies The goats were grazing up the slope directly toward me, still unaware of my presence. Within 15 minutes they were within easy range, and I bagged them all-in movies. Then, while the girls yelled and waved their hats to scare them, I used up my remaining film as the flock made a dignified retreat, an old grandfather in the lead. Satisfied with the morning's accomplish ments, we arrived back at the chalet for lunch, where we were met by Jack Brewster. "There's a party going up on the ice. If you want pictures you'll just have time," he said. Ten minutes later I was driving down the winding spur road to the foot of the glacier. A party of visitors, newly arrived, were mounting their horses, tethered to a large rock. I knew I should have to hustle to get up on the glacier before the horses. Without stop ping to inquire the best route, I started off at a trot, camera and tripod on shoulder, hopping over rivulets of silted glacial water flowing from Mount Athabaska on my left. Suddenly I found a wide stream blocking my way. There was no time to lose. A wild leap carried me over, but I landed in loose shale. Down into the icy water went first one foot, then the other. Crash went the tripod, but I saved the camera at the expense of a bloodied hand. My feet were soaked, but I now had a clear way up to the ice. Panting hard, I managed to get far enough ahead of the line of horses to enable me to obtain the pictures I wanted, and I felt well rewarded for my efforts. Hydrographic Center of North America Glancing up at the Snow Dome, another devil's-food kind of mountain, I recalled that it is considered the hydrographic center of the North American Continent (page 773). The 150-square-mile Columbia Icefield, of which its glacier is a part, is huge, considering it is almost 1,000 miles south of the Arctic Circle. With its drainage flowing to the Arctic, Atlan tic, and Pacific, it is unique in that nowhere else on this continent is there so great a dis persion of water from a single source. Surprisingly, the Athabaska Glacier is not the source of the Athabaska River. Instead, it feeds the Sunwapta River. Driving along the road which parallels the latter, we paused on the wide gravelly flats, brilliant with fire weed, a mile from the glacier's tip (Plate VI). Here we found abandoned movie properties and huts used earlier that year in Bing Cros by's new production, "The Emperor Waltz." From there the road winds dizzily upward, skirting for a short distance the edge of deep Sunwapta Canyon. The opposite wall, rising almost sheer several hundred feet higher, frowned down menacingly under its blanket of ice, gray clouds adding an awesome cold ness to the scene. Far below, the infant Sun wapta was growing apace from the myriad cascades pouring into it. When, an hour later, we saw the great volume of Sunwapta Falls, it was easy to see why so small a trickle could become a raging torrent within a mere 30 miles (Plate VII). Augmented by the Sunwapta, the Athabaska Falls are even more impressive (page 776). The road had been closely following the river, which as it curved around Mount Ker keslin had grown almost 600 feet wide. We crossed the highway bridge, parked the car, and approached the falls, guided by a rainbow playing hide-and-seek in a cloud of mist that rose up before us and, whipped by gusts of wind, wet our clothing. Through it, as through a filmy curtain, appeared a great cataract, plunging with a roar into the very earth below our line of vision. A closer view revealed two small cascades flanking the main waterfall as it thundered down into a raging, swirling caldron like some witch's brew, boiling and churning with cease less motion. And under the bridge the full volume of the river, already squeezed into narrow compass, was spurting through a dark canyon 80 feet deep and only a few feet wide. Reluctant to leave so exciting a spectacle, we continued steadily northward through fra grant pinewoods, following the swift-flowing river, and presently in the fading light we entered the little town of Jasper. We were up at daybreak next morning, canoeing on the crystalline waters of Beau vert Lake in the grounds of Jasper Park Lodge. We were surrounded by glorious mountains, but to the south of us one in par ticular commanded attention. In the blue distance, its summit hidden in the clouds, the strata of its rocky form aslant, a hanging glacier clinging to its slopes, was Mount Edith Cavell, a truly worthy monu ment to bear such a name (Plate III). It was massive, yet ethereal; lofty, yet not forbidding. A spur road leads directly to the foot of the mountain, and by noon we were standing on the terminal moraine of the Angel Glacier, which clings to its steep slopes, and watching the gray clouds scudding over it (Plate V). For more than an hour we waited before the sun peeped through for a brief moment to set the ice asparkle. To our right, nestling in a verdant valley, glistened little Cavell Lake (Plate IV).