A Collection of Historic Photos from Abbot Pass

In light of Parks Canada’s recent announcement regarding the removal of the Abbot Pass Refuge Cabin due to slope instability, I decided to create a post featuring historical photos of the cabin, as well as the area around Abbot Pass. What follows is a brief history of the cabin and small collection of vintage photographs. We’d love to hear about your memories and adventures from Abbot Pass. Please share them in the comments below.

Search party on Victoria Glacier. Going for body of Philip Abbot, killed in climbing accident in pass between Victoria Glacier and Mount Temple, 1896

Abbot Pass was posthumously named for Phillip Stanley Abbot after he became the first mountaineering fatality in North America back in 1896. With mountaineering gaining in popularity, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) began employing Swiss guides who implemented mountain safety techniques already established in Europe. Abbot Pass was chosen as a possible site for a climbing shelter as Mounts Victoria and Lefroy, the mountains on either side of the pass, were popular choices for guided climbs.

Alpine Club members at Abbot Hut, Alberta/British Columbia, 1923-1929

Two Swiss guides, Edward Feuz Jr. and Rudolph Aemmer, prepared blueprints for a stone cabin to be built on the col. Unwillingness on the part of the CPR didn’t dissuade the pair and eventually the necessary obstacles were overcome and their ambitious project was approved. The cabin was constructed in 1922 mainly using stones from the site, although nearly two tonnes of building materials needed to be transported up to the pass from Lake Louise via the treacherous ‘Death Trap’ route. When the hut was officially opened in the spring of 1923, twenty members of the Appalachian Mountain Club, of which Philip Abbot was a member, made the journey from Massachusetts to the Canadian Rockies to honour their fallen comrade.

James Cranston Shaw Bennett with photographic equipment on top of mountain peak. From Abbot Pass, on peak between Mount Lefroy and Mount Victoria, Alberta, 1920s

The Abbot Pass Hut remained within the CPR’s operation until the 1960s, when it was turned over to Parks Canada. The Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) obtained control of the hut’s operations in the mid-1980s and the cabin has remained with the ACC ever since. In 1992, the hut was awarded with National Historic Site of Canada designation, due to its rustic design and association with outdoor recreation and adventure in Canada’s flagship national park.

James Cranston Shaw Bennett with photographic equipment on top of mountain peak, Alberta, 1920s
Climbers on peak between Mount Lefroy and Mount Victoria, Alberta, 1920s
Abbot Pass, Glacier, British Columbia, 1905-1906
The ‘Death Trap’, Alberta, 1905-1906
Abbot Pass, Lake Louise, Alberta, 1905
Abbot Pass on the continental divide between Alberta and British Columbia, 1921-1937
Looking down from the Pass on the continental divide between Alberta and British Columbia, 1921-1937
Crevasse in the Death Trap enroute on the continental divide between Alberta and British Columbia, 1921-1937
The climbers’ hut on the continental divide between Alberta and British Columbia, 1921-1937
Looking down from Abbot Pass on the continental divide between Alberta and British Columbia, 1921-1937
Looking up to the summit of Abbot Pass from Lake Oesa in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, 1921-1937
Abbot Pass and Lake O’Hara, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, 1920s

For similar collections of historical photos, please visit these previous posts including Vintage Photos from the Alpine Club of Canada and Vintage Photographs from Lake Louise.

The Abbot Hut, 1932

The photos above were collected from the Glenbow Archives. If you’re interested, additional information can be found for each photograph on the Glenbow website by searching the identification number that is printed on the photo. There is also the option to purchase a high resolution copy. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from across Alberta. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.

About Tyler Dixon 196 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.