Who else is fantasizing about getting away from it all and running away to the mountains? I’m lucky in that I live in a national park (though in the stereotypically unmountainous province of Saskatchewan) so I have been spending a lot of time hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, but there’s something about those mountains that are calling me. I’m sure to visit once travel becomes advisable once more! In the meantime, I’m doing historical background research on female artists and mountaineers active in the Canadian Rockies about a century ago, to support the Rockies Repeat art project and documentary. I’m trying not to get too rosy-eyed and nostalgic over the aesthetics and experience of being a tourist in the mountains in the early decades of the 20th century, because it wasn’t without its issues (not the least of which was an Imperial mindset and casual racism), but the enthusiasm that these men and women embraced the outdoor lifestyle is delightful.
In my archival investigations, I ran across this great souvenir newspaper from one of the first meetings of the Alpine Club of Canada, in 1907, and I was charmed by some of the very relatable humour about camp life. Here are a few of my favourite elements:
The best kind of gloves to use when climbing are those belonging to your friend.
For hot-headed individuals, hats with holes throughout the crown are advised by our leading medical authorities.
Patchwork is rapidly growing in Dame Fashion’s favor. The crazier the better.
A great variety of shades are popular for the complexion, but perhaps the favorite is crushed strawberry.
The bare appearance of the ordinary tent-pole may be relieved by graceful drapings of knickers, sheets, hose, blouses, etc. In ordinary cases a large number of such garments are required to produce the most artistic effect.
The most handsome mantel drapings are composed of puttees [leg wrappings], preferably wet, which should be festooned at suitable intervals from the roof of the tent.
Graceful hanging pots may be made by tying ordinary climbing boots together and suspending them from any desirable point. Any plant may be grown in these, but the cactus is said to thrive best.
A gentleman of the quill called at one of the ladies’ tents early on Wednesday morning, greatly to their consternation. He was soon after promptly killed and his body thrown in the river. It is understood his name was Mr. Pork. U. Pine, of Moraine Lake.
WOMAN’S PAGE By Lady Paradise
Dear Lady Paradise, when is it proper for a young gentleman to put his feet round a lady’s waist when glissading? Mollie.
Dear Mollie: Before doing this, my dear, you must be sure that you have been properly introduced by a Presbyterian minister, or, failing him, by the camp cook.
Please tell me, dear Lady Paradise, the proper etiquette in connection with the use of the rubber cup, when climbing. –Bill
Always give it first, Bill, to the lady who you know has the most chocolate concealed about her person.
Further Reading on the Experience of Early Travellers in the Canadian Rockies
- MacLaren, I.S., Ed. Culturing Wilderness in Jasper National Park: Studies in Two Centuries of Human History in the Upper Athabasca River Watershed. Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta Press, 2007.
- Reichwein, Pearlann. Climber’s Paradise: Making Canada’s Mountain Parks, 1906-1974. Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta Press, 2014.
- Skidmore, Colleen, Ed. This Wild Spirit: Women in the Rocky Mountains of Canada. Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta Press, 2006.
- Skidmore, Colleen. Women Wilderness Photography: Searching for Mary Schäffer. Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta Press, 2017.
- Seton-Thompson, Grace Gallatin. A Woman Tenderfoot. New York: Doubleday, Page, and Co., 1900.