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Turning back the pages: Swiss guides

The following history of the C.P.R. Swiss guides are written by Edward Feuz Jr. sometime after his retirement.
Edward Feuz Jr. was still climbing at 90 years of age. Photo Courtesy of the Golden Museum

The following history of the C.P.R. Swiss guides are written by Edward Feuz Jr. sometime after his retirement.

In the year 1899, my father Edward Feuz Sr., and Christian Haesler Sr., came to Canada, engaged as mountain guides by the C.P.R. company. They were accompanied by Charles Clark, an Englishman, but educated in Switzerland. He acted as interpreter for these first C.P.R. Swiss guides. In 1901 more guides were brought out; the two Kaufmans, F. Michel, Schlunegger and others and they were stationed at Lake Louise, Glacier and Field. The writer, Edward Feuz Jr., came out with the older guides in 1903. The Guides came to Canada every Spring, and returned to Switzerland in October. They did this until 1911. My cousin, Gottfried Feuz, who came to Canada in 1906, returned to Switzerland in 1912. Ernest, my brother, and Rudolf Aemmer, joined us in 1909, but we still went back to Switzerland every fall.

The C.P.R. then decided to build houses for the guides. These houses were completed in 1911, and were named Swiss Village “Edelweiss”. In June of 1912, Ernest, Rudolf, Christian, and myself, along with our families, moved from Switzerland to the C.P.R. Swiss Village, to stay. A younger brother of mine, Walter, came out with us, but did not do any guiding until years later, but he worked for the C.P.R. company.

The Swiss Village is situated one mile west of Golden. The Company then employed only four guides after 1912.

In the fall of 1925, Glacier House, in the Selkirks, was closed for good. Chris Jorrimann, who was stationed in Field, was discharged, when Mt. Stephen House in Field was turned over to the Y.M.C.A.

Ernest Feuz and Christain Haesler, formerly stationed in Glacier, joined us (Edward Feuz and Rudolf Aemmer) in Lake Louise, which at that time was headquarters for the guides. We four guides were kept very busy with tourists, so the company engaged Walter Feuz as a guide also, and he then acted in this capacity until ill health forced him to give up guiding; but he is still working for the C.P.R. company, acting as captain of the rowboats and canoes on Lake Louise.

All the Guides are retired now, and the climbing on the wane, no other guides have been engaged by the C.P.R. company.

Christian Haesler, Jr. died in 1940, after having been mauled by a grizzly bear; and Rudolf Aemmer returned to Switzerland in 1950, and is still living. Walter Perron, a Swiss guide, who came over from Switzerland in 1950 when Rudolf and I retired, stayed with the C.P.R. for five years. He later settled in Banff, and now works for the Parks department, and is also operating a climbing school.

All the guides who came out from Switzerland between 1899 and 1955, climbed the highest peaks in the Canadian Rockies, many times going with pack-trains and camping for weeks at a time.

In 1906, Gottfried Feuz and I, went out with the Canadian Alpine Club, the camp at that time being at Summit Lake in the Yoho Park. We graduated the first members of the club, and today it consists of over 800 members.

We climbed with many distinguished people from all parts of the world. My father, Edward Feuz Sr., climbed Mt. Avalanche, in the Selkirks, with Lord Minto, in the year 1900. Lord Minto was at the that time Governor General of Canada. Many first ascents were made by us in those years, all of which are record. In many years of climbing and guiding people up the high mountains, we never had any accidents.

All the guides have greatly developed the adventurous side of their characters during their climbing in the Canadian Rockies.. Mostly all the first ascents have required one or more scouting trips to discover practical routes. At the end of a great ascent, the guide brings his patron down from the mountain in good condition and happy. Often in the evening, after a long hard day of climbing, they would sit around the camp fire, happy and content, talking over the satisfaction of having mastered a new ascent and conquest.

All told it was very interesting work, and to conclude my story, I might add, that much credit goes to the C.P.R. company.

Claire Palmer

About the Author: Claire Palmer

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