Archive for September, 2010

Candidate: #37

Location: Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Elevation: 2,599 metres

Range: Canadian Rockies

One of the classic views of the Canadian Rockies is that of Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park with a great block of stone towering over the lake in the backdrop. This view of Mount Burgess is the mountain’s most recognized aspect, though the true form of the mountain is better appreciated from other vantage points. It is a double-peaked mountain with glaciers that can’t be seen from the Emerald Lake view. Fortunately, the climb to the north peak is said to be a scramble that can be done in a day. The higher south peak is more of a challenge, however.

What makes Mount Burgess so special among mountains in the Rockies is the remarkable collection of fossils found on the mountain. The famous Burgess Shale was discovered in 1909 by Dr. Charles D. Walcott and the find was of such great significance because many of the fossils preserved the soft parts of the creatures as well as appendages. These parts usually decay with no preserved record. There are also such a great number of various creatures that entire phyla have been discovered here and the problem of classifying some of the animals remains challenging. In 1984 Yoho National Park was included in the Canadian Rocky Mountain parks UNESCO World Heritage Site and so the mountain and its fossils are now preserved with global importance.

Mount Burgess was first ascended in 1892 by surveyors James J. McArthur and H. Tuzo. The mountain was named in 1886 by Otto Klotz, who incidentally discovered the fossils on Mount Stephen, after Alexander MacKinnon Burgess who was Deputy Minister of the Interior and in 1897 became Commissioner of Public Lands. In 1996 it was proposed that the north peak be named Walcott Peak after the discoverer of the Burgess Shale fossil beds. The name was accepted.

The mountain is best climbed during the June-September climbing season in the Rockies but take note that this is grizzly country and bear spray should be carried. Camping is permitted in established camp sites. For back country tenting, consult with the parks office. Supplies can be picked up in the town of Field on the Trans Canada Highway. There is a very good description near the end of the entry about Mount Burgess here.

“The Ten Dollar Mountain,” remains an unofficial nickname for Mount Burgess as it was on the back of the Canadian ten dollar bill from 1954 to 1971.







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