One of the things I had done with the VOC…was I became a member of the Volunteer Search and Rescue Society in Vancouver and we had done some training. And because we were climbers, it was sort of accepted even though we were young guys or teenagers, we learned some tricks with ropes including how to pick a person up on your back, like you are carrying piggy back. You make a harness out of the climbing rope so that this person is being carried. Sid being half again as big as I was, maybe twice as big as I was, I rigged him with the harness and loaded this person with the injured foot on. And we could walk along this edge which was sort of sloping and work our way around the corner to a big deep gully and then we did a lower where I was doing the rope work. I lowered Sid with this person on his back down to this gully, it was lower angle, it wasn’t climbing in there, but there were boulders and it was scrambling to get down. We got down to the trail at the foot of the mountain which was really close to the warden station and we arranged to have him trucked down to the hospital in Banff…So that was my first rescue and I wasn’t even an official (warden). I wasn’t even on the pay roll that day!

(35:57) The first summer in Yoho Park was the summer that I was working for the trail crew. The next summer which was 1968, I took a holiday and went running around, hitchhiking across BC and a little bit of Alberta.

(37:12) In 1969…I decided to go back to get a summer job. I had no idea or comprehension of getting quote “a real job” like your dad would like you to get. But I decided, if I was going to get any job, I was going to go back to the park because at least I knew where I was. So I sent a letter to the park, to the Chief Warden and I said, “I would like to come back.” By the way, this was the first time in my life I had ever written a letter where I had to tell anybody about myself and I was trying for something…I happened to know that Sid wasn’t doing that anymore (being the Lake O’Hara warden) and they might be giving consideration to who would go to Lake O’Hara. I mailed this off to the park and this coincided with (me) reaching the point in my life where I was ready to actually pick up my pack and hitchhike down to California to see it myself. I say this because I had been monitoring everything that was happening in the climbing scene down there and finally I had the guts (to go). But almost literally the day that I was going to leave a letter came back from the park and it said, “You are welcome to come back to a job on the trail crew.” Then it said, “About your suggestion about working at Lake O’Hara, we may give it some consideration.” So here I was…I wasn’t due to go immediately up there, but it was pretty fast acting…I sent a note back saying, “I’m coming.” Then I went to California (and) I went to Yosemite and right away climbed a couple of things. And I was just going, “WOW!” O’Hara is one kind of heaven and this was the competition. I was climbing as fast as I could and a couple of my friends from Vancouver showed up. I got there first and then they showed up. I will spare you the details, but I only had a week or so (before) I had to get back to Vancouver and then get up to Yoho. I was out there and I almost didn’t (leave). I could have very, very easily slipped into being a climbing bum! But, something in the back of my mind said (not to). I just had the brains to come home and go back…

(41:30) They started me up in my old job, my second summer at Yoho working on the trail crew…We would go out in the morning in the truck from the compound and we would go out to our trail crew job and…when you came back in the afternoon, sort of at quitting time, you would park your truck. You were left to stand beside your truck until the quitting signal. I say this because there was this sign, this idiotic sign in the compound that said, “Employees who leave their muster stations prior to the quitting signal will be disciplined!” It was just typical government! You would arrive 15 minutes early and you couldn’t leave…Anyways, the Chief Warden happens to be coming across the compound and suddenly he is talking to me. The line he gave me was, “Are you still interested in that job up at Lake O’Hara and we all know the answer! It was Jack Woledge that announced to me that I could have the job at Lake O’Hara if I wanted it.

(43:42) So the very next morning he picks me up from the bunkhouse where we all stayed…down in the compound, and he takes me over to the grocery store. I buy a box full of groceries and then load up my duffel bag and we drive up to Lake O’Hara. The next thing I know, he is sitting at the table in the warden station and I am bustling around putting the cans of beans on the shelf…As he is sitting there he is whittling a fuzz stick. You take a piece of kindling and you curl it up (with a knife) and he is just quietly demonstrating a skill that I might want to know, starting the stove, a real wood stove. There is no running water or anything. He was doing that and he was also telling me things that I needed to know. The first thing that I needed to know about Lake O’Hara in my official capacity was that I should get myself to the Lake O’Hara Lodge and get introduced to Dr. George Link. Dr. Link, he was a doctor/professor from Chicago who had been coming to Lake O’Hara for dozens of years without missing a single year. He had started going to Lake O’Hara in the years before the Second World War and he had met other people that had fallen, as people do, in love with Lake O’Hara, instantaneously in most cases. There were a couple of trails around Lake O’Hara, but hardly any of them were properly made by a trail crew. Like the trail around the lake itself was just there from so many people walking around it. In any case that was the smartest thing (I did) because Dr. Link knew all about where the little trails were and what was going on. I could ask him and he would know the answer about what needed doing and stuff like that. That was my first summer (as a seasonal warden) and I fell in love with the place. It wasn’t just the climbing, although I can’t think of a place more perfect for a climber than a place that is heaven in terms of vegetation and then beautiful rocks and waterfalls, the whole thing…What I did was I stayed there all summer. I did what I thought was right, right down to (being) the person who made sure there was a roll of toilet paper at the various outhouses around and I did a little impromptu trail work, just because. The other thing was that I was there as a climber if something went wrong and of course something did go wrong. I was there to go around the lake to the far side and get them to bring a canoe down and take this person with a sprained ankle back…

I wasn’t a real warden, I forget what you called it…this was definitely warden one, if it was at all.

“Warden one or warden two?”

I had a shirt with epaulettes, but it didn’t have any badges on it. I looked the part enough!

(48:39) Switch ahead to the end of the season…remember the two guys, my buddies that arrived in Yosemite Park, just about the time I got the news that I had the potential job? Well, those two guys did what I hadn’t done, they stayed. That summer they started to wall climb and they climbed two or three moderate walls and then they embarked on the “big one” which in those days was a route on the nose of El Capitan. All summer long as they did these various climbs, they would scribble a little story on a postcard and mail it off to me. So every couple of weeks, I got these updates on what they were doing. I am going, “Oh no!” I mean they really cleaned up! They were doing great climbs, straight off the couch you know. Including like I say, the biggest one in those days…So it is the end of the season and the last postcard that comes in is them announcing that they had just completed the first Canadian ascent of El Capitan. It being the end of the season and I was being laid off anyway, I was instantly, like a rocket, trying to get back to Yosemite to get in on the action, the other action right! Shortly after that I am picked up early one morning. It is my ride down the O’Hara road to catch the bus to head home to Vancouver so I could gear up and go you know where! But I will never forget it, I was riding in the front seat of the Chief Warden’s car on the passenger side driving down from Lake O’Hara and you drive right underneath Wiwaxy. You lean out the window and you’re looking straight up and there is 1500 feet of really neat climbing and I know that I had tears in my eyes when I was going home…

El Capitan

The Rostrum

(52:03) That part of this long story (is to say that) I did make it down to Yosemite just in time to catch up with another friend and off we went. My second day there we started up our first wall climb and did it. It was an overnighter. It was a really neat climb and it was…the very first one that those two other guys had climbed. But the punch line is on the second pitch of this climb called the Rostrum, it is a pillar of rock, about eight pitches high, quite big in other words and…it is very steep. But it has not only wall climbing, but also free climbing on it. I started up a pitch that looked perfect, classic El Cap climbing. It was a very clean vertical crack about the width of your foot. I climbed up this thing and I got two thirds of the way up and to make this story short, I fell off…The crack was too big for anything, so I bypassed the point of no return and I had to step into space. I fell straight down and I clipped my heel on my left foot when the rope was just catching my descent and I wound up with a broken ankle. I had a cast on my leg for five and a half months. So there I was, my first everything you know, including the first real wreck. The irony here is the fall that I had two years ago was identical almost, only it was the other foot!

“What did your parents think of your climbing adventures?”

(55:47) This is my mom talking, her reaction to my climbing and stuff, well I characterize her as an ostrich. She said “As long as I have my head in the sand, I don’t care what you are doing.” Which is actually quite reasonable.

(56:19) So this was 1969 in Yoho and the next year I went back and got the job. I didn’t know it and this is going to make some people furious in a way, in the middle of the winter of my cast…I get a letter from Parks and it is a letter offering me a job the next summer. I thought, “Oh, isn’t that nice. They are making it easy for me to go back to work.” What I didn’t realize is they were actually offering me a position, a term warden position. That was tantamount to I was being hired permanently for a part time job. I didn’t even know that I was so stunned. I wasn’t really into the niceties of the government.

(57:34) With trail crew when I got there as the kid…there were two or three guys…all old guys and they were all loggers…we spent a good part of the summer putting up a telephone line that went from pretty well the town out to the south end of the park to the west gate, which no longer exists. It was put up in a tree with those white insulators…Somebody had to be elected to climb up these trees to hang this telephone line and it was me. “Pick me! Pick me!” I get to climb while I am working! The boss of our little gang, he offered me the job of actually climbing because otherwise I think it was going to have to be him. I said, “I am happy to do it…” So there I am with the leather belt and the spurs, going up and down (the trees). You take what we called the “Boys axe”, a light axe and I would pull up the cable and I would screw things in…I don’t know how many weeks it took to actually string it this way and ironically when it was all over I went to somewhere else in the compound where there was a huge portable spool of wire that was just like the wire that I was putting up. In fact, I was putting up a line where they had already had one and taken it down. I put the whole thing back up again! You start going, “I get what people are alluding to when they are talking about the government…” At the end of that first day where I was being the lineman with the spurs, everything had gone smooth (even though) that guy had stood at the bottom of the trees going, “Ooooh! Eehhh! Careful!” Like this all day long and the very last thing I did was I got a little casual and I went “Chop” and cut the belt that was holding me there. I am falling straight down to the ground horizontally with that really sharp axe beside me, maybe about two feet away it landed with the blade out. I landed in a duff of moss. It was like a spring bed! I couldn’t have had a more perfect landing. He just about fainted of course. I thought, “Oh, no there goes my interesting job.” But at least he had the brains to go, “Now you know what can happen.” Like I could have took my head off…Imagine that part of the wordage that describes my job would be something like safety or public safety. If you really know me and how I operate and the story of my life (it is ironic)…

“So when you got that letter then offering you (a permanent position), did you accept it right away?”

(1:03:27) No, I just had it and I went “Wow!” Somebody half way through the summer explained to me, dense as I was, that this means they will offer you the same job next year…I am going, “Hmm!” That didn’t hurt my feelings…The summer job usually started sometime in June or May, something like that and finished sometime in September and guess what I was doing with my spare time? Going to Yosemite, right? For four years in a row, I went down to Yosemite in the spring and in the fall…I was catching up on that climbing there that I missed. I was also picking up knowledge on wall climbing. I kind of thought if anybody needed to do something back in the park in terms of rescue work I was fairly (confident) that I was able to (help). That explains me for four more years.

(1:05:10) At the end of that four years, it happened to be the year that I was successful in asking to join the ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides). That meant I had put in an application and Hans Gmoser who was big in the Association, decided that I could be tested…So the following spring, which was 1974…I took the test. I can’t remember whether it was one month or two months. The first half was skiing and winter travel…route finding and glacier travel and then in the following weeks, it was…rock climbing and mountaineering and all the rest. I wound up with a certification as a mountain guide. And I basically used that certification and that training for the rest of my career, which involved a lot of taking other people out climbing to show them the ropes.

(1:07:14) I am jumping around back and forth a bit, but in those years (in Yoho) I also got involved in fire fighting. One year had a horrendously big fire, the Amiskwi fire…It was a summer where there were fires all over the park, and some of them were giant fires and dangerous…the longer they were there, the more helicopters started to show up. These were big, what you called medium helicopters, which because of the dates were being supplied by pilots who were fresh from Vietnam. They were coming home and retiring from the army and were beginning to fill up all the pilot positions in the United States. They had loads of these medium helicopters, which were the most common helicopters that were being used in Vietnam. It is comparing a four person helicopter to a ten/twelve person helicopter. That happened in the midst of the summer. It was really interesting and I learned a lot about fires by trying to put them out.

Tim – 1985 Centennial Climb expedition.

(1:09:15) Also in those years, it was one of the biggest snow years of that era. We didn’t really know much about snow safety, in other words avalanches. I began to work on the edges of the winter season. As soon as I got the guides certification, (they began) offering me a fulltime job. All the time that I was working at Yoho in the summer and then (going to) California in the winter they were offering me a fulltime job, in other words they liked me or something, except for one time…