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Origins and History


"Climbers on a moraine near Yoho Glacier, 1914" by Byron Harmon
Detail from "Climbers on a moraine near Yoho Glacier, 1914" by Byron Harmon
Courtesy: Carole Harmon and Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies

Despite the fact that Canada was a world centre for mountaineering by the turn of the twentieth century, Arthur Wheeler, the first President of the Alpine Club of Canada, found it very difficult to create an alpine association in this country.  Though many clubs all over the world had been formed in the tradition of the Alpine Club created in England in 1857, Canadians didn't seem interested in forming an organization of their own.  After several attempts at creating a Canadian organization, Wheeler was ready to accept the American Alpine Club's offer to establish a wing of that organization in Canada.  Wheeler, however, did not give up.  For three years after the A.A.C. offer, he wrote letters to major Canadian newspapers trying to garner support for a wholly Canadian organization.  Ultimately, it was Wheeler's letter to the Manitoba Free Press that resulted in the creation of Canada's first national alpine organization.

Alpine Club of Canada - Founding Meeting
Courtesy: Alpine Club of Canada collection,
Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.

Because she had eighteen months experience in the Rockies, J.W. Dafoe, editor of the Manitoba Free Press, passed A.O. Wheeler's 1905 letter to journalist Elizabeth Parker for comment.  Parker lambasted Wheeler's idea of affiliation with an American club which prompted the astute Wheeler to ask for press space and editorial support to promote a Canadian alpine organization.  Dafoe, Mrs. Parker, and the Manitoba Free Press, now the Winnipeg Free Press, became ardent supporters of the country's first alpine organization.  Elizabeth Parker then set out on a tireless campaign of articles about the club and its objectives.  With the support of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Parker and Wheeler organized the club's founding meeting in Winnipeg in March of 1906 at which she became the organization's first secretary.

At the March 1906 organizational meeting, a decision was made to offer annual mountaineering camps to educate Canadians about mountain travel and to instill a sense of national pride in our mountain heritage.  The first Annual General Mountaineering Camp was held in July of 1906 in Yoho National Park.  Habits of mountain appreciation and safe travel established at this camp have since become traditions in the Alpine Club of Canada.  Though its fundamental values have not changed, the Club has grown over the last 90 years to more than 5000 members.  The A.C.C. now operates the largest public backcountry hut system in North America and offers mountain adventure opportunities around the world.  The Club's annual Canadian Alpine Journal is the oldest and most respected publication of its kind in the country.  As envisioned by its founders, the Alpine Club of Canada continues to shape the Canadian way of thinking about mountains and our image as a mountain culture.

- Bev Bendell, Members Handbook 1996

    VISION: Preserving, practicing and promoting Canadian mountain culture and self-propelled alpine pursuits.
Préserver, pratiquer et promouvoir la culture alpine canadienne et les activités non motorisées en montagne.