||September/October 2001 issue||
Backcountry beat |
High points |
Avalanche hazards |
A mountain by any other name…
Official Canadian place names are approved by the Geographical Names Board of Canada, but
many of our mountain monikers were suggested by the mountaineers who first climbed them
or the geological surveyors inspired by their summits. Here are some of the interesting themes
found among our country’s peaks.
Biblical referencesMount Moriah is named for the biblical mountain where Abraham made preparations to sacrifice
Devil’s Thumb is a mountain near Lake Louise.
Mount Cain and Mount Abel on Vancouver Island are named for the unfortunate Biblical brothers,
and are ironically adjacent to Eden Mountain.
The province also has a number of references to the Devil, including Devil’s Claw
Mountain and Devils Club Mountain. An area of the Coast Mountains known as the ’White
Inferno’ contains mountains named for the mythical chief lords of Satan - Beelzebub,
Azazel, Belial, Dagon, Moloch, and Rimmon; Mount Satan is also in this group. B.C. is also
home to Lucifer Peak.
High above the timberline is Ark Mountain, named by local natives after they discovered
the remains of an old log cabin of prospectors. With only missionary education and no obvious
reason for the logs to be carried so far and high, they assumed it to be the remnants of
Noah’s Ark. The Yukon is also home to Mount Jesus.
Shakespearean mountain names On Vancouver Island, 70 km northwest of Campbell River, two adjacent mountains were named
Mount Romeo and Mount Juliet for the pair of star-crossed lovers. They are separated by Montague
Creek (from Romeo’s surname) which has Capulet Creek as a tributary (Juliet’s
Garibaldi National Park is home to Angelo Peak, named for the naval officer in Othello.
The park also includes Mount Iago (Othello), Mount Benvolio (Romeo and Juliet), and Mount
Macbeth (Macbeth), which were all named in honour of Shakespeare’s 400th birthday.
Greek MythologyIn the Coast Mountains north of Vancouver, the peaks of Mount Eurydice and Mount Orpheus
are separated by the Styx Glacier. This is in reference to the Greek myth in which the lovers
Orpheus and Eurydice are eternally separated by the River Styx.
Another legendary pair of Greek lovers is immortalized in Mount Ulysses and Mount Penelope
in the northern Rockies of northeastern B.C.
Christmas in CanadaIn 1964, Arthur Wightmann, then New Brunswick’s member on the Canadian Permanent
Committee on Geographical Names, dubbed a 210-metre hill North Pole Mountain in honour of
Santa Claus’ mythical home. He named an adjoining peak Mount St. Nicholas, and eight
nearby peaks Mount Dasher, Mount Dancer, Mount Prancer, Mount Vixen, Mount Comet, Mount Cupid,
Mount Donder [sic] and Mount Blitzen after Santa’s faithful reindeer. It was later
suggested that Rudolph be added, but the idea was rejected, deemed to be too commercial.
On the provincial boundary, about 25 km north of Kicking Horse Pass, is St. Nicholas Peak,
named by a topographical surveyor in 1908 for one side of the mountain’s resemblance
to Santa Claus’ profile.
Foreign Heads of State/RoyalsIn the 1940s, Prime Minister Mackenzie King instructed the Geographic Board of Canada to
rename Castle Mountain as Mount Eisenhower. This rankled Albertans, and in the late 70s,
after much debate, the name Castle Mountain was reinstated and the American general was given
the honour of Eisenhower Peak on part of the mountain.
At the southern end of Banff National Park are Mount Queen Elizabeth and Mount King Albert.
They are named in honour of the Belgian King Albert, who was a First World War ally, and
his wife, Queen Elisabeth (although the mountain’s name is spelled differently). He
reigned from 1904 until1934, when he died after a rock climbing fall.
The northern Rockies include Mount Roosevelt and Churchill Peak.
The former Mount Stalin in B.C. was named to honour Josef Stalin as a Second World War
ally, but in the 1980s Ukrainian Canadians voiced their objection to honouring a man whom
they viewed as a war criminal. In 1987, the B.C. government changed it to Mount Peck, after
Don Peck, a widely respected trapper, guide and outfitter from the area.
Mount Queen Bess, 245 km northwest of Vancouver, is named for Queen Elizabeth I.
Mount Kennedy was named in memory of U.S. President John F. Kennedy after his death. In
1965, his brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy went on record as the first person to climb
its peak. JFK was the last U.S. President to have a Canadian geographical feature named after
him, and with restrictions on commemorating non-Canadians, he will likely remain the last.
The Yukon also has Jubilee Mountain, named in 1887 for Queen Victoria’s 50-year jubilee,
and Mount King George and Mount Queen Mary, named in 1935 for George V’s and his consort’s
silver jubilee, or 25 years of rule.
Canadian Prime MinistersMany of our early prime ministers are honoured in mountains rising above Rogers Pass in
north-central B.C.: Mount Mackenzie, Mount Tupper, Mount Macdonald and Mount Laurier.
In the Coast Mountains, Mount Sir Robert is named after Sir Robert Borden, our eighth prime
The Premier Range (established in 1927) includes Mount Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Mount Sir John
Abbott, Mount Sir John Thompson and Mount Sir Mackenzie Bowell. All of these replaced pre-existing
names. Also, Mount Mackenzie King and Mount Arthur Meighan replaced previously existing mountain
names in 1962. The mountain climbing community was not pleased with these renamings because
the original names either reflected past experiences on the mountains or remembered respected
B.C. also has Mount Richard Bennett, Mount Louis St-Laurent and Mount Lester Pearson.
Receiving many honours, Sir Wilfrid Laurier is also remembered in the Yukon with Mount
In October 2000, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien proposed renaming the Yukon’s Mount
Logan (Canada’s highest peak) for the recently deceased Pierre Trudeau, Prime Minister
from 1968-1979 and 1980-84). After a public and media uproar, Heritage Minister Sheila Copps
announced another, unnamed feature would be named in honour of the former PM.
In the Yukon, the Centennial Range has mountains named for each of the provinces and territories
(except Nunavut, which did not exist in the Centennial year, 1967).
Canada by Alan Rayburn (University of Toronto Press, 2001)
Places & Names by R.C. Coutts (Gray’s Publishing Ltd., 1980)
Names of Atlantic Canada by William B. Hamilton (University of Toronto Press,
Where do you get most of your geographic knowledge?