Hiking the High Line

April 20th, 2020 1 Minutes

The collection of slides almost ended up in the trash. A member of the board of the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History had heard about Bill’s collection of slides and had gone to Bill’s house in June 2013 to inquire about them. Unfortunately, Bill had just recently passed away and neighbours at the request of Bill’s next of kin were disposing of his possessions.

Bill was a quiet, solitary man who was a long serving volunteer at the Cranbrook Public Library and an avid gardener. He often attended neighbourhood block parties and was seen riding around town on his old bicycle. Most people didn’t know that Bill had climbed some of Canada’s most challenging peaks such as Mount Wood and Mount Hoge in the Yukon, Howser Spire in the Bugaboos, Mount Sir Sandford in the Big Bend ranges of the Selkirks, Tsar Mountain and Mount Robson in the Canadian Rockies, and the giant of the Coast Mountains, Mount Waddington.

The Institute was able to get in contact with Bill’s nephew in Switzerland and arrange for the collection to be digitally archived. The collection of over 1800 photographic slides in vivid Kodachrome chronicles (among other things) Bill Hurst’s mountaineering from the late 1950s to the 2000s. Bill’s photos will fascinate those with an interest in the history of climbing in the Rockies, those interested in how climbing gear has evolved and those interested in the rapid recession of glaciers.

Unfortunately, much of Bill’s story ended up being recycled or in the landfill. Research has revealed little of Bill Hurst’s past. He was born on November 8, 1924. Before coming to Cranbrook, he worked in Nelson in the 1960s for the water resource branch of the federal Department of Energy, Mines, and Resources doing hydrographic surveying in the Kootenays.

Oral history has it that Bill came to the Kootenays from the U.S. in the late 1950s. He was supposedly doing survey work for the North American Water and Power Alliance (N.A.W.A.P.A).

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