Crack out the cake and spark up the candles. Theres a party in the works. August 27 is the fortieth anniversary of the renaming of Whistler Mountain, ditching its "London" moniker for good and clearing up a period of official ambivalence that lasted nearly 40 years.
Karl Ricker clarifies the historic record. "The locals always knew it as Whistler. It was never known as London Mountain," he says. Ricker was a member of the party of legendary climbers and mountaineers who first skied the Spearhead Traverse in 1964, alongside Mrs. Phyllis Munday, Dr. Neil Carter and Dr. Roy Hooley, all of whom had completed first ascents in the region in their climbing careers.
Ricker, then 28, saw the potential for the Spearhead Traverse as a ski-tour once the chairlifts were in, "but the trouble was, there were not enough geographic names to make the traverse palatable in case people got in trouble." So the group gathered throughout the summer of 1964 to suggest names for the un-christened peaks in the area. While they were tossing names like Harmony Basin, the Musical Bumps, and Fissile around, group elders Munday and Carter, whose most prolific climbing had been done in the 1920s and 30s, decided the group should agitate to have the name Whistler reinstated.
Explains Ricker, "When the B.C. Mountaineering Club got the Garibaldi area gazetted as a park, the government sent a surveyor out to make a map." A.J. Campbell, a world renowned photogrammatrist mapmaker, spent the summers of 1927 and 1928 shooting images from the peaks to get survey points, and plotting out the park. Once the fieldwork was done, the political interference began. Government officials angling for a shot at posterity wanted their names on the map, and ended up securing mountains like Troy, Pattison and Weart for their egos.
"Part and parcel of this game was all the mining claims in the area, and lo and behold there was the London Mining Co. with a big claim on Whistler and somehow it was put on the map to be commemorated," Ricker recalls. Despite the fact that the local usage of Whistler was well-established.
The committee submitted their suggestions to the government at the end of 1964, and by August 1965, as Franz Wilhelmsen was overseeing construction of the first chairlift, Whistlers little identity crisis had been resolved.
This re-christening kicks off a season of reasons to party. Whistler Mountain celebrates its accumulation of gravitas with its 40th year as a ski operation, and Blackcomb laughs in the face of grey hair at 25. Really, the numbers are irrelevant, except for the basic fact that anniversaries are great excuses to reminisce, get drunk together and tell stories. Remind ourselves how far weve come, whose shoulders we stand on, of the close calls and the embarrassing moments wed rather forget.