The CPR knew immediately they
had a prime tourist attraction at their rails.
After covering most of the treacherous track
sections with snow sheds, they built a second
line outside the sheds for summer use, so that
its passengers could have full view of the mountain
splendour through which they travelled. Glacier
House was constructed in 1886, primarily as
a dining room, so that trains would not have
to haul heavy dining cars up the steep grade
to Rogers Pass. By 1906, the property had been
enlarged and it was operating as a 90 room CPR
Most of Europe's major
peaks had been conquered, so the mountains of
Canada's western frontier held the promise
of new challenges. The Reverends Henry Swanzy
and William Spotswood Green made the first ascent
of Mount Bonney in 1888, believed to be one
of the first recreational climbs in North America
making Glacier National Park the birthplace
of recreational mountaineering in North America.
Recognising the economic potential of the sport,
the CPR brought two accredited guides from Interlaken,
Switzerland, to serve their adventuresome guests
at Glacier House. It was the beginning of a
tradition that was to continue in Glacier for
close to thirty years.
The Swiss Guides worked from
bases in Glacier, Field and Lake Louise, and
as the popularity of the sport increased, more
trained mountaineers joined Edward Feuz and
Christian Hasler, guiding even novice climbers
in major ascents. By 1903, some 40 peaks in
the Glacier area had been conquered. The programme
was such a success that the CPR built houses
for the guides in 1911, hoping they would make
Canada their home.
But Glacier House closed in
1925, no longer a convenient stop on the line
once the railway had abandoned Rogers Pass.
The guides moved to Lake Louise and visitor
numbers in Glacier declined. While a few climbers
still attacked the mighty Selkirks, there were
no facilities until the Alpine Club of Canada
erected the A.O. Wheeler Hut near the site of
the former Glacier House.