Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

What’s in a Name? Mount Edith Cavell Reminds Us

┬ęBert Gildart: When Brussels fell to Germany during World War I, a British nurse in charge of a local nursing facility refused to leave her post. Edith Cavell cared for the wounded on both sides and helped over 200 allied soldiers escape. She was arrested on charges of treason and shot before a firing squad on October 15, 1915. Because of her courage Canada gave her name to the highest mountain in the Athabasca Valley, the valley that Janie and I have been exploring this past week. Cavell Mountain is 3363 meters high and is certainly one of Jasper National Park’s most spectacular peaks-and for a number of reasons soon to become clear to Janie and me.

Mount Edith Cavell

Mount Edith Cavell

Yesterday, we made the 12 kilometer drive up a long grinding road to this beautiful mountain to discover that it is also adorned by two of the park’s still lingering glaciers and their associated features.


At the base of Mount Edith Cavell were a number of huge moraines as well as a developing lake, Cavell Lake. The lake is the result of much melt water and it reminded us a little of Glacier’s once massive Grinnell Glacier, now really little more than a lingering snow field with a newly formed lake that now goes by the name of Upper Grinnell.

Moraines and melt water

Moraines and melt water

Here in Jasper, however, many glaciers still linger despite global warming and that is because the park is further north and the mountains are several thousand feet higher. This is still a land of ice, and the lake and glaciers we reached following a two kilometer climb was dramatic.

At our feet were huge chunks of ice resulting from “calving” from Cavell Glacier. And next to it was Angel Glacier. The two made us think we’d been transported back to the age of ice depicted in Jean M. Auel books such as The Mammoth Hunters and Clan Of The Cave Bear.


According to the many interpretive signs, Angel Glacier and Cavell Glacier retain their ice but for slightly different reasons. Much of Angel Glacier is recessed and out of view in a huge cirque which more easily retains its ice. Because it is the nature of glaciers by definition to flow, ice from this glacier moves from the cirque and extends itself like a huge foot and into view.

Though my photograph suggests it is close, I used a telephoto lens to capture its grandeur. In other words, I abided by the warning signs that caution visitors from walking too close or beneath this massive sheet of ice as ice and rocks are constantly being sloughed from its mass.

Toe of Angel Glacier

Toe of Angel Glacier

Cavell Glacier by contrast results from the heavy accumulations it receives by virtue of snow fall. Unable to cling to the mountains sheer face, much of the snow avalanches down where it is transformed into glacier ice in the mountains cold shadows.

As the park’s interpretive sign says, however, “each summer a little more of the toe is nibbled off by the slightly warmer lake, causing icebergs and ice caves.”

Signs also point out that the glaciers of Cavell Mountain once extended down to the parking lot-one mile below us-but that in the past 100 years have regressed to their present position.


Still, these glaciers retain their magic; they are enchanting and it is easy to see why the mountain has been variously named. Native peoples called it White Ghost. Voyagers Montagne de la Grand Traverse (Mountain of the Great Crossing) and yet others called it by other names.

But the name that stuck was Cavell Mountain, and just like we wondered why Mount McKinley was initially named for a president who never spent more than a few passing hours in Alaska, so we wondered why Canadians named this mountain for a lady who apparently never spent any time in Canada.

But in this case, Edith Cavell had given her life so that others might live, and as Canadians point out, she had become known as the “Martyr nurse.”

Because I have great respect for the accomplishments of our military people, (see West Point and Memorial Day), fully realizing, too, that the Canadians could care less what I think, nevertheless would like to say that I am glad the highest mountain in the Athabascan range carries the name Edith Cavell.

Derivatives of Cavell Glacier

Derivatives of Cavell Glacier

Remember our allied martyrs–and this is one way of assuring they will.


*Bannock, Montana


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