About The Club
The Comox District Mountaineering Club was formed in 1927 by a few people interested in exploring Forbidden Plateau. These pioneers were the original route finders and trail builders in this area and as the years went by, club members extended their trails further into Strathcona Park. Most of these trails are still in use today and if you look closely at the trees along the way, you can see the original “blaze” or axe marks made by these early explorers.
In 1928, the club constructed a cabin on the eastern shoulder of Mt Becher, as the access that we enjoy today wasn’t in place back then. The addition of this getaway allowed members to realize easier access to a range of backcountry pursuits, especially winter activities.
During the Winter of 1929, two members introduced skiing to the club, Clinton Wood, on a pair that he had ordered from the Prairies for the astronomical price of $15 and Jack Gregson, who built his own pair. Another new addition to the club that winter was a toboggan, which was also purchased from the Western Provinces. Many early members found the cost of skis prohibitive and elected to purchase snowshoes, instead.
Trail building increased during the Depression era of the 1930’s with the efforts of a local official, who lobbied the provincial
government’s work programs. Clinton Wood, Courtenay’s water commissioner, not only realized the tourism potential of the plateau but also the need to provide employment for out-of-work locals.
Years later, Sid Williams recalled the great effort it took to access Mt Becher from the Valley during the early days of the club. After crossing a floating bridge near Bevan, it was a 15 km hike to the cabin since snowshoes and skis were not yet popular. Often, members would trudge up the mountain in deep snow, spelling each other off as they ploughed through the drifts.
Clinton Wood built the first Forbidden Plateau Lodge in the early 1930’s and a road was completed to the 600 m level, which essentially cut the distance in half to the Mt Becher cabin. It was Sid Williams who popularized the use of sealskin climbers which allowed club members, such as himself and Dick Idiens, to access the steep eastern flanks of Mt Becher. Sid had an oft heard winter phrase “Let’s take a shush again”, which prompted the naming of an early CDMC crest as the “Takashushagain Forbidden Plateau Ski Badge”, pictured below. Dick Idiens was both a founding father of CDMC and accompanied the first recorded winter summit of Albert Edward. All of these early pioneers of CDMC are commemorated with geographical features named after them.
Ruth Masters, was CDMC’s eldest member until her passing on Nov. 7, 2017. A commemoration of her life is provided here. She joined the club in the late 1930’s during a time when the local mountains were attracting interest from all over the Island. Telemark skiing started to have an impact and in 1938 CDMC held the first Vancouver Island ski meet – Mt Becher was known for having the only terrain on the BC coast where 60 m jumps were possible.
During 1938, Ruth was invited, by her friend Kathryn, to climb the Comox Glacier on a trip led by Kathryn’s father Geoffrey Capes. This mountaineer was a founding member of our mountain club and this trip resulted in Ruth’s entry into the club. The previous year, Geoff and Sid took a young lad, Roger Schjelderup, to the summit of the Golden Hinde, then what was thought to be the 1st attempt of the highest point on Vancouver Island. Roger would go on to be what is believed to be the highest decorated Canadian Army Officer of WWII. Ruth, among her many accomplishments, was able to have Schjelderup Lake named after Roger, which is situated to the south of the Hinde and clearly visible from the summit.
Prior to serving her country overseas, Ruth worked as a junior guide and camp cook for Eugene Croteau, who operated a lodge on the shores of Croteau Lake. Ms. Masters almost single-handedly, with the support of CDMC, placed the names of lost veterans onto local geological features.
Ruth fought tirelessly for the environment, during her CDMC tenure, from attempting to save Buttle Lake in the 1950’s to being
awarded a BC Environmental Award in 2000. She twice won the Comox Valley Citizen of the Year Award and in 2004 she donated her Courtenay riverfront acreage to a Land Trust to be preserved in perpetuity.
Melda Buchanan, a long-time member of CDMC and also a staunch supporter of the environment, is remembered in Seal Bay Park with both a monument and geological feature In 2009, CDMC considered contributing funds towards the writing of her biography.
Over ninety years later, the club continues to develop, improve, and maintain trails throughout the area. In the 1960’s, CDMC made many directional signs for the Forbidden Plateau area, thanks in part to Ruth’s talents, and these can still be seen today. Also, the club has placed cairn signs on the summits of many Strathcona Park mountains. For its Millennium Project in 2000, the club built nine tent platforms at the Lake Helen MacKenzie campsite in Strathcona Park. For it’s 90th year celebration, the CDMC took part in building the Croteau Lake Yurt deck and host platform for and in conjunction with BC Parks.
Many of CDMC’s early members have been memorialized with local features bearing their names and other members have been accredited with first ascents of Vancouver Island peaks. These early pioneers of our club were instrumental in instilling a mountain spirit in the Comox Valley that still exists to this day. Some of this can be attributed to our many active elders, that had the torch passed to them and who now continue to lead the way (for CDMC) into the 21st Century.
CDMC is a member of the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC and the bulk of our membership dues cover insurance costs. Another portion of these dues go to supporting wilderness conservation and access as well as other issues that are of interest to backcountry travellers.
Read the Adventures With Don Apps by Otto Winnig here: Adventures_With_Don_Apps_By_Otto_Winnig_2011
Since it was founded in 1928, CDMC has had 4 different badges. The latest badge, introduced in 2018 depicts the iconic Comox Glacier.
The first, created in the 1950’s by Bob Gibson in collaboration with Sid Williams, features a bear with wing-like appendages, skis on its feet and ski poles in its front paws. There is a heart-shaped symbol on its chest. It was known as “Takashushagain”, referring to a “shush” or down-hill ski run. Ruth Masters remembers the badge, and said that in the 1950’s the club did not do much hiking in the summer, but was very active in the winter with skiing, which may be why the creature is shown with skiing equipment.
Then, probably in the early 1980’s, another club badge was created. Again, it is not known who designed it.
If you have any additional information about the badges, please contact the club. We would love to hear your story.
Thanks to Ken Stoker for the image of the 1950’s badge, and to Marianne Muir for the image of the 1980’s badge.