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The Swiss Mountain Guides that Changed Climbing in Canada

Legendary alpinist Ueli Steck appears in this film that was released in 2013, but was just published online

Photo by: Bruno Engler of Rudi Gertch

The documentary Swiss Guides in the Canadian Rockies – Beyond Adventure (2013) tells the story of these early Swiss Guides and their legacy that still keeps shaping Canadian mountain culture. It was released online this week.

Around 1900, the Canadian Rockies were merely viewed as an obstacle. This perception drastically changed when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) hired Swiss mountain guides in order to make the Rocky Mountains accessible for mountaineering tourism.

The mountain guides that came from the Swiss Alps to work for CPR hotels between 1899 and 1954 led hundreds of first ascents and taught safe climbing techniques to thousands of climbers. The legacy of these early Swiss pioneers continued to live on in the 1950s and 1960s when a younger generation of Swiss mountaineers became crucial for the development of modern mountain rescue, avalanche control, skiing and helicopter skiing.

Most importantly however, the Swiss Guides helped cultivate a common appreciation of Canada’s western mountains and of an environment to be both preserved and revered.

Swiss Mountain Guides


Lead photo: Bruno Engler of Rudi Gertch