Competition to claim the rich fur area of the west slopes and to open markets in the far east was ferocious in the 1800s. While the Americans rushed across the continent towards the mouth of the Columbia River, the Europeans forged routes through the Rocky Mountains in Canada. The challenging Athabasca Pass was used for half a century for travel and moving mail.
Guided in 1811 by “Thomas the Iroquois” on routes laid by Indigenous people for centuries, David Thompson was the first European to travel the pass. The lands were and still are untouched by human hands. Massive glaciers, clear cold rivers and snow-capped peaks welcome travellers.
When Sir George Simpson of the Hudson’s Bay Company arrived at the lake at the top of the pass in 1824, he noticed the water could flow east to the Arctic or west to the Pacific. A lake with such ability deserved a great name. He raised his glass of wine and named it “Committee Punchbowl”. Hearty hikers continue to toast the honour of the Hudson’s Bay Company to this day.