Peak Finder

Photo: Looking west to Patterson's Peak from Sullivan Hill near Highway #541

Patterson's Peak

  • 2728 m (8,950ft)
50.4775N -114.683W
Located between Head Creek and Trap Creek

Range: Highwood
Province: Alberta
Park: Kananaskis
Headwater: Bow
Visible from Highway: 541

In his book "Far Pastures," Raymond M. Patterson recalled driving up the Highwood Valley with Mary Pope, a visiting "dude" from England. They had a flat tire right at the top of Sullivan Hill, just east of Sullivan Creek. He wrote, "That flat couldn't have chosen a better time or place. This was Mary's arrival in the foothills and the Eden Valley of old Dr. Dawson (George Dawson) burst on her suddenly in all its autumn glory."

After the tire was changed Patterson was telling her the names of the mountains and included "Patterson's Peak." The ranch guest was most impressed saying, "So you've got a mountain named after you. How marvelous! Tell me all about it, now, while we look at it." Patterson explained with a grin, "That peak's nameless on the map. It's an orphan mountain and I just adopted it. If you ride up Flat can leave your horse and clamber on up the valley to a lake that's hidden behind that mountain."

Raymond Patterson claimed the mountain with some justification however, having had some personal experience on the peak. On a June morning, a year or two previous to hosting Mrs. Pope, he had left the ranch before dawn on what became an unsuccessful solo attempt to climb the mountain. Renovations were being made to the Patterson's home and with the disruptions and construction crew working there were, "too many people around and not a moment's peace...So, without saying anything to anybody, I got up in the dark one morning and got my own breakfast and got out of the place while the bunch was still enjoying its beauty sleep -just kissed the outfit good-bye for one whole perfect day."

Patterson rode nineteen kilometres up Flat Creek to the small lake below the northwest slopes of the mountain and, "...after lunch I took it into my head to climb that peak." In "Far Pastures," Patterson details how his progress was stopped about halfway to the summit by overhanging rock and how he eventually plummeted out of control down a steep snowslope before gently sliding onto the rocks at the bottom where, fortunately, the slope had become less steep.

He concluded his story by telling Mrs. Pope, "All in all it was a memorable day and I still feel I have a sort of squatter's right to that mountain."

The name was made official in 2000. On August 19th of that year a dedication ceremony was organized by Patterson's biographer, David Finch, and the two people responsible for making the name official, Gillean Daffern and Dave Birrell. The weather was perfect for the gathering on Sullivan Hill just north of Highway #541. Marigold Patterson, R.M.'s widow, was present as were Raymond and Marigold's sons, Robin and Alan, and daughter Janet Blanchet.

As Joyce Moore wrote in her newspaper column after being one of a hundred or so Patterson admirers present, "The spirit of R.M. Patterson was with us that day -his love of the mountains, his desire for adventure, and his joy in books and writing."

Raymond M. Patterson (1898-1984)

After service with the military in WW I, Raymond Patterson attended Oxford University and worked for the Bank of England. However he longed for adventure and moved to Canada, living on a homestead in the Peace River area from 1924 to 1929. During this time he made a solo canoe trip to the Nahanni River that became the basis of his book, "The Dangerous River." In 1933 he purchased the Buffalo Head Ranch in the Highwood Valley (west of Longview, Alberta) from his friend George Pocaterra.

While operating his ranch, Patterson travelled extensively in the Highwood Valley area, the Kananaskis and the mountains in the Elk Valley of British Columbia until moving to British Columbia in 1945. He made the first ascent of Mount Head and very likely was the first to climb Holy Cross Mountain as well.

Patterson was deeply affected by the great Phillips Fire of 1936 which burned through the Highwood Valley. The fire, combined with the building of a major road which Patterson described as a, "dusty, ill-omened snake," signalled the end of an era. He sold the Buffalo Head Ranch in 1945 and during October of that year Patterson and his wife Marigold, together with three packhorses, rode over the Highwood and North Kananaskis Passes to continue their lives in British Columbia.

Patterson's book "The Buffalo Head" describes his explorations and adventures in the Canadian Rockies and is considered "classic" Rocky Mountain literature. He also wrote extensively of his explorations in Northern Canada, particularly in the Nahanni River Valley.

R.M. Patterson's biography, "R.M. Patterson -A Life of Great Adventure" by David Finch was published by Rocky Mountain Books in December, 2000.

[The complete story of R.M. Patterson's attempt to climb "his" mountain may be found in his book "Far Pastures" on pages 118-120.]

Photo: Looking south to Patterson's Peak (courtesy Rienk Lakeman)

Photo: Looking west to Patterson's Peak from Sullivan Hill near Highway #541

Photo: Looking west to Patterson's Peak from Sullivan Hill near Highway #541

Looking northwest to Patterson's Peak from Highway #541