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Story of Enchantment brings Feuz to wide audience

Edward Feuz Jr.: A Story of Enchantment, written by Donna Stephen, a Canmore-based writer, psychologist and climber, places Feuz into the broader record in a story that is part biography, part history and part memoir.
EdwardFeuzJr
Edward Feuz Jr.: A Story of Enchantment, written by Donna Stephen, a Canmore-based writer, psychologist and climber, places Feuz into the broader record in a story that is part biography, part history and part memoir. HANDOUT

The history of the Bow Valley and the Rockies is awash in larger-than-life individuals. There’s Bill Peyto, Mary Schaffer and A.O. Wheeler, just to name a few.

But for every Peyto, Schaffer or Wheeler, there are other people who should be household names in the Rockies but who are instead overlooked, forgotten or ignored.

One of those individuals is the Swiss guide Edward Feuz Jr.

That’s not to say Feuz isn’t known or, in fact, famous. He’s a legend in the history of mountaineering and climbing; however, in the larger history of the Rocky Mountains, Feuz disappeared into the background as one of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s famed but usually nameless Swiss guides.

And this is a man who was the head guide at the Lake Louise Chateau, had over 100 first ascents in the Rockies and the Selkirks, led the 1922 construction of Abbott Pass Hut (a national historic site) and guided his entire life.

So, why isn’t Feuz, who began his career at Glacier House in the Rogers Pass and then worked at the Chateau Lake Louise, a household name like Peyto, Schaffer and Wheeler?

Perhaps it's because Feuz wasn't one of the CPR’s original Swiss guides like his father, Edward Feuz Sr.

Perhaps it’s because he never sought accolades or glory and instead climbed for the joy of it.

Or perhaps it’s because the CPR saw the Swiss guides not as individuals but as a marketing tool.

Finally, perhaps it's because the general history of the Rockies and its mountaineering history often run along parallel lines as two separate stories.

No matter what reason Feuz isn’t better known, a new book corrects that. Edward Feuz Jr.: A Story of Enchantment, written by Donna Stephen, a Canmore-based writer, psychologist and climber, places Feuz into the broader record in a story that is part biography, part history and part memoir.

“It's a hybrid,” Stephen said recently. “There's obviously a strong historical component, but I wouldn't claim that it's the history of climbing in Canada or anything like that because it's from a point of view. There’s some biography and then a memoir component, but the reason I call it A Story of Enchantment in the subtitle, that's the way I see it, as a story, as a point of view.” 

Feuz’s story begins with his birth in Interlaken, Switzerland in 1884, the same year the CPR completed its transcontinental railway. He arrived in Canada in 1899 and died in Golden, B.C. at 96 in 1981.

Stephen’s parents, Pat and Mike, befriended Feuz while working at the Chateau. They remained life-long friends, coming together at Feuz’s home in Golden every summer. As a result, Stephen, her parents and her siblings, Cindy and Michael, spent summers with Feuz climbing, hiking and exploring.

Despite his qualifications, reputation and ability, Feuz happily escorted the family into the backcountry, where he led them up mountains and across glaciers with nights spent sleeping under the stars and in the rain.

As a result, Stephen’s connection to Feuz has allowed her to share his life from a unique and engaging perspective.

And given its often personal nature, Edward Feuz Jr.: A Story of Enchantment, published by Rocky Mountain Books, is accessible to a wide audience. This allows readers to see Feuz for who he is beyond his remarkable accomplishments.

“Edward is not just his accomplishments,” said Stephen. “But for me, his personality, he was a very dynamic individual; he was enchanting.

“And one of the joys really of research was finding people 100 years ago saying the very same things that I felt about him.”

Along with the biography and memoir components, Stephen also delves into a range of historical topics as they relate to Feuz, tourism and mountaineering the Rockies and Selkirks. As a result, her topics include the history of Indigenous people in the Rockies, early mountaineering techniques, the intricacies of the client-guide relationship and how the CPR ran as a tourism provider.

Despite its wide reach, Edward Feuz Jr.: A Story of Enchantment is an enjoyable, easy read. Stephen has done an admirable job of bringing together Feuz’s life, her connection to him and the history of climbing and mountaineering and the general history of the Rockies. With such a range of topics, it would have been easy to lose focus. Instead, Stephen uses these topics to help readers better understand Feuz and his place in our history.

It's clear that Feuz is on par with the likes of Peyto, Schaffer and Wheeler, just in his own way. As readers, we’re fortunate that Stephen has welcomed us into this enchanting story, allowing us to get to know one of the great personalities of the Rockies. His story is a reminder of what it means to live among the mountains.

"Always seeking the mountains' good tidings,” writes Stephen. “This was the essence of Edward’s life; that and a boundless enthusiasm for sharing those good tidings with others. He was, as he put it, simply crazy for mountains, and his compulsion was to experience them, each time anew, endured to the very end."

The 320-page Edward Feuz Jr.: A Story of Enchantment, published by Rocky Mountain Books, is available for $28.