Mountain Memories

Times Gone By…

Mt H’Kusam has been a recreation site for almost 100 years. Part of the Prince of Wales range, Mt H’Kusam is in the Sayward Valley, and has been explored by hikers since around the turn of the century. Before the mountain burned off, most of them climbed up through old growth or slash on the Northwest side, generally from near Sabre or Ryan’s Road instead of the Stowe Creek route.

Evelyn Sacht (neè Kelsey) climbed to the mountain in the 1930s. One fellow in the group carried up a gramophone. “Darn silly thing to do,” she says, “but we were young then.”

Three men pose with strategically-placed branches on Mt. H'Kusam (circa 1930s)

Joan Fersch (September 9, 1925 – September 3, 2003) climbed to the higher peak when she was 15. When another girl heard there were two men in the hiking group, she wanted to come along. However, this was to be a no-nonsense/no-romance trip — all the way to the peak and back in a single day! As Joan recalled, “A whole day at that, and no fooling around! We teens slept at one house the night before, then left at 5:00am and started up where Sabre Road and Bill’s trail is now.”

They went to the lake, where Joan waded in waist-deep before she realized how many leeches were in it! From there they proceeded to the saddle. Instead of taking the laboriously long, safe route down the other side, they, like mountain goats, climbed up onto the narrow ridge to another hazardous point before setting foot on the safe ground of Mt. H’Kusam itself. “It was scary!” Joan said. One of them was nearly petrified. From that beautiful meadow area, you skirt around one peak to the cairn. At the top, with a mirror, they signaled to friends below, who were at the river where Woodlands Lodge is now. They traversed down the mountain a different way, down the then not-burnt side onto Dyers Road. (That was before the fire in the early 1950s.) Someone picked them up in a Dodge Van. Joan said the last thing she remembers was climbing into the van and falling asleep. It had been a long 14 hours!

Hugh Knudson told a similar story. He and his brother Allan, along with Wayne Sharpe, Ken Duncan, and Ron Gorbett, went up the mountain around 1948. They ascended to the lake and noted salamanders all around the edge. Further up there was a ledge about three feet wide, and on either side was a drop of about 300 feet. “That was too much for Kenny and me!” said Hugh, “We went back down and around the long way.”

It was fire season, and their parents were away. In their absence, they entrusted the care of the cows to Hugh and Allan. The two hadn’t planned to stay overnight, but sometimes the best-laid plans go awry! The next morning they went west, straight down towards Dyer’s logging roads and out onto Lawrenson Road. The cow’s udders were nearly bursting by the time Hugh and Allan were able to attend to the poor things!

Fran Duncan remembers that she and her sister and brother were put in the care of a babysitter once a year while her mom and dad, Anna and Louis Sacht, went on an overnight excursion of Mt. H’Kusam. Other members of that party were the Davies girls (Peggy, Elna, and Nancy) and John, as well as his brother-in-law, Henry Gireaux. They used the route that is now known as Bill’s Trail (likely with some deviations) and camped at the lake. Fran had a picture of Dick Duncan and Bill Sacht at the top with a flag, next to the cairn. That would have been in the 1930s.

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