Among the early explorers in the Rogers Pass and Yoho areas were the Vaux family of Philadelphia. The most commonly used
bivy site for Mt. Sir Donald and Uto Peak is the Vaux bivy site. Having grown up outside
Philadelphia myself I have found this history to be rather interesting. In April of 1997 I was able to visit an exhibit in
Philadelphia of some of the Vaux families photographs and other memorabilia. The description of this exhibit follows, with a
book reference at the end.
Library Company of Philadelphia;
Exploring the Canadian Alps:
the Vaux Family Rocky Mountain Photographs, 1899-1936
Opening in our exhibition gallery on November 14 will be a display of
strikingly beautiful photographs taken in the Canadian Rockies by several
members of Philadelphia's Vaux family. The completion of the Canadian
Pacific Railway in 1885 and the beginning of transcontinental passenger
service the following year made possible the exploration of the remote,
forbidding, and previously inaccessible Canadian Rockies. Among the very
first to take advantage of this new opportunity were the three children
of Philadelphian George Vaux, Sr. - George Vaux, Jr. (1863-1927), William
S. Vaux, Jr. (1872-1908), and Mary M. Vaux (1880-1940). They first visited
the area in 1887 while on a western vacation. The family was immediately
smitten by the awesome beauty of the region and at least one of the three
siblings or George Jr.'s son George (1908-1996) returned each year until
During those numerous excursions, the Vaux family documented photographically
the landscape they encountered, creating a rich archive of hundreds of
arresting images of mountains, valleys, waterfalls, glaciers, ice formations,
campgrounds, and the hotels and bridges built by the Canadian Pacific
Railway. In some of the photographs the presence of people - either family
members or their Swiss guides - provides scale and helps convey a sense
of of the immense scope of their beloved "Canadian Alps."
The Vauxes were more than amateur photographers. All three siblings
were members of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia and exhibited
regularly in the Society's juried competitions. Through years of observation
and measurement, the family also became expert glaciologists and contributed
many technical papers to the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences
of Philadelphia. Several of those publications, as well as other books
illustrated with Vaux photographs, the camera used to make the photographs,
and such equipment as ice axes and barometers, will also be displayed.
The exhibition will be on view until April 25, 1997.
The Library Company began planning this exhibition with the enthusiastic
cooperation of George Vaux, the tenth-generation Vaux to carry that name.
He shared with us his forebears' (and his own) remarkable photographs
and his deep knowledge of the Canadian Rockies. We were saddened by his
recent death at the age of eighty-seven, and we are grateful to his family
for helping us complete the exhibition. Through these remarkable photographs
we can appreciate the spell which the Canadian Alps cast on those fortunate
enough to experience them up close.
A good book on the Vaux family and the "Canadian Alps", including many of their photographs, is:
Legacy in Ice
The Vaux Family and the Canadian Alps
Banff, AB T0L 0C0
Copies may also be available from the Library Company of Philadelphia;