My dad had seven sisters who loomed large in his life, so when LW and I found our farm in the Skeena valley—almost 14 years ago now—the fact that Seven Sisters tower over it seemed like a wink from the universe.
I’ve always had trouble discerning seven peaks. Janis Morrison, who grew up almost directly across the Skeena from our farm and who took the gorgeous photo of the Sisters above (click the picture for a full-size view), identifies them as follows (from right to left, west to east):
Weeskinisht (“big mountain” in Gitsenimx) is easy to identify, it being the tallest, which means the flattish one far right is Tlooki. As for the rest, I get lost trying to figure out what counts as one peak. But Canadian Mountain Encyclopedia gives a helpful clue: There’s an eighth, unnamed Sister at the easternmost end of the summit ridge. If the unnamed Sister is the flattish bit far left and Tuatoosho is next … it’s still not clear! If anyone can enlighten me, I’d be grateful.
My friend Wilfred sent a topographical map that only confuses me more, because my brain has trouble translating contours into image. But the map seems to suggest that Weeskinisht encompasses more than one peak. (Note that the map is oriented north, so the names appear left to right, opposite to the photo. Also, Tuatoosho Peak is on the adjoining map and isn’t shown on this one.)
We don’t see all the peaks from our farm. Our view—the one I photograph endlessly—is the western end, and the rest of the ridge disappears behind it. The best vantage point to see the whole massif is above Sedan Creek, about ten kilomotres east of us. On a clear day, you’ll be treated to a view like the one Janis captured, but most days clouds tangle up in those peaks in a slowly moving, ever-changing dance of veils. It’s a dance I could watch all day.
(click the arrows at the sides of the photo to see the rest, and you can click on any of the photos for a bigger view)
My younger son dreams about climbing Weeskinisht, which is something I’ve never felt an urge to do. I would like to fly over them one day, though, so I can see the lakes tucked in between the ridges.
Neal Carter, his wife, and their small party were the first documented climbers to scale Weeskinisht, on their third attempt in 1941. Carter wrote about their Seven Sisters adventures in the American Alpine Journal. Here’s a brief excerpt:
Mrs. Carter and I in the spring of 1939 laid plans for a trip to the Seven Sisters that summer. In March I had hiked along the track near Cedarvale to secure a more leisurely view of the peaks, but clouds hid most of the tops; from Miss Edith Thompson, postmistress at Cedarvale, I secured much valuable information as to the trail and possibility of securing packhorses, and was supplied with several interesting snaps taken from various places during different seasons. Enquiry from the Dominion Surveys Branch disclosed that although distant views of the range from the N. E., E. and S. E. were available, the 1935 topographical survey stopped at the 128th meridian and no maps showing any topographical detail between that meridian and the Skeena River to the W. existed. The “westerly peak” of the Seven Sisters had been triangulated from the railway, but there appeared to be some confusion as to which peak was meant.
Good to know I’m not the only one confused about the peaks! What I love about this article is Carter’s mention of Edith Thompson. Anyone who ever needed information about Cedarvale between 1920 and the early 1990s is likely to have got it from Edith—she ran the post office and general store for 75 years. In the years the Carters were exploring the Sisters (1939-41), my great-grandfather Maurice Dahlquist would have been afoot. As Dolly Majer (daughter of Joe Paulis, Cedarvale’s stationmaster in the 1920s and 30s) told me, if the train was running late and Edith had to wait for the mail, Dahlquist would sit patiently beside the woodstove in the post office, waiting to drive her home. (We live in Edith’s house, built by her father, John Thompson, and local carpenters in 1924.)
Edith Thompson Essex was locally famous for lots of reasons, including the two little books of poems she self-published: Old Love Letters and Other Poems (dedicated to M.D.) in 1968 and Rhymes of a Country Postmistress in the 1980s. She wrote “Jewels of the Skeena” when the Seven Sisters’ lower slopes were about to be logged in the 1970s and Cedarvale’s tiny population fronted a fierce but unsuccessful resistance. Her poem, if a little clunky in its rhymes, shows how little has changed in northern BC.
Jewels of the Skeena
by Edith Mary Essex
Crown jewels of the Skeena Valley
The Seven Sisters Mountains rise
In all their majestic beauty
To the realm of the skies.
The Seven Sisters, a diadem supreme
For one of Canada’s great provinces
Of which B.C. is queen.
Let not the whine or the scream
Of the Scissors machine
Cause the Wildlife to panic in fear
Let the Seven Sisters remain the habitat
Of the goat and the deer.
May all the Forest creatures, large and small
Hear only the sound of rippling creeks
And the roar of the waterfall.
Crown jewels of the Skeena
The world lies at your feet.
While below the swift waters of the Skeena
Rush onward the Pacific Ocean to meet.
A salute to all Nature lovers
May their efforts prevail
To save the Seven Sisters
In their locale at Cedarvale.