Jones, Ken
Ken Jones (Ken Jones Collection)
(1910-2004)

"Ken Jones is a real guide, he takes people out, has them do more than they ever thought possible, and brings them home laughing and talking about an early start in the morning."

Lizzie Rummel, a mountain legend in her own right, used these words to describe the man who completed two first ascents in the Vermilion Range during the summer of 1933.

Born in Golden in 1910 (or maybe it was 1912, he wasn't sure), Ken was raised on a homestead in the Columbia Valley on what he referred to as a "stump ranch." He was in his second year of medical school at McGill University when the depression hit and his money ran out. He returned home to become a mountain guide, but along the way completed degrees in engineering and biology by correspondence. His experiences with Walter Feuz and Katie Gardiner in 1933 marked the beginning of a remarkable career as a mountain guide. The first alpine guides in the Rockies had been "imported" from Europe in the late nineteenth century and even thirty-five years later all the practicing guides were European. Ken was able, through hard work and a winning personality, to become the first Canadian born mountain guide.

As well as being an alpine guide, his life has included working in the Yukon in the mining industry, becoming a pilot during World War II, training the legendary Lovet Scouts in mountain warfare, training to be a commando himself, becoming accomplished in the construction of log buildings, and studying polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba. In addition, from 1967 until 1974 he was the first warden of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park.

Ken was also a pioneer in the development of skiing in the Rockies. After literally making his own first pair of skis, Ken was a leader during the early years of skiing at Mount Assiniboine Lodge and Skoki. He entered competitions whenever he could including the Dominion Championships where he competed in cross country, jumping, slalom and downhill events.

In the foreword to "Ken Jones, Mountain Man," his colleague and long time admirer Chic Scott wrote, "His life has been a wonderful adventure, shared with the most interesting and unique individuals in our mountain heritage."

Jones Peak, a glacier draped mountain in the Mummery Icefield area is a fitting tribute. Ken was climbing in the area and suggested ascending the mountain. Illness kept Ken in camp but the others in his party climbed the mountain and one of them, Andy Kauffman, saw to it that the mountain was named after his friend.

Ken resided with his family in Nanton, Alberta until his death in 2004. He passed away suddenly and was a regular visitor to the Assiniboine and Skoki areas where, well into his ninties, he led visitors into the mountains he loved and knew so well.

[Additional Information: Tetarenko, Kim, Lorne Tetarenko. "Ken Jones Mountain Man". Calgary: Rocky Mountain Books, 1996]

[See Foster Peak]

[See Mount 10240]

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A Memorial Service for Ken was held in Nanton on January 31, 2004. His friend Edwin Knox gave the following eulogy:

EULOGY FOR KEN JONES -written by Edwin Knox, Park Warden, Waterton Lakes National Park and former Skoki staff (1981 – 1984):

What a life he lived – an inspiration for so many of us in so many ways

-We will remember him on the snowy slope

-In the warmth of the lodge under his great ridge-pole

-In the tasty warm drink of a mug of Cougar’s Milk

-In the cool, sweet draw of clear mountain stream water

-We will remember him in mountain sunsets and sunrises …under star-studded clear mountain night skies

-In wood smoke going straight up from the chimney at camp …knowing there is warmth and nourishment and good camaraderie under the roof

-We will remember the spirit of Ken Jones in the kitchen stove fire and the griddle just right for cooking a batch of flapjacks

-We will remember him in the smiles of happy trail companions and in the stories of our magical days in the mountains …well told

-We will remember him as we work the ascent line of a snowy mountain slope …as we assess the most efficient line of travel

-And in the assessment of avalanche danger as we plan our day of travel in the mountains …his wise and cautious approach

-We will feel Ken’s spirit move in us as we ski and hike with efficient, smooth technique and cadence …those of us who travelled any miles with him learned much in that regard

-And we will remember him in the joys received from our happy dog friends …he always paid such attention and great respect to my dear old Cosley dog …Ken always calling him “good ole J.C.” …Ken knew stories of the old ranger Joseph Clarence Cosley

-So meaningful in even the simplest of things …Ken’s spirit will be remembered …the cheer given a Gray Jay flying in for a morsel to his hand …”feeding the chickens” as he called them – out back of the lodge

Ken was so much a part of the magic of Skoki – the “living legend of the Ptarmigan Valley” …for us young people that also were “in love” with that bit of country. To visit Ken within the log walls of old Skoki …that he was so much a part of …to travel the trail with him …comparable no less to ascending the well worn pilgrimage trail up the slopes of Ireland’s “holy mountain” Croagh Patrick …with none other than St. Patrick himself. It is an honour to be at this memorial this afternoon in Nanton …to remember Ken in the company of his family, his dear wife Bridget, his many close friends …to pay respect to a truly great person – such an inspiration! Though his body has gently settled into the earth from which it was so amply sustained for all of his 93 years – his spirit will truly live on – felt by us all in so many wonderful ways in so many wonderful places. We are so blessed to have been a part of his life! Thank you Ken!

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Kim, a student in grade 5 at A.B. Daley School in Nanton, chose her friend Ken as the subject of her speech for a school project in 2002. She won the competition. Her speech is as follows:

If I told you about a man who has lived with grizzly bears, trapped animals for their furs, climbed the highest mountains, survived avalanches, fought forest fires, and was the pioneer warden of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, would you think I was talking about Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, or possibly even Grizzly Adams?

Honourable Judges, Madame Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Competitors. I am here to talk to you today about Ken Jones, Nanton's very own mountaineer, frontiersman, and action hero.

Ken was born a first child to parents William and Sarah Jones, and from the very beginning lived a charmed life. He might not be here today if the Titanic had not been full. Let me explain. Ken's mother had returned to England to show off her new baby to relatives and friends. She attempted to book her return ticket home aboard the Titanic, but fortunately it was already full. She and baby Ken were forced to take an older, slower boat home. They were actually on the Atlantic Ocean not too far from the Titanic when it went down.

Ken's parents bought a farmstead near Golden, British Columbia in the early 1900's. It was there that he learned through hard work and experience to hunt, trap, ski and guide. By age six he was helping out with farm chores, once even falling head over heels for a bear in the dark. (Luckily the bear did not want to cuddle.) And by age sixteen he was fighting forest fires.

Even though he was becoming an avid outdoorsman, Ken still found time to continue his education. He pursued medical studies for three and a half years with the intent of becoming a doctor. Then received a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of British Columbia in 1934, and later a degree in Biology.

Because there were no jobs to be had for a civil engineer in the Dirty Thirties, Ken returned to his mountain skills and became a guide. His first paying trip involved a first ever ascent of Foster Peak in the Vermilion Range. During the trip Ken was sent out on a cornice to see if the snow cap was safe to stand on. His climbing partners tied a rope around his waist and he stepped out onto the overhang. He sank in the snow up to waist and kicked around with his feet. He looked down and was looking a Floe Lake, 3000 feet below him. "Yep. There's a cornice here. Nice view too!" was what he told his climbing group. What he really thought was "Wow! That was a close one!"

Ken continued to guide and climb mountains throughout his life. He has guided in the Rockies, Selkirks, Bugaboos, and sometimes in the United States. He was so well liked as a guide in the United States that they often had him working double time.

Prior to World War II Ken worked in the Yukon for a mining and smelting company, and during the war was an instructor for mountain troops, teaching them how to ski and survive in the wilderness. Since then he has worked many places, packing in supplies, cutting firewood, and helping out many of his friends, often working fourteen days a week.

He has a special fondness for Skoki Lodge which is located in the Rockies near Lake Louise. When people heard that Ken was cooking at Skoki, business boomed because they knew what a wonderful cook he was and because he was not serving pork and beans three times a day like the previous cook had been known to do.

From 1967-1974 Ken was appointed warden of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, the first man ever to hold that position.

Ken also has a keen interest in nature photography and has many pictures of great historical value in his collection. He has met many people, made many friends, and has had many fantastic experiences in his life. His combination of determination, committment, intelligence, and humor have made him a great living legend.

Ken and his wife Bridget now live in Nanton, and on any given day you can see him striding down the streets in search of exercise, or possibly a new adventure.

I am pleased to know this mountain man who has helped to shape Alberta's history, and I am proud to say that he is my personal action hero, my favorite story teller, and my friend.

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