Patterson, Raymond M.
Photo by Palmer Lewis (Courtesy the Patterson Family)
(1898-1984)

After service with the military in WW I during which he became a Prisoner of War, Raymond Patterson attended Oxford University and worked for the Bank of England. However he longed for adventure and moved to Canada, living on a homestead in the Peace River area from 1924 to 1929. During this time he made a solo canoe trip to the Nahanni River that became the basis of his book, "The Dangerous River."

From 1929 until 1933 he lived with his new wife, Marigold, at the Buck Spring Ranch near Cochrane, Alberta from where he began travelling and exploring in the Rockies. In 1930 he made his first trip with George Pocaterra and in 1931 completed a major trip with Pocaterra, travelling up the Highwood River and over Highwood Pass into the Kananaskis Lakes are from which they crossed Elk Pass and reached what they referred to as the giants of Nyahe-ya-nibi, Mount Cadorna, Mount Swiderski, and Mount Battisti) at the head of Abruzzi Creek.

In 1933 Patterson purchased the Buffalo Head Ranch in the Highwood Valley (west of Longview, Alberta) from his friend George Pocaterra. While operating his ranch, Patterson travelled extensively in the Highwood Valley area, the Kananaskis and the mountains in the Elk Valley of British Columbia until moving to British Columbia in October, 1946. He made the first ascent of Mount Head and very likely was the first to climb Holy Cross Mountain as well.

Patterson was deeply affected by the great Phillips Fire of 1936 that burned through the Highwood Valley. The fire, combined with the building of a major road that Patterson described as a, "dusty, ill-omened snake," signalled the end of an era. He sold the Buffalo Head Ranch in 1945 and during October of that year Patterson and his wife Marigold, together with three packhorses, rode over the Highwood and North Kananaskis Passes to continue their lives in British Columbia.

After setting up residence in Victoria, Patterson returned to the north from time to time, completing a number of major canoeing trips between 1948 and 1955.

Patterson's book "The Buffalo Head" describes his explorations and adventures in the Canadian Rockies and is considered "classic" Rocky Mountain literature. He also wrote extensively of his explorations in Northern Canada. His best known book is, "The Dangerous River" that is based on his adventures in the South Nahanni River Valley in the late 1920's.

Patterson's Peak

In his book "Far Pastures," Raymond Patterson recalled driving up the Highwood Valley with Mary Pope, a visiting "dude" from England. They had a flat tire right at the top of Sullivan Hill, just east of Sullivan Creek. He wrote, "That flat couldn't have chosen a better time or place. This was Mary's arrival in the foothills and the Eden Valley of old Dr. Dawson (George Dawson) burst on her suddenly in all its autumn glory."

After the tire was changed Patterson was telling her the names of the mountains and included "Patterson's Peak." The ranch guest was most impressed saying, "So you've got a mountain named after you. How marvellous! Tell me all about it, now, while we look at it." Patterson explained with a grin, "That peak's nameless on the map. It's an orphan mountain and I just adopted it. If you ride up Flat Creek...you can leave your horse and clamber on up the valley to a lake that's hidden behind that mountain."

Raymond Patterson claimed the mountain with some justification however, having had some personal experience on the peak. On a June morning, a year or two previous to hosting Mrs. Pope, he had left the ranch before dawn on what became an unsuccessful solo attempt to climb the mountain. Renovations were being made to the Patterson's home and with the disruptions and construction crew working there were, "too many people around and not a moment's peace...So, without saying anything to anybody, I got up in the dark one morning and got my own breakfast and got out of the place while the bunch was still enjoying its beauty sleep -just kissed the outfit good-bye for one whole perfect day."

Patterson rode nineteen kilometres up Flat Creek to the small lake below the northwest slopes of the mountain and, "...after lunch I took it into my head to climb that peak." In "Far Pastures," Patterson details how his progress was stopped about halfway to the summit by overhanging rock and how he eventually plummeted out of control down a steep snowslope before gently sliding onto the rocks at the bottom where, fortunately, the slope had become less steep.

He concluded his story by telling Mrs. Pope, "All in all it was a memorable day and I still feel I have a sort of squatter's right to that mountain."

The name was made official in 2000. On August 19th of that year a dedication ceremony organized by Patterson's biographer, David Finch, and the two people responsible for making the name official, Gillean Daffern and Dave Birrell. It was held on Sullivan Hill just north of Highway #541. Marigold Patterson was present as were Raymond and Marigold's sons Robin and Alan and daughter Janet Blanchet.

As Joyce Moore wrote in her newspaper column after being one of a hundred or so Patterson admirers present, "The spirit of R.M. Patterson was with us that day -his love of the mountains, his desire for adventure, and his joy in books and writing."

Patterson's biography, "R.M. Patterson -A Life of Great Adventure" by David Finch, was published by Rocky Mountain Books in December, 2000.

[Additional Information: Patterson, Raymond M. "Buffalo Head". New York: William Sloane Associates, 1961]

[Additional Information: Patterson, Raymond M. "Far Pastures". Sidney, B.C.: Gray's Publishing, 1963]

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