Mount Bess

Feature type: Mount
Province: British Columbia
Location: Alta-BC boundary, near headwaters of Holmes River
Latitude: 53°21’00”
Longitude: 119°22’00”
NTS map: 83E/6
Official name listed at BC Geographical Names
This “splendid snow mountain” was christened Mount Bess by  John Yates of Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta. Yates was guiding  J. Norman Collie and Arnold Mumm on their 1910 expedition to the Mount Robson region, during which they made the first ascent of Mount Bess.

Old-timers say Yates had a crush on Elizabeth Ann Gunn (1892–1960), the daughter of Peter (1864–1927) and Mary (Ritch) Gunn. Peter Gunn had come to Canada from Scotland in 1883 to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company. His wife-to-be Mary, from the Orkney Islands, followed a few years later. Bess was born while the family lived in Fort St. John, where Peter was factor for the HBC. In 1900, after postings in Grouard and Dunvegan, Peter became factor at Lac Ste. Anne, his last posting. Lac Ste. Anne was was a stop for packers, mountaineers, and trappers heading from Edmonton to Jasper and points north. Yates was a local packer and mail-carrier, and Bess worked at the post office.In 1911 Bess married Charles Milton McKeen (1885–1972), a local homesteader and teamster who was later bookkeeper, magistrate, judge, and from 1921 to 1935, member of the Alberta Legislative Assembly for Lac Ste. Anne, representing the United Farmers of Alberta (Peter Gunn had earlier been Liberal MLA for the same riding). Bess spoke fluent Cree and was often called upon as interpreter. She died in the Mayerthorpe, Alberta, hospital.


  • Alberta Legislative Library. Edmonton:
  • Collie, J. Norman. “On the Canadian Rocky Mountains north of the Yellowhead Pass.” Alpine Journal 26 (1912).
  • Hart, Edward John, 1946-. Diamond hitch: the early outfitters and guides of Banff and Jasper. Banff: Summerthought, 1979
  • Holmgren, Eric J. and Holmgren, Patricia M. Over 2,000 place names of Alberta. Saskatoon: Western Producer, 1973
  • Holt, Vera E. The lantern era: a history of Cherhill, Rochfort Bridge, Sangudo, and the surrounding school districts. Sangudo, Alberta: Sangudo and District Historic Society, 1979

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