Mount Brown

Alberta-BC boundary. Mount
Athabasca River and Columbia River drainages
E of Iroquois Creekk
52.3833 N 118.25 W — Map 83D/8 — GoogleGeoHack
Earliest known reference to this name is 1827 (David Douglas)
Name officially adopted in 1921
Official in BCCanada
Robert Brown

Robert Brown

“Being well rested by one o’clock, I set out with the view of ascending what seemed to be the highest peak on the north,” wrote botanist David Douglas [1799–1834] of his crossing of the Athabasca Pass in 1827. “Its height does not seem to be less than 16,000 or 17,000 feet [4880-5180 m] above the level of the sea. The view from the summit is of too awful a cast to afford pleasure. Nothing can be seen, in every direction as far as the eye can reach, except mountains towering above each other, rugged beyond description. This peak, the highest yet known in the northern continent of America, I feel a sincere pleasure in naming ‘Mount Brown,’ in honour of R. Brown, Esq., the illustrious botanist.”

Robert Brown [1775–1858], the first keeper of the botanical department in the British Museum, was also the namesake of Brownian motion, the incessant motion of microscopic particles suspended in fluids. David Douglas was his student. Douglas’s ascent was the earliest recorded climb in the Canadian Rockies.

When mountaineers first came to the Rockies in the late nineteenth century, they were anxious to find and climb this “highest yet known” peak. In 1893 the highest mountain Arthur Philomen Coleman [1852–1939] could find near the Athabasca Pass was about 9,000 feet (2740 m) high. In 1908 Hugh Edward Millington Stutfield [1858–1929] and John Norman Collie [1859–1942] took another look for the 17,000 foot Mount Brown and nearby 16,000 foot Mount Douglas. “If David Douglas climbed a 17,000 foot peak alone on a May afternoon,” they wrote, “when the snow must have been pretty deep on the ground, all one can say is that he must have been an uncommonly active person. What, of course, he really did was to ascent the Mount Brown of Professor Arthur Coleman. These two fabulous Titans, which for nearly seventy years have been masquerading as the monarches of the Canadian Rockies, must now be finally deposed, and Mounts Forbes, Columbia, and Alberta, with Peak Robson, west of the Yellowhead Pass, must reign in their stead.”


  • Douglas, David [1799–1834]. Journal kept by David Douglas during his travels in North America 1823-1827, together with a particular description of thirty-three species of American oaks and eighteen species of Pinus, with appendices containing a list of the plants introduced by Douglas and an account of his death in 1834. Royal Horticultural Society, 1914. Internet Archive
  • Arrowsmith, John [1790–1873]. Provinces of British Columbia and Vancouver Island; with portions of the United States and Hudson’s Bay Territories. 1859. UVic
  • Trutch, Joseph William [1826–1904]. Map of British Columbia to the 56th Parallel North Latitude. Victoria, B.C.: Lands and Works Office, 1871. University of Victoria
  • Stutfield, Hugh Edward Millington [1858–1929], and Collie, John Norman [1859–1942]. Climbs and Explorations in the Canadian Rockies. London: Longmans, Green, 1903. University of British Columbia Library
  • Coleman, Arthur Philomen [1852–1939]. The Canadian Rockies: New and Old Trails. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1911. Internet Archive
  • Wheeler, Arthur Oliver [1860–1945]. “The location of Mts. Brown and Hooker.” Canadian Alpine Journal, Vol. 12 (1921–1922):123-129
  • Akrigg, Helen B., and Akrigg, George Philip Vernon [1913–2001]. British Columbia Place Names. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997. Internet Archive
Also see:

One thought on “Mount Brown

  1. Dan Kyba

    Wrote this piece back in the day and saw it published in Alberta History. It has been referenced from time to time. Basically, as other over-estimated mountains saw their elevations reduced, Hooker and Brown, due to their relative isolation had this process delayed – hence the creation of ‘giants’.

    Time and weather conditions did not allow me to make the ascent. I also did not have the opportunity to check for any terminal moraines, even one of small cobbles or boulders, that could give me an estimate of the extent of ice during the Little Ice Age on that mountain’s slope.


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