Peak Finder

Photo: Looking east to Mount Morro (courtesy Sonny Bou)

Mount Morro

  • 2912 m (9,554ft)
  • Naming History
49.8361N -115.358W
Located east of "Top of the World" at the head of Galbraith Creek and the head of North Galbraith Creek

Province: BC
Headwater: Kootenay
Year Named: 1964
Named for: Morro, Frank (F/Sgt Morro (bomb aimer) was from Cranbrook, British Columbia. He was killed on December 4, 1943 when his when No. 429 Squadron Halifax bomber was shot down at Kleikenkneten, Germany during an operation to Leipzig.)

Please note that Morro Peak is in the Athabasca River Valley in Jasper National Park. Frank Morro (Mount Morro), Jim "Moose" Haley (Mount HaleyFlett PeakMount Dingley) were members of a Cranbrook based Rover group that explored the mountains of the area together prior to joining the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. All four were killed in action while serving with Bomber Command over Europe. It seems most fitting that these mountains were named in their honour. Dan Mills, wrote the following article for the East Kootenay Newspaper group in May, 2003. It poignantly tells the story of the Rover group that the four belonged to during their mountain explorations prior to facing the horrors of war. A second article describing a memorial climb of Mount Morro follows this one. The Last Rover Stumbling after those who went before. "Whoe'er excels in what we prize Appears a hero in our eyes." ~Jonathan Swift~ The flames, bright but quiet, flicker in the basement fireplace while the three of us, my father-in-law Frank Magro, myself, and our host Tack Wood, sit around a coffee table piled high with photo albums. Tack's finger gently taps a black and white picture taken in 1937 that shows seven young men standing at the edge of a forest, their arms draped over each others shoulders. All of them are grinning back at the camera, but the fellow on the far left -the one with the tousled hair - has an especially mischievous, and somewhat familiar smile. When Tack looks up from the photo, eyes-a-twinkling, there is no longer any doubt as to the identity of the kid on the left. The impish grin fades only slightly when he says, "I'm the last one of the whole cock-eyed bunch ya know." It is a fact that both Frank and I are quite aware of. It is the reason we are here after all - to spend some time with the last of the Rovers. It was in the basement of the Cranbrook United church in the mid 1930's that Martin Harris started a senior Scout group called the 3rd Cranbrook Rovers. The troop was made up of young men, all in their late teens and early twenties, who shared a penchant for adventuring in the great outdoors and enjoyed the camaraderie that Scouting had to offer. Seventy years have slipped past, but you can still hear the pride in Tack's voice when he speaks of the Rovers, "All us guys were friends ? good friends. There wasn't a bad one in the bunch of us." Led by Murray MacFarlane, the Rovers were; Lloyd "Butch" Burgess, Ted "Rasp" Smith, Frank Morro, the grinning Tack Wood and his brother Ed, Fred Kolishek, Frank Hinton, Jim Stone, Joe Ward, Frank Jones, Jim "Moose" Haley, Stan Whittaker, Ed and Jerry Walsh, Stewart Flett, and Len Dingley. All dressed up in their light blue uniform shirts they were the pride of Cranbrook. The Rovers participated in formal scouting events; ushering at international Jamborees, helping with camps, and leading troops of local kids. They were even honoured by the founder of the Scouting movement himself, Lord Baden-Powell when he visited Cranbrook. But according to Tack, what the Rovers were really all about was having fun, and that usually meant jumping on their CCM Redbird bicycles and pedalling off into the mountains. Many of these trips were documented by the boys in elaborate journals, complete with maps, photos, and written accounts of their adventures. The time and effort that went into keeping these diaries is obvious, but it was not with out purpose. Upon completion, one of these books would earn the author the much coveted Ramblers badge. The original intent may have been merely to earn merit, but 70 years after the fact, these journals have become much more than just simple scrapbooks. Today they are priceless vehicles that are able to transport us back through time; to Mause Creek, Dibble Glacier, Fisher Peak, and Wild Horse Creek, circa 1938. More than just simple novelty, these journals provide a historical portrait of the East Kootenay, reaching back beyond recent memory into a past we have already lost sight of. As Tack said more than once, "Everybody round here thinks the whole darn world began in 1950." For me, the wonder lies in the details - things like how important a bicycle could be to a young man. If you were a Rover it was the main method of transportation. Automobiles were still very much a luxury, so every trip they undertook, began with the boys doing a whole whack of pedalling. I don't know about you, but to me, climbing Fisher Peak is enough of a challenge with out having had to ride your bike all the way from Cranbrook first. This dearth of technological contrivance made the Rovers a hardy lot, wandering the mountains with nothing more than a packboard, a bedroll, and a sense of humour. No Gore-Tex jackets, GPS units, or ultra light tents here. They were leather and wool boys, with heavy boots and heavier packs, who rolled into their blankets and slept under the stars. As Tack explained, "We were Scouts. We knew how to look after ourselves in the bush. It wasn't hard." The crews ingenuity was evident in almost everything they turned their hand to. A perfect example of this is the log cabin they build on the outskirts of Cranbrook. Hidden away in the pines beside a small stream, the Rovers Shack, as it was known, would come to serve as the troops headquarters. Looking at the photos of this beautiful little log cabin, with its archway and sturdy stone fireplace, I couldn't help but wonder how a bunch of kids had acquired the expertise needed to build such a fine structure. According to Tack, "If we didn't know exactly how to do something, we just used common sense and figured it out as we went. We all just pitched in and got it done." Once completed, "The Shack" quickly became the social hub for the Rovers. The many goings on were recorded for posterity in a register book that documents from May 17th 1936 to the date of the last entry, June 8th 1942. Tack, bless his heart, shared this treasure with Frank and I and we devoured it from cover to cover. We read about events like parents days, feast days, scout meetings, and my personal favourite, sleigh rides - where the Rovers invited the girl of their choice to spend the afternoon with them, sliding on the hills and drinking hot chocolate. The most insightful entries however, are the ones detailing the boys just hanging out. Their favourite pass time when at the cabin seemed to be cooking up and consuming huge meals. On almost every page there is a detailed account of what was for dinner, and just as importantly, who drew the low card and had to do the dishes. Tack seemed to draw the low card a lot. When they weren't eating, they worked on the shack, played cards for .22 shells, discussed the merits of Ford vs. Chevrolet trucks, and listened to their beloved wind-up gramophone. All in all, pretty wholesome fun. It is quite evident that these were young men of a high moral calibre; alcohol is not mentioned once, poker games are broken up when some of the players have to go to church, and young ladies are always spoken of in respectful tones. However, boys being boys, they sure did like a good fist-fight now and then. When I asked Tack about this he said, "Yes, sometimes we used to play pretty rough. We made the furniture that was in the shack - and we broke most of it too. There was never any hard feelings in the morning though." This excerpt taken from a March 6th 1937 entry is indicative of a typical night at the Rovers shack: We left town on Saturday night at 10:45. Arrived at shack about 12:30. Had a "late" lunch. Tack, Ted, and Stone went to bed early. Lloyd, Frank and I sat up around the fireplace and played the gramophone until 4:50 a.m. Stone couldn't sleep and so he took the music box and heaved it outside. We locked him out in his undies. He climbed in the window and got a sock on the head. Ted made breakfast, Lloyd and Frank cleaned up..... .....playing whist when Haley arrived. He no sooner got here than we were startled by a bearded apparition on snowshoes coming out of the bush. Moose made chow and cleaned up. Lloyd and I fought Tack and Frank with snowballs for 2 hours and ended in a draw. Tack made supper while he sang "Chinese Opera" (Oh Yeah!). What a supper. Stone and I cleaned up.... Signed; Jerry Walsh This light-hearted frivolity continues through the register, but as you turn those last few pages, one can't help but get of feeling that their world is changing. On April 26 1941 Frank Morro's entry eerily fore-shadows what turned out to be the end of the 3rd Cranbrook Rovers. ...Came up to the shack to give L. Burgess a send-off party. Had small feed. Argued about war as usual. Burgess was given a present by local association. Question was brought up about where each Rover would be one year from today.... if anywhere. Left shack at 12:45 - still arguing war. Signed, Frank Morro The man who wrote those prophetic words was not only Tack Wood's best friend and a heck of a snowball fighter, he was also Frank Magro's uncle and name sake. Frank Morro went to war, as did Tack and many of the others. Young men who knew nothing about fighting in international conflict, but in typical "can do" Rover fashion, they thought that, "They would figure it out as they went. That if they all pitched in they could get it done." Frankie never came home. Nor did Moose, Stew, or Dingpuss. Never to be married or blessed with sons and daughters, the names of these Rovers were instead passed on to mountains; Mount Morro, Mount Haley, Mount Flett, and Mount Dingley. A fitting tribute to these hearty scouts, but a sad one none the less. We too, were still talking war when we finally stood to leave. We could have listened to Tack all night, but the fire that had seemed such a cheery blaze upon our arrival, was now cold in the hearth. It was time to go. As Frank and I drove home, I thought of another fireplace, one we had visited several weeks before. Once sturdy and built of large block-like stones, it now lies tumbled down in a lonely and forgotten spot near a small stream on the outskirts of Cranbrook. It hasn't known a cheery blaze in a long time, but it has in the past. History is given little respect in today's society. It is seen as having no consequence on our existence in the now - of being no longer relevant. We seem to have forgotten what every good boy scout knows, that in order to find our way through the forest, we need to look over our shoulders now and then to see where we've already been. With out the perspective of the past, we will become lost. Frank and I plan on going back to that derelict pile of stonework someday soon. And when we do, we're going to alight a fire in that fireplace just out of spite for the ruthlessness of time, and then raise a toast - a mug of strong tea perhaps - and say, "Here's to the last one of the whole cock-eyed bunch." Thanks Tack, for taking the time to look over your shoulder and share the Rovers with the world. THAT MARKS OUR PLACE -REMEMBRANCE WRITTEN IN STONE by Dan Mills ?That mark our place; while in the sky the larks still bravely singing, flies.? ~ John McCrae ~ Laying there in the darkness of the tent, I could hear the future approaching. It wasn?t here yet, but it was coming; the sound of wind, now way down the valley, rushing through trees and over stone, getting closer and closer, louder and louder, until it wasn?t the future anymore, it was the present. And the present seemed determined to blow our little tent right off the side of the mountain. I hunkered a little deeper into the depths of my sleeping bag and listened while the fabric of our sturdy little shelter snapped and popped, sounding like pistol shots in the night. Then, just as quickly as it had come, the wind gusted down into the next valley, its sound fading like a disappearing train. I lay there in the new quiet thinking about the mountain we were supposed to climb tomorrow, thinking about the extreme exposure of its north face that drops a sheer two thousand feet, and wondering, if it was this windy down here, what was it going to be like up there? Following the natural progression of this line of thought, I then began estimating just how long it would take for a man ? arms and legs churning in mid-air like Wiley Coyote - to fall a full two thousand feet. Before I could finish my morbid calculations however, I was interrupted by the sound of the future, once again barrelling up the valley toward me. The next morning, over porridge and tea, I raised my concerns about the wind gusts on the summit to my climbing partners, Nick and Mahone. Neither of them batted an eye. They have been hiking and climbing with me for over 27 years and this was not the first time I had tried to caution them about inherent dangers and the folly of ignoring them. It was also not the first time they had dragged me and my concerns, kicking and screaming up the side of a mountain either. On this trip especially, it was important that we reach the summit. We had something important to leave in the cairn at the top. Twenty minutes later, with the photo of a man I?d never met stowed safely in my pack, we started hiking toward the foot of Mount Morro. Located in Top of the World Provincial Park, Mount Morro towers 9,554 feet above sea level, a full 218 feet higher than our own beloved Fisher Peak. It was named in 1964 for Sgt. Frank Morro, a Cranbrook boy, who was killed on December 4th 1943 when his 429 Squadron Halifax bomber was shot down at Kleikenkneten while on a mission to Leipzig. His remains now lie beneath a headstone located in north west Germany, 24 km. South of Oldenberg, in the Sage War Cemetery. Over the last several years, due to a series of serendipitous circumstances, I have come to know a fair bit about Frank Morro. I know that he was the uncle of my father-in-law and the man he was named for. I know that he was a Rover Scout and a passionate outdoorsman. And I know that the mountain we were about to climb was a far more fitting memorial to the man than any gravestone in Germany. The three of us hiked through the lush green meadows and limestone outcrops that encircle the peak until we had made our way around to its southern aspect. From there we began to climb the loose talus slope that lead to the ridge we hoped to traverse to the summit. There was, I am pleased to say, not a breath of wind. Eventually, we found ourselves faced with slightly more serious climbing. Trekking poles were stowed because we would now need to use our hands to scramble up the steepening terrain. My fearless (here read insane) companions scampered like a pair of monkeys up the face, while I slowly and meticulously groped my way along. As much as watching their antics made me jealous, I continued to stare up slope after them. Partly so I could follow their chosen route, but mostly because looking down just wasn?t an option. After dealing with some excruciating exposure, and some shouted encouragement from the monkeys, I pulled myself onto the summit. What followed was a lot of hooting, hollering, backslapping, handshaking and unabashed self-congratulations. The ascent of the mountain was complete, there was however, still one very important thing left to do. I reached into my pack and pulled out several photographs and a page copied from an old journal. Memories of a young man, who never got the chance to climb this mountain, slap his buddies triumphantly on the back and shout at the sky. The photographs and the short biography we left in the cairn that day were copied from one of the many journals that Frank and his fellow Rovers put together back in the 1930?s. They are wondrous books, full of photos, stories, artwork, history, and a sense of boyish wonder. They are treasures I feel truly blessed to have had access to. One of these books is entitled; Log and Register of the 3rd Cranbrook Rover Shack. It is a journal that documents the comings and goings, from May 17th 1936 to April 26 1941, at a beautiful log cabin that the Rovers built as their clubhouse. The ?Shack?, as it was affectionately known as is gone now. The only thing left to mark its place are the tumbled down ruins of a stone fireplace, hidden back in the bush by a small stream. Of all the stone memorials, it isn?t orderly rows of headstones in Europe or vaulting limestone peaks that best reminds me of the sacrifices made. No, it?s a few stones still held together with mortar where youth used to warm itself by a fire and the woods rang with laughter. Now the only sound heard there is the occasional gust of wind blowing through the trees, sounding not so much like the future rushing towards us, as the sad sound of the past fading away into the distance, like a disappearing train.

Looking southwest to Mount Morro (courtesy Dan Mills)