1972 IGC Field Excursion C-03: From Calgary, Alberta, to the Rocky Mountains of Alberta and British Columbia in August / September, 1972


2022 Anniversaries in the History of Canadian Science and Technology: The Excursions of the 1972 Montréal International Geological Congress (IGC)

First posted Friday, September 2, 2022 / Yom shishi, 6 Elul, 5782.

By David Orenstein, Emeritus, Danforth CTI



On Saturday, September 2, 1972, exactly fifty years ago today, the 30 C-03 excursionists and their guides breakfasted in Fernie, their first overnight in British Columbia (but their 2nd excursion night), after they had crossed the Continental Divide.

Previously, they had spent the 1st night back in Alberta at Blairmore, just a little bit west of Frank, Alberta.

And, of course, they had been in Calgary, Alberta, before the Excursion started, early on the morning of Thursday, August 31.

As luck would have it, the Canadian Tectonics group (of which I’m a member) of the GAC, will be hosting an in-person Field Trip this month, to the eastern section of the Excursion C-03 itinerary. It will run from Friday, September 23, to Sunday, September 25, 2022, and will be followed by a virtual Workshop on Saturday, October 1. Registration deadlines are Friday, September 9 for both. See our Links section.

Day 1

This section of the route to the “Rocky Mountains and Foothills” was led by Shell Canada’s P.L. Gordy, who also wrote that section of the Guidebook, which covers the first two days.

“The route start[ed] at the junction of Highways 2 and 22, immediately south of [what was then] the Calgary city limits.”  For the first 10, miles or so (10.5 mi / 16.8 km, to be exact), it “crosse[d] the western edge of the Interior Platform.” That’s the Prairies.

The first Stop, 1:1, 32.2 mi / 51.5 km, further south, was at “the west flank of the Turner Valley Structure”. Stop 1:2 (94.0 mi / 150.4 km) continuing south, was for the Upper Cretaceous strata along the Oldman River. The nearby Stop 1:3 (99.8 mi / 159.7 km) provided views of the Lewis Thrust, to the South, with Peaks of “Proterozoic [that is, later Precambrian] sediments… thrust over Upper Cretaceous rocks.” To the West, “faulted and anticlinically [concave down, ^ but rounded] folded strata … of the Livingston Thrust.”

At Highway 3, the route turned west towards the Continental Divide and the interprovincial Alberta-British Columbia border.

At Stop 1:4 (127.4 mi / 203.8 km), Gordy commemorated the site of the notorious Frank Slide of April 29, 1903, when Turtle Mountain collapsed with the loss of seventy lives. Probably caused by “frost wedging in the highly fractured carbonates and” by the “coal mining… that extended under the base of the mountain.”

Frank and Blairmore, like the rest of the Crowsnest Pass towns from Bellevue (Alberta) to Fernie (B.C.), depended then on coal mining from the Lower Cretaceous Kootenay Formation.

Day 2

On leaving Blairmore, at Stop 2:1 (135.6 mi / 217 km) it was the Crowsnest Volcanics.  Stop 2:2 gave a good view of the Upper Paleozoic “Devonian and Mississippian [Lower Carboniferous] section above the Lewis Thrust.” 2:2 was the last Stop in Alberta.

Then 7.4 mi west to cross the Divide and to enter B.C., at Mile 143.0 or Kilometre 229.0. And soon J.J. Crabb of Crowsnest Industries, was the local guide to the Kaiser Coal Mines (Stop 2:3, 154.5 mi / 247.2 km) and to the “Structures surrounding [the City of] Fernie”, Stop 2:4 (174.5 mi / 280.9 km). It was a turn to the northwest to go to the Kaiser mines, followed by a southwest heading for Fernie, where they spent the night.

Day 3

             Jim Monger’s GSC colleague, G.B. Leech led the next section of the excursion, the “Western Rocky Mountains and the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench”.

There were five stops on the westward trek from Fernie to Kimberley, but that’s another story.

Staying in a Kimberley, B.C., hotel for the night is how the 3rd Day ended.

Jim Monger writes: “There was a large contingent of Russians on trip CO3. On the third evening we stayed in Kimberly, site of Cominco’s then-active enormous lead-zinc mine. There was a fixed supper time, courtesy of Cominco, and a bar with a large TV screen near the dining room which was showing the famous Canada-Soviet Union hockey match. Vic Preto and I had the hard task of getting most of the Russians out of the bar and into the dining room…. Science (and sport) can bridge very different cultures.”

From Kimberley they were to head through the Purcell Mountains, by way of Cranbrook (to the southeast) three closely paced Stops, 4:2-4, south of Cranbrook, and west to Creston on the Kootenay River.

But that, too, is another story!



R.A. Daly (1912), Geology of the North American Cordillera at the Forty-Ninth Parallel, Geological Survey of Canada Memoir #38

– Found in the Biodiversity Heritage Library:


R.J.W, Douglas, ed., (1970), Geology and Economic Minerals of Canada, Queen’s Printer, Ottaw. 838 pp. + (8 maps + 4 correl. charts) in separate box.

  1. R.J.W, Douglas, H. Gabrielse, J.O. Wheeler, D.F. Stott, and H.R. Belyea (1970), “Geology of Western Canada” in Geology and Economic Minerals of Canada, Ch. 8, pp. 366-488. That’s over 100 pages!

J.W.H. Monger and V.A Preto with several others (1972),

Field Excursion A03 – C03: Geology of the Southern Canadian Cordillera, Guidebook., 24th IGC, Ottawa. (iv) + 87 pp. incl. 5 pp. ref. + 6 foldout maps and cross-sections + 1 separate map sheet.

  1. J.W.H. Monger and V.A Preto (1972), “Preface” and “Introduction” in Field Excursion A03 – C03: Geology of the Southern Canadian Cordillera, Guidebook, pp. 1-12.
  2. P.L. Gordy (1972), “Rocky Mountains and Foothills”, in Field Excursion A03 – C03: Geology of the Southern Canadian Cordillera, Guidebook, pp. 12-18.
  3. J.L. Crabb (1972), “Kaiser Coal Operation”, in Field Excursion A03 – C03: Geology of the Southern Canadian Cordillera, Guidebook, pp. 19-21.
  4. G.B. Leech (1972), “Western Rocky Mountains and Southern Rocky Mountain Trench”, in Field Excursion A03 – C03: Geology of the Southern Canadian Cordillera, Guidebook, pp. 21-26.



CSTHA Blog Posts for the 1972 Montréal IGC Field Excursions:

Introduction to Excursion C-03, Tuesday, August 30, 2022.


Commencement of Excursion AX-01, July 22, 2022.


Survey of 1972 Montréal IGC Field Excursions, July 1, 2022


1972 IGC Congress Circulars, incl. Excursion Announcements, June 24, 2022.



Other Links

Kimberley, B.C., Sightseeing.


Kimberley, B.C,. Hotel: Trickle Creek Lodge.


GSC Pacific Division: Map of Southern Cordillera. https://ftp.geogratis.gc.ca/pub/nrcan_rncan/vector/lithoprobe/web_gis/sc/index.html#7/49.978/-120.206

British Columbia Geological Survey, Geolgical Map of B.C.


Geological Association of Canada (GAC), Cordilleran Section.


Canadian Tectonics Group (CTG) September 23-25, 2002, Field Trip and October 1, 2022, Virtual Workshop.


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