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Angel Sanctuary - Edith Cavell

After a diversion in last week's blog - Women's March on Washington D.C. 2017- I turn away from musing on the foibles and fumings of world history to the quiet shadows of Angel Glacier's ice pool beneath one of Alberta's most prominent mountains - notably named after a woman, Mt. Edith Cavell.

That woman was an English nurse who helped allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium during WW I. She was executed by the Germans (more below). Angel Glacier looks like a teardrop shed in her memory.

Hiking up a steady incline and then crossing a prominent ridge leads one from autumn to winter in the shadow of the mountain. Angel Glacier, obviously shrinking over time, leaks blue water down the sides of Cavell. The water refreezes within the darker, cooler bowl valley below because sunlight is barred for most of each day by the massive cliffs.

As a result, cyan blue ice collects in a relatively barren rock and stone depression. Snow and ice and gravel pile up in layers and chunks, almost resembling an unfinished construction project and enticing visitors to perhaps step out on the treacherous slippery sheet.

The north face of Cavell rises over a kilometer above Cavell pond to the summit of the mountain at 3363 meters. Angel Glacier itself hangs off the side, hence its classification as a "hanging" glacier. Angel Glacier's wings spread from a cirque and its snowy gown draps over the rim. Ghost Glacier once hovered alongside the wing of Angel. But on the evening of August 9th or early morning of the next day in 2012 the Ghost Glacier fell from the North Face of Cavell, dumping approximately 125,000 cubic meters of ice. A small tsunami effect flooded the area in the bowl but fortunately no lives were lost because of the timing of the incident.

What about Edith, whose namesake the mountain assumed. In 1915 she was arrested in Brussels, Belgium for treason by the German authorities. She had been betrayed by a person who later was convicted by a French court as a collaborator. She was held in Saint-Gilles prison for ten weeks, the last two of which were spent in solitary confinement. Cavell did not defend herself, admitting she had helped conveying about 60 British and 15 French soldiers plus up to 100 French and Belgian civilians of military age to the frontier and had sheltered many in her own house.

The night before her execution, Reverend Stirling Gahan, an Anglican chaplain gave her Holy Communion. Cavell reportedly said, "Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone." These words are inscribed on her statue in St Martin's Place, near Trafalgar Square in London. Her final words to the German Lutheran prison chaplain (as recorded), "Ask Father Gahan to tell my loved ones later on that my soul, as I believe, is safe, and that I am glad to die for my country."

Mount Edith Cavell is a worthy memorial.

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