Baroness Elizabet von Rummel (anglicized as Elizabeth Rummel, also known as “Lizzie”), CM, mountain lodge proprietor, mountaineer (born 19 February 1897 in Munich, Germany; died 10 October 1980 in Canmore, AB.) After a privileged upbringing in Europe, Elizabeth Rummel and her family settled on a ranch in Alberta during the First World War. At age 41, Rummel struck out on her own, working at and managing lodges in the Rocky Mountains. In 1951, she opened her own mountain camp for tourists and climbers on Sunburst Lake, north of Mount Assiniboine. She was a renowned figure in the Rockies, known for sharing her love and knowledge of the area with guests from around the world. Rummel was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada for her work in the mountains.
Baroness Elizabet von Rummel was the eldest of three sisters born into an aristocratic German family. Later, she anglicized her name to Elizabeth Rummel while living in Canada and was known by many as “Lizzie.” Her father was Baron Gustav von Rummel, an army officer and actor, and her mother, Elisabet (or Elsa) Hirth, the daughter of a wealthy magazine and newspaper publisher. Rummel was raised in aristocratic circles throughout Europe.
Ranching in Canada
In 1911, Elizabeth Rummel and her family visited Canada for the first time. Her mother had purchased a ranch in Millarville, Alberta, southwest of Calgary. The family attended the first Calgary Stampede while summering at the ranch in 1912. They were in Alberta when the First World War broke and were forced to remain at the ranch as they were unable to return to Germany. Cut off from their money in Germany, the family had to turn what had been a pleasure ranch into a working ranch to support themselves. The family, who had relied on servants in Europe, learned how to manage the household and do ranch work. Rummel and her sisters adapted and came to love their life on the ranch, and the family decided to settle there permanently after the war. The sisters took annual summer trips to the Rocky Mountains, an area that dominated the later part of Rummel’s life.
Working in the Rocky Mountains
Both of Elizabeth Rummel’s sisters married local ranchers, but unwed at age 41, Rummel embarked on a different path. In 1938, she moved on her own to Banff and found work in the ski and backcountry industries. She worked as a chambermaid, hostess and guide at Mount Assiniboine Lodge and, in 1943, took over the management of Skoki Lodge in Banff National Park. Within a few years, she oversaw Temple Chalet and Lake Louise Ski Lodge as well.
While working in the Rockies, Rummel practised her skiing in the winter and eventually became a licensed ski guide. She was also an active mountain climber and member of the Alpine Club of Canada.
Sunburst Lake Camp
In 1950, Elizabeth Rummel cashed in her life insurance policy, sold her cattle and purchased a cabin in order to fulfil her dream of operating a tourist camp. The cabin sat on Sunburst Lake, just north of Mount Assiniboine. The camp was accessed by a rough 40 km drive from Canmore, followed by about a 20 km hike or horseback ride. She hosted up to ten visitors at a time in tent-frame cabins. Cooking their meals, she guided them in activities such as climbing, fishing and storytelling.
In the early years of operating the camp, Rummel spent winters working at a coffee shop in Vancouver. Once the camp became more successful, she was able to winter in Banff. While Rummel never earned very much money from her camp, it was her true passion.
Rummel often provided accommodation to young climbers in return for help with odd jobs around the camp. One such climber was a young Austrian immigrant named Hans Gmoser, who went on to pioneer the heli-skiing industry in Canada.
“At Sunburst Lake Lizzie was completely at home. She was one with the trees, the flowers, and the deer that would visit her place. In the winter she loved the snow that almost covered her cabin, and she enjoyed to glide on skis through the larches and over the hills around her. I think there has seldom been a situation where a person was so much a part of a place. In a way she was like Mount Assiniboine itself. She stood out above all around her — not domineering but like a beautiful spirit.”
- Mountaineer and heli-skiing pioneer Hans Gmoser on Elizabeth Rummel
Rummel’s camp attracted loyal guests from all walks of life from around the world. She was a beloved and renowned figure in the Rockies. She was known for her skill as a mountaineer, for her knowledge of the area’s flora, fauna, and mountain trails, and for her hospitality. Rummel was passionate about the Rockies and shared her love of the area with whomever she met.
In 1970, due to worsening arthritis, Rummel sold her camp to the British Columbia government. Today, her cabin is maintained as a historical site within Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park.
Legacy and Honours
From 1966 to 1980, Elizabeth Rummel helped preserve the history of the Rockies by conducting oral history interviews with mountaineering pioneers for the Archives of the Canadian Rockies (now part of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies).
In 1980, Rummel was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada, for “enrich[ing] her country by sharing her deep love of the Rocky Mountains with all who [met] her.” She passed away a few months later, on 10 October 1980.
Elizabeth Lake, Rummel Lake, Rummel Pass and Rummel Creek in the Rocky Mountains are named after her. In Canmore, a street and elementary school are named in her honour.