Banff Mountain Festivals

2008 Book Awards

The Banff Mountain Book Festival thanks the writers, the photographers, their editors and publishers for entering this year’s competition. We received 113 entries from nine countries, and a dedicated committee had a very tough job to narrow the field down to 33 finalists.

The 2008 festival jury — David Chaundy-Smart (Canada), editor of Gripped Magazine, John Harlin III (USA), editor of the American Alpine Journal, and Julie Tait (UK), past co-director of the Kendal Mountain Festival — chose the following award winners, which were announced at the book festival during the evening presentation on Thursday, November 6.

» Images from the award ceremony are available.

Grand Prize

Phyllis and Don Munday Award, sponsored by the Alberta Sections of the Alpine Club of Canada: $2000

The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek

The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek

Sid Marty

McClelland & Stewart (Canada, 2008) 978-0771056994

The over-riding consideration when deciding upon the Grand Prize winner had to be which book demonstrated literary prowess by taking the craft of writing onto another level elevating this extraordinary medium into an artform in its own right. We looked for a book which could inspire and inform the broadest range of readers captivating them with beautiful prose, a strong narrative and a distinctive voice. Two books took us on a journey to the “other side” observing, exploring and illuminating our complex relationship with the wild and with wilderness. They complement and at the same time contrast with each other. They sponsor feelings of humility, wonder and the whole gamut of human emotions and, most importantly, both fitted our criteria for the Grand Prize Winner. Therefore, the 2008 Banff Mountain Book Festival Grand Prize is shared by The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek and The Wild Places.

— Julie Tait

The Wild Places

The Wild Places

Robert MacFarlane

Granta Books (UK, 2007) 978-1862079731
Penguin Group (USA, 2008) 978-0143113935

 

Robert Macfarlane’s second book chronicles his quest for wilderness in his decreasingly wild homeland of Great Britain. Balancing his own insights with those from mountaineering literature, romantic poetry and travel writers, he explores the human need to connect with the “otherness” of nature. Macfarlane’s masterful prose and rich understanding of how our attitudes towards wilderness are rooted in our humanness make this book a significant addition to a valid mountain and wilderness culture.

— David Chaundy-Smart

Best Book — Mountain Literature

Jon Whyte Award for Mountain Literature, sponsored by the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff: $1000

Dark Summit

Dark Summit

Nick Heil

Random House of Canada Ltd. (Canada 2008)

978-0307356420

Believe it or not, some of us have not kept up with the Everest literature, haven’t even read Into Thin Air — that world of high altitude ambition seems so different from what motivates us to love mountains and climbing that we've become cynical about the whole scene. But Nick Heil’s exquisitely crafted and fast-paced tale of Everest’s second-most deadly year — 2006 — draws in even us Everest curmudgeons by humanizing the participants, building initial empathy for their dreams and then cold shivers for their final nightmares.

— John Harlin

Best Book — Mountaineering History

James Monroe Thorington Award for the Best Work of Mountaineering History, sponsored by UIAA: $500

Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes

Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes

Maurice Isserman, Stewart Weaver

Yale University Press (USA, 2008) 978-0300115017

Tilman speculated that a chronicle of the “fall of the giants” of the Himalayas would not be as interesting as chronicles of the failed attempts. He never anticipated that Maurice Isserman and Stewart Weaver would eventually paraphrase him in the title of an exhaustive and entertaining history of Himalayan mountaineering. This is a standard-setting work that credibly accounts for the struggle to summit the 8000 metre peaks with a seamless discussion of politics, economics and the development of climbing technique backed by a mind-boggling list of sources.

— David Chaundy-Smart

Best Book — Mountain Exposition

Sponsored by Yamnuska Mountain Adventures: $500

Lofoten Rock

Lofoten Rock

Chris Craggs, Thorbjorn Enevold

Rockfax (UK, 2008) 978-1873341667

The word that comes to mind when summing up this book is “perfect.” We can’t imagine how another guidebook formula could make a complex climbing area easier to navigate or more enticing to visit. From the overview maps to the tabbed sections to the quality and quantity of route line photos — all in exquisite color and often highlighted with action shots — this book completely demystifies a set of granite encrusted islands off the Norwegian coast. With this book in hand, all the adventure will come from the climbing, none from figuring out where the climbs are.

— John Harlin

Best Book — Adventure Travel

Sponsored by Batstar Adventure Tours, Port Alberni, B.C.: $500

A Man’s Life: Dispatches from Dangerous Places

A Man’s Life: Dispatches from Dangerous Places

Mark Jenkins

Rodale Press (USA, 2007) 978-1594867071

Perhaps no adventure writer has traveled so widely, or with such a combination of passion, insight, and literary grace, as Mark Jenkins. His nearly 10-year run of columns for Outside Magazine (”The Hard Way”) was the definition of excellence in serious writing about serious adventure. The only thing that rivals Jenkins’s enthusiasm for putting himself into harm’s way in exotic places is his love for crafting stories after coming home to his family in Laramie, Wyoming. A Man’s Life is the second and final collection of “The Hard Way” columns, lightly reedited, and ready to take you pretty much everywhere.

— John Harlin

Best Book — Mountain Image

Sponsored by Rocky Mountain Books, Calgary: $500

Mont Blanc 

Mont Blanc

Mario Colonel

Mario Colonel Editions (France, 2008) 978-2953190007

No mountain range in the world has the combination of scenic splendor, richness of climbing history, and easy access of the Mont Blanc Massif. For this reason there is no shortage of photos and books about this alpine paradise — and yet Mario Colonel’s Mont Blanc is the most stunningly beautiful of them all. An hour among these pages can bring back a lifetime of memories for an experienced Mont Blanc mountaineer — or a lifetime of dreams for those who have yet to visit. Nowhere else will you find such a comprehensive or spectacular portfolio of the many faces of this range, which lies at the very heart of mountaineering.

—John Harlin

Special Jury Mention

Fatal Tide: When the Race of a Lifetime Goes Wrong

Fatal Tide: When the Race of a Lifetime Goes Wrong

David Leach

Penguin Group (Canada, 2008) 978-0670066292

This book will appeal to those who know much or a little or nothing about the relatively young outdoor sport of adventure racing. It examines the nature of adventure, risk and responsibility through a tragic story which is sensitively and subtly told from both personal and political perspectives. It combines a smooth and effortless narrative and strong characterisation underpinned by a gripping documentary style which is both accessible and engaging.

— Julie Tait

Canadian Rockies Award

Sponsored by Deuter and selected by a local committee

The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek

The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek

Sid Marty

McClelland & Stewart (Canada, 2008) 978-0-7710-5699-4