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Epic California climbing history wins 2010 Banff Mountain Book Festival Grand Prize

Posted on November 09, 2010

Banff, Alberta, November 9, 2010 -- In the early 1970s when they started showing up at Southern California crags – the San Gabriels, Joshua Tree, and Tahquitz – this particularly talented group of young climbers had an immense impact not only on climbing in North America, but also on the youth culture of the decade. The Stonemasters, as they called themselves, with their tans, cut-offs, nomadic natures, their dope-smoking and lightning-fast ascents, established countless new routes in a pure, bold, and visionary style. Their story, in personal anecdotes and archival photos, is told in John Long and Dean Fidelman’s book The Stonemasters: California Climbing in the Seventies (Stonemaster Press, USA, 2009), winner of the Grand Prize at the 2010 Banff Mountain Book Festival.    

With a freewheeling style that soon dominated Yosemite, these California kids influenced their sport across the continent and overseas, creating a climbing revolution that easily echoes today. “We considered ourselves nothing if we couldn’t affect a sea change in the ways climbers felt and thought and behaved,” Long writes. “It was all part of proving that we mattered, that we were worth a damn as human beings. In our minds, a revolution was not a luxury but a condition of being alive.” The Stonemasters was also awarded the James Monroe Thorington Award for the Best Work of Mountaineering History.  

Lynn Schooler’s memoir Walking Home: A Journey in the Alaskan Wilderness (Bloomsbury, USA, 2010) won the Jon Whyte Award for Mountain Literature. Exhausted by an attempt to build a home for his failing marriage, and finding himself on the far side of middle age, Schooler set out on a solo trek along Alaska’s wild coastline, picking up stories of people and wilderness along the way. “Journeying in these rugged places involves negotiating not only the difficult ground beneath one’s feet, but just as often the more complex and challenging terrain of the heart,” says Banff Mountain Book Festival jury member Jon Popowich.  

The jury chose Kevin McLane’s Canadian Rock: Select Climbs of the West (High Col Press, Canada, 2010) as Best Book – Mountain Exposition. A comprehensive guide to more than 70 climbing areas in Western Canada, from Squamish to the Ghost River Valley, McLane’s book covers more than 1200 routes. “We’re very happy to honour one author who took a risk of describing not just a crag, but half a country, and did a remarkable job” says jury member Geoff Powter. “This wonderful book gives us new projects, new places, and new friends, for years to come.”  

Jon Waterman’s account of a once-mighty waterway, Running Dry: A Journey from Source to Sea down the Colorado River (National Geographic Books, USA, 2010) was named Best Book – Adventure Travel. An accomplished paddler and National Geographic grantee, Waterman finds the pulse of the West’s iconic river, which now irrigates more than 3.5 million acres of farmland in the U.S. and Mexico, and dwindles to dust in its once-lush delta.  

“The writer simply walked out his back door, put a boat into the best known river in the nation, and paddled to the sea,” Powter says. “Nothing else about this book was simple, however; through the author’s eyes we see how everything beautiful and majestic, and difficult and frightening about the United States in 2010 is carried in the currents of that river.”  

A spectacular record of the beauty of Polar regions, Paul Nicklen’s Polar Obsession (National Geographic Books, USA, 2009) was chosen as Best Book – Mountain Image. Growing up on Baffin Island, Nicklen was fascinated with the study of how local wildlife adapts itself to extreme cold and deprivation. His book captures the unique qualities of Polar wildlife and wildernesses, including Antarctica – a place he describes as the most life-filled and awe-inspiring location he’s ever been.  

The jury, including writer Geoff Powter, climbing journalist Jon Popowich, and mountaineer John Porter, also chose to honour John Vaillant’s The Tiger (Knopf Canada, 2010) for a Special Jury Award. Vaillant’s second bestselling work of non-fiction tracks a man-eating tiger in the deepest wilds of Siberia, and the man who set out to bring it down. Porter describes it as “a book that explores the many levels on which man is losing the natural balance that once existed with human society and the animal kingdom.”  

Each year, running concurrently with the Banff Mountain Film Festival, the Banff Mountain Book Festival brings the spirit of outdoor adventure and the tradition of mountain literature to Banff, uniting writers, publishers, editors, photographers, and readers. Featuring guest speakers, readings, seminars, an international book competition, book signings and launches, the Book Festival is now in its 17th year.

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About the Banff
Mountain Film and Book Festival:
 Created 40 years ago,
the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival has become the premier event of its
kind in the world. The Festival showcases the world’s best films, books and
photographs on mountain subjects – climbing, culture, environment and natural history,
exploration and adventure, wildlife, and sport – and attracts the biggest names
in mountaineering, adventure filmmaking, and extreme sports as presenters and
speakers. More than 80 films screen during the nine-day festival, and an
international jury awards over $50,000 annually in prizes.  

The Banff Centre:
 The Banff Centre's mission is
inspiring creativity. Thousands of artists, leaders, and researchers from
across Canada and around the world participate in programs at The Banff Centre
every year. Through its multidisciplinary programming, The Banff Centre provides
them with the support they need to create, to develop solutions, and to make
the impossible possible. Moving forward, the Centre will disseminate the art
and ideas developed in Banff through initiatives in digital, web, radio, and
broadcast media.