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Native Air by Jonathan Howland wins 2022 Banff Mountain Book Competition Grand Prize

By Jess Elliott Posted on November 04, 2022
Native Air by Jonathan Howland

BANFF, AB, November 3, 2022 – Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival is pleased to announce Native Air by Jonathan Howland as Grand Prize winner of the 2022 Banff Mountain Book Competition.

In a debut novel from Green Writers Press by Jonathan Howland, the austere beauty and high exposure of mountain adventure provide the context and the measure for what it means to be alive for climbing partners Joe Holland and Pete Hunter—until one of them isn’t.

When the book opens, it’s the mid-80s. Joe Holland, the novel’s narrator, is a climber and a seeker, but mostly he’s Pete Hunter’s shadow. The two meet in college and spend the next ten years living at the base of any rock that appears scalable, most of them near Yosemite and California’s High Sierra. The joys and strains of their friendship comprise the novel’s first half. In the second, the bare bones–obsession, grief, love, and repair—come into stark relief when Pete’s grown son Will calls Joe back into climbing, into the past, and into breathless vitality. Native Air is itself a climb, tracing physical acts in a vertical domain as well as the life events stitched between adventures that yoke them. When Will summons Joe back to the mountains, it’s Joe’s chance to recover something true, to mourn his friend, and to fall in love with wonders nearer to heaven than any steeple. The past and present press upon each other like a folded clock.

“From the very first page to the very last, Jonathan Howland's Native Air—a debut novel—distinguished itself as a serious contender for this year's Grand Prize. It was a unanimous feeling among the jurors that no other work in this year's festival elevated its genre more than this one. In the storied tradition of mountain fiction, Native Air is nothing short of a revelation; as Daniel Duane said, "the novel that we American climbers and readers of serious fiction have been waiting for." This book is very much written for core climbers—you'll find no explanations of lingo or terminology here (save a glossary in the back). But the writing is so elegantly rendered, the plot lines so intricately woven, that readers of any background will inevitably gravitate to the human drama central to this suspenseful story. As a devotee of both climbing fiction and the granite of the High Sierra where much of the novel takes place, I cannot help but marvel at the massiveness of Howland's achievement. The bar has officially been raised. Bravo!"

– Chris Kalman, 2022 Book Competition Jury

The book competition is an internationally recognized literary competition that celebrates mountain literature in all its forms. Over $20,000 in cash is awarded annually with eight awards: mountain literature (non-fiction), mountain fiction and poetry, environmental literature, adventure travel, mountain image, guidebook, mountain article, and climbing literature.

The Grand Prize winner and eight category award winners are selected by our international jury from a longlist of 28 finalists (chosen from a total of 166 book submissions, from authors across 11 countries).

The 2022 Book Competition jury members are Natalie Berry (UK, editor of, and former GB climbing team member), Claire Cameron (Canada, author of The Bear (2014), The Last Neanderthal (2017), and outdoor enthusiast), and Chris Kalman (USA, author of The Index Town Walls: A Guide to Washington’s Finest Crag (2017), As Above, So Below (2019), Dammed If You Don’t (2021), and climber).

The 2022 Banff Mountain Book Competition Award winners are:

Grand Prize – The Phyllis and Don Munday Award

$5000 – Sponsored by the Alpine Club of Canada
Native Air
Jonathan Howland, Green Writers Press (USA, 2022)

Category Award Winners

Mountain Literature (non-fiction) – The Jon Whyte Award
$2500 – Sponsored by The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
The Fox of Glencoe
Hamish MacInnes, Scottish Mountaineering Press (UK, 2021)

"'Few people cram as much into a lifetime as Hamish did,' editor Deziree Wilson writes. Spanning nine decades of life, The Fox of Glencoe is a deftly edited tribute to the late Scottish mountaineer Hamish MacInnes, highlighting the legacy of a dedicated and talented polymath. MacInnes was a climber, writer, explorer, mountain rescuer, film safety advisor, and inventor. Wilson has artfully arranged his understated, humorous, and self-deprecating writings and breathed new life into Scottish mountaineering history, literature, and culture."

– Natalie Berry, 2022 Book Competition Jury

Mountain Fiction & Poetry
$2500 – Sponsored by the Town of Banff
Native Air
Jonathan Howland, Green Writers Press (USA, 2022)

"I think of a classic climb as one where, after topping out, I immediately want to climb it again. I've read this novel, a story about two best friends who are also climbing partners, twice so far. The first time I became lost in the complexity of the relationships, the heartbreak, the full love, and the bid for repair. The second time I read it for the technical precision, the tension of incomplete ambitions, and the unbearably elegant structure. This novel is a classic. It will be read and loved again and again."

– Claire Cameron, 2022 Book Competition Jury

Environmental Literature
$2500 – Sponsored by Canadian Mountain Network
Northern Light: Power, Land, and the Memory of Water
Kazim Ali, Milkweed Editions (USA, 2022), Goose Lane Editions (Canada, 2022)

"Northern Light is the story of a queer Muslim poet, the son of political refugees from India, who travels back to his childhood home in northern Manitoba to revisit the Pimicikamak people whose way of life was ravaged by the dam his father helped build. While that sounds like a logline from a film adaptation of a book of literary fiction, Northern Light is very much nonfiction, and a deeply grounded exercise in straightforward reporting. The result is a book which manages to bridge difficult gaps: a story that is equal parts sobering and inviting, prosaic and poetic, devastating and subtly optimistic. Everything about the book feels brave, as author Kazim Ali resolves to expose and celebrate the light in places where all too often, the prevailing cultural narrative sees only darkness."

– Chris Kalman, 2022 Book Competition Jury

Adventure Travel
$2500 – Sponsored by Rocky Mountain Books
A Year in the Woods: Twelve Small Journeys into Nature
Torbjørn Ekelund, Greystone Books (Canada, 2021)

"Whether you love or hate Henry David Thoreau, chances are, you would approach a self-described "Walden for modern times" with some degree of skepticism. I certainly did. I wasn't sure Walden was outdated yet. Do we really need a new one? After reading this book, I have to say yes, we do. A Year in the Woods offers us a clear and tangible alternative to the often oversaturated way we tend to think about adventure and adventurers. You don't have to summit K2 to plumb the depths of the human soul or endure a twenty-day silent meditation retreat to get in touch with your inner child. There is so much to gain by setting simple achievable goals and seeing them through—especially when the goal is to take a short walk into the woods, sit around, and see what you see."

– Chris Kalman, 2022 Book Competition Jury

Mountain Image
$2500 – Sponsored by Mountain Life
Forest for the Trees: The Tree Planters
Rita Leistner, Dewi Lewis Publishing (UK, 2021)

"As an ex-tree planter, I never thought I’d find the spirit of the job captured between covers and printed on pulped trees. The photographer’s commitment, she lived in the mountains camps with her subjects, allowed her to document the horrors and the heroes of the forest industry. The planters are shown in striking poses, almost god-like in the flash, or framed by a clear-cut, but also in gritty detail, the grime of a fingernail, a swollen eyelid, and a duct-taped boot. This book is a work of art made by hard work."

– Claire Cameron, 2022 Book Competition Jury

$2500 – Sponsored by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides
The Packraft Handbook
Luc Mehl, Mountaineers Books (USA, 2022)

"This book is to the burgeoning and exciting sport of packrafting what "Freedom of the Hills" has long been for mountaineering: a foundational tome, an encyclopedic body of knowledge for beginners and experts alike, a book that will surely stand the test of time. Compelling writing, excellent photography, and superb illustrations combine to make this an exceptional guidebook. Most importantly, it is a treatise on risk taking and risk assessment. It is not an exaggerated claim to say that this book will actually save lives."

– Chris Kalman, 2022 Book Competition Jury

Mountain Article
$2500 – Sponsored by Fjällräven
The Girl in the Gully
Astra Lincoln, Climbing Magazine (USA, September 2022)

"'I can climb because in my life, risk is a punctuation mark. It is not every letter in every word.' In the Girl in the Gully, the helplessness of both the migrant and writer Astra Lincoln as they meet in the Sonoran desert is palpable. A deeply moving, sensitive, and brave essay, which highlights that for some, escaping to the mountains is not a privilege but an act of desperation. The author wrestles with her guilt for doing no more than leaving water, but in bearing witness and writing
this piece, Lincoln raises awareness of migration issues. Her story reminds us of the absurdity of living for risk-taking, while others attempt merely to survive ongoing risks to their lives—and that no matter how far we run or climb, we cannot escape politics and policy."

– Natalie Berry, 2022 Book Competition Jury

Climbing Literature
$2500 – Sponsored by MEC
Valley of Giants: Stories from Women at the Heart of Yosemite Climbing
Lauren DeLaunay Miller, Mountaineers Books (USA, 2022)

"A much-needed anthology, this book highlights the stories of women in Yosemite from 1930 to the present. The contributions come from a wide range of climbers, a world-renowned soloist, a mother, a microbiologist, a daughter, a tribe member, a quiet expert and a first-time climber. Some stories are already famous, others are previously untold, but all add a fresh perspective to the lore of the valley. The stories build on one another, each one lends depth and history to the next, and when combined, they show how voices are strongest when they join together."

– Claire Cameron, 2022 Book Competition Jury

Special Jury Mention
Javier Corso and Alex Rodal, Oak Stories (Spain, 2021)

"Bound in a format called leporello, this gorgeous book combines photos, a narrative about a mountain goddess, and a legend. It can be read in three different ways, opened like an accordion, or by one of two covers and read in different directions. A work of art and archive in equal parts, each element of the book unfolds to complement the others. The result is a tactile experience that gives cultural and historical insight into the Matagi community."

– Claire Cameron, 2022 Book Competition Jury

Special Jury Mention
Imaginary Peaks: The Riesenstein Hoax and Other Mountain Dreams
Katie Ives, Mountaineers Books (USA, 2021)

"'For many climbers, at times both unexpected and ecstatic, boundaries between outer and inner worlds seem to dissolve.' An erudite, elegant book for dreamers and fans of mountain literature, history, hoaxes, cartography, and adventure. In Imaginary Peaks: The Riesenstein Hoax and Other Mountain Dreams, Katie Ives charts our fascination with the blank spaces on maps and imagined realms and how these fabled mountains of the mind influence storytelling and culture. It's a beautifully crafted, meticulously researched, and poetic exploration of human reverie, mythology, and desire."

– Natalie Berry, 2022 Book Competition Jury

Writers and authors in attendance at this year’s Festival include: Arno Kopecky, Tamar Glouberman, Lauren DeLaunay Miller, Meghan Ward, John Porter, Paul Pritchard, Harley Rustad, Kazim Ali, Katie Ives, Marilyn Dumont, Pete Takeda, Michael Kennedy, Claire Cameron, Kit Dobson, and Lyndsie Bourgon.

For more information and to view the schedule, please visit

For more information or image requests, please contact:

Jess Elliott
Media and Communications
Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival
107 Tunnel Mountain Drive
Banff, Alberta
T1L 1H5 

About Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival: Created 47 years ago, Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival has become the premier event of its kind in the world. The nine-day Festival hosted by Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Banff, Canada, 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 explorers as presenters and speakers. An international jury will also award over $40,000 in prizes for films and books submitted to this year’s Festival competitions.

Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival Partners: The 2022 Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival Presenting Partners are: Rab, Banff and Lake Louise Tourism, and BUFF®. The Festival is also sponsored by Oboz Footwear, Yeti, World Expeditions, Kicking Horse Coffee, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Summer Gondola, Lowe Alpine, Doña Paula, and Park Distillery.

About Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity: Founded in 1933, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is a learning organization built upon an extraordinary legacy of excellence in artistic and creative development. What started as a single course in drama has grown to become the global organization leading in arts, culture, and creativity across dozens of disciplines. From our home on Treaty 7 territory in the stunning Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity aims to inspire everyone who attends our campus – artists, leaders, and thinkers – to unleash their creative potential and realize their unique contribution to society through cross-disciplinary learning opportunities, world-class performances, and public outreach.