Summit of Excellence Award

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Don Serl Summit of Excellence

2017 Summit of Excellence Award recipient Don Serl.

Presented at the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival since 1987, the annual Summit of Excellence Award has recognized an individual who has made a significant contribution to mountain life in the Canadian Rockies.  In 2016, the award was expanded to recognize individuals from across Canada.

The list of past recipients read like a "Who's Who" of the Canadian mountain culture scene, and includes a diverse collection of mountaineers, authors, artists, photographers, mountain guides, musicians, teachers, and rescue specialists.  

The 2018 award will be presented onstage on opening weekend of the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival - Saturday evening, October 27.

The award is presented in memory of Calgary climber Bill March, an internationally respected mountaineer, author, and educator, who led Canada's first successful Everest climb in 1982.

Nominate a Summit of Excellence Award recipient today.



2017 Recipient: Don Serl

Don Serl Summit of Excellence

2017 Summit of Excellence Award recipient Don Serl.

The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival is proud to announce Don Serl as the 2017 recipient of the Summit of Excellence Award, which recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to mountain life in Canada.  Regarded as one of Canada's most accomplished and prolific mountaineers, Serl has about 200 first ascents to his name.

"With the Summit of Excellence Award now being presented to deserving recipients outside of the Canadian Rockies, Don Serl was an obvious and easy choice," said Nancy Hansen, Summit of Excellence selection committee member.  "Over several decades, Don has made significant contributions to Canadian mountain climbing and culture and is humble about his achievements, preferring to discuss new ideas and what others have done.  He is a wealth of information about climbing on the West Coast and enjoys sharing his knowledge."

Born in Victoria and raised in Kamloops, Serl discovered a love for the mountains at the age of 25, while working as a chemist in Vancouver.

In 1974, Serl trained in the Federation of Mountain Clubs of British Columbia (FMCBC) basic mountaineering course where he said his "energies and imagination was unleashed" and by July 1975 he completed his initial first ascent on the north face of Mount Cheam in British Columbia.  Since then "he has reigned as the preeminent Coast climber" according to author and climbing peer Chic Scott.  Heavily influenced by Canadian climber Dick Culbert, Serl's horizons opened after an Alpine Club of Canada trip into the multi-summitted Waddington Range, followed by numerous expeditionary trips into remote corners of the Coast Mountains in British Columbia. 

From the late 1970's to mid-1980's, Serl was lured to the big peaks of Nepal, Peru, Alaska, and the Yukon.  After the birth of his children in the late 1980's, he decided to focus his attentions on the Coast Mountains and his "spiritual home" in the Waddington Range.  

During this time, Serl completed first ascents of Mt. Tiedemann south face, Mt. Hickson north face, Razorback Mountain north face, Mount Queen Bess southeast buttress, Bute Mountain west face, and Monarch Mountain north ridge, as well as participating in the first traverse of the Waddington range.  He developed a love for waterfall ice climbing and began establishing new routes, a discipline he continued for over 30 years.  Serl started documenting his exploits and co-authored two guidebooks: The Waddington Guide (2003) and West Coast Ice (1993, 2005), as well as publishing a plethora of articles in the Canadian Alpine Journal and American Alpine Journal.

I am honored to be chosen as the recipient of this year's Summit of Excellence Award," said Don Serl.  "Over nearly four decades of chasing summits, I experienced many beautiful, challenging, and alluring ridges, faces, and couloirs, mostly in remote and obscure places.  These wonderful features, and the strong, competent partners with whom I adventured, also share the honour, as do my wife and family, without whose tolerance little of this would have happened."


Norseman Outdoor Specialist and Yamnuska Mountain Adventures are pleased to support Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in celebrating mountain life in Canada by sponsoring the 2018 Summit of Excellence Award:

"We are honored to be a part of this community of incredible people who share our passion and long-term commitment to understanding, enjoying, and protecting our local mountains.  It is our respect and love for the natural world that compels us to connect with it, as well as to educate and outfit others so they can experience its rewards while understanding the importance of the responsibility we all share in preserving it."

Nomination Information

Award Logistics

  • One award is given annually
  • An individual or group of individuals is eligible to be nominated
  • An individual may not nominate him/herself

Award Timeline

  • Deadline for nominations is Friday, July 13, 2018
  • Award will be announced to the public at the end of September
  • Award will be presented onstage on opening weekend - Saturday evening, October 27.

Nomination Guidelines

  • Nominators are encouraged to read profiles of past award winners
  • The volunteer selection committee reviews each nomination individually and considers all information provided to ensure a high degree of fairness, accuracy, and integrity during the judging process.
  • Each nomination should be submitted separately
  • Nominees must have demonstrated long-term commitment in their contribution to mountain life in Canada
  • Nominees may include but are not limited to those making contributions in areas such as mountain sport, mountain environment, mountain culture, mountain art, or mountain science
  • Nominations should clearly describe how the nominee’s accomplishments have significantly benefited the mountain community in Canada
  • Nominations should include descriptions of some or all of the following:
    • level of contribution
    • longevity of service
    • impact to sport/environment/culture/art/science (for example – did the nominee help to elevate their field?)
    • demonstration of excellence
    • peer feedback
    • motivating or inspiring others