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Banff Mountain Book Competition announces 2023 category award winners

By Jess Elliott Posted on octobre 19, 2023
Books Winners 2023

Banff Mountain Book Competition is thrilled to announce the 2023 category award winners, who will go on to compete for the Grand Prize on Thursday, November 2 at this year’s 48th Annual Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival.

The book competition is an internationally recognized literary competition that celebrates mountain literature in all its forms. $29,000 in cash is awarded annually with eight awards: mountain literature (non-fiction), mountain fiction and poetry, environmental literature, adventure travel, mountain image, guidebooks, mountain article, climbing literature, plus the grand prize selected by an international jury of writers, adventurers, and editors. 

The eight category award winners are selected by our international jury from a longlist of 33 finalists (chosen from a total of 215 book submissions, from authors across eight countries). 

The 2023 Book Competition jury members are Kate Harris (Canada, author of national bestseller Lands of Lost Borders (2019), travel writer, and former Rhodes scholar), Tony Whittome (UK, freelance editor for Penguin Random House, and former Editorial Director of Random House UK), and Jennifer Lowe-Anker (USA, Banff Mountain Writers workshop participant, author of award-winning memoir Forget Me Not (2007), artist and painter).

Category Award Winners

Mountain Literature (non-fiction) – The Jon Whyte Award 
$3000 - Sponsored by The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies 

A Line Above the Sky: On Mountains and Motherhood 
Helen Mort, Ebury Press (UK, 2022) 

"A Line Above the Sky draws a riveting and visceral exploration of risk and the personal choices that individuals make in pursuit of it. With poetic eloquence and reverence rarely seen in story, Helen Mort recounts the lifeline of Alison Hargreaves intertwined with her own life choices in a reflective lyrical voice that can only be described as a privilege to read."

– Jennifer Lowe-Anker, 2023 Book Competition Jury

Mountain Fiction & Poetry 
$3000 – Sponsored by the Town of Banff 

We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies 
Tsering Yangzom Lama, McClelland & Stewart (Canada, 2022) 

"Sometimes fiction can be so emotionally revealing and powerful that it gets to the heart of an experience in ways no non-fiction can match. We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies is such a novel. Writing of the tragedy of Tibet after the Chinese invasion, the drama of escape, the plight of exile with its inevitable losses and compromises and finally of the power of love and redemption, this extraordinary book is both a heartbreakingly intimate personal story and a sweeping, page-turning narrative of cultural threat and moral fightback which will leave no reader unmoved."

– Tony Whittome, 2023 Book Competition Jury

Environmental Literature 
$3000 – Sponsored by Canadian Mountain Network 

Drawing Botany Home: A Rooted Life 
Lyn Baldwin, Rocky Mountain Books (Canada, 2023) 

"Drawing Botany Home could not be a more perfect title for this beautiful and insightful look at the importance of our place as individuals in an ecosystem that nurtures us. With reverence for the diversity and minutia of flora, Lyn Baldwin has shared her own journey with elegant renderings to capture the essence of how nature nurtures, mentors, grounds and heals."

– Jennifer Lowe-Anker, 2023 Book Competition Jury

Adventure Travel 
$3000 – Sponsored by Rocky Mountain Books 

Instead: Navigating the Adventures of a Childfree Life - A Memoir 
Maria Coffey, Rocky Mountain Books (Canada, 2023) 

"Intimate in tone, sweeping in emotional and geographic scope, this globetrotting memoir testifies to the rich possibilities that can unfold in choosing to be childfree. Maria Coffey offers a candid and inspiring account of her decision to embrace a roving, creative life over more conventional paths. Instead, is a testament that biological reproduction might well be the least imaginative and most limiting interpretation of what it takes to make a family. The great adventure, as Coffey attests, is putting your own spin on what a life of deep connection can look like."

– Kate Harris, 2023 Book Competition Jury

Mountain Image 
$3000 – Sponsored by Mountain Life 

Mont Blanc Lines 
Alexandre Buisse, Vertebrate Publishing (UK, 2022) 

"Alex Buisse struck the balance of both captivating the eye and the mind; his images of the Mont Blanc massif inspired awe, whilst the guidebook-esque lines charted a path through one's imagination. I couldn't help but think about what each route must have entailed, the mental story I was telling myself enriched by small pieces of history and anecdotes from alpinists sharing their first-hand experience."

– JoJo Das, 2023 Photo Competition Jury

$3000 – Sponsored by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides 

Walking & Wayfinding in the Westfjords of Iceland 
Henry Fletcher and Jay Simpson, Wayfinding Guides (UK, 2022) 

"What do you look for in a guidebook? Clear maps and advice on adventurous routes of course, but also more profoundly a chance to understand the ecology, culture, and history of its subject, how it is experienced by the plants, animals and humans which live there, how it is celebrated and might be challenged. Above all, however remote the area, it must make you want to go there. And this is where Wayfinding in the Westfjords triumphantly succeeds. Practical, portable maps and routes are supported by lavishly illustrated volumes of personal stories, photos, and coloured illustrations. Together these (four in all) reveal the whole ecology of this beautiful, savage, and isolated part of Iceland."

– Tony Whittome, 2023 Book Competition Jury

Mountain Article 
$3000 – Sponsored by Rab 

Securing the Shadows 
David Stevenson, The Mississippi Review (USA, 2023) 

"This powerful, exact, and beautifully written article explores the relationship between photograph, subject, and observer in a series of images of climbers who have died in the mountains. Its spare prose and flattened affect at first recalls art criticism, or even the forensics of an autopsy, but this is not the whole story: it soon modulates into something questing, passionate and deeply personal which will remain in the mind of the reader. In short compass this is an extraordinary literary achievement."

– Tony Whittome, 2023 Book Competition Jury

Climbing Literature 
$3000 – Sponsored by Mountain Equipment Company (MEC) 

Royal Robbins: The American Climber
David Smart, Mountaineers Books (USA, 2023)

"It is rare to read an account of a legend that measures up to the individual, capturing visionary character in human and place with clear insight to an era. David Smart gives us an evocative, intimate view of Royal Robbins, the man, his exceptional position in the history of American climbing and his vast resume of classic and timeless ascents."

– Jennifer Lowe-Anker, 2023 Book Competition Jury

Special Jury Mention

Fire Weather: The Making of a Beast
John Vaillant, Knopf Canada (Canada, 2023)

"In gripping and visceral prose, Fire Weather traces the origins and evolution of the blaze that devastated Alberta’s Fort McMurray, a community at the core of the global oil economy. Part history, part prophecy, part biography of fire in the era of climate change, this book is ultimately a portrait of humanity: our hubris, to be sure, but also our surprising decency to each other under duress, facing circumstances that are out of control. Vaillant reveals the unnerving parallels between wildfires and late-stage capitalism: both are forces possessed of a terrifying vitality, with appetite and intent, but no soul, no ethics, and no mercy. At once urgent and eloquent, this is a book for these unsteady times."

– Kate Harris, 2023 Book Competition Jury

Special Jury Mention

Oldman's River
Sid Marty, NeWest Press (Canada, 2023)

"Sid Marty’s work in a variety of forms has delighted and challenged readers over several decades but he remains at heart a poet, whose lyrical voice, rooted in personal experience, evokes the mountains of Western Canada with unflinching insight and authenticity. It is now gathered in a rich, readable, and thought-provoking volume of collected poems, with a generous helping of new work. It’s a feast for the reader, a wonderful testament to the creative imagination and to the world of mountains and prairies - but it’s also a call to action."

– Tony Whittome, 2023 Book Competition Jury

Grand Prize 
$5000 – Sponsored by The Alpine Club of Canada 
All the category winners listed above are eligible for the Grand Prize.
Book Awards will be presented, and the Grand Prize will be announced Thursday November 2, as part of the 48th annual Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival.

Don't miss our popular daytime book events, featuring authors, photographers, and explorers from around the world, including Kate Rawles (UK), Maria Coffey (CAN); David Smart (CAN), Graham Zimmerman (USA),  Jeff Smoot (USA), Sid Marty (CAN), Helen Mort (UK), and Alex Buisse (FRA). 

The nine-day Festival will be held from October 28 through to November 5 and will feature 84 epic films (including World and North American premieres), live in-person events with adventurers, authors, photographers, and filmmakers sharing their inspiring stories, an expanded Festival Marketplace (including the new Rab stage hosting free presentations), happy hours with music, campfire conversations with special guests, downtown events and exhibitions, and much more!  

The Festival schedule is available to view online and tickets are on sale (tickets from $18 - $38, and $75 for all-day films). Tickets can be purchased online or at Banff Centre Box Office

Online passes now on sale (available in CAN/USA only). 

Please visit for more information.

If you’d like to provide media coverage of the 2023 Festival, please submit a media accreditation application form.

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 48 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 2023 Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival Presenting Partners are: Banff and Lake Louise Tourism and Rab. The Festival is also sponsored by BUFF®, Yeti, Oboz Footwear, Lowe Alpine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Summer Gondola, Kicking Horse Coffee, World Expeditions, Happy Yak, Doña Paula, and KORE Outdoors.

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.