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8 Mountain Culture Books to Add to Your Reading List

November 2, 2015


By Tera Swanson

While gripping films and skilled speakers attract the die-hard adventurers and inspiration-seekers to the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival, it is also the stories expressed through the written word that carry this spirit beyond the end of the fest. This year, 139 books were entered into the Banff Mountain Book Competition, and 26 made it to the list of category finalists. Here are this year’s winners, which are sure to  keep your mountain soul satiated well into the new year.


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After an intense and anxious vision, “both geographic and artistic,” Jeremy Collins commenced on a four-year journey, traveling in the four cardinal directions—north, south, east, west—to create art, climb new routes, and “live out his own map.” But Collins is not an untethered lone wolf climber. He lives in Kansas City, with his wife and two children. While climbing, he often asks himself: “Why am I here on this mountain instead of with them?” His answer is gradually revealed in Drawn, an intimate visual exploration of how one reconciles family, career, and personal passion. – Mountaineering Books 

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By the celebrated author of Canada Reads Finalist Indian Horse, a stunning new novel that has all the timeless qualities of a classic, as it tells the universal story of a father/son struggle in a fresh, utterly memorable way, set in dramatic landscape of the BC Interior.

“The mountains of British Columbia are far more than a setting in Medicine Walk: they have a spiritual role to play in this moving story of a broken family’s quest for memory, home, and reconciliation” – Harry Vandervlist, 2015 Book Jury 

“Patagonia’s Cerro Torre, considered by many the most beautiful peak in the world, draws the finest and most devoted technical alpinists to its climbing challenges. But controversy has swirled around this ice-capped peak since Cesare Maestri claimed first ascent in 1959. Since then a debate has raged, with world-class climbers attempting to retrace his route but finding only contradictions. This chronicle of hubris, heroism, controversies and epic journeys offers a glimpse into the human condition, and why some pursue extreme endeavors that at face value have no worth.” – Patagonia on The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre

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Alpine Exposures is a collection of impeccable alpine imagery from hard-earned locations throughout the Western alps infused with accounts of the true learning curve and expression of alpinism. From the Grandes Jorasses to the Aiguille Verte, Griffith manages breathtaking photographs from seemingly impossible positions.” – Majka Burhardt, 2015 Book Jury

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Lake District Rock is an authoritative guide produced by the Fell and Rock Climbing Club. It comprises a selection of the best climbs to all the main cliffs of the Lake District. The photo diagrams are very clear and should get you to the start of your route without much fuss. The route descriptions are enticing and informative. And, of course, there is a sprinkling of inspirational photographs to get you going just in case you have missed the point of climbing in this beautiful part of England. This guide book is a classic of the genre, get it and climb in the Lakes – you won’t be disappointed.” – Victor Saunders, 2015 Book Jury

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“A timely and deeply thoughtful reflection on the Himalaya as a cultural crossroads where the “old myths” of romantic and exotic thinking continue to play their part, while local working people struggle to navigate “the ongoing corruption, poor regulation and complex realities” of the trekking and tourism industries, which make it possible for visitors to experience the power of this place.” – Harry Vandervlist, 2015 Book Jury, on Crazy Wisdom

In Alpine Warriors, Bernadette McDonald tells the story of a courageous group of climbers conquering peaks and routes while inspiring their country during some of its most turbulent times. Challenged by more than just mountains, generations of alpinists in Slovenia have dealt with an unstable and often unsafe political climate.

“Through meticulous research and captivating anecdotes, Bernadette McDonald describes the tumultuous times that led to the fall of Yugoslavia and how the mountains pulled its people together. She provides a glimpse into the minds of the men who were climbing for discovery, patriotism, brotherhood, and love.” – John Reid, Crowfoot Media. Check out the rest of our review.

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The Adventure Game‘s greatest strength is that of a new narrative voice encompassed in its pages. Partridge lends a unique perspective to the world of outdoor adventure by writing about his experiences while operating a film camera, a profession intrinsically linked to the industry but a view not often told. His anecdotes are engaging and unabashedly authentic. A must-read for all armchair adventurists.” – 2015 Book Jury


Whether she’s booting down trail runs, trekking up peaks or travelling the globe, Tera Swanson is never content idling for long. Pairing this with her love for writing came as natural as her Bow Valley backyard.

The views and opinions expressed in the articles on are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the editor, the editorial team or the publishers.

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