THE ULTIMATE CANADIAN
Written by Tera Swanson
Brought to you by Rocky Mountain Books
Guidebook, handbook, history, photography: the canon of Canadian Rockies literature is vast – just like the mountain range that has inspired it. And while no list is ever quite complete, we’ve curated a selection of mountain literature that belongs on the bookshelves of every Rockies enthusiast.
Mountain dwellers enjoy hanging off frozen waterfalls and scrambling along alpine ridgelines, but we also carve out time to rest, retreat and read in the comforts of home. There we discover stories that inspire us to reach new heights, prepare us to do so safely, and educate us on our surroundings and those who blazed the trail before us.
Which books are in your own library? Missing a few? If you’re looking to fill in some gaps, we recommend you check out your local library or support independent booksellers with your purchases. If you still can’t find them, use the links below to find a copy online!
→ History – Early Explorers
→ History – Modern Historians
→ Annual Publications
→ Contemporary + Conservation
→ Handbooks + Mountain Safety
→ Children’s Books
→ Photography + Art
Would you add any to the list? Use the comments below to let us know!
HISTORY – EARLY EXPLORERS
The Canadian Rockies have piqued our curiosities for centuries. Reading the words of the first explorers gives us insight into the way of thinking of the time, and also how they resonate with our own timeless ambitions and passions.
The Canadian Rockies – New and Old Trails, by A. P. Coleman
The Glittering Mountains of Canada, by J. Monroe Thorington
Old Indian Trails of the Canadian Rockies, by Mary T.S. Schaffer
In the Heart of the Canadian Rockies, by James Outram
The Rockies of Canada, by Walter Wilcox
Where the Clouds Can Go, by Conrad Kain
HISTORY – MODERN HISTORIANS
Part analysts and part narrators, the historians of our time have a gift of documenting events of eras past. Through the telling stories of Rockies heritage in compelling ways, they unscramble history and provide a more coherent picture for today’s readers.
Banff: A History of the Park and Town, by Ted Hart
Bold and Cold: A History of 25 Classic Climbs in the Canadian Rockies, by Brandon Pullan
Conrad Kain: Letters from a Wandering Mountain Guide, 1906-1933, edited by Zac Robinson
Grandeur of the Canadian Rockies, by Meghan J. Ward and Paul Zizka
Lizzie Rummel: Baroness of the Canadian Rockies, by Ruthie Oltmann
No Ordinary Woman – The Story of Mary Schaffer Warren, by Janice Sanford Beck
Pushing the Limits: The Story of Canadian Mountaineering, by Chic Scott
Summit Tales: Early Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, by Graeme Pole
This Wild Spirit: Women in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, by Colleen Skidmore
Not quite books and not quite magazines either, some Rockies-based publications deserve a category all on their own. Publishing as annual volumes, these two provide fresh perspectives and a diversity of voices while chronicling mountain culture and climbing in unique ways.
Canadian Alpine Journal, published by the Alpine Club of Canada
Canadian Rockies Annual collection, published by Crowfoot Media
CONTEMPORARY + CONSERVATION
These works dig deeper into the interweaving issues and modern mindsets that make up the fabric of Canadian Rockies mountain culture. Discover what lies beneath the surface of our mountain experiences, and how it may alter our paths moving forward.
Bears Without Fear, by Kevin Van Tighem
Inner Ranges – An Anthology of Mountain Thoughts and Mountain People, by Geoff Powter
Men for the Mountains, by Sid Marty
Our Place – Changing the Nature of Alberta, by Kevin Van Tighem
Switchbacks: True Stories from the Canadian Rockies, by Sid Marty
Tales & Trails: Adventures for Everyone in the Canadian Rockies, by Lynn Martel
The Pipestone Wolves: The Rise and Fall of a Wolf Family, by Günther Bloch and Photographed by John E. Marriott
The Will of the Land, by Peter Dettling
Water, Weather, and the Mountain West, by Robert Sandford
The stories of First Nations and Metis people as they relate to Canadian Rockies history are rich, complex and, oftentimes, tumultuous. This selection offers a starting point for developing a deeper understanding and appreciation of Indigenous history, culture and contemporary issues.
Blackfoot Ways of Knowing: The Worldview of the Siksikaitsitapi, by Betty Bastien
Nakoda Summer: A Story of the Ya Ha Tinda, by Cliff Faulknor
Spirit of the Rockies: Reasserting an Indigenous Presence in Banff National Park, by Courtney Wade Mason
These Mountains are Our Sacred Places, by Chief John Snow
The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty 7, by Treaty 7 Elders
Thanks to the hard work of these guidebook authors we have an incredible amount of information at our fingertips. These guidebooks are our backcountry blueprints, making them essential and trusted additions to any adventurer’s backpack.
A Peakbagger’s Guide to the Canadian Rockies: North, by Ben Nearingburg and Eric Coulthard
Bikepacking in the Canadian Rockies, by Ryan Correy
Canadian Rockies Trail Guide, by Brian Patton and Bart Robinson
Classic Hikes in the Canadian Rockies, by Graeme Pole
Kananaskis Country Trail Guide Volumes 1-5, by Gillean Daffern
Rockies Central, by David P. Jones
Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, by Alan Kane
Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies, by Chic Scott and Darren Farley
Sport Climbs in the Canadian Rockies, by John Martin and Jon Jones
Summits & Icefields 1 + 2, by Chic Scott and Mark Klassen
The 11,000ers of the Canadian Rockies, by Bill Corbett
HANDBOOKS AND MOUNTAIN SAFETY
Reference books act like the recipes that compile a cookbook. They tell us the what and how so that we can enrich out mountain experience. These handbooks serve up the skills to make you a trusted partner in the mountains, provide information to help you interpret your surroundings, and build the foundation to keep yourself (and others) safe.
Backcountry Avalanche Safety, by Tony Daffern
Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering, by Martin Volken, Scott Schell and Margaret Wheeler
Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies, by Linda Kershaw
Handbook of the Canadian Rockies, by Ben Gadd
Medicine for Mountaineering: And Other Wilderness Activities, by James A Wilkerson
Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills, by Harley McAllister & Abby McAllister
Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, by Bruce Temprer
Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete, by Steve House and Scott Johnston
When it comes to both reading and the outdoors, it’s never too early to start. These children’s books will sow the first seeds of intrigue for the mountains, and help develop an early understanding of why they are so special.
A Berry Berry Good Day, by Laurie Schwartz
Canadian Rockies ABC, by Max Elliott
Canadian Wildlife Poem, by Max Elliott
Discovering Animals – English, French and Cree, by Neepin Auger
Nupste and Lhotse Go to the Rockies, by Jocey Asnong
Rocky Mountain 123s, by Jocey Asnong
Rocky Mountain ABCs, by Jocey Asnong
PHOTOGRAPHY & ART
As we discover the world around us, there are often few words for the magnitude of our appreciation. But the beauty that graces these pages comes close to capturing it. See the world of the Rockies through the lenses and perspectives of artists.
An Adventurous Woman Abroad, by Michele Lang
Mount Robson: Spiral Road of Art, by Jane Lytton Gooch
Summits & Starlight: The Canadian Rockies, by Paul Zizka
Tall Tales & Long Lenses, by John Marriott
The Canadian Rockies, by Douglas Leighton
The Canadian Rockies: Rediscovered, by Paul Zizka
Inspired by real-life influences, history and geographical places, fiction books also abound in the Rocky Mountains. Though fictional they allow us to examine truths and see the mountain environment in new ways.
Raven’s End, by Ben Gadd
Drowning in Darkness, by Peter Oliva
The End of the Line, by Stephen Legault
Icefields, by Thomas Wharton
Hooker & Brown: A Novel, by Jerry Auld
Tera Swanson is a freelance writer and graduate from Mount Royal University’s Journalism undergraduate program. Whether laced into hiking boots or clipped into skis, her favourite way to explore the mountains is on her own two feet. She’s always up for anything that will end in the telling of a good story; be it through photography, from pen to paper, or over a locally brewed amber ale.
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