A story from Alpinist 74 (Summer 2021)–“Letters to a Young Climber,” by Doug Robinson–was recently selected as the winner of Best Mountaineering Article at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival, which is happening this week. The recognition comes with $2,000 and is potentially eligible to receive a $4,000 Grand Prize that will be selected from a pool that includes seven other category winners on November 5.
A press release explains:
The eight category award winners are selected by our international jury from a longlist of 25 finalists (chosen from a total of 153 book submissions, from authors across 11 countries).
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, mountain environment and natural history, adventure travel, mountain image, guidebooks, mountaineering articles, and climbing literature.
The 2021 Book Competition jury members are Heather Dawe (UK, writer, artist, and founder of Little Peak Press), Bernadette McDonald (CAN, award winning author of 11 books, and former VP of Mountain Culture at Banff Centre), and Pete Takeda (USA, writer, and professional climber).
Banff jury member Pete Takeda is quoted in the press release describing Robinson’s article from Alpinist 74 as “a thoughtful meditation on the power of mentorship. A legendary climber and guide for most of his years, Robinson draws on personal history to show us what mentorship is. He reminds us that the ever-evolving process extends beyond a climber’s personal ambitions–into something more meaningful. Through sharing and teaching, climbing becomes a potent vehicle for growth, one that adapts as our world changes.”
Alpinist contributor Chris Kalman has also been recognized by the Banff jury for his novella Dammed If You Don’t, which won the category for Mountain Fiction and Poetry. (An excerpt from that book is coming soon to Alpinist.com.) In the press release, Takeda says, “Kalman’s third book asks a very topical question: Can we love a place to death? Kalman answers this question with a spare quality that evokes a bit of James Salter. His portrayal of a lush, pristine Chilean valley is immediate and profound. His writing is peppered with the intimate details that also bring the characters, their foibles, and struggles to life. Their dilemmas soon become our dilemmas. Perhaps the best thing about Dammed If You Don’t are the plot twists, building to a final scenario that is plausible, disturbing, and strangely uplifting.”
The other category winners are:
Mountain Literature (non-fiction)–The Jon Whyte Award: Structured Chaos, by Victor Saunders, Vertebrate Publishing (UK, 2021). Jury member Bernadette McDonald writes: “In his unique, conversational style, Saunders has taken us on a wonderful journey; sometimes heart-breaking, often hilarious. His observations are surgically precise, his evocative descriptions are skillfully penned and his personal reflections are unstintingly honest. From his early awkward years to his many impressive climbs in the Great Ranges, what stands out above all in Structured Chaos is the value he places on friendship.”
Mountain Environment and Natural History: Finding the Mother Tree, by Suzanne Simard, Allen Lane Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada (Canada, 2021). McDonald: “Simard has proven, without doubt, the power of storytelling in the communication of science. A forest ecologist who is renowned for her breakthrough research into the underground communication of trees, she has brought this mind-boggling world she calls the ‘wood-wild web’ into our minds, and perhaps more importantly, into our hearts. From her childhood, growing up in a logging family in rural British Columbia, to her life as a celebrated scientist battling cancer, she has woven together stories of relationships–both human and ecological–so skillfully that her book reads like one seamless, interconnected tale. In doing so, she bridges the gap between science and emotion in a way that feels more like a call to action: save the forests so that they can, in turn, save us.”
Adventure Travel: Two Trees Make a Forest, by Jessica J. Lee, Hamish Hamilton Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada (Canada, 2020). Jury member Heather Dawe says in the press release: “Exploring physical and cultural landscapes, this book made us question the meaning of ‘adventure.’ Travelling through her ancestry and her family’s roots in Taiwan, Lee seeks and finds her own place amongst the mountains, trees and people of their home. Two Trees Make a Forest is full of evocative descriptions of the land along with a gentle, determined search to find belonging. Lee unravels a complex, ultimately grounding family history during a brave and enlightening journey.”
Mountain Image: The Great Sea Cliffs of Scotland, by Guy Robertson, Scottish Mountaineering Press (UK, 2020). McDonald: “The outrageous beauty of Scotland’s sea cliffs had this jury checking weather forecasts and flight schedules to Scotland’s ragged coastline. The spectacular photographs are richly supported by exciting first-hand climbing tales, lyrical natural history prose and some fine poetry from Stuart Campbell. A visual and literary gift.”
Guidebooks: Irish Peaks, Mountaineering Ireland (Ireland, 2020). Dawe: “A wonderful showcase of the rugged beauty of the island of Ireland’s upland landscapes, Irish Peaks made me want to head for these hills. This book combines detailed route guides to the highest 101 mountains with incredible photography and comprehensive guides to their natural and hill-walking history. Ireland is a country where access to the mountains is not a given. Irish Peaks shares the invaluable route knowledge of local experts with the visitor; clearly mapping and explaining established lines into and over the ground. This is an inspirational guidebook that will surely entice many hill-goers to further explore these mountains.”
Climbing Literature: A Feeling for Rock, by Sarah-Jane Dobner, Dob Dob Dob (UK, 2021). Dawe: “A Feeling For Rock is a unique take on climbing. The sensuality of movement on the rock, the feelings for place, of sea-cliffs, gritstone and mountain crags. Dobner explores in fresh ways and is not afraid to question perceived norms. Provocative pieces, climber interviews and cartoons sit alongside poetry, prose and photography that show and describe the beauty she sees and feels in the rock landscapes around her. Dobner makes this eclectic mix work, binding it together with her love for the climbing life.”
Special Jury Mention: More than It Hurts: And Other Stories of (Mis)Adventure by Womxn Who Climb and Mountaineer, by Wendy Bruere, Climb and Wine (Australia, 2020). Takeda: “More Than It Hurts is in a class of its own–a compilation of fourteen climbing stories by women who climb and mountaineer. In these pages one discovers: a deeper acknowledgment of fear and joy; discussions about identity and dysphoria; climbing’s power to nurture the love for nature and for others; and how the vertical world can foster the peculiar courage required for personal growth. This is an important book, selected and edited to ‘celebrate a broader and more diverse range of adventures on rock and in the mountains.’ Each story is a refreshing reimagining of the climbing narrative.”
Furthermore, the film Dream Mountain, of which Alpinist has been a proud sponsor, was selected for the 2021/22 Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour. A press release indicates that an “in-person and virtual World Tour will travel for three years to 40 countries with the potential of over 1,000 screenings world-wide.”
Dream Mountain is the story of Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita: a mountaineer, humanitarian, mother, and inspiration who overcomes all obstacles to live her dream. She was selected as National Geographic’s People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year in 2016. In Dream Mountain, “Pasang reflects on her personal highs and lows and rediscovers for herself just how much the mountains have meant to her,” reads the press release. “The film offers insights into her struggle to balance mountaineering with motherhood, and the pressures of respecting her traditional culture while pushing boundaries as an elite female athlete. Returning to her mountain home and life-long passion, Pasang leads by force of inspiration.” The official trailer can be viewed here.