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Climber's Guide to the Rocky Mountains of Canada—South and North

Climber’s Guide to the Rocky Mountains of Canada—South, by William L. Putnam and Glen W. Boles. New York: American Alpine Club, 1973. 330 pages, 32 photographs and drawings.

Climber’s Guide to the Rocky Mountains of Canada—North, by William L. Putnam, Robert Kruszyna and Chris Jones. New York: American Alpine Club, 1974. 289 pages, 33 photographs.

President Putnam and co-authors have produced two needed companion guides updating pioneer routes done in the Canadian Rockies. Although a sixth edition based on Monroe Thorington’s earlier five, it is almost a first edition in its own right by recognizing the vast increase of first ascents established in the past fifteen years. To keep track of this recent quantum leap of impressive climbing must have been a consuming task.

I am convinced this has been done accurately. Popular Mount Temple is a good test with its no less than four north facing ridges: as far as I know, the authors have correctly recorded all the intricacies of who climbed what ridge, traversed here and exited there. Accuracy is sustained with the recent bold assaults on Kitchner, Columbia, Alberta and Andromeda.

Covering the Rockies from the international boundary to the groups surrounding peaks Howse and Chephren (South Guide), then beyond Mount Robson to the northernmost Rockies (North Guide), the guides introduce each group by a one-page map to orient the reader. Over thirty photographs are included in each guide, many by Ed Cooper of superior quality. Indeed, some photographs go beyond descriptive nature and are artistic entities in their own right. The routes are clearly indicated by dots and/or arrows and agree with the descriptions in the text.

The text itself is careful compromise between the laconic and over detailed. Typically, a route description includes data on approach, who did it first, when, time elapsed, grade, where the route lies, what to expect and (maybe) how to get down. Beyond a final journal reference there is little else and rightly so because the authors wish to preserve the sense of adventure most of us seek.

I was pleased to note a mature sense of respect as the authors introduce certain mountains by briefly casting them in their social and historical perspective. I shared also their nostalgia in the preface (South) as they imagined those past pleasures one enjoyed with Bill Peyto’s pack outfit possibly camped on the Castle guard Meadows while the campfire smoke rose towards Mount Bryce. Finally, the reader is treated to relevant passages from the classics, men of letters, climbers and even the Bible:

“But they dwelt in Gabaon, took for themselves provisions, laying old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles rent and served up again, and very old shoes, which for a show of age were clouted with patches …"

Peyto’s pack train, perhaps?

I am impressed with this sixth edition effort and think the authors have preserved, and improved upon Thorington’s tradition. I recommend both guides to the serious mountaineer.

Jocelyn C. Glidden