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Pushing the Limits: The Story of Canadian Mountaineering

Pushing the Limits: The Story of Canadian Mountaineering. Chic Scott. Calgary: Rocky Mountain Books, 2000. Countless photographs. 440 pages.

This author knows his stuff, as well he ought, given his long experience with the Canadian mountain scene. This exhaustive and beautifully illustrated narrative of the history of Canadian climbing does much to educate the reader that there is more to the Canadian mountains than the well-known west.

Scott takes us from the first sighting (by white-skinned folk) of the Rockies in 1754 to beyond the present, and includes almost every way station that this reviewer can think of. There are, of course, as with any large undertaking, lacunae. With regard to this book, however, such complaints are almost invariably matters of judgment or relative merit, not historic inaccuracies. I, for instance, would have included more of the early climbs from the Glacier House, but that might well be due to the fact that my first Canadian climbing was done from that locale. So it probably would be with almost any reader who knows his own backyard and likes to think it is the most important place in the world—as it rightfully is to each individual. But Scott has risen above the lot of that sort of parochialism and has clearly done enormous and thorough research.

Indicative of the quality of this book is the fact that several of my Canadian friends have offered me copies of the book (one of which I accepted) with the comment that I would find it enjoyable. And they were right! Not only did I enjoy reading through this book, but at the most recent Banff Mountain Book and Film Festival, it was awarded the UIAA’s James Monroe Thorington Award for the best recent work of research into the history of alpinism.

We who live south of the 49th parallel should recognize both the name of Dr. Thorington, and the historical merit that his name carries in mountaineering literature.

William Lowell Putnam