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Every Other Day: The Journals of the Remarkable Rocky Mountain Climbs and Explorations of A.J. Ostheimer

Every Other Day: The Journals of the Remarkable Rocky Mountain Climbs and Explorations of A. J. Ostheimer. Edited by R.W. Sandford and Jon Whelan. The Alpine Club of Canada. 2002. 248 pages, illustrated, tipped-in map. Cdn$34.95.

In 1927,19-year-old A. J. Ostheimer pulled off a tour-de-force. In some 60 days, accompanied by the Swiss guide Hans Fuhrer and six others, he stormed around then-remote regions of the Canadian Rockies climbing most everything in sight. More precisely, he climbed 30 peaks, of which 27 were first ascents. In addition, he made such geological observations as would enable him to get school credit for this summer in the mountains! On his return, Ostheimer wrote up his journal, which may have been partly responsible for his graduating from Harvard one year early.

Previously unpublished, the journal was re-discovered by Jon Whelan. It is published by the Alpine Club of Canada “As a centennial gift to the American Alpine Club … we hope our gift will become a lasting memento of a century of shared appreciation of the glories of Canadian peaks.”

I have had the good fortune to visit some of the areas and mountains that Ostheimer knew, so it was with keen interest that I read the book. And as a book, measured by the standards of such classics as James Outram’s In the Heart of the Canadian Rockies, or Collie’s and Stutfield’s Climbs and Explorations in the Canadian Rockies, it falls short. Perhaps this is somewhat unfair, for Ostheimer wrote for private publication. A vigorous editing and sharpening of objective would help. Furthermore, he was a young lad, without the world-view of a Collie or an Outram. What remains is a look at exploratory mountaineering of a vanished era. The sheer tenacity of the man is exemplified by such notations as: “To-day we planned to ascend the first peak at 10 am; the second at 2 pm; and, if all went well, to reach the summit of the third at 6 pm. Beyond that, we had no plans.” In the event they made their three first ascents. In the mode of the day, many of these climbs were no more than shale walks or snow plods. It is interesting that one of his guides was Jean Weber, who had been on the first ascent of Mt. Alberta two years before. Yet Ostheimer does not comment upon this great feat when they pass by Alberta (or if he did, it does not appear in the narrative); he seems more focused on quantity of summits than on quality of ascents. If you are a mountain history buff, or simply love a period mountain tale, this book will be attractive. But for an introduction to the exploratory era in the Canadian Rockies, I would suggest the two other books cited above.

Chris Jones, AAC