Banff Book Competition Winners Announced

The winners of nine categories in the prestigious Banff Mountain Book Competition were announced yesterday. But you’ll have to wait a little longer to find out who takes home the Grand Prize, as this is under wraps until November 5.

As always, the eclectic mix covered everything from crack climbing to a nineteenth-century arctic tragedy to a fable about Earth’s last two human inhabitants.

The winners and a short description of the books from the jury members are below.

Adventure Travel Award

Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition

Buddy Levy, St. Martin’s Press (USA, 2019)

The 1881-4 expedition, led by Lieutenant Adolphus W. Greely, began as a scientific and exploratory expedition and turned into a saga of raw survival that included cannibalism, starvation, an execution and a new Farthest North. Only six of 25 men returned home to tell the tale. Improbably, the slender Greely was one of them.


Mountain Fiction and Poetry

The Bear

Andrew Krivak, Bellevue Literary Press (USA, 2020)

The Bear is a luminous book that comes perhaps once every generation. Krivak guides us through a world in which a father and daughter survive as the last humans on earth. As The Bear tenderly breaks your heart, piece by piece, it fills that void with something powerful and timeless.


Mountain Literature (Non Fiction)

Raven’s Witness: The Alaska Life of Richard K. Nelson

Hank Lentfer, Mountaineers Books (USA, 2020)

Raven’s Witness is the perfect mix of poetic voice and scientifically infused prose through one man’s journey into the Alaskan wilderness and its people.


Mountain Environment and Natural History

Wild Himalaya: A Natural History of the Greatest Mountain Range on Earth

Stephen Alter, Aleph Book Company (India, 2019)

Stephen Alter ’s voice never wavers as he takes us through the Himalayan wilderness. He breaks down the subject with story, myth, personal anecdote and oral history. His personal relationship with the mountain range is his secret ingredient.


Mountain Image

The Wild Coasts of Canada

Scott Forsyth, Rocky Mountain Books (Canada, 2019)

Opening this book is like stepping into a prestigious gallery. With each image we sink deeper into coastal culture, climate and community. The added attention to text makes the storytelling even richer.



Crack Climbing: The Definitive Guide

Pete Whittaker, Vertebrate Publishing (UK, 2020)/ Mountaineers Books (USA, 2020)

There is no better author on crack climbing than Pete Whittaker. Erudite, witty, and himself a master of the medium, Whittaker brings clarity to free climbing’s most complex game. Accompanied by excellent diagrams, inspiring images and engaging anecdotes from current and historic masters.


Mountaineering Article

Leper Chai

Jeff Long, Rock & Ice Magazine (USA, March 2020)

In Leper Chai, Jeff Long reminds us that, “We take our mountain literature for granted, but should not. Without it, there is no ascent, just pullups and beer.” Leper Chai has the narrative depth of a novel and the dramatic timing of a fine screenplay. Long has told the true story of his Nepal incarceration several times, but never quite like this.


Climbing Literature

Emilio Comici: Angel of the Dolomites

David Smart, Rocky Mountain Books (Canada, 2020)

An articulate portrait of how a barely known Italian climber from the 1930s paved the way for modern-day pursuits on big rock walls.


Special Jury Mention

Himalaya: A Human History

Ed Douglas, The Bodley Head, Vintage (UK, 2020)

Twenty-five years of research and travel and an enviable talent for writing make this book rich in human and natural history.