Exploring the Coast Mountains On Skis

Guide to ski mountaineering in BCMy autographed copy of Exploring the Coast Mountains On Skis, A Guide to Ski Mountaineering, by John Baldwin, Third Edition, arrived in the mail yesterday. This is not a review, but a first impression. The Third Edition is a major reworking of this essential guide. It is truly breathtaking: the very high quality of the 700 pictures, the scope of the geography covered, and the workmanship of the substantial publication – heavy paper (the book weighs nearly 1 kilogram), rounded corners, 448 pages. http://johnbaldwin.ca The previous edition was much smaller, 256 pages and was mainly about destinations that could be reached by day trips from Vancouver. The last part of the book sketched some of the possibilities for more distant trips to the Central Coast mountains. The new book lovingly explores all of western BC, including the regions around Smithers, Terrace, and Stewart. Mountains don’t recognize national boundaries, and this book includes areas to the north around the Juneau and Stikine icefields, and south into Washington. I was pleased to see that chapter 1 is called, Howe Sound — so 16 pages are about the mountains above my home in the Salish Sea.

If you are a resident or a visitor to this region, and you would like to explore the landscape above and beyond the few roads that penetrate the amazing mountains behind the British Columbia coast you will discover the following publications:

  • 103 Hikes in Southwestern British Columbia, by Jack Bryceland with contributions by Mary & David Macaree
  • Guide to Climbing and Hiking in Southwestern British Columbia, by Bruce Fairley
  • Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia, by Matt Gunn
  • Exploring the Coast Mountains On Skis, A Guide to Ski Mountaineering, by John Baldwin

I’ve found them all worthy. People like me, weekend warriors, spend more time planning where I might go and reliving pass adventures than, actually, in the hills. I wear out these books. In addition I frequent two necessary web sites:
http://bivouac.com (small fee for an outstanding resource)
http://clubtread.com (access to the community of casual and expert mountain travelers)

Nowadays it is possible to live our entire lives in highly civilized urban areas. When I was growing up in Montreal, any trip to the country was a mighty effort that included hours of driving just to escape the endless suburbs and surrounding farmland. Wilderness was far away and exotic.

Not here. The lofty and rugged Coast Mountain Range rises abruptly in the backyards of West and North Vancouver and continues for 1700 km to the Yukon. At sea level winter evaporates in February and March, but lingers into July around the peaks, glaciers and vast icefields of this huge region. The prime backcountry ski season is now: March to June.

Because of the lack of roads, most people will never see what is only a short distance from the towers and bright lights of Vancouver. These guidebooks reveal what is out there, and show what muscle-powered travel is achievable and where to go.

It seems to be a feature of guidebooks to tell the reader what is possible without revealing so much that the personal sense of adventure is removed. I understand that. What I’ve not understood is the lack of quality in the pictures. There are pages of small, grey, low contrast, fuzzy images of mountains. This is not true of Balwin’s new book. Almost every page is illustrated with stunning pictures of the locations. I think that the difference is that Baldwin’s imagery is to illustrate what it is like to be there, and only few photos are to show a route. The book tells you that there is a route, and its difficulty, but leaves it up to the explorer to buy a map and develop the skills to find the way.

Baldwin is a crackerjack photographer, and he has discovered the trick of showing details in the snow and catching skiers carving amazing lines in these breathtaking landscapes. Even if you will never go there, or if you know someone who should be inspired to visit this region, buy a copy of the guide. People who love mountains will cherish every glorious page of this book.

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2 Responses to “Exploring the Coast Mountains On Skis”

  1. 1 alpenglowpro March 13, 2009 at 3:14 pm


    Good posting. John certainly puts the time in scouting all the approaches as well as doing the trips.

    He is “the” coast mountain explorer.

    He deserves all credit for this excellently researched tome.

    Imagine all the hours involved in production this translates into a deep passion for our mountains.

    Alpenglowpro.wordpress.com greg maurer

  2. 2 Robert March 13, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Greg, thanks for the comment. BTW, I’m delighted to add your blog, Alpenglowpro, to my blogroll… I should have done that long ago.

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