This is the book that got everybody scrambling way back in 1991 and paved the way for more scramble guidebooks across Canada. It’s 25 years on and the much anticipated third edition is finally here, weighing in at 440 pages! There are hundreds of new color photos to drool over and an interesting use of color to delineate the 13 different areas between Waterton and Jasper. Five of those areas describe Kananaskis Country peaks. And, of course, because his was the first guidebook, Alan was in the fortunate position of nabbing the major scrambling peaks of the Rockies like Mt. Temple, Mt. Stephen, Mt. Edith, Mt. Chephren and so on.
Alan deems accuracy very important, so descriptions, particularly accesses, have all been updated for this edition, the moot points covered with his usual “snippets of humor.” (You might want to use this book as bedtime reading!)
I will end with a plea. Please, don’t go straight to the descriptions; read his introductory blurb first. It could help keep you safe. I spoke to Alan recently about this and asked him a few other questions.
Gill: How many new scrambles are there in this edition?
Alan: There are twenty scrambles that weren’t in the previous edition.
Gill: After the 2013 flood did you have to do much new research on accesses?
Alan: Yes, way more than I expected. At first I worried that all the approaches would be different but luckily, scrambles that use trails in our National Parks and Kananaskis have been repaired so I didn’t need to walk all those. The bigger changes were the approach drainages and I checked a lot of those first-hand. On those routes the 2013 torrents largely washed away the small rock and vegetation that made travel easy, leaving much wider and deeper streambeds of boulders and little trace of previous trails. Trees also ended up in the drainages. Almost any approach following a drainage is less pleasant now than pre-2013.
Gill: Did the 2013 flood affect any of the scrambles themselves?
Alan: On many routes, eons of surface rubble got washed away exposing much more slab than previously. Those exposed slabs now require more care than before. Some gullies have washed out so deep that precarious boulders now jut out from hillsides above the approach drainage. Those rocks will roll down into the drainage eventually, so that’s a new hazard to be mindful of.
Gill: his book is all in color. Did you have to go out and take many new pics?
Alan: Much of the last four years was spent getting the best possible pictures as I wanted it to truly look like a new book. This meant revisiting many summits and waiting for the right light. First trips were not always successful; fire smoke spoiled the effort more than once. I took more than 125 new pictures just for the original 156 scrambles, plus additional photos for new scrambles. And I was still missing some. Several other people generously supplied another 60 or more shots. The end result is a book with some 375 pictures, most in colour. I’m still working on those few B & W’s.
Gill: I always have a problem when people ask me what my favorite hike is. But I’m asking you if you have a favorite scramble?
Alan: Any scramble I get up and back down without hurting or scaring myself is a favourite now! Haha. Mount Wilcox for the views alone is a favourite, and I always liked Chester, too. A new favourite is Divide Peak near Lake Louise.
Gill: It seems that many new scramblers, how ever proficient they think they are, go out alone and get into trouble simply because they haven’t the experience. What would be your advice to these people? Can these people be reached?
Alan: Unfortunately there exists a small percentage of the population destined to learn the hard way despite an abundance of info available. They make virtually no effort to educate themselves, are usually poorly equipped and often make poor decisions too. When negligence or downright stupidity results in a needless rescue, these people should pay at least part of the costs. That would send a clear message since nothing else is working.
Gill: Can you comment on the recent fatality on Mt. Lawson. In your book you cover the issues of spring avalanches and the importance of waiting until routes are in good condition. So many people don’t appear to read the introductory stuff. They just delve straight into the scramble descriptions.
Alan: The accident on Mount Lawson was a perfect example of someone not recognizing how changing weather might affect mountain terrain and scramble routes. It stems from a lack of knowledge and is often compounded by poor judgement. The mountain had just received a heavy dose of wet, Spring snow. Scrambling is best done on dry rock and once snow is involved, it requires the ability to accurately assess conditions, including avalanche potential. This has always been stressed in the guidebook but many folks never read that section. Apparently they don’t have time for all that boring stuff and then accidents like this happen. You can only get away with doing dumb things in the mountains so many times before it catches up to you.
Gill: Where else in the world have you climbed and scrambled?
Alan: I’ve climbed a few peaks in the Alps, Mount Blanc and the Matterhorn to name a couple. In the USA i’ve climbed Grand Teton, Rainier and several other Cascade volcanoes. I also trudged up some 14’000ers as they call them down there, but they don’t match our Rockies — it’s barely even scrambling.
Gill: Other leisure activities?
Alan: My other outdoor pursuit is fly fishing, which I took up when back problems curtailed my mountain ascents. Exploring a stream or river, periodically stopping to flail a rod, is much easier on the joints than scrambling. So I always have that to fall back on.
Gill: How do you spend your vacations. Taking a break from scrambling?
Alan: I typically vacation in SW Alberta and SE B.C. and usually try to get in a bit of fly fishing along with hiking and scrambling because we live in the best place in the world. Since 2012 though, I’ve spent more time taking pictures and checking routes for this new book, not fishing much.
Gill: Favorite food and drink? (I’m told it tells a lot about a person.)
Alan: Chocolate and Big Rock honey brown, but separately.
Gill: Any future scramble plans?
Alan: After looking through the new book I’ve already compiled a list of photos to replace so that’s my 2016 summer project. More repeat ascents for better photos.