Coastal Mountain Mountaineering Literature: The birthing years

Mt. Garibaldi Park:

                        Vancouver’s Alpine Playground

                                  Don Munday: 1922


In The Western Mountains:

               Early Mountaineering in British Columbia

Susan Leslie: 1980

I was going through my library of mountaineering literature the other day and two books stepped out to greet me from a more dusty part of the book shelves. I had forgotten I still had such beauties in my collection.

Don Munday, and his wife Phyllis Munday, are best known as first generation west coast pioneers in mountaineering, but Don was also a fine writer. Many were the more popular and scholarly articles he had published on the history and geography of mountains. But, Don’s missive, published in 1922, Mt. Garibaldi Park: Vancouver’s Alpine Playground, is a literary and visual bounty not to miss—a collector’s item I would think (almost 100 years since it was first published). Don dedicated the booklet “to the truest lover of the mountains I know—My Wife”. The pamphlet, and the many black and white photos included in the booklet, was published shortly after Garibaldi became a park, and, in many ways, it was one of the first trail maps in BC for exploring and enjoying the newly born park. The multiple photos and potential destinations (many a good glacier trip worth the making) are described in intricate depth and detail.  There is a breadth in this 50 page overview that many can still learn from. The larger fold out map of Garibaldi Lake and environs is a delight to sit and ponder.  There is a grateful nod, by way of conclusion, to both BCMC and ACC-Vancouver section, Don and Phyllis active at different times with both groups.

I was fortunate for a few years to work with Susan Leslie at University of the Fraser Valley (she taught in the English department). In The Western Mountains, by Susan, is a hasty but insightful overview of mountaineering in Canada and the western mountains. The short eight sections in 75 pages cover much terrain. “The Alps of North America”, “A Field for an Alpine Club”, “Mountaineering at the Coast” and “Mystery Mountain” are tasty morsels of chapters that whet the appetite for more. Many women are brought to the fore as innovative climbing partners with men and Susan covers, in a finely textured manner, some of the trips taken by groups in the Coastal Mountains (and the legends and leaders of such challenging trips for those times). Needless to say, Don-Phyllis Munday are significant actors on such an expansive stage. Susan, like Don before her, has many a dramatic black and white photo not to miss, each picture a journey into the origins of mountaineering in the western mountains, the dramatic photo on the front cover and varied maps illuminating treks taken. The interviews done by Susan (included in this Heritage Series book) bring to light many of the women and men (and their memories) that are now mostly forgotten—kudos to Susan for her sleuth work in the 1970s to bring into being such a well wrought and historically pictured missive, text a beauty worth the heeding.

Those who have some abiding interest in the birthing phase of mountaineering on the west coast can learn much from the solid midwife work of Don Munday and Susan Leslie.














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