Just as the Banff Festival of Mountain Films has put a spotlight on great video pleasures, an offshoot of the festival brings international attention to gems that might otherwise die in first editions in regional bookshops.
“Icefields” by Thomas Wharton, (NeWest Publishing, Edmonton Alberta (403) 432-9497) was the grand prize winner in the November Festival of Mountain Books. The historical fiction, involving love, adventure and obsession, is set in Jasper, Alberta. The story spans the quarter century required for site of a glacier climbing accident to flow down in the frozen river of ice to the glacier’s terminus.
Information about the great Canadian icefields is woven cleverly into the plot.
“I lean back on the sun-warmed rock, close my eyes and listen,” Dr. Ned Byrne says to himself. “The glacier moves forward at the rate of less than one inch every hour. If I could train myself to listen at that same rate, one sound every hour, I would hear the glacier wash up against this rock island, crash like waves, and become water.”
The author succeeds in convincing readers that somehow the immense pressure, coupled with extreme cold of glacial ice, could possibly combine to produce hitherto unknown effects on matter. Or upon spirit. “The possibility of spiritual entity trapped, frozen in ice. Enmeshed somehow in physical forces, immobilized, and thus rendered physical and solid itself.”
“Icefields” is based on classic writings of pioneers in exploration, mountaineering and glaciology. The author’s greatest achievement is weaving an intriguing story around a glacial pace.
“Handbook of the Canadian Rockies,” by Ben Gadd, (Corax Press, Jasper, Alberta (403-852-4012)is already a staple, found well-worn in rucksacks throughout Alberta and British Columbia.
But the new second edition was praised as the best guidebook by the festival’s judging panel.
The 830-page field guide contains a mind-boggling wealth of information ranging from the soils to the stars, and virtually every rock, plant and creature in between.
The book recommends trips for hikers, bikers and paddlers, describes animals tracks, explains weather patterns, covers wildflowers and touches on just about every curious thought the Canadian Rockies might conjure up in an adventurer’s mind.
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