Biographies of people who have made a difference in Canadian mountaineering
Launched in 1999, the Summit Series was created with an aim to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of exceptional individuals who have, through their achievements as explorers, mountaineers, volunteers, outfitters and storytellers, helped define and shape Canada’s unique mountain community. With recognition paid also to the exceptionally unselfish actions of Canada’s elite public safety professionals and the members of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, Summit Series booklets capture the soul of Canada’s mountain community as they strengthen the understanding and appreciation of Canada’s unique mountain heritage. The history recorded and the stories shared in these pages help to establish a uniquely Canadian sense of place by shaping how we view our very special and precious mountain landscapes.
The Alpine Club of Canada is pleased to share these incredible stories with you. Below you will find booklets 6 and on in both Flipbook and PDF formats. You can also purchase paper copies of the Summit Series collection from our Online Store.
22 | Breaking Trail: Chic Scott's Story
by Joanna Croston
Chic Scott is a man of unconventional firsts. The first Canadian to summit a Himalayan peak, the first Canadian to guide in the European Alps, and he was part of the first team to climb Mount Assiniboine in winter. He is also a local mentor, historian and ski pioneer who has spent his whole life touching the lives of all those who call the Rockies home. Chic is perhaps known best for the ambitious grand ski traverses he achieved; in essence he has broken the trail for an entire generation of adventure skiers who follow. His writing and books have reached mountain communities further afield, spreading the rich history of Canadian mountaineering to outdoor enthusiasts across Canada and around the globe. This booklet celebrates the life of Chic Scott with his most memorable contributions to mountain life and tales told by his close friends.
21 | Helen Sovdat: Guide, Mentor, Friend
by Zac Robinson
Helen Sovdat is one of Canada’s finest mountain guides. Her accomplishments as a climber and skier are stunning. She has pioneered long traverses along the crest of the Coast Mountains. She has stood on nearly all of the peaks in the Canadian Rockies that exceed 11,000 feet (3,353m). She has climbed in the high ranges of Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. In Asia, she has scaled some of the world’s highest mountains: Ama Dablam, Cho Oyu, and Manaslu. Many of these adventures were with members of her loyal legion of clients.
In 1996, Helen became the third woman in North America to earn full certification through the ACMG/IFMGA as a mountain guide. She was a leader in a group that broke the mould of North American guiding as an all-male profession. Now, she’s giving back as an ACMG examiner herself – and continues to plot new adventures, and to share her excitement for the unknown. An inspiration to a whole generation of guides and leaders, Helen’s outstanding career achievements are muted only by her own humility and altruism.
20 | The Book of Mortimer: Celebrating a Life of Volunteerism
by Chic Scott
From different backgrounds but with the same spirit of adventure, Mike and Heather Mortimer found each other while travelling the world. Within three months of meeting they were married, eventually settling in Calgary where they dedicated their lives to volunteering. This is the story of Mike and Heather’s immense contribution to the mountain community as told by their long-time friend, Chic Scott.
Their volunteer efforts all started in 1979, when Mike and Heather took on the task of newsletter editors for the Calgary Section of the Alpine Club of Canada, and ended three decades later with five years as president and first lady of the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA), representing all the major mountaineering clubs of the world. Serving literally tens of thousands of hours in a multitude of roles, Mike and Heather’s generous spirits have given new meaning to the term volunteerism. Their example will be an inspiration for a new generation of mountain lovers to carry on their good work.
19 | Alpine Artistry: The Mountain Life of Glen Boles
by Lynn Martel
In the course of pursuing his passion for wild, remote places in western Canada’s mountains, Glen Boles stood on close to 600 summits, took tens of thousands of photographs, made numerous first ascents and even helped name a few peaks.
As a member of the fabled Grizzly Group, Glen shared a rich and special camaraderie with his climbing companions. As a valued City of Calgary Waterworks Department employee, enthusiastic volunteer with the Calgary Mountain Rescue group, the Lake Louise Ski Friends and as a generous board member with the Cochrane and Community Foundation, Glen unselfishly gave his time, his talents and his good-natured company.
An artist who expresses his love and passion for the mountain world through his exquisite pen and ink drawings and acrylic paintings, Glen Boles shares the magic of the alpine in a generous and heartfelt way.
Climber, volunteer, artist, steadfast companion and worthy recipient of numerous awards and honours, Glen Boles exemplifies a life lived in true alpine artistry.
18 | Con Bravura: The Remarkable Mountaineering Life of Peter Fuhrmann
by Robert W. Sandford
Peter Fuhrmann was born into extraordinary privilege in Europe, but when he was still a child during the Second World War, his family lost everything. After he came to Canada, Peter developed a larger sense of the world and the potential that might exist within it. Steeped in classical music from birth, and an aficionado of great opera, Peter recognized that the mountains in Canada marched to the timeless tempo of a great natural symphony. It did not take him long to realize that it was up to him to write his own lyrics and to undertake actions that harmonized with that grand score. If an aria is a solo piece written for a main character in an opera, then it could be said that, by his actions, Peter Fuhrmann wrote the words to his own song, an Aria Alpina, which he lived out through his life in what can only be described as great passion and skill.
Whether you know it or not, if you have explored and loved the Rocky Mountains, then you have likely been influenced by Peter Fuhrmann’s vision and ability. If you have driven between Banff and Radium, hiked a trail in a western mountain national park or stayed in an Alpine Club of Canada hut then you have been touched directly by his hand. If you have climbed or hiked with a professional mountain guide then Peter Fuhrmann has spoken to you through them. If you, or someone you know, has ever needed to be rescued then, whether you saw him or not, he was with you or with them on the top of the rope or at the end of the sling beneath the helicopter that saved you. If you were injured and hospitalized in Banff, the policies he helped set may have helped you heal. But most importantly, if you have ever had a joyful moment in the Rockies and felt you heard parts of the great symphony that is mountain time rising and falling in the wind you will have shared that music with Peter.
In opera, exceptional skill is called bravura, and to perform consistently with such skill, especially in the face of adversity, is to perform con bravura. It is in tribute to his consummate skill as a mountaineer, his vision in helping create the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides; his masterful leadership as President of the Alpine Club of Canada; and his role as a driving force in the creation of Park Canada’s highly regarded mountain rescue program that this historical record of the mountaineering life of Peter Fuhrmann has been written and so named.
17 | Seizing the Sharp End: 50 Years of the ACMG
by Lynn Martel
From an afternoon gathering in a dimly-lit one-room Rockies cabin in 1963 to an 800-plus-member, world-respected professional organization, the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides has played a rich and definitive role in the history of Canada’s mountain community. Credited with first ascents of some of the most challenging peaks in western Canada to the very first days of heli-skiing to the creation of Canada’s highly respected public safety services, professional guides have helped shape and nurture outdoor recreation experiences across the country.
As the first non-European member of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations, the ACMG has evolved and matured to be a leader in professional guiding standards and client care, serving as mentor to other countries’ associations. This booklet is a celebration of a job exceptionally well done!
16 | A Golden Mountain Tale: The Lucky Life of Syd Feuz
by Lynn Martel
Syd Feuz lived his life as a man born of the mountains. Growing up with seven siblings, he walked miles to school, in sunshine or deep snow. The son of Swiss-born mountain guide, Walter Feuz, Syd scrambled up ridges to stand on summits with his father and uncles, gaining the skills that would allow him to begin working as a ski guide by the age of sixteen. He served his country in the navy during World War II, and ran a bulk fuel business for two decades that was essential to the economy and livelihood of the Columbia Valley through the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s. Then in his fifties, Syd began a 28-year career guiding skiers for Purcell Heli-Skiing, sharing the precious wilderness of his backyard Purcells and Rocky mountains. As a second generation guide, Syd embodied the values of taking on job and not just doing it well, but doing it right.
Truck driver, sailor, hotel proprietor, gas jockey, boat driver, horseman, trail builder and ski guide, Syd embraced every job that came his way with enthusiasm, gratitude and humility.
Syd Feuz is not just the world’s first Canadian-Swiss guide, he’s a true gentleman of the mountains.
15 | Alpine Journey: Ferdl Taxbock's Life on the Edge
by Lynn Martel
Ferdl Taxbock is a man of many talents and several trades. A native of Austria, he became an agricultural technician, embracing the finer techniques of plowing fields, harvesting crops, raising livestock and planting trees. As a geologist he travelled to remote sites as far north as Ellesmere Island, and he’s a life-long member of the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta. But central to his core, Ferdl Taxbock has always been a climber. As a bold young man he climbed at the highest grades of difficulty in Italy’s Dolomites and made a first winter ascent in the Swiss Alps. In Alberta’s Rockies he made the first ascent of The Fold with Rudi Kranabitter.
A member of Austria’s guiding association since 1966/67, and an ACMG member since 1968, Ferdl guided glaciologist Gerald Holdsworth to triangulate the precise height of Canada’s highest peak, Mount Logan. Working for Hans Gmoser’s Canadian Mountain Holidays he guided climbers in B.C.’s Bugaboos and up the Canadian Rockies’ highest, Mount Robson. With Kranabitter he guided a group to North America’s highest summit, Alaska’s Denali. And for many years Ferdl has guided guests of the Alpine Club of Canada’s General Mountaineering Camp and of the camp he helped create, the ACC’s 55 Plus Camp.
An energetic husband, father and grandfather, Ferdl Taxbock delights in sharing his skills and enthusiasm for the mountains, traits which made him the ideal Patron of the 2012 Mountain Guides Ball.
14 | Young at Heart: The Inspirational Lives of Richard and Louise Guy
by Chic Scott
Do you think that you are over the hill? You have retired and you feel there is not much more to look forward to. Well think again! This book, about the inspirational lives of Richard and Louise Guy, will show you that there is a great deal of life beyond the set retirement age of 65â€”and beyond 75 and beyond 85.
Arriving in Canada in 1965, near the age of 50, Richard and Louise Guy taught all of us what it means to be enthusiastic, positive and to embrace life. They climbed mountains well into their nineties, and Richard still works today at the age of 96. Louise rode her bike to the corner store until she was 92.
So stop your whining about your knees and hips! Life was never meant to be easy! But it can still be beautiful, long past the so-called age of youth and dreams. Life into old age can be a treasure to be enjoyed and shared. And if you are like Richard and Louise, the adventures and dreams just keep coming.
13 | Mountain of Dreams: Rudi Gertsch Dreams come true amidst Canada's peaks
by Lynn Martel
As the son of a mountain guide born at the foot of the landmark Eiger in Wengen, Switzerland, some might say Rudi Gertsch’s destiny was written in stone and snow – and alpine farmland. Pushing his hard-earned skills on skis, as a teenager he competed as a member of the Swiss junior team. Working hard as a Trager, or porter, Rudi learned to lead clients safely up and down the landmark climbing and skiing routes of his home mountains, the Swiss Alps, earning his Swiss Mountain Guide certificate at the age of 22. Following his heart and his gut to the mountains of western Canada, he found his place as one of several young guides willing to work tirelessly for Hans Gmoser’s burgeoning heli-skiing business in the 1960s and 70s, where he guided clients for eight years before launching his own business, Purcell Heli-Skiing. A natural-born leader not just on rock faces and powder slopes, Rudi was the first member of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides to hold international UIAGM certification. Serving as the ACMG’s technical director for 10 years, he worked to see Canadian guides set the international standard for winter guiding skills. A founding member of Heli-Cat Canada, he helped ensure BC’s mechanized backcountry skiing industry was built on a solid, sensible foundation. And through all those years of hard work, Rudi remained true to his roots, not just as second-generation Swiss Mountain Guide, but also as a dedicated farmer, raising prize-winning Simmental bulls and growing fresh food on the farm he nurtured in his adopted Canadian home. Guiding climbers and skiers, passing his knowledge to the next generation of guides including his own son, working to create harmony between numerous backcountry user groups and contributing to the respected cultures of guiding and farming in western Canada, Rudi Gertsch has earned his place well as the 22nd patron of the Mountain Guides Ball.
12 | Focused on Adventure: Pat Morrow
by Lynn Martel
From the cloud brushing wonders of the Himalaya to the mysterious jungles of Irian Jaya to the mountain wilderness of his backyard Purcell Mountains, Pat Morrow’s career has defined adventure journalism for 35 years. As a climber he forged challenging new routes, while his natural curiosity and keen storytelling sense took him not only to the top of the world as a member of Canada’s first Mount Everest expedition in 1982, but also to become the first to climb the highest mountain on each continent. As photographer, writer and filmmaker, Morrow has explored some of the most remote and exotic destinations on the planet. But far beyond capturing captivating images of landscapes, flora and fauna, Morrow’s books, magazine articles and films embrace the people of each of those places, honouring their unique customs, histories and cultures. A passionate advocate for wilderness preservation and social justice, Morrow, together with his partner in adventure, in work and in life, Baiba, has set a high bar for documenting the stories of people and the places that nurture their souls.
11 | A Life So Fascinating: Leo Grillmair
by Lynn Martel
From poor and weary post-WWII Europe to the wild and free mountain wilderness of western Canada, Leo Grillmair’s life story is one of terrific adventure. Arriving in Canada from Austria in 1951, Grillmair and his life-long friend and business partner Hans Gmoser seized on the opportunities their newly-adopted country presented them and introduced Canadians to a whole new way of climbing rock faces. Brimming with optimism and industriousness, Grillmair applied an unwavering work ethic to help build a seasonal ski touring business to a 10-lodge helicopter skiing empire, which changed the face of backcountry recreation in the western hemisphere. As manager of Bugaboo Lodge, the world’s first heli-skiing lodge, in the world’s first and still largest helicopter skiing company, Canadian Mountain Holidays, Grillmair was instrumental in nurturing an entire industry that continues to employ hundreds of mountain guides, cooks, housekeepers, maintenance workers, pilots, engineers, massage therapists and numerous other office and lodge staff every year. Plumber, climbing pioneer, novice lumberjack, skier, professional rock collector, mountain guide, first-aid whiz, lodge manager, singer and storyteller extraordinaire, Leo Grillmair’s life is the stuff of which great stories are born. The Alpine Club of Canada is proud to celebrate its 20th Mountain Guides Ball with Leo Grillmair as Patron.
10 | A Family for the Outfit: Harrisons and the General Mountaineering Camp
by Zac Robinson
First held during the summer of 1906, the annual General Mountaineering Camp is a time-honoured tradition of the Alpine Club of Canada. While the number of participants, locations, and practices have all changed since the early days of the camp’s history, the mandate of the GMC—over one-hundred years later—remains nearly the same: it’s all about being in the mountains with new and old friends, and sharing in the exceptional experience mountaineering offers. A Family for the Outfit honours the lives and times of the Harrison family, outfitters from the Columbia River Valley, who have, for over half a century, carefully ensured the vitality and longevity of the ACC’s special summer camp.
9 | Alpine Odyssey: The Mountaineering Life of Lloyd Kiwi Gallagher
by Robert W. Sandford
Lloyd Gallagher has been climbing mountains for more than sixty years. During that time he has never ceased to encourage others to see and enjoy what he experienced in his remarkable life. Ever independent but completely reliable, Lloyd was one of the founding inspirations in the creation of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. He was present at the very beginning to help spark and build the Canadian Mountain Holidays reputation and legacy. He was and continues to be one of the most positive and sustaining influences in the development of Canadian outbound mountaineering ambitions abroad especially in South America and the Himalayas. His competence and discipline were the foundation of the evolution of an elite mountain rescue capacity in Alberta’s provincial park system. A lifelong supporter and member of The Alpine Club of Canada, Lloyd knows and is respected by everyone in Canada’s mountain community.
8 | Among The Great Hills: Three Generations of Wheelers
by Robert W. Sandford
For a hundred years the history of the Alpine Club of Canada has been dominated by the vision and forceful character of the Club’s co-founder, Arthur Oliver Wheeler. In his shadow, however, are two generations of Wheeler descendents who made equally important contributions to the history of mountaineering and the appreciation of mountain landscapes in Canada and abroad. Arthur Wheeler’s son, Oliver Wheeler, was a fine and accomplished climber before he was twenty. Oliver went on to become an Everest legend and the Surveyor General of India. Arthur Wheeler’s grandson, John, also became an accomplished climber at an early age. His interest in mountains, however, turned to geology. After pioneering exploration in the Yukon, John went on to become Chief Geologist of the Geological Survey of Canada and one of the most respected earth scientists of his time. This book is a tribute to “the amazing Wheelers” in gratitude for their contribution to mountain culture in Canada.
7 | Strengths Revealed: The Mountaineering Life of Don Vockeroth
by Robert W. Sandford
The 1960s were a decade during which the standard of climbing in Canada was rapidly and dramatically
transformed by the arrival of spectacularly talented and ambitious young Europeans of the caliber of Hans Gmoser, Leo Grillmair, Franz Dopf and Heinz Kahl. Technical standards were also being ratcheted upward by British climbers of the now legendary reputation of Brian Greenwood and Dick Lofthouse. These famous climbers, and Canadians like Don Vockeroth who were energized and inspired by their achievements, popularized rock climbing and advanced new standards for technical routes on big mountains. In so doing, they essentially laid down the foundation for the climbing culture that exists in Canada today.
The life of Don Vockeroth symbolizes the strength of body, persistence of character and great love of
place that put Canadians at the leading edge of climbing and appreciating our own mountains. It is a great honour to have Don Vockeroth as the Patron of the 16th Annual Mountain Guides’ Ball.
6 | Home is Where the Mountains Are: The Remarkable Life of Sharon Wood
by Lynn Martel
In mountaineering Sharon Wood found a pursuit equal to her intensity and emotional courage. In coming to terms with the nature of peaks, Sharon discovered others who were not afraid to put their lives on the line in exchange for a glimpse of their deeper selves. She also found she possessed the ability to solve ever more complex and demanding climbing problems. While engaging in the most intense forms of inward and outward exploration, Sharon Wood and her climbing partners shaped an entire generation of Canadian alpinism. Home is Where the Mountains Are is their story.