Mountaineering Artifacts and the Banff Grand Prize Winner

Escape from Lucania by David Roberts (2002)

I have two special things to share with you today. Both mountaineering and book related that you don’t want to miss:


Mountaineering literature gives the reader a chance to participate with the story or add a new chapter. After reading about a first ascent, someone may be inspired to do the second and do it in a different style. Another reader might inspect maps and photos and be inspired to visit the place. Anything nonfiction can do this, but adventure stories and mountaineering sagas are loaded with potential Part IIs. Places and locations on Everest and the Eiger take on the status of a historic site. And artifacts, like the compressor Ceasar Maestri left hanging on the side of Cerro Torre, are a evidence of true stories.

It feels like how I felt when I saw a nuclear attack submarine for the first time on a visit to Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia. I had recently read Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October. It was like seeing the genuine starship Enterprise was parked in parking lot at Target. The myth becomes reality.

Which brings me to David Roberts’ book Escape from Lucania (2002) and the detective work of Griffin Post and Luke Copland. The book recounts the 1937 adventure of Bradford Washburn, the photographer, mapmaker, Alaska mountaineering pioneer, and head of the Boston Museum of Science, and Bob Bates in an attempt to climb Mount Lucania in the Yukon Territory. They flew and landed on the glacier but it was clear another landing to get them home would not be possible. They would be hiking out. They made the first ascent of Lucania, took one of the most remarkable summit photos (or at least I think so,) and descended into the wilderness following the waterflow, hunting for food, and keeping dry.

Post read Escape from Lucania and became interested in a particular passage about their gear. Washburn had to pack light to leave the mountain range, so he and Bates left a cache packed with equipment, including Washburn’s 1930s high-end technology cameras. He worked with Copland and enlisted a glaciologist, Dora Medrzycka, PhD, to see where the glacier may have relocated the package, and potentially, strewn its contents.

After a discouraging inital visit and a subsequent ski-in to follow a hunch (my oversimplification) this year, they found the entire cache, including the cameras. You cannread more about their investigation and field work on ABC News site here.

It’s my understanding that there were no photos on the cameras, but perhaps that’s coming in another update.


On Thursday (November 3rd,) the 2022 grand prize winner of the Banff Mountain Literature Competition was named. The category winners, made known prior to the festival, are eligible to be the grand prize winner. The grand prize winner is announced at an in-person reception on the final Thursday of the two-week event.

I had not read all the others so had no real sense of what titles would be in contention. There can easily be several five-out-of-five candidates. I gave Native Air, a novel, by Jonathan Howland that rating and thought it was surprisingly good enough to win-over the judges, even over all the amazing nonfiction that usually wins.

Well, Howland won and deservedly so according to the judges. I reviewed Native Air after it was named a finalist, or a category winner for the grand prize, and recommend you check it out and that you go read the book for yourself. You’ll be better for it!

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