Book review: The yin and yang of rock 

Canadian Rock: Select Climbs of the West

Canada High Col Press

384 pages


Kevin McLane has authored several guidebooks on climbing and hiking, but with Canadian Rock: Select Climbs of the West, he has pulled himself a notch up.

With the rope and the shoes, the cams and the slings, here is something else you should throw in there when you go next on your rock climbing adventures anywhere in the west: Canadian Rock, Select Climbs of the West by Kevin McLane.

This is not McLane's first book; he is quite well known around these parts for books such as The Climbers Guide to Squamish , the Squamish Trail Guides and Alpine Select: Climbs in Southwest British Columbia and Northern Washington .

But compared to previous titles, this book stands out in that in one neat package, McLane has given the rock climber a wide selection of climbs in Western Canada, from Squamish to Lake Louise to the Ghost River Valley.

"This book is a collection of favourite, unknown, and magnificent places, with the central theme of capturing the best climbing experiences on the rock in western Canada." McLane said.

So, this is what you get in $39.95: the lowdown on 1,300 great climbs in 70 climbing areas of the west, all explained in immaculate detail with vivid illustrations, simple language and marked out advice on climbing grades and gear.

Good guidebooks must have a strong visual element and with photos and overlays and stippled lines on the rock to point out routes, the next best alternative to this book would be a personal guiding tour from McLane. There are over 800 pictures and some of them, with calm and happy climbers perched over great rocks, are visceral enough to give you a climber's high.

But vivid photos here are not the only draw: really, it's the compendium of climbs laid out in a crisp, coloured format that makes the book interesting and valuable.

"This is the only reference that covers the whole of Western Canada. There is no other reference at all, not even close and that is actually why everyone is so astonished." he said.

For McLane, the challenge was not just to give it all in 384 pages, but to provide an even-handed treatment to all the climbs, regardless of their popularity.

"The biggest challenge was to present all the climbing areas in a similar graphic format. So the parts that were internationally well known had to be presented with other lesser known parts with the same level of detail and the same graphic treatment. The premise for the similar treatment is that they are all good places to go to climb." he said.

Although McLane began working in earnest on this book about four years ago it had been taking shape in his mind for almost a decade as he climbed all across Western Canada with his friends. It was in July 2006, after climbing the CMC Wall in Canmore with his friend Chris Atkinson, that the idea became rock solid.

The book provides a range of climbs for both the novice and experienced climber. It also aims at those Canadians, Americans and European climbers who come west for climbing but might not be familiar with the routes.

"For distant travelers who come out to the west here, the book could prove to be an extremely good resource. The collection is so broad there's incredulity that all this is there in just one book and people look at the book and they say, 'I have to get one.'"

McLane is now working on a new edition of The Climbers Guide to Squamish with Andrew Boyd, but his next significant book would be the Alpine Canada book project, which he is co-authoring with two of his friends, Atkinson and Mark Piche. He is also working on a guidebook to all the alpine climbs in Canada and a coffee table book on the best climbs in Canada.

And in case you are wondering, he has no favourite climbs. He enjoys a long climb on a rock with friends in quiet settings.




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