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A Fireside Chat with Glen Boles: Mountaineer, photographer, and artist par excellence

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

By Chic Scott

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Glen Boles on Louis, 1960

Back in 1996 I filmed an interview with Glen Boles while I was working on my climbing history book, Pushing the Limits. This interview forms the core of our new Fireside Chat at the Whyte Museum. For the last three months, Canmore film-maker Glen Crawford and I have been working on this film/Fireside Chat and it is now complete. It is a tribute to a remarkable man and a real gentleman.

To make this film, Crawford and I interviewed a number of people who know Boles well – Sylvia Forest, Alan Cole, Bob Geber, Murray Toft, Mike Simpson, Dr. Bill Hanlon and Glen’s wife Liz Boles. From them we hear the story of a life devoted to the mountains and to the mountain community.

Glen Boles was born in New Brunswick in 1934 and came west to Calgary in the mid 1950s. He was introduced to mountain climbing by Heinz Kahl, a new arrival in Canada from Germany, and immediately fell in love with high places. During the 1960s he climbed often with Brian Greenwood, one of Canada’s finest mountaineers and did many difficult ascents including several new routes.

Glen is best known for his association with a group of men called The Grizzly Group – Don Forest, Leon Kubbernus, Mike Simpson, Jim Fosti, Gordon Scruggs, Walt Davis and Lyn Michaud. For several decades these men headed to the hills almost every weekend during the summer and explored throughout the Rockies. Together they visited many remote areas and climbed hundreds of mountains. But for them the summit was not the point, it was being in these magical places with good friends.

In 1967, to celebrate Canada’s Centennial, the Alpine Club of Canada organized an expedition to the St. Elias Mountains in the Yukon Territory of northern Canada. The expedition was composed of three parts and Glen was involved in one of these – the first ascent of Good Neighbour Peak on the Alaska/Yukon Border. The eight man team was made up of four Alaskans and four Canadians, including Boles. The entire team reached the top of the 4780 m mountain and Boles considers this one of his finest achievements.

Glen has carried two cameras on all these trips (one with colour film and one black and white film) and took tens of thousands of photographs, many of them extraordinary. He has also excelled as an artist, best known for his finely detailed, pen and ink drawings of mountains and wildlife. In 2006 a book called My Mountain Album was published, showcasing Glen’s fine photography and art. Plans are underway for Glen’s great archive of images to be donated to the Whyte Museum.

Glen has been a strong supporter in the Town of Cochrane since moving there in the late eighties. In recognition of his contributions to the community, the town has named a beautiful trail, west of town along the Bow River, the Glen Boles trails.

Glen and his wife Liz were married in 1965 and have been devoted to each other for over fifty years. Together they spent many wonderful days hiking, skiing and climbing their beloved hills. Although Glen is now in the Bethany long-term care facility in Cochrane, Liz visits him almost every day and on his birthday, July 5, she showed him this film. It was our birthday present to a fine gentleman, great mountaineer and a legend of the Canadian Rockies.

The film is free. To view this film please click on the green button below.

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