top of page
  • whytemuseum

Five Fall Books to Add to Your Reading List: The Jon Whyte Award Finalists

Updated: Oct 25

Back to the Cairn

There's something about the turning of the seasons and a crisp new chill in the air that beckons for a cozy nook with a stack of good books. And the 2023 Banff Mountain Book Competition has ample inspiration for new titles to add to your Fall reading list. Select titles are available at the Whyte Museum Book Shop, open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.!

The Whyte Museum Book Shop is pleased to celebrate both the longlist of category finalists and the winner of this year's Jon Whyte Award, as part of this year's Banff Mountain Book Competition. See the full list of finalists for all Book Competition awards here.

2023 Jon Whyte Award WINNER

A Line Above the Sky: On Mountains and Motherhood Helen Mort, Ebury Press (UK, 2022)

Helen Mort has always been drawn to the thrill and risk of climbing: the tension between human and rockface, and the climber's powerful connection to the elemental world. But when she becomes a mother for the first time, she finds herself re-examining her relationship with both the natural world and herself, as well as the way the world views women who aren't afraid to take risks.

A Line Above the Sky melds memoir and nature writing to ask why humans are drawn to danger, and how we can find freedom in pushing our limits. It is a visceral love letter to losing oneself in physicality, whether climbing a mountain or bringing a child into the world, and an unforgettable celebration of womanhood in all its forms.

One Man's Legacy: Tom Patey Mike Dixon, Scottish Mountaineering Press (UK, 2022)

One Man’s Legacy chronicles the brief but brilliant life of Dr Tom Patey: bard, musician, and one of Scotland’s foremost climbers and mountaineers. His story is one of pioneering ascents and boundless enthusiasm, and his spontaneity, carefree approach and ability to burn the candle at both ends remain legendary, several decades after his untimely death.

By drawing on Patey’s essays and verses, published collectively in the celebrated One Man’s Mountains, the narrative is imbued with dry wit and gentle satire, and brought to life by unseen images from renowned photographer John Cleare and the Patey family archive. Supported by a foreword from Mick Fowler and first-hand insights from some of the leading climbers of the last century, including Sir Chris Bonington, Joe Brown and Paul Nunn, One Man’s Legacy celebrates a complex, larger-than-life character who rightly deserves his place in mountaineering history.

Royal Robbins: The American Climber David Smart, Mountaineers Books (USA, 2023)

Acclaimed writer David Smart illuminates the fascinating life of Royal Robbins - in all its soulful ambition, rivalry, and romance. Royal Robbins chronicles his early years growing up as a latchkey kid in Southern California, the push and pull between being an aspiring banker or one of the original Camp 4 dirtbags, and his later decades as a father, husband, kayaker, and the trailblazing founder of the outdoor apparel company that bears his name. This intimate, colorful tour of climbing history covering Yosemite, the Tetons, the Gunks, the Alps, the United Kingdom, and more from the 1960s onward features star characters such as Liz Robbins - Robbins's wife and a pioneering adventurer in her own right - Yvon Chouinard, John Harlin, Steve Roper, Warren Harding, Tom Frost, and Doug Tompkins.

An important addition to our knowledge of the Golden Age of rock climbing in Yosemite and the development of the clean climbing ethos, Royal Robbins sheds new light on an elemental figure of outdoor culture.

The Boy and The Mountain: A Father, His Son, and a Journey of Discovery Torbjørn Ekelund, Greystone Books (Canada, 2023)

Six-year-old Hans Torske disappeared in Norway's Skrim mountains in 1894. Why he wandered away from his family's cabin is still a mystery, but his body was found the following summer, lying atop a 2,860-foot mountain peak and covered with his thin jacket. More than 100 years later, nature writer Torbjørn Ekelund and his seven-year-old son, August, attempt the same summit. It's August's first overnight hiking trip, and Ekelund is eager to share his love of nature with his son. But soon he notices that the ways children and adults experience nature are vastly different, for better and for worse.

The Boy and the Mountain reflects on what parenthood requires: experiencing the joy of watching your child go out into the world for the first time, while also worrying about the dangers they may face. Filled with curiosity, humility, and deep gratitude for wild places, this gem of a book is a celebration of the uncompromising nature of the elements, our bond with them, and the special relationship between father and son.

Unraveled: A Climber’s Journey Through Darkness and Back Katie Brown, Mountaineers Books (USA, 2022)

As a teenager in the 1990s, Katie Brown was one of climbing’s first "comp kids"--a young natural who, along with her peers, redefined the image of a strong and successful climber. After climbing for less than two years, Brown won her first junior national title. The next year she became the Junior World Champion at age 14 in Laval, France. In 1996 she won both the Rock Master--a prestigious international contest in Arco, Italy--and the esteemed X-Games. From 1996 on, Brown won every US Adult National that she entered, as well as a World Cup Title in France in 1999.

Yet even as she reigned on the podium, Brown felt her life begin to unravel. A quiet child, she struggled with a home life that was very different behind closed doors than it seemed on television. A fundamentalist version of Christianity was at the center of the household, and Brown fought to live according to rules that were strict, ever-changing, and irrational. Isolated and feeling hopeless, Brown latched onto food as something she could control. She quit competitive climbing and bounced in and out of the industry, eventually disappearing in her late twenties.

Now, more than two decades later, Brown is ready to share her story. Unraveled answers the question thousands of fans worldwide have wondered: "What ever happened to Katie Brown?"

About the Jon Whyte Award

The Jon Whyte Award is an homage to Jon Whyte, the nephew of Whyte Museum founders Peter Whyte and Catharine Robb Whyte. Born in 1941, Jon was an author, poet, writer, editor, journalist, broadcaster, publisher, environmentalist and curator at the Whyte Museum. The Jon Whyte Award aptly celebrates authors of non-fiction mountain literature, an interest and background Jon undoubtedly held.

After public school education in Banff and Medicine Hat, Alberta, he received a B.A. in English from the University of Alberta in 1964, followed by a Masters degree in Medieval English in 1967. Subsequently, he received a Masters in Communications from Stanford University, California in 1974. His thesis at Stanford was a film documentary, "Jimmy Simpson, Mountain Man".

During his time at U of A, Whyte worked as a broadcaster for CKUA Radio and as a sessional Instructor at U of A, 1965-1967. Upon returning to Banff, ca.1968, Whyte managed the Book and Art Den and helped establish Summerthought Press. In 1969 he became a columnist for the "Crag and Canyon," continuing until 1991, and in 1970 became a board member of the Peter Whyte Foundation (now Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies). From 1980 until his death in 1992, Whyte was a Curator of the heritage collections at the museum.

He continued to write and publish extensively throughout the 1980s. He was involved with the formation of the Writer's Guild of Alberta and was elected its president in 1990. He received the WGA's Stephan Stephansson Award for Poetry in 1983. Whyte was also active in numerous other organizations, including the League of Canadian Poets, Alberta Museums Association, Canadian Museums Association, Interpretation Canada, Bow Valley Naturalists and the Alberta Wilderness Association.


Back to the Cairn

bottom of page