- Climber’s Paradise: Making Canada’s Mountain Parks, 1906–1974 by PearlAnn Reichwein
“The history of leisure and sport can be brought together productively with environmental history and philosophy” (xiii). PearlAnn Reichwein, associate professor for physical education and recreation at the University of Alberta, is an expert in Canadian and environmental [End Page 243] history and leisure philosophy. Indeed, the history of alpinism (leisure and sport) and of the national parks in the Canadian mountains (environmental history) are perfectly combined in her book. Her grounded research and her own experiences in living and working in Canadian mountain national parks qualify Reichwein for writing this readable and enriching book that focuses on the history of Canada’s mountain parks and of the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC).
Reichwein worked through the archival sources of ten archives, libraries, and record centers. Her publication is also based on the study of hundreds of publications, and its notes are very detailed and contain helpful additional information. Furthermore, an index lists the persons, places, and key words mentioned in the book. Entries in bold print refer to the numerous black-and-white pictures that enrich the book and stimulate the imagination of the reader. Moreover, the book contains a map of the Canadian mountain ranges with markings of all ACC General Mountaineering Camps from 1906 to 1974 (xviii–xix). The parks are all situated in the mountains of Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory, which are, in popular usage, known by the term “Rockies.”
The Canadian Alpine Journal (CAJ), first published in 1907, had a very masculinist and nationalist approach. Climber’s Paradise considers various social, cultural, and feminist perspectives. Its first two chapters are about the beginnings of the ACC, which “shaped many visions of Canada’s mountain parks as a climber’s paradise” and “became a leading proponent of recreation, conservation, and tourism in the Rocky Mountain parks” (3). Chapter 3 is about the first ACC camps that created “a sense of excitement” (61) as “[y]ear after year, alpinists migrated to Canada’s mountain national parks” (62). The next chapters deal with the shift of focus of the ACC over the decades. In the 1920s, its considerations went “beyond sport toward activism” (121), such as environmental protection and wildlife preservation. In the next decades, the focus was on sports as well as on military duty in the wartime period. In 1954, E. O. Wheeler wanted the ACC to open “new regions as national playgrounds” (198), while, in 1969, the ACC Conservation Committee encouraged “Canadians to enjoy their mountain regions in ways that have minimum ecological effect on the Alpine wilderness” (262).
Reichwein skillfully describes and analyzes these complex and partly contradictive developments. Her epilogue makes clear that there are many open questions about the future of Canadian mountainous landscapes and about alpinism. However, Reichwein’s book perfectly describes their colorful past and helps us understand the present and have hopeful expectations concerning the future.