They strapped an odometer to a bike wheel and wrote one of Canada’s most iconic hiking guides

They strapped an odometer to a bike wheel and wrote one of Canada’s most iconic hiking guides

When hikers head out to the mountains this lengthy weekend, some will select their route by phrase of mouth, others will use a path app — however loads will attain for a well-worn copy of the Canadian Rockies Path Guide. 

The information, affectionately often called “the Bible” to some out of doors fanatics, has been on the bookshelves and within the glove compartments of Alberta hikers for greater than 50 years.

It’s considered the primary complete climbing information to the area and is Canada’s longest-running climbing information nonetheless beneath its authentic authorship, based on the guide’s writer. 

However when Brian Patton first approached Bart Robinson in regards to the challenge in 1969, neither one was pondering far past that summer season. 

“Brian got here up with the thought … and I stated, ‘Sounds nice,’ pondering on the time that it will by no means be in publication for various years,” stated Robinson, the information’s co-author. 

The Banff Book and Art Den is pictured in 1968.
The Banff E-book and Artwork Den in 1968. (Submitted by Andrew Hempstead)

On the time, each males had been kicking across the Rockies and working on the Banff E-book and Artwork Den. 

Patton noticed a spot out there for a guide of his personal: an area climbing information that might spark curiosity in hikes past the most well-liked trails, and that would come with pictures and, most significantly, correct measurements.

To measure the paths, the pair drew inspiration from the standard surveyor’s wheel however wanted one thing a bit extra rugged to go over bumpy rocks and roots. 

Patton's hiking partner Louise Mayer is pictured on Tumbling Pass in 1970.
Patton’s climbing accomplice Louise Mayer on Tumbling Go in 1970. That is the shot that was used for the duvet of the primary version of the path information. (Submitted by Brian Patton)

Bike wheel was ‘hell pushing via mud’

They approached an area bike vendor, who constructed them a customized creation: an odometer slapped on high of a full-sized bicycle wheel. 

“They had been hell pushing via mud and up over scree fields and so forth, however usually they labored fairly nicely,” stated Robinson.

The primary version featured trails from Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Yoho, Waterton Lakes, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke nationwide parks, together with some trails round Mount Assiniboine and Mount Robson provincial parks.

Brian Patton is pictured, poncho-ed and holding the trail wheel, while measuring the Plain of Six Glaciers trail in 1970.
Brian Patton is pictured, holding the path wheel, whereas measuring the Plain of Six Glaciers path in 1970. (Submitted by Brian Patton)

To cowl such a big floor space, the lads opted to divide and conquer, hardly ever climbing collectively besides on sure journeys to verify they had been nonetheless developing with the identical measurements. 

It was tedious to interrupt hikes to take down measurements, and the bike wheels drew some hecklers, however the pair stated the sector work was a pleasure. 

The onerous half got here later: sitting round in Patton’s residence (he’d thrown his mattress in the lounge to show his bed room into an workplace) translating notes from greater than 100 hikes right into a complete guidebook. 

“We didn’t have any thought how the guide could be printed or or how it will be distributed,” stated Patton. 

The Banff E-book and Artwork Den stepped in to assist, beginning up a publishing imprint — Summerthought Publishing — to carry their guide into the world. The phrase “Summerthought” references the time that Banff residents have within the winter to dream up summer season tasks. 

The path information got here out in the summertime of 1971 and stunned each by turning into a right away success, climbing to the No. 2 spot on the Calgary Herald bestseller record. 

“We bought them by the caseloads,” he stated.

Carthew Summit in Waterton Lakes National Park is pictured in July 1970.
Carthew Summit in Waterton Lakes Nationwide Park throughout fieldwork in July 1970. (Submitted by Brian Patton)

‘First and finest’

Gavin Fitch, who sits on the board of governors with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, remembers the guide popping out in the summertime of 1971. That was proper across the time his household first began climbing and backpacking. 

“So long as I’ve been climbing, the path information has at all times been there,” stated Fitch. 

For a very long time, Fitch stated, in case you needed to know what trails had been on the market, how lengthy they had been and the way a lot elevation was concerned, the path information was “actually the one supply.”

“To my thoughts, it was the primary and it’s at all times been the very best,” he stated. 

Whereas the path information didn’t make Patton or Robinson wealthy, it did flip them into celebrities of a form inside the group of hikers and out of doors lovers. 

“I might go into Calgary on completely unrelated enterprise and my identify was recognizable to anyone that I’d occur to satisfy there,” Patton stated. 

The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide is pictured at the top of the bestseller list in The Albertan newspaper for July 31, 1971.
The Canadian Rockies Path Information is on the high of the bestseller record in The Albertan newspaper for July 31, 1971. The title additionally rose to No. 2 on the Calgary Herald bestseller record in 1971, based on Summerthought Publishing. (CBC Archives)

The guide additionally served as a springboard to careers targeted on pure and human historical past: Patton as a regional historian and shepherd of the more moderen editions of the path information, and Robinson as a journalist, editor and conservationist. 

Greater than 50 years after it was first revealed, the guide is now in its tenth version and remains to be a fixture at bookstores like Canmore’s Cafe Books. 

“It is likely one of the common selections,” stated retail supervisor Nina Albert, including they’ve bought about 450 copies of the newest version.

Nonetheless promoting

Whereas gross sales have slowed lately — and there at the moment are extra choices individuals can flip to for path data — Fitch says the guide nonetheless serves a task as a helpful, dependable supply of details about the Rockies. 

Patton agrees. 

“I feel the guide will keep alive for a very long time as a print version in a world that’s now gone very digital,” he stated. 

Brian Patton is pictured with his trail wheel doing fieldwork on the Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park in 1970.
Brian Patton makes use of his path wheel doing fieldwork on the Skyline Path in Jasper Nationwide Park in 1970. (Submitted by Brian Patton)

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