Review by Bob Ross, Author of The Cucumber Tree [Vancouver, 2009]
I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed John Clarke: Explorer of the Coast Mountains. I've read a ton of books on mountaineering and mountaineers—from the early ascents of the toughest North Walls in the Alps to the high mountains and huge expeditions in the Himalayas. And Lisa Baile's book is right up there with the best—like Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air.
One aspect that I love about Lisa Baile's book is the way it evokes so many memories of my own climbing and camping. The story doesn't focus on summit attempts and heroic feats. It talks about the hardship of days rained out, and aerial food drops lost to wild animals, and the monotonous waiting through endless days of rain or storm for a break in the weather. It evokes so many memories of my own climbing and camping: the seemingly endless hours spent under a sheet of plastic at Cameron Lake, scanning the socked-in rain-soaked clouds for a patch of blue; the gloomy campsite in Cathedral Grove when the spaghetti wouldn't cook, or sleeping under the overturned canoe at the mouth of Pitt Lake and breaking camp in the pouring rain and paddling all day down the Fraser River, soaked but triumphant. And so much of the territory covered by John Clarke contains names that are familiar to me (although I can't claim to have actually been to most of them).
Lisa Baile tells a great story of a man who loved the mountains—our mountains—with passion and enthusiasm. And when things went wrong he didn't complain. He just carried on with unbelievable patience and humour. The book is beautifully written, and is a great tribute to John Clarke's love of the mountains and his work to preserve the wilderness for future generations.