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Exploring the Coast Mountains On Skis   Lister
Author(s): John Baldwin
Edition: 3rd
Publication Year: 2009
Format: Soft Cover
Publisher: author
ISBN: 978-0-9691550-3-4 . 447 pages . Dimensions18x23 cm or 7.2 x 9" . List Price: 39.95
Region: BC - Southwest
Placenames: Coast Mountains
Book Reviews: 4
Publishers Description: Exploring the Coast Mountains on Skis covers an area that stretches from the edges of the North Cascades in Washington State to the grand icefields of northern BC and the Alaska panhandle. Ski trips varying in length from one day to several weeks are described. Emphasis is placed on day and weekend trips to alpine areas near Vancouver, including popular trips near Whistler, Pemberton, Mt Baker and the Coquihalla highway. Remote ski trips to the large icefields and rugged summits that stretch north to Alaska are also described, as are shorter trips in the areas around Smithers, Stewart and Terrace in northern BC.

Third Edition:

 Completely revised and updated
 Expanded to cover the entire Coast Mountains
 Describes more than 300 trips
 Day trips and weekend trips
 Wilderness expeditions
 Huts and backcountry lodges
 Information on trip planning, snow conditions and more
 ATES terrain ratings for every trip
 Over 700 photographs, 26 maps

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Book Reviews

Review 1 by Lee Lau on 2009 Feb 28.
The book is a solid compendium and a worthwhile overview of trips in the Coast Range. The breadth of material covered is impressive. It was a long wait for this update but it was worth it.

John's approach is not for those who have their nose in the GPS or who want to be handheld with lots of grid references and explicit directions like sheep being directed by references from a biblical tome. Indeed this book is for the explorer. It gives you a flavour of a surrounding area and entices the inquisitive reader to explore, find their own way and chart their own path through the mountains ... as it should be.

If you have a map, know how to read the map and can navigate in the mountains, this is a good book for you. If you want turn left, turn right here type of directions and want to be told exactly where to go, and have little interest in the intricacies of routefinding you either should find some other book or develop some basic map skills.

Review 2 by Robin Tivy on 2009 Feb 25.
"Exploring the Coast Mountains on Skis" is essential for anybody who has any sort of collection of BC Coast Range books. Everybody realizes this is an important book, and there have already been several reviews written, and their will be more. So I feel obligatged to say more than the fact it is a great and important book. My mission will be to put on my Bivouac Editor's hat, and provide detailed criticism. As an artist once told me, the most important thing an artist can get is criticism: He'd always say sincerely "Thank you for your criticism", especially if the art was heavily criticized.

I guess I must qualify my criticisms by saying they are bound to be influenced by the hundreds of hours I've spent over the past 15 years looking at Bivouac trip reports, and wondering how they could be better. As most readers of this review will know, Bivouac trip reports are themselves like chapters of a guidebook. Ideally, all guidebook authors should spend time writing reviews of their peers. For example, Chic Scott, author of "Summits and Icefields" should be reviewing John's book, and John should perhaps be reviewing the work of Chic Scott. Apart from peer reviews, it is also important to hear detailed descriptions of people actually trying to use the book.

Let us begin our study by looking at the structure of the book. The main body of the book is divided into geographic sections.

Pacific Ranges
  Howe Sound, Garibaldi, Whistler, Callaghan, Birkenhead, Duffy Lake
  Stein, Chilliwack River, Baker, Coquihalla , Manning Park, Ashlu
  Upper Lillooet, Chilcotin Ranges, Lillooet Icefield,
  Homathko Icefield, Waddington, Bella Coola Kitimat Ranges: Smithers, Terrace Boundary Ranges: Stewart, Juneau, Extended Traverses

Each area is dividied into sub-headings, which mostly correspond to trips or sub areas. Below are the subheadings for chapter 2 - Garibaldi:

 Paul Ridge, Mamquam Mountain, Mt Garibaldi, Garibaldi Lake Trail
 Black Tusk Area, Mt Price, Sphinx Bay, Garibaldi Neve Traverse
 McBride Range Traverse, Misty Icefields Traverse, Tuwasus Creek
 Garibaldi Park Traverse

One improvement I would make would be to make the section headings uniform. Some of the headings are obviously trips, such as "McBride Range Traverse", "Misty Icefields Traverse", but then you see the next heading "Tuwasus Creek". When I was thumbing through the book, I initially thought this section was going to be an alternate access to the preceeding Misty Icefields Traverse. But this section turns out to be a trip - a 7 day traverse around Tuwasus Creek. I think the heading would be clearer if all the headings were homogeneous. For example, in Bivouac I would have edited it to read: "Tuwasus Creek Horsehoe".

Sketch Maps: While reading about what I call the "Tuwasus Creek Horsehoe", I would really have liked to see a quick sketch map of where the trip goes. The words are not fast enough. For many of the big trips, such as Garibaldi Neve or McBride Range Traverse, John has beautiful hand drawn sketch maps, and I would have liked one of these maps here. While discussing the maps that he does have, they are beautiful: with all creeks labelled, and glaciers, etc. I am forced to admit that these maps are even better than the maps Bivouac provides, that appear on every trip page. Ideally, there would be one of these maps for every sizeable trip, but of course that would make the book even thicker. There is only so much you can do on paper I suppose.

Grid References:
 John has very few grid references in his guidebook, and many people on the coast hold an opinion that grid references are something to be avoided. Myself, I think grid references are very useful, particularily for access descriptions. I guess what I'm usually trying to do is plan a trip using a topo map, and so the grid references enable me to follow along with what someone is asaying on the map. With a grid reference, if the author says that a certain road ends at km 40 on a road, I like to be able to mark that exact point on my map. This does not diminish my sense of adventure, and it has nothing to do with my map reading skills. Its just plain information transfer. My primary planning tool is a map, and what I like various guidebooks to do is provide information for my map.

But I suppose it pays for me to test my opinion with a concrete example. Maybe I'm wrong. So I randomly chose an access description from the guidebook, and then forced myself to analyse it. The one I chose was from page 251 under the heading "Athelney pass". Here it is:

"Access is from the upper Lillooet R valley. Logging roads leading up Salal Cr branch off the Lillooet R mainline at km 40 (approximately 8 km after crossing Boulder Creek). The main Salal Cr branch road makes two gradual switchbacks up from the mainline before making the long traverse into Salal Cr where it ends 6.5km from the Lillooet R mainline at an elevation of about 1140m, just N of the second tributary on the E side of Salal Cr. (take right forks near the end of the road). The upper Lillooet valley often has snow at lower elevations well into May, and depending on the snow level you will have to ski up all or part of the Salal Cr branch road from the Lillooet mainline."

Now, let's walk through how I was able to use that information to update my map. As you may know, the key roads are often missing from the government topo maps. This case is no different. There are no roads at all shown on my 1:50K map, and BC Basemap shows only an unconnected dotted line which randomly starts in the middle of a hillside, connected to nothing. (check this out, don't just take my word). Fortunately, at the beginning of his book, John recommends the Bivouac website for road research. Therefore, I dutifully went through the job of trying to locate exactly which roads he is talking about on the Bivouac website. Bivouac shows various roads in the area. So now the job is to co-relate the information. My first problem was I tried to locate the point 8 km after crossing Boulder Creek. But I couldn't find Boulder creek on my 1:50k map. But then I just happened to remember that this was really just a new name for Pebble Creek, shown only on BC Basemap.

Fortunately the Bivouac website shows "Salal Creek Road S25" (Road #1355) which ends at 6.5 km and the same height. So that must be the one John means. There is a road bulletin from Andrew Wong in October 2008 telling me of "severe rutting and recommending a high clearance 4WD". So I quickly exported that road from Bivouac using the new GPX files, and imported it into "Memory Map" (which is the digital map program I use these days) and then I could see the road exactly. I could then export it quickly to my GPX if I was going there.

Just to be sure, I double checked John's sentence "just N of the second tributary on the E side of Salal Cr.". On BC Basemap it is just N of the 5th tributary. However, on the 1:50K, there are only 2 tributaries shown, so its the right road.

The above random example might seem a bit long, but that's the actual process a lot of people will be able to go through in using John's book in conjunction with the Bivouac website. To make this even easier, here are some improvements that could be made to this specific description in John's book:
 - he should have also given the name "Pebble Creek" in brackets, since that is the name on the map he is using.
 - it would be much quicker to understand if there was a sketch map
 - a couple of lat-longs or grid references would be very valuable, because then someone could mark the road on their map (digital or paper) without even using the Bivouac website. And more and more, lat-longs would make it easier to co-relate the information with other sources, such as BC Basemap, the Bivouac website or Digital maps.
 - a sketch map of the roads would have helped.

In conclusion, I think the best way to review guidebooks is to walk through actual cases of trying to use various descriptions in the guidebook.

Review 3 by Glenn Woodsworth on 2009 Feb 13.
<P>My ski mountaineering days are long gone, but I know most of the areas covered by this book from summer trips, and I know a great guidebook when I see one.</P> <P>The second edition (1994) covered the area from Vancouver to the Bella Coola valley. This third edition extends the scope of the book farther north, with good chapters on the Smithers, Terrace, and Stewart areas, with even a nod to the Juneau region. Regions covered in the earlier edition have expanded coverage and new trips; even standard outings close to Vancouver have been revamped. Trip descriptions cover the salient points without trying to micro-manage with too much detail. Grid references appear where needed, but thankfully there's no attempt to pander to the currently popular GPS-only mode of navigation. The author clearly believes that map-reading remains an essential skill.

<P>The format of the book has changed from the old 5.5" x 8.5" to about 7" x 9", similar to that in the well known Beckey guides to the Cascades. This format allows more words per page and permits wider and larger photos. The photos are numerous and spectacular; it's a pity they are not in colour, but I certainly understand why this wasn't an option.</P>

<P>Of course, the most important thing about any guidebook is whether it is accurate. Baldwin has done most of these trips himself and has taken notes along the way. In my brief perusal I found a couple of minor errors, nothing consequential (Thomas Peak is not an official name, for example), and the standard of accuracy seems very high.</P>

<P>If you are skiing in the Coast Mountains in any fashion other than heli-skiing or lift-skiing, you need this book. And if, like me, your time in the Coast Mountains is limited to summer, there is much information of interest to you, too. This is a wonderful guide by one of the Masters of Coast Mountains exploration. Buy it.

Review 4 by Steve Grant on 2009 Feb 12.
An encyclopedic book packed with information on an incredible number of routes. Lots of excellent photos. Uncharacteristically, I'm lost for criticism, except that it's too big to carry. Maybe purchase could come with a soft copy that could have excerpts copied to portable devices.