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Book Review: Inner Ranges by Geoff Powter

Head aching, vision blurred, the twirl and flutter of tie-offs that have come undone around him, Geoff Powter decides it’s time to back off from an early attempt on The Shield. He’s never nailed A4 and realizes that the fear of failure can only take you so far.

Is the route even reversible, he dimly wonders as the concussive effects of a long fall impair his ability to down-belay. In the end, the experience and judgement of his partner gets them back to the Valley floor by sunset. Back home he writes a letter of gratitude to the route itself. Thanks for showing me a more honest version of myself.

For showing me how far I have to go to reach the state of mind of those who create such routes as this. The attempt marks a turning point in Powter’s life. Climbing is to be approached with the level of conviction, seriousness, and drive that its truly great routes deserve.

Inner Ranges: An Anthology of Mountain Thoughts and Mountain People is a collection of his writings starting with the inception of the Polar Circus (Canada’s first national climbing magazine) to the present day. Many of the pieces have been recognized through awards. Powter sees in Canadian climbing a proud, if understated, tradition going back to the first arrival of “Swiss Guides” to the Rockies.

He considers all aspects of the sport, from high altitude mountaineering to cutting edge rock climbing. Central to his thoughts on mountains and the people who make it their life to climb are notions of agency and honesty. Without style and spirit, climbing makes no sense, he tells us. Canada has a rich history of players who embrace these values.

Inner Ranges brings many of their stories to light in book form. It’s an essential addition to the lore of this country as a place of deep adventure.

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