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Ice Diaries takes the Grand Prize in the 2016 Banff Mountain Book Competition

A decade ago, novelist and short story writer Jean McNeil spent a year as writer-in-residence with the British Antarctic Survey, and four months on the world’s most enigmatic continent — Antarctica, the only piece of earth that is nobody’s country. Documenting her year spent on ice, McNeil produced a haunting story of the relationship between beauty and terror, loss and abandonment, transformation and triumph.

The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival announced on Nov. 4 that Jean McNeil’s Ice Diaries as the Grand Prize winner of the 2016 Banff Mountain Book Competition. Chosen from the best in mountain and adventure literature, mountain fiction, mountain image, mountain articles and mountaineering history, and guidebooks, 147 book submissions from authors in nine countries were honed down to a longlist of 27 finalists and from that list our 2016 jury determined category award winners.

Ice Diaries: An Antarctic Memoir
Ice Diaries: An Antarctic Memoir

The book finalists for this year’s competition have been described as “irreverent,” “intoxicating” and “magical,” and were picked from a longlist of finalists to compete for the Phyllis and Don Munday Award (Grand Prize). Ice Diaries was the Adventure Travel category winner of the competition.

“This thought-provoking, timely and unusual book blends adventure travel writing and creative non-fiction in a book that’s thoughtful and genuine,” notes Banff Mountain Book Competition jury member, Harry Vandervlist. He adds: “It’s philosophical out of necessity, because the realities of life, death and the staggering natural world of Antarctica force you to confront big questions.

“Putting those thoughts into memorable prose that invites re-reading is another matter, and Jean McNeil succeeds brilliantly. She chronicles discoveries in the dramatic wilderness of ice, ocean and the huge southern continent, but also in the more intimate wilderness of human relationships within a tiny, confined, community of Antarctic travellers. Through it all, McNeil navigates with a fresh eye and an inquiring voice.”

The 2016 Book Competition jury members are Paul Pritchard (UK, climber and author), Hilaree O’Neill (USA, Climber, Skier), and Harry Vandervlist (CAN, Associate Professor, English, University of Calgary). Jean McNeil receives $4,000 in prize money from the Banff Mountain Book Competition Grand Prize sponsor, the Alpine Club of Canada.

The 2016 Banff Mountain Book Competition Award winners are listed below:

Special Jury Mention: The Bold and Cold: A History of 25 Classic Climbs in the Canadian Rockies by Gripped editor Brandon Pullan and published by Rocky Mountain Books Ltd. (CAN, 2016)

Adventure Travel: Ice Diaries: An Antarctic Memoir by Jean McNeil and published by ECW Press (CAN, 2016)

Mountain Fiction & Poetry: Martin Marten: A Novel by Brian Doyle and published by Thomas Dunne Books & St. Martin’s Press (USA, 2015)

Mountain & Wilderness Literature – Non-Fiction: The Bond by Simon McCartney and published by Vertebrate Publishing (UK, 2016)

Mountain Image: Yosemite in the Fifties by Dean Fidelman and published by Patagonia Books (USA, 2015)

Guidebook: 1001 Climbing Tips by Andy Kirkpatrick and published by Vertebrate Publishing (UK, 2016)

Mountaineering Article: ‘Searching for Superman’ by Jeff Long and published in Ascent (USA, May 2016)

Mountaineering History: Rock Queen by Catherine Destivelle and published by Hayloft Publishing Ltd. (UK, 2015)

Special Jury Mention: Across the Arctic Ocean: Original Photographs from the Last Great Polar Journey by Sir Wally Herbert & Huw Lewis-Jones and published by Thames & Hudson (USA, 2015)