To Alpine Artist Glen Boles
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Glen Boles autographs copies of his 2006 book, My Mountain Album. Photo by Warren Harbeck
One of my favourite pieces of modern music 6-year-old Celine Tam’s rendition of You Raise Me Up. One line, in particular, has been echoing in my heart the past few days: “You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains.”
This week I’d like to offer those words in honour of Cochrane’s “Alpine Artist” Glen Boles, whose words and art have inspired many of us to stand on mountains. Glen passed away January 13 at the age of 87.
I first got to know Glen back in 2006, around the time of the release of his book, My Mountain Album: Art & Photography of the Canadian Rockies & Columbia Mountains.
Born in New Brunswick, Glen moved to Alberta in 1953. Here he discovered his passion for climbing.
In the 1970s he also discovered a collegiality with three other climbers of note, Don Forest, Mike Simpson and Gordon Scruggs. Together the four became known as the “Grizzly Group.” Some thought the name came from their grizzly appearance after long trips through the mountains. Glen told me the name actually came from an encounter they once had with a grizzly bear near Glacier Lake.
Glen’s half-century of mountaineering took him to the summit of 525 peaks in the Canadian Rockies, 37 of those being first ascents. Most are too far from the beaten path for many of us ever to experience. But he also enjoyed peaks familiar to us in the Bow River valley: the Devil’s Head, Yamnuska and the Three Sisters.
Over mid-morning mugs at Coffee Traders one day, I asked Glen what, of all his mountain experiences, was his most memorable.
“Definitely, Mount Robson,” he replied, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. “It’s a big mountain; beautiful.”
“How did you feel when you reached the summit?” I asked, thinking he’d respond with a description of the panorama. But no. He said simply:
“When I got to the top the first time, I cried.”
One of the reasons we’re able to stand on mountains with Glen now is a heart attack he had a year and a half before releasing My Mountain Album. The heart attack ended his physical climbing, but opened the door to his new passions of photography, art and writing.
Glen’s amazing pen-and-ink skills eventually earned him the honorific “the Alpine Artist.” Visitors to Cochrane Art Club shows well understand why. And I’m told that next week’s issue of the Eagle may be running a feature on his artistry.
For now, I’ll conclude with a toast: To the Alpine Artist: you raised us up so we can stand on mountains. Thank you.
© 2022 Warren Harbeck