Fifty Percent of Mountaineering Is Uphill: The Life of Canadian Mountain Rescue Pioneer Willi Pfisterer
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978-1-926455-60-0 | 2016 May | 312 Pages
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Fifty Percent of Mountaineering Is Uphill is the enthralling true story of Jasper’s Willi Pfisterer, a legend in the field of mountaineering and safety in the Rocky Mountains. For more than thirty years, Willi was an integral part of Jasper’s alpine landscape, guiding climbers up to the highest peaks, and rescuing them from perilous situations. Originally from Austria, this mountain man came to Canada in the 1950s to assail the Rockies, and stayed to become an integral part of mountain safety in Western Canada and the Yukon.
His daughter, Susanna Pfisterer, has shaped his stories and lectures as an engaging and educational adventure story that features over 100 archival photographs, including avalanches in the National Parks, highlights from climbing 1,600 peaks and participating in over 700 rescues, and guiding adventures with prime ministers. Accompanied by the humorous wisdom of the “Sidehillgouger,” readers will traverse an historical and spectacular terrain.
• Winner of the 2017 Alberta Readers' Choice Award!
“Here is the long overdue story, in plain unvarnished prose, of one of North America’s greatest mountain rescue experts, a man with over 700 search and rescue operations to his credit. The word ‘hero’, so overused today, can’t begin to describe Willi Pfisterer, or the courageous park warden rescue teams he trained to cutting edge proficiency. From his first climb as a barefoot lad to the great personal tragedy at the end of his career, this wild ride will move you from laughter to tears, but in the end will inspire you, as Willi would say, to ‘…go spend a little time of your own on the sidehill’ in the glorious mountains of Canada.”
~ Sid Marty, author of Men for the Mountains and The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek
“If you had the good fortune to meet Willi you knew you were in the presence of a great storyteller. He was a living legend in Jasper when I was growing up and his tales have become an indelible part of local lore. I’ve retold his hair-raising and hilarious adventures all over the world, whenever people ask me for a really good mountain story. Now we have Willi’s life story in his own words, and of course it’s terrific reading, as well as a milestone in the colourful history of the Canadian Rockies.”
~ Thomas Wharton, author of Icefields
“Willi tells it like it was! Funny, frightening and ultimately very moving, his story is a great new addition to Canadian Rockies lore.”
~ Ben Gadd, long-time Jasper resident and interpretive guide, author of Handbook of the Canadian Rockies
“Local lore no longer, the modern reader gets a sense of what made one of the giants of mountain culture tick.”
~ Bob Covey, The Jasper Local
“Impressively informative, deftly written, organized and presented, 50 Percent of Mountaineering is Uphill is a truly extraordinary account of an extraordinary life and very highly recommended for community library biography shelves and academic library mountaineering history collections.”
~ Wisconsin Bookwatch
“His courageous and daring rescues make for a great read.”
~ Publishers Weekly
“...this beautifully written book captures a terrific portrait of a unique, unforgettable character and his exceptional contributions to Canada’s mountain culture, safety and lore.”
~ Lynn Martel, The Alpine Club of Canada Gazette
One day, one of these fellows gave me a piton. I couldn’t believe my luck—a genuine, slightly used, rusty rock piton. In my mind, pitons were synonymous with rappelling, so with gift in hand, I rushed immediately to the work shed to get a hammer and an old piece of rope. Then I climbed up on the house roof and drove the piton into the chimney. I tied one end of the rope to the piton and the other I threw over the edge of the roof. The bottom end of it was at least four metres from the ground, but that didn’t slow my enthusiasm. I placed the rope between my legs, up across my chest and over my shoulder just like Dulfer had shown me. Feet apart, I leaned back ready to begin my descent when … the piton came out! Down I went, rapidly gaining speed as I schussed down the shingled roof, flat on my back and head first. Remember, the house was three storeys high. There was a set of telephone wires at the second-floor level with which I made my first contact. The wires tossed me against the wall of the house. Down the wall I went . . . straight into Grandmother’s flowers. I tried to grab hold of the centre tray of flowers as my legs hit and broke the bottom tray, but the brackets holding both came out of the wall and I continued on down.
Flowers, trays, dirt, brackets and I, with the rope still wrapped around me, were all falling as one—and then the real disaster happened! I landed on Grandfather’s shingles and the entire pile fell over. It took me weeks to straighten those damn things out.
What I considered the biggest stroke of luck though, was that when I was on the ground, flat out among the flowers and shingles and dirt, one of the flowerpots, in delayed action, fell out of its hanger and hit me on the head, knocking me unconscious. This prevented me from getting the biggest spanking of my life.
Thinking of it now, I have that flowerpot to thank for me spending my life in the business of mountaineering.
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