An Interview with Author Lynn Martel
The mountains draw many people to its slopes. Some to visit, some to linger and others to stay and cherish them for eternity. If one could harness this power that pulls in artists, voyageurs and adventurists deep into these valleys created by ice, perhaps we wouldn’t be so concerned about the future.
Canadian Rockies local, Lynn Martel, is praised for her recent book release, Stories of Ice: Adventure, Commerce, and Creativity on Canada’s Glaciers. This book explores the past, present and what’s coming for our glaciers. I first met Lynn on a backcountry ski trip with Canada’s Alpine Club. My new backcountry skis swept the snow as we sweat our way up the incline, following Lynn’s short quick stride. At our top, we took turns burying beacons and practicing avalanche rescue. A skill I hoped to never need but wanted to be the best at. We were a group of women, and I was shy, listening to tales of the mountains while we sipped hot chocolate. Lynn, I noticed, was a great storyteller and upon my return to town, I bought her two books already published.
Over the coming years, Lynn and I worked together guiding guests into the subalpine. Carrying heavy packs and entertaining one another with new narratives. I will never have my fill of learning, knowledge and mountain stories and Lynn has again fueled that craving with her fascinating book release on glaciers.
I wanted more. So I asked Lynn to get personal and tell us of her journey of growing up in Montreal and what began her inspiration to write, photograph and share the Canadian Rockies.
In Lynn’s words –
“I grew up in the city. My family had little money and no car. Once a summer my grandfather would drive us to Vermont for the day. We’d picnic and eat dill pickles – his favourite – and be in nature in a way not possible in the city. I wished we could camp. As a tween, my mom saved enough money for me and my sister, Daisy to go to Girl Guide camp about an hour’s drive north of the city. It seemed so far! But I loved being out in nature.”
Lynn then told me how Daisy, who was a little more adventurous than her, left Montreal at 19 years old to go to Banff. Lynn, who was 21, visited a few times until the spring of 1984 when she thought she might go and work a season.
“I never lived in Montreal again. The mountains became my home.”
“Pre-Much Music, pre-Internet, pre-cell phones and long before social media. To live in a small mountain town then meant a much larger and fuller and more comprehensive commitment. There was no tele-commuting. No technology to “work remotely”. Once in Banff, your whole life was there – work, play, friends, community.
The music was behind, and so was fashion. But, after a couple of years, I acquired a new “thing”, a mountain bike. I began exploring. I rode to Jasper, the Golden triangle and countless kilometres and days on backcountry trails. Those years gave me a foundation of understanding the critical value of wilderness, of nature. Skiing across glaciers, backpacking, exploring the wilderness, taught me how unique our lifestyle is in these mountains.”
Land is a part of this artistic culture.
Lynn had studied creative writing at Concordia University and once in the Bow Valley, she read outdoor magazines and found her writing graduate beyond a personal journal to published articles, many on the exceptional people in the community. With her writing, she celebrated the accomplishments of others and brought them to the public eye.
“The longer I live in the mountains of western Canada, the richer and fuller I understand our mountain community. From the science being done on our glaciers and with our wildlife and landscape, to artists creating works that celebrate and help educate us about our mountain world to entrepreneurs to filmmakers to world-class adventurers inspiring us all with their exploits.
I will never run out of meaningful and valuable stories worth sharing, many of which exhibit ways we can improve how we live our lives. And especially, lives connected to nature.
My primary inspiration is to share the story of our mountains in western Canada, and especially the beauty, the magic and the irreplaceable value of wild nature. For me, writing is like breathing, I can’t not do it.”
Lynn writes about intelligent, generous and accomplished individuals that enrich all our lives, and it is partly because of this that Lynn has enriched mine. Now she is developing a talent in photography, and paired together, Lynn has created another super-power.
“My photography is an extension of my learning and wanting to pass on that knowledge and awareness of the beauty, the magic, the purpose and the irreplaceable value of nature. I am in love with every tree, bush, waterfall, wildflower and glacier. Nothing is more beautiful or fascinating than nature, and that’s what I try to capture with my camera so I can share that beauty.
I hope my photos might inspire others to honour and protect our natural landscapes and the functions they perform within our larger ecosystem. Spending time in nature taught me the simple truth that every single thing in nature is connected and has a purpose.”
Lucky for Lynn, her sister also stayed and then their parents moved here. I asked her how living in the Canadian Rockies impacted her art and she told me how each season brings a whole new inspiration. I also asked what excites her, which when looking back, is a silly question because I don’t think I’ve ever seen Lynn not excited. Of course, we're always outside when we’re together.
“Being out in wild, natural places with no motors, no machines, no Wi-Fi. Where everything is as it should be, not as humans create it to be. It’s profoundly peaceful, but also exciting because I feel a little bit vulnerable out there. I’m too chicken to go that deep into the backcountry by myself - but I do hike into campsites 8 or 10 km from the trailhead for solo overnights, but always in places where there will be a couple of other campers/tents at night.
I really do love that feeling of carrying everything I need on my back – tent, sleeping bag, stove, fuel, food. I’m super grateful the gear has gotten better fitting for small female bodies (I’m 5’3”, 128 pounds), and so much lighter, thank goodness, because at 59 years old, I’ve already shrunk an inch in height and don’t know how many more years I’ll be able to carry that weight – made all the heavier in the past couple of years with my camera!
Lynn made it her profession to write. She admits that it’s a tough career, and one that won’t make her rich. Thankfully for us readers, Lynn works incredibly hard and I know her life is meaningful and rich on its own. Her latest accomplishment of having published, Stories of Ice: Adventure, Commerce, and Creativity on Canada’s Glaciers, is a book worthy of history and mountain culture. It is an inspiring reminder to love, cherish and protect our unique world.
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Big Nature Guides would like to thank Lynn Martel for her time while writing this article and for all her effort documenting and photographing our magestic Rocky Mountains.
We look forward to being on the trail again soon!
More of Lynn Martel
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