Three things that make the Canadian Alpine Journal Worth reading


Editor’s Note - We don’t often print opinion pieces in Aspects – we typically focus more on ACC programs and adventures stories in our blog. But in this piece, ACC Communications Specialist Peter Hoang shares some strong feelings about how we digest adventure stories and about the value of the printed story in general, and the ACC’s Canadian Alpine Journal (CAJ) specifically, in our increasingly digital age. Pete knows more than a bit about digital media (he handles all ACC social channels), photography (he’s a professional climbing shooter) and climbing, so this is right up his alleys.

If Pete’s words convince you that you can’t live without the 2019 CAJ, you can pick one up here.

A quick flip through my digital media feeds shows me my favourite athletes on their latest send or epic - I push the ‘like’ button, maybe share it to relevant friends and flip onwards. The whole process only lasts for a few seconds, and it’s the reality of how I keep myself informed.

Stories on my phone and laptop do a great job of keeping me up-to-date, but the endless wave of stories results in a quick burn that typically leaves just an anecdote in my mind - which gets filed away in haste, and I strongly suspect I’m not alone.

For these reasons, I think print media, like the CAJ, have a special place in the way that we consume and understand adventure stories. Admittedly, there’s several inconveniences to the medium (delayed news, physical size, no sharable functions), but I’ll argue that those inconveniences actually make stories more compelling and lasting in our minds.

The first published version of the CAJ.

All of the CAJ’s since we changed their format and switched to full colour.


The first reason that print stories are worthwhile is because they’re printed on paper. There are none of those un-skippable ads or a cesspool of a comments section - no one else is vying for your attention aside from the author. It’s there for you to read at your own pace, in your own time, whenever you feel like it.

Print shares with digital that the author had to devote the time and space to write the piece, however, the audience needs to intentionally set aside the time to read the piece in print because of its physical nature - it’s not quite as easy to carry around the CAJ to read while you’re in line at the grocery store.

Taking the time to sit down and read a book is like an act of empathy: When we actively set apart time to stop and listen, we open up and understand just a little more.

2. Going Beyond the title

A recent study from Columbia University and the French National Institute found that 59% of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked - it seems like headlines are just enough to satiate us. It’s now up to marketing departments to come up with headlines (not too different from the one on this article) to entice viewers to actually read the content. So we have no one to blame - we really brought the whole clickbait thing upon ourselves.

In the CAJ, there are no clickbait headlines - the authors offers an accurate description and don’t try to trick you into a read. When you take the time to read one of these pieces, you’ll find that there’s meaningful narratives that can’t possibly be fit into a short title. You’ll be doing yourself a favour by reading them in full.

Louise Jarry and Greg Horne descend Moai Ridge. Photo: Grant Dixon

The topo for “Hidden Dragon” and “Crouching Tiger” on the Chinese Puzzle Wall. Photo: Drew Brayshaw

3. Candid voices

When stories are posted online, there’s often pressure to curate a timely and clean story and to get it online quickly - whether it be for the viewers or for someone’s sponsors. For bigger expeditions, money is also an influencer into how a story is told and portrayed online.

The economics of bigger expedition can exacerbate this effect as well, as there’s often pressure for an influencer (athlete) to push the story online right away to take full advantage of the “news” of the adventure.

In print, the delay between the time of the event and a publication date allows for reflection - there’s no knee-jerk reactions, or immediate pressures to publish a story on someone else’s timeline. Anyone who’s been on an adventure knows that thoughts have room to develop as time passes on.

Feedback avenues aren’t so immediate either, so an author can speak more freely without the worries of a merciless comments section. You’ll often get more details about the ascents as well that were maybe cut from online/digital reports.

Pick it up and read

For the same reasons we seek the wilderness to escape the grind and reception, setting apart the time to read a book has the same ability to slow down time - we listen, understand and experience a little more. So grab a cup of coffee (or tea), find your favourite seat, and open up a copy of the CAJ - there’s good stuff waiting inside.

Marc-André Leclerc and Brette Harrington tucked in at their hanging camp on pitch 10 of Northwest Turret on Great Sail Peak, Baffin Island. Photo: Josh Lavigne.

Alright, I get it - send me a copy of the CAJ.

Published annually since 1907, The Canadian Alpine Journal (CAJ) is the flagship publication of the ACC. It is the permanent record of the biggest ascents, finest photography and most inspiring accomplishments. The CAJ is equal parts detailed route descriptions, introspective writing, science and humour.

This is our country’s representation of the year’s climbing in all its forms from coast to coast to coast and by Canadians abroad. To the mountain community, the CAJ is a collection of writings that individually and together celebrate the precious value and the infinite possibilities of life in the mountains.