Those who have studied at University of British Columbia (at undergraduate or graduate levels) and who have had some interest in mountaineering (at whatever level) will have joined and done a variety of trips and treks (of various levels of challenge and competence) with the Varsity Outdoor Club, the Club being one of the oldest mountaineering clubs on the west coast (the Alpine Club of Canada and British Columbia Mountaineering Clubs yet older). The 100th anniversary tale of the Varsity Outdoor Club from 1917-2017 is aptly, graphically and generously told and recounted in the finely packaged and printed A Century of Antics, Epics, & Escapades: The Varsity Outdoor Club 1917-2017.
Each of the chapters in this must read beauty cannot but hold the curious reader. “A History Older than Ours” (First Nations history) introduces this bounty of a book, the meticulous “Timeline” offers an aerial overview of the history and the chapters that follow delve deeper into the unfolding drama: 1) 1917-1939: Maps: VOC Areas & Traverses Over Time, 2) 1940s: Decades of Garibaldi Park, 3) 1950s: Decades of Loganeering, 4) 1960s: Buildering and Socializing, 5) 1970s: Conservation and Advocacy in the VOC, 6) 1980s: Women in the VOC, 7) 1990s: Huts and Selection of Traverses since the 2000s & Climbing Pilgrimages, 8) 2000s: VOC Portrait and Marriage Proposals, 9) 2010s and 11) Beyond 2017. Each of the chapters are told in an evocative and compelling manner, and for those even minimally interested in the west coast and west coast mountaineering many a detail is told in a most readable and accessible manner. The multiple photographs in this timely hardbound classic of a telling are more than worth many a lingering and meditative gaze. The roll call of those who have provided wise leadership over the decades, challenging trips and tragic endings are all packed into this compact text.
The fact the Varsity Outdoor Club has played such a pivotal role in pioneering 1st ascents, building new trails and huts, founding Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC) and continued with their creative antics, epics and escapades (updated for each decade) does need to be duly noted. The black and white photos (reflecting an earlier era) and many coloured photos complement the text in a balanced and well-crafted manner. The diverse yet short biographies of many VOC myths, legends and leaders over the decades are succinctly summed up on various pages with companion photographs.
There can be no doubt that Antics, Epics, & Escapades is a purchase imperative for those interested in west coast history, UBC mountaineering exploits (more daring and demanding the further afield), the mountaineering support structure (MEC, huts, trails maintenance and political advocacy for wilderness and wildness). Varsity Outdoor Club has been front and centre both in UBC and beyond in initiating, maturing and sustaining mountain culture and the way VOC has done this is superbly told in A Century of Antics, Epics, & Escapades: The Varsity Outdoor Club 1917-2017. Elliott Skierszkan deserves an A++ grade for guiding the mountain tale from beginning to end and keeping the team well roped on the lengthy journey.