by Lynn Martel
While observing his signature drawings and paintings, it’s easy to imagine that Glen Boles’ hands have grasped the very rock he so meticulously replicates; this intimate connection to his subject no doubt imparts a deeper, more personal expression.
Tiered buttresses, stacked cliff bands, blocky chunks of tottering seracs, chaotic striations imprinted in a glacier’s crevasses — the patterns in his drawings are distinct to the hand that guides the pencil.
“Unlike many mountain artists who focus on atmosphere and colour but treat geology and topography in a gestural manner, Glen Boles wants you to feel the cold stone in his drawings,” says mountain art aficionado Bob Sandford. “Every line in a Glen Boles painting tells you something about the composition of the rock, the line of ledges and the nature of the route; each ultimately points the way to the summit.”
Widely respected as one of the most prolific climbers to ever explore western Canada’s mountains, Boles is credited with numerous firsts among his 600 climbs. But he’s equally celebrated as a photographer, author and artist. Together with the esteemed Summit of Excellence Award and honorary membership in both the Canadian and American Alpine Clubs, Boles, who turns 80 this summer, holds a very special place in the hearts and imaginations of the mountain community.
“Glen Boles is a climber and sees mountains with a climber’s eye,” explains Canada’s preeminent mountaineering writer, Chic Scott.
“He sees the details, the corners, cracks, chimneys and ledges. All of this appeals to other climbers who see the mountains in a similar way.”
From the wondrously intricate curls of a bighorn sheep’s horns to the spectacularly jumbled icefall tumbling into Mount Robson’s Berg Lake, Boles reveals an insiders’ perspective into the mysterious, inaccessible, remote wilderness available only to ravens and climbers ̶ sculpted snow ridges, steep rock faces and fractured icefields ̶ and welcomes his viewers to contentedly admire the spectacle.
For mountaineers, Boles’ work is personal, each piece holding intimate memories of the deep bond between climbing partners. “I just have one piece of Glen’s hanging on my wall,” Scott says. “It’s a pen and ink drawing of Mount Hungabee. I did the first winter ascent of Mount Hungabee back in 1966 with Charlie Locke and Brian Greenwood. Hungabee is a mountain that is special to me.”
As Scott suggests, Boles’ works take climbers home, back to the hard-won, intensely rewarding landscape of the high alpine.
To see Boles’ work for yourself, visit www.glenboles.ca