Jack Bryceland gears up for another 103 Hikes in southwestern B.C.

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      It’s been over a decade since Jack Bryceland retired from his job as a high-school science teacher so that he could spend more time enjoying the outdoors, but lately he hasn’t been doing as much hiking and mountaineering as he’d like.

      “The trouble is the last three months have been sort of killed by putting this book to bed, with trying to tidy up,” the author of 103 Hikes in Southwestern British Columbia says good-naturedly during an hourlong interview at the Georgia Straight offices. “We finished the maps yesterday.”

      Although he’s busy putting the final touches on the guidebook’s sixth edition—to be published by Greystone Books in May—it’s not as if the long-time climber, hiker, canoeist, and kayaker is ignoring the winter’s offerings. Speaking with a Scottish accent and clad in a black Chilliwack Search and Rescue jacket, the Glasgow-born 67-year-old notes that he’s just returned from a week of ski touring in the southern Monashee Mountains.

      Bryceland spreads five editions of 103 Hikes on the table before him and pulls from his briefcase a 1972 copy of its predecessor, Mountain Trail Guide for the South West Mainland Area of British Columbia, published by the Federation of Mountain Clubs of B.C. First printed in 1973 and revised once every seven years since then, 103 Hikes was originally authored by Mary and David Macaree. More than 120,000 copies later, it has become perhaps the most trusted reference for hikers in this corner of the province. When David Macaree developed Alzheimer’s disease (he died in 1998), the couple informed the B.C. Mountaineering Club, which Bryceland says has always been the project’s home, that it was time for someone else to take on the book.

      “At that time, I had just quit work and was looking for a project to keep me from becoming a couch potato,” says Bryceland, who, like the Macarees, has long been associated with the club. “So I said to Mary, ”˜Hey, I’ll do it.’ She said, ”˜Hey, if you want it.’ So that part was easy.”

      Like the fifth edition—Bryceland’s first—the sixth will see the Macarees credited as coauthors. The revision will feature 19 hikes that weren’t in the last update, including 11 destinations that are completely new to the book, like Tin Hat Mountain on the Sunshine Coast and Slollicum Peak, which is east of Harrison Lake. Construction along the Sea-to-Sky Highway ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics has forced the omission of some trails, the author says. He’s dealt with the issue by noting affected routes, such as Petgill Lake and the Howe Sound Crest Trail’s northern stretch, in the additional-hikes section, which will return after its absence in the previous edition.

      Another hike Bryceland has removed is Mount Henning, off the Coquihalla Highway. That’s because all-terrain vehicles have torn up the meadows, he explains. Bryceland’s disgust reflects his concern that conservation of public lands, as well as access to trails, is in decline across the province.

      “Nonmotorized outdoor recreation is not sufficiently appreciated as a maintainer of good health, and I think we need to get that publicized, recognized,” he says. “Riding your ATV doesn’t do anything for you healthwise, and causes all sorts of environmental degradation.”

      Bryceland is so passionate about these issues that he plans to devote a portion of this year to laying the groundwork for an organization that, as the Washington Trails Association does south of the border, would protect and maintain hiking paths in B.C. He also plans to go ski touring in the Coast Mountains’ Pantheon Range in the spring, and is considering canoeing the Yukon’s Wind River this summer.

      After he completed the fifth edition of 103 Hikes in 2001, fellow mountaineers encouraged him to take on the gargantuan task of updating Bruce Fairley’s 1986 A Guide to Climbing & Hiking in Southwestern British Columbia. (The book happens to record Bryceland’s part in the first winter ascent of the south ridge of Mount Garibaldi’s Atwell Peak in 1966.) It didn’t happen—not enough climbers volunteered to help—but he still has a couple of other book ideas up his sleeve. The author says that a guide to old B.C. Forest Service fire lookouts would draw attention to those historic landmarks, which are in need of preservation. He’s also put together a big list of waterfalls, though he’s not sure if his publisher is interested.

      “When I started doing this and realized how much work it was, I said, ”˜Mary, how did you manage to do this through four editions?’ ”˜It was easy,’ she said. ”˜We didn’t have any social life,’ ” Bryceland recalls, laughing.

      With the fifth edition now several hiking seasons old and the sixth soon to be on its way to bookshelves and backpacks, Bryceland acknowledges that he’s been criticized by people who worry that 103 Hikes will lead to the overuse and spoiling of the trails it describes.

      He responds, “You’ve got to get people out so they can appreciate the value of those areas, and then you have the chance to protect them.”