Scarpa North America Blog

Guidebook Writing With Martin Volken

Feb. 11th 2014

Martin Volken is one of only three officially IFMGA-certified Swiss guides working in the U.S. He has an instructor and examiner for the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) elite certification and the founder of Pro Guiding Services. Martin muses on writing a book, after recently publishing Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes – Washington.

mount-buckner-martin-volkenTaking notes on the summit of Mount Buckner

She said, “You should just write a guidebook about the Washington Cascades.” Here is my first piece of advice: Be suspicious of any advice that starts out with “you should just.”

When Kate Rogers from Mountaineers Books asked me to write a book on a selection of top ski tours, traverses and descents in Washington State, I was initially flattered. But, I (almost) came to my senses and declined. It doesn’t take a very long time to figure out flipping burgers at a fast food chain would make more money for the effort. Plus, it would be me putting my work and name out there for everyone who has ever put a set of skins on their skis to write a book review.

Turns out, Kate can be pretty convincing and after several meetings over the course of a year, she agreed to let Pro Guiding Service be the principal author of the book. This meant that I would be able to do the book project with help from my guiding company. Suddenly, things seemed possible and the workload tolerable.

Looking at the Park Glacier on Mount Baker

My guides seemed excited about the project and the initial meetings clearly revealed their true passion for the Washington Cascades.  Coming up with 80 ski tours, traverses and descents was not that hard – we were only talking about a 15,000-square-mile area, after all. The only difficult part was revealing our last secret stashes of the Cascades.

The guidebook made me realize that book writing is a labor of love. This particular project involved over 15 people who wrote, photographed, edited, piloted and (most of all) ski toured for about 400 labor days. At times the writing and research happened simultaneously from peaks in Switzerland, huts in France, ski adventures in the Cascades and tents at the Everest Base Camp. Google Drive and Dropbox took on a whole new meaning for us.

One of the big successes is that all the guides who signed up to do this project, stuck with it – and we are all still friends! Most of all, we feel that we came up with a selection that embodies the spirit of ski touring and ski mountaineering in the Washington Cascades.

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