$24.95 CAD

Fifty Percent of Mountaineering Is Uphill: The Life of Canadian Mountain Rescue Pioneer Willi Pfisterer

Susanna Pfisterer 978-1-926455-60-0 | 312 Pages May, 2016 Accolades!, Biography & Memoir, Ebook, Environment & Ecology, History, Non-Fiction

Also available as an ebook from

About this book

  • Winner of the 2017 Alberta Readers' Choice Award!

Fifty Percent of Mountaineering Is Uphill is the enthralling true story of Jasper’s Willi Pfisterer, a legend in the field of mountaineering and safety in the Rocky Mountains. For more than thirty years, Willi was an integral part of Jasper’s alpine landscape, guiding climbers up to the highest peaks, and rescuing them from perilous situations. Originally from Austria, this mountain man came to Canada in the 1950s to assail the Rockies, and stayed to become an integral part of mountain safety in Western Canada and the Yukon.

His daughter, Susanna Pfisterer, has shaped his stories and lectures as an engaging and educational adventure story that features over 100 archival photographs, including avalanches in the National Parks, highlights from climbing 1,600 peaks and participating in over 700 rescues, and guiding adventures with prime ministers. Accompanied by the humorous wisdom of the “Sidehillgouger,” readers will traverse an historical and spectacular terrain.

NeWest Press Audio interview with General Manager Matt Bowes


“Here is the long overdue story, in plain unvarnished prose, of one of North America’s greatest mountain rescue experts, a man with over 700 search and rescue operations to his credit. The word ‘hero’, so overused today, can’t begin to describe Willi Pfisterer, or the courageous park warden rescue teams he trained to cutting edge proficiency. From his first climb as a barefoot lad to the great personal tragedy at the end of his career, this wild ride will move you from laughter to tears, but in the end will inspire you, as Willi would say, to ‘…go spend a little time of your own on the sidehill’ in the glorious mountains of Canada.”

~ Sid Marty, author of Men for the Mountains and The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek

“If you had the good fortune to meet Willi you knew you were in the presence of a great storyteller. He was a living legend in Jasper when I was growing up and his tales have become an indelible part of local lore. I’ve retold his hair-raising and hilarious adventures all over the world, whenever people ask me for a really good mountain story. Now we have Willi’s life story in his own words, and of course it’s terrific reading, as well as a milestone in the colourful history of the Canadian Rockies.”

~ Thomas Wharton, author of Icefields

“Willi tells it like it was! Funny, frightening and ultimately very moving, his story is a great new addition to Canadian Rockies lore.”

~ Ben Gadd, long-time Jasper resident and interpretive guide, author of Handbook of the Canadian Rockies

"Local lore no longer, the modern reader gets a sense of what made one of the giants of mountain culture tick."

~ Bob Covey, The Jasper Local

"Impressively informative, deftly written, organized and presented, 50 Percent of Mountaineering is Uphill is a truly extraordinary account of an extraordinary life and very highly recommended for community library biography shelves and academic library mountaineering history collections." full review

~ Wisconsin Bookwatch

"His courageous and daring rescues make for a great read." full review

~ Publishers Weekly

"...this beautifully written book captures a terrific portrait of a unique, unforgettable character and his exceptional contributions to Canada’s mountain culture, safety and lore."

~ Lynn Martel, The Alpine Club of Canada Gazette