Peter Amann doesn’t have a bucket list.
The 62-year-old mountain guide doesn’t have a catalog of peaks he needs to climb to feel like he’s been successful in the mountains. He doesn’t concern himself with all the 11,000 foot summits, for example, and he doesn’t care much about what others regard as the “classics.” Nor is he in any particular rush to top out on Mount Athabasca for the 100th time (he does know he’s at 95, however).
Amann just isn’t competitive like that. He never has been. In fact, that’s the whole reason he got into mountain climbing in the first place.
“I’ve never been a charger,” he said. “I don’t necessarily have big objectives.”
Call it humility, call it non-competitiveness…whatever it is, it’s the reason why being selected as the Alpine Club of Canada’s honorary patron for the upcoming Mountain Guide’s Ball was never on Amann’s radar.
“I almost felt like they had the wrong person,” he shrugged.
But it wasn’t a mistake; the ACC has selected Amann as the 2017 Patron of the Mountain Guides Ball. Like Chic Scott, Pat Morrow and Don Vockeroth before him, Amann is being honoured for his contribution to the mountain community over a lifetime spent in the alpine.
“The selection committee made a great choice in tapping Peter, and everyone is really psyched that he accepted to the role,” said Zac Robinson, vice-president for mountain culture of the ACC.
Forty-two years ago, Amann came to Jasper from Toronto with friends and picked up a job washing dishes at the Jasper Park Lodge. Soon he was exploring the mountains with “hippies and free-campers,” as he put it, gradually improving his skills as he gained experience in the alpine.
At one point, he took a guides’ course—and promptly failed it. But Amann chipped away at learning the trade and by the mid-1980s, he had a handful of certifications under his belt and was working part time with the Canmore-based Canadian School of Mountaineering and Yamnuska.
“I loved climbing,” he said. “It was the only thing I ever did that I never got sick of.”
Amann carved his own mountain path. He had to; for many years, after veteran Jasper guide Hans Schwarz retired, Amann was the only fully-certified guide in town. He was happy to take clients up local, well-known peaks such as Athabasca and Cavell, but the trips that truly made him feel alive were the ones of more of an exploratory nature. He liked ridges, rather than crags. He preferred adventures over goal-oriented missions.
“We took a rope and a rack and just went,” he recalled.
But Amann was no climbing bum. He volunteered tirelessly for the Alpine Club. He helped found the local section and was the Jasper/Hinton section chair for nearly 20 years. He had a lead role in the 2000 Mt. Alberta Project and today, he works with the ACC’s safety and leadership committee.
“There comes a time when everyone feels they want to put back into the club and the association,” Amann said.
Amann has occupied other important alpine posts: he was the head avalanche forecaster at Marmot Basin for 22 years; he has spent most of the past few decades training the Canadian Military Search and Rescue Technicians; he teaches ACMG courses for Thompson River University and since 1988, he has helped guide the ACC’s storied general mountaineering camps.
“These camps have gone on in Canadian mountaineering for 110 years,” he said. “What else has been that consistent in that period of time?”
The answer is: the men and women who have led them—of whom the 2017 Patron of the Mountain Guides Ball, Peter Amann, is wholly among.