Jeff Long wins best mountaineering article for ASCENT Story “Leper Chai”

Banff Mountain Book Contest 2020 Winners.

A long time Rock and ice and ASCENSION contributor Jeff Long won the award for best mountaineering article in the 2020 Banff Mountain Book Competition for its story “Leper Chai”, which appeared in the 2020 edition of ASCENSION.

In “Leper Chai”, Long tells the story of a long-standing Makalu expedition that led to a stay in Badrighol Prison in Kathmandu, Nepal. Into this strange and hazy world came a surreal invitation – from a leper with an unparalleled chai recipe.

Pete Takeda, one of three jurors in the 2020 Book Competition, wrote on the website: “In Leper Chai, Jeff Long reminds us that, ‘We take our mountain literature for granted, but we shouldn’t. Without it, there is no climb, just pull-ups and beer. Leper Chai has the narrative depth of a novel and the dramatic timing of a good script. Long has told the real story of his imprisonment in Nepal several times, but never quite like it. His use of spiced tea as a metaphor for the complex links between South Asian ethnicities and castes is a masterful literary device. His respect for all of humanity is clear, as is his instinct for a timeless tale. “

The opening spread from Jeff Long's Leper Chain, which appeared in Ascent 2020.
The opening spread from Jeff Long’s Leper Chain, which appeared in Ascent 2020.

Long’s piece was one of three items named on the long list of the contest in mid-September, along with “Denali, A Universe” by Jan Harper-Haines and “Melting Giants” by Benjamin Ribeyre and Erin Smart, both published in Alpiniste. These three articles joined 20 other finalists – in eight unique competition categories, honoring various books of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and photography – from 137 submissions in total.

Another frequent Rock and ice contributor, Ed Douglas, received a special jury mention for his book Himalayas: A Human History.

Nandini Purandare, one of the other jurors, along with Takeda, wrote on Himalayas, “It would be almost impossible for this year to pass without the impact and importance of Himalayas: a human story felt by those interested in this complex mountain range. 25 years of research and travel make this book what it is, rich in human and natural history. The real impact of this foundational work will gradually unfold, as literati delve into it and understand what really happened and why.

[To read the award-winning “Leper Chai” in its entirety, check out ASCENT 2020 online—free!]

For Jeff Long, the best mountaineering article is another honor in a career full of accolades. A New York Times bestselling author, he has written 11 books including Angels of Light. Among other awards, he received the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. Long has already won twice in Banff. In 2016, Long’s article “Searching for Superman”, which also appeared in ASCENSION, won the prize for the best mountaineering article. In 2006, he won the festival’s grand prize for his book The wall. His latest article, an editorial titled “Chasing Dragons”, appears in Rock and ice number 266 (November 2020), on sale now.

The grand prize, to which all eight category winners, including Long, are eligible, will be announced at the first-ever virtual edition of the Banff Center Mountain Film and Book Festival on Thursday, November 5th.

The full list of category winners is:

Mountain Literature (non-fiction) – The Jon Whyte Prize

$ 2,000 – Sponsored by the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies

Raven’s Witness: Life in Alaska by Richard K. Nelson

Hank Lentfer, Mountaineers Book (United States, 2020)

Mountain fiction and poetry

$ 2000 – Sponsored by the Town of Banff


Andrew Krivak, Bellevue Literary Press (United States, 2020)

Mountain environment and natural history

$ 2,000 – Sponsored by Canadian Mountain Network

Wild Himalayas: A Natural History of the World’s Largest Mountain Range

Stephen Alter, Aleph Book Company (India, 2019)

Adventure travel

$ 2,000 – Sponsored by Global Expeditions

Ice Maze: The Triumphal and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition

Buddy Levy, St. Martin’s Press (United States, 2019)

Mountain image

$ 2000 – Sponsored by Banff and Lake Louise Tourism

Canada’s wild coasts

Scott Forsyth, Rocky Mountain Books (Canada, 2019)


$ 2,000 – Sponsored by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides

Crack Climbing: The Definitive Guide

Pete Whittaker, Vertebrate Publishing (UK, 2020) / Mountaineers Books (US, 2020)

Mountaineering article

$ 2,000 – Sponsored by the University of Alberta and the Alpine Club of Canada

Leper Chai

Jeff Long, Rock & Ice Magazine (United States, March 2020)

Climbing literature

$ 2000 – Sponsored by RMB (Rocky Mountain Books)

Emilio Comici: Angel of the Dolomites

David Smart, Rocky Mountain Books (Canada, 2020)