Lawrence Grassi, iconic Canadian Rockies guide, subject of new book

The first complete biography about legendary Canmore mountain guide and trailblazer Lawrence Grassi has just been published.

2 lakes, trail, mountain and school named after legendary climber

The first complete biography about a legendary Canmore mountain climber, guide and trailblazer has just been published.

Lawrence Grassi, born Lorenzo, immigrated to Canada from Italy in 1912 and eventually settled in the Bow Valley in 1916 to work as a coal miner.

But he devoted much of his spare time to mountain climbing and carving out trails, such as the original steps that take visitors to the aquamarine water of Grassi Lakes and many more paths around Lake O'Hara and Lake Louise.

"There are stories about him carrying a whole stove up to a camp that a couple of strapping young men hadn't been able to bring," said Elio Costa, who wrote Lawrence Grassi: From Piedmont to the Rocky Mountains with Gabriele Scardellato. 

Lawrence Grassi in front of his Canmore home in 1950. (Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies)

A 'self-contained' man

Grassi was "not necessarily introverted, but self-contained," said Scardellato. "[He] never lived a very luxurious life. Quite the opposite. He lived in a very simple cabin."

Grassi lived alone, never married, never returned to Italy and, according to Costa, the mountaineer stopped writing his family overseas altogether.

"I think he was a closed man, in terms of emotions," he said. "In my view, this sort of generous giving of himself to the mountains and allowing people to enjoy the mountains in the way which he did, was the way he expressed his emotions."

There are two lakes, a trail, a mountain and a school named after Grassi.