Best Mountaineering Literature

Best Mountaineering Literature

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Sign the Climber's Log


Inspired by several threads on SummitPost forums on this subject, I decided to put together my personal list of the best non-fiction mountaineering literature that I have read. The books are listed in alphabetical order by title. A description in parenthesis is given where the contents are not evident from the title. Publisher and year reflect the editions that I read and not necessarily the first publisher or first year of publication. Reading is of course vicarious living, but the volumes below will provide you with the best in vicarious living. I will keep this list updated and I welcome suggestions on works that are not listed below that should be.

Mountaineering Bookshelf (Not for votes) The recreational shelf of my office book case

The List: A-L

A Life on the Edge: Memoirs of Everest and Beyond, Jim Whittaker (Mountaineers Books 2000) (autobiography of the first American to summit Everest, organizer of the first American team to summit K2, and former CEO of REI) A Slender Thread: Escaping Disaster in the Himalaya, Stephen Venables (Thunder's Mouth Press and Balliet & Fitzgerald, Inc. 2000) (the famed British mountainer recounts a harrowing epic where he fell 300 feet on a remote Himalayan peak breaking both legs and leaving him immobilized at 19,000 feet; a dramatic helicopter rescue ensues)  

Book -NOT FOR VOTING Another epic for the British mountaineer

Above the Clouds: The Diaries of a High-Altitude Mountaineer, Anatoli Boukreev (St. Martin’s Griffin 2001) (climbing adventures of the Russian mountaineer and guide) Addicted to Danger, Jim Wickwire and Dorothy Bullitt (Pocket Books 1998) (Wickwire’s compelling memoir of his climbing life) Alaska Ascents: World-Class Mountaineers Tell Their Stories, Bill Sherwonit, ed. (Alaska Northwest Books 1996) (a compelling anthology of firsthand accounts of climbs of Alaska's challenging peaks) Annapurna, Maurice Herzog (Lyons Press 1997) (a unanimous classic in the genre of mountaineering literature)  

Mountaineering Literature (Not for Voting) Two must reads

Annapurna: A Woman’s Place, Arlene Blum (Sierra Club 1998) (1978 ascent of Annapurna by a female team) Annapurna South Face, Chris Bonnington (Thunder’s Mouth Press 2001) (an account of this 1970 pioneering ascent)  

Book -NOT FOR VOTING 1970 pioneering climb

Ascent: The Spiritual and Physical Quest of Legendary Mountaineer Willi Unsoeld, Laurence Leamer (Harper Perenial 1999) (a biography of this famed, though greatly flawed, American mountaineer, told from a very sympathetic point of view)  

Book -NOT FOR VOTING First American woman on Everest

Below Another Sky: A Mountain Adventure in Search of a Lost Father, Rick Ridgeway (Owl Books 2002) (the famous climber author travels with the daughter of a friend killed in an avalanche 20 years earlier on a mountain in China in search of the place where the friend died) Beyond the Limits: A Woman's Triumph on Everest, Stacy Allison with Peter Carlin (Hara Publishing Group 1999) (the author tells how she became a serious climber and recounts the 1988 expedition where she became the first American woman to summit Everest; once asked what she would do if forced to choose between husband and Everest, she replied she "would head for the hills")  

Breaking Point by G. Randall Hard to find Alaskan epic

Beyond the Mountain, Steve House (Patagonia Books 2009)(this virtual living legend writes about his climbing adventures on some of the world's most difficult mountains)  

Brotherhood of the Rope--NOT FOR VOTING C. Houston: Mountaineering legend and medical pioneer

Boundless Horizons: The Autobiography of Chris Bonington, Chris Bonington (Mountaineers Books 2000) (this inclusive volume contains the complete text of the author's three autobiographies, I Chose to Climb, The Next Horizon and The Everest Years) Breaking Point: Challenge on Alaska's Mt. Hunter, Glenn Randall (Chockstone Press 1984)(three climbers attempting a dicey route up Mt. Hunter generate themselves a true epic; this book is not easy to come by especially at a moderate price, but it is well worth seeking)  

Book-NOT FOR VOTING Climbing Biography

Brotherhood of the Rope: The Biography of Charles Houston, Bernadette McDonald (Mountaineers Books, 2007) (Houston first gained fame from a failure, the unsuccessful 1953 American expedition to K2, but feted for his extraordinary leadership on that expedition. The biography is based on interviews with Houston and on his letters and journals) 

Book - NOT FOR VOTING Absolutely gripping stories

Climb: Stories of Survival from Rock, Snow and Ice, Clint Willis, ed. (Thunder's Mouth Press 2000) (excellent writing is embodied in this anthology of exciting mountaineering stories) Climbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World, Lynn Hill (W.W. Norton & Co. 2002) (the author's climbing biography concluding with an account of her 1994 first free ascent of El Capitan's the Nose route --3,000 vertical feet in under 23 hours)  

Everest Shades of Beck Weathers 10 years previous!

Climbing High, Lene Gammelgaard (Perrenial 2000) (first Scandinavian woman to summit Everest on May 10, 1996 as part of Scott Fisher’s climbing team and her account of the descent where 8 of her team members perished) Conquistadors of the Useless, Lionel Terray (The Mountaineers 2001) (climbing autobiography) Danger Stalks the Land: Alaskan Tales of Death and Survival, Larry Kaniut (St. Martin’s Griffin 1999) (one of the absolute best collections of gripping stories about animal attacks, avalanches, and the unprepared or unlucky sojourner to the Alaskan wilderness)  

Book for List -NOT FOR VOTING Unsoeld was sui generis

Eiger Dreams, Jon Krakauer (Anchor Books 1990) (a collection of the author’s essays on climbers and climbing) Dark Summit::The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season, Nick Heil (Henry Holt & Co. 2008) (an account and critique of the 2006 Everest climbing season when 11 climbers lost their lives and a 12th, Lincoln Hall, was left for dead but survived an exposed night at 28,200')  

Book for List -NOT FOR VOTING If you have ever read The Hall of the Mountain King or White Winds, you must read this one

Dead Lucky: Life After Death on Mount Everest, Lincoln Hall (Penguin Group 2008) (story of May 2006 rescue of Australian climber Hall near the summit where he had been left for dead by members of his expedition) 

Detectives on Everest: The 2001 Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition Jochen Hemmleb, Eric Simonsson and Dave Hahn (The Mountaineers Books 2002)(This team found Mallory's body in 1999 and returned in 2001 to search for Irvine, unsuccessfully)
Mountaineering Books (Not For Voting) Account of the 1999 Discovery of George Mallory's Body
Eiger: Wall of Death, Arthur Roth (2000 Adventure Press) (a history of the ascents and fatalities on the Eiger's north wall up to 1979 focusing on the climbs that established new routes) Epic: Stories of Survival from the World's Highest Peaks, Clint Willis, ed. (Thunder's Mouth Press 1997) (a great collection of mountaineering stories combining epic adventures and good writing) Everest: Alone at the Summit, Stephen Venables (Thunder Mouth Press 2000) (account of 1988 ascent of Everest’s Kangshung Face) Everest: The West Ridge, Thomas Hornbein (Mountaineers Press 1998) (ascent of the west ridge by Americans Hornbein and Unsoeld in 1963) Facing the Extreme, Ruth Kocour and Michael Hodgson (St. Martin’s Paperbacks 1999)(an account of climbers surviving the most violent weather in Denali’s history) Fatal Mountaineer, Robert Roper (St. Martin’s Griffin 2003) (legendary American mountaineer Willi Unsoeld’s epic climbs)  
Book -NOT FOR VOTING Story of a tortured soul
Five Miles High, Robert H. Bates and Charles S. Houston, M.D. (The Lyons Press 2000) (exciting account of the 1938 American expedition to scout routes on K2; the team got to nearly 27,000 feet and was able to conclude that the Abruzzi Ridge would be a feasible route) Forever on the Mountain, James M. Tabor (W.W. Norton & Co. 2007)(excellent investigative report into the who, what and why of one of the greatest tragedies in North American mountaineering, the 1967 loss of 7 members of a 12-member Denali expedition)  
Hermann  Buhl First atop Nanga Parbat
Free Spirit: A Climber’s Life, Reinhold Messner (The Mountaineers 1999)  
High Crimes: The Fate of Everest Caveat Emptor
Ghosts of Everest: The Search for Mallory and Irvine, Jochen Hemmleb, Larry A. Johnson and Eric S. Simonson (The Mountaineers Books 1999) (an account of the finding of George Mallory's body in May 1999 by the Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition, the forensic analysis of the physical evidence found, and a reconstruction of the 1924 climb; full of great photographs) Good Morning Midnight: Life and Death in the Wild, Chip Brown (Riverhead Books 2003) (story of climber, outdoorsman, and tortured soul, Guy Waterman, who committed suicide by exposure in the New Hampshire Mountains) 
Mountaineering Books (Not for Voting) Outstanding Anthologies
Hermann Buhl:Climbing Without Compromise, Reinhold Messner, Horst Hofler (Mountaineers Books 2000) (a portrait of this loner, rough-edged but great climber culled in part from his climbing journals) Hidden Mountains: Survival and Reckoning After A Climb Gone Wrong Michael Wejchert (Harper Collins 2023) (two couples undertake an exploratory climb in the little known Hidden Mountains range of Alaska; one of the climbers suffers a fall which leaves him paralyzed and much of the book focuses on the impact of the accident on the climbers) 
Mt. Hood 2006 A wife' experience as Mt. Hood took her husband
High: Stories of Survival from Everest and K2, Clint Willis, ed. (Balliett & Fitzgerald Inc./Thunder's Mouth Press 1999) (stories about climbing on the world's two highest mountains covering the years 1933-1996)  
In the Zone: Epic Survival Stories from the Mountaineering World--NOT FOR VOTING Three great epics rich in detail
High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed, Michael Kodas (Hyperion 2008) (the author's experiences attempting Everest in 2004 provide the bases for this picture of the thieves, con men and unscrupulous "guides" that prey on unsuspecting climbers often with deadly consequences)  
Books on K2 (Not for Voting) Books on "the Savage Mountain"
High and Wild: Essays and Photographs on Wilderness Adventures, Galen Rowell (Spotted Dog Press 2002) (vignettes of the author's climbing and skiing adventures combined with plentiful examples of his superb photography) High Exposure, David Breashears (Simon & Schuster 2000) (filmmaker and climber gives his perspective on climbing)  Holding Fast:The Untold Story of the Mt. Hood Tragedy, Karen James (Mountaineers Books 2008) (the wife of a climber who perished on Mt. Hood in 2006 tells how the tragedy unfolded including her interaction with the rescue command post) In the Shadow of Denali, Jonathan Waterman (Lyons Press 1998) (captivating stories of climbing on Denali and neighboring mountains)  
Book -NOT FOR VOTING Costly Everest ascent
In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods, Galen Rowell (Sierra Club Books 1986) (the author's first hand account of a 1975 attempt on K2 by a 9-member American team attempt led by the Whittakers) In the Zone:Epic Survival Stories from the Mounaineering World, Peter Potterfield (The Mountaineers 1996) (Journalist and climber Potterfield offers three stories of incredible survival in the mountain environment: (1) a disastrous episode on Alaska’s Mt. Foraker where a climber lost his partner in an avalanche and received grievous injuries himself but survived a 5-day harrowing descent ; (2)Scott Fischer’s and Ed Viesturs’ successful 1992 ascent of K2’s Abruzzi Ridge after a 52-day ordeal battling brutal weather and injuries; and (3)the author’s own epic on Chimney Rock in the North Cascades where he fell from a rock face breaking several bones and becoming stranded on a narrow ledge for 30 hours before a dramatic rescue was effected).  
Mountaineering Literature (Not for Voting) (L) Himalayan tragedy and (R) a Denali winter epic
Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (Anchor Press 1999) (an account of the May 1996 tragedy where 12 climbers on two commercial teams perished on Everest) Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer (Doubleday 1996) (a neophyte settles into the Alaskan wilderness and perishes) K2:Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain, Ed Viesturs with David Roberts (Broadway Books 2009) (Viesturs chronicles and analyzes the 6 most dramatic seasons on K2, in addition to his own ascent in 1992)  
Book -NOT FOR VOTING Writing that puts you right in the scene
K2:The 1939 Tragedy, Andrew J. Kaufman and William Lowell Putnam (Mountaineers Books 1993) (though the writing is not top-notch, this is nevertheless an absorbing account of the disastrous 1939 expedition where 4 of a 6-man team perished; by all accounts most of the team was not experienced enough to be on this mountain)  
Book-NOT FOR VOTING A Buhl autobiography
K2-The Savage Mountain, Charles Houston and Robert Bates (Lyons Press 2000)(dramatic story of the unsuccessful 1953 American expedition to K2) K2, Triumph and Tragedy, Jim Curran (Houghton Mifflin 1989) (the author was on the mountain the summer of 1989 when 13 climbers lost their lives)
K2:The Story of the Savage Mountain, Jim Curran (The Mountaineers Books 1995) (a history of the ascents, from the earliest explorations on, including the 1986 tragedy, and more recent ascents) Kiss or Kill – Confessions of a Serial Climber, Mark Twight (The Mountaineers Books 2001) (uninhibited writings by this “extreme” alpinist) Last Season, Eric Blehm (Harper Collins 2006) (the life and death of a back-country ranger in the Sierra Nevada) Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest, Beck Weathers (Villard Books 2000) (this pathologist on Rob Hall’s commercial Everest team was left for dead after the killer blizzard of May 10, 1996 hit; after 18 hours in subzero weather at 26,000 feet, he awoke from a hypothermic coma and miraculously made it back to camp)  
Book-NOT FOR VOTING Danger in the New Hampshire Mtns.
Lou Whitaker: Memoirs of a Mountain Guide, Lou Whitaker (The Mountaineers 1994)

The List- M-Z

Minus 148º: First Winter Ascent of Mt. McKinley, Art Davidson (The Mountaineers 1999)(one team member was killed in a crevasse fall early on the route and things went downhill from there; totally gripping account)  
No Way Down 11 climbers perish on K2, 8.2.08
Missing in the Minarets: The Search for Walter A. Starr, Jr., William Alsup (Yosemite Association 2005) (captivating narrative of Starr’s mysterious disappearance in the Minaret region of the Sierra Nevada in 1933 and the efforts to find him) Mixed Emotions: Mountaineering Writings of Greg Child, Greg Child (The Mountaineers 1993)(with writing skills equal to his mountaineering skills, the author recounts his adrenaline-filled ascents of big peaks in the company of other great mountaineers)  
Book-NOT FOR VOTING A great read
Moments of Doubt: And Other Mountaineering Writings, David Roberts (The Mountaineers 1997) (wonderful essays on the author's own climbs and adventures, profiles of other climbers and adventurers such as Messner and Roskelley, and some meditative essays on the meaning of "our antics in the outdoors") Nandi Devi: The Tragic Expedition, John Roskelley (The Mountaineers Books 2000) (gripping and emotional story of the 1976 expedition where Willi Unsoeld’s daughter, Devi --named after the mountain-- lost her life) Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage: The Lonely Challenge, Hermann Buhl (Mountaineers Books 1998) (autobiography including account of his solo, unaided climb of Nanga Parbat)  
Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite-NOT FOR VOTING Nearly 900 fatalities
No Shortcuts to the Top, Ed Viesturs (Broadway Books, 2006) (climbing all fourteen 8,000 meter peaks without supplemental oxygen) No Way Down: Life and Death on K2 Graham Bowley (Harper Collins 2010)(chronicle by a non-climber of the tragic events of August 2, 2008, when 11 climbers lost their lives on K2) Not Without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire, Nicholas Howe (Appalachian Mountain Club 2000)  
Book-NOT FOR VOTING A superb story about disrespect for the mountain
Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite, Michael P. Ghiglier and Charles R. Farabee, Jr. (Puma Press 2007) (This volume is an account of the nearly 900 fatalities in Yosemite’s 156 years of recorded history. The chapters are divided into major categories of mishaps including rock climbing accidents, drownings, falls from waterfalls, and hiking and scrambling fatalities) 
Boys of Everest -NOT FOR VOTING Expeditions from the Alps to Everest
On the Ridge between Life and Death: A Climbing Life Reexamined, David Roberts (Simon & Schuster 2005) (dramatic story-telling by someone who had been involved in 3 mountaineering fatalities by the age of 22)  
Book-NOT FOR VOTING An amazing story
One Mountain Thousand Summits:The Untold Story of Tragedy and True Heroism on K2 Freddie Wilkinson (New American Library 2010) (the climber author recounts, minute by minute, the events of August 2, 2008, when 11 climbers lost their lives on K2) Postcards from the Ledge: Collected Mountaineering Writings of Greg Child, Greg Child (The Mountaineers 2000) (short stories about the author's memorable mountaineering experiences with prose combining humor and sensitivity)  
Book- NOT FOR VOTING 1980 Everest solo
K2 Book-NOT FOR VOTING The 1986 K2 tragedy
Scrambles Amongst the Alps, Edward Whymper (Dover Publications 1996) (the author is famous for his first ascent of the Matterhorn) Shattered Air: A True Account of Catastrophe and Courage on Yosemite's Half Dome, Bob Madgic (Burford Books 2005) (events of July 27, 1985 when 5 hikers climbed Half Dome in the face of a storm; 2 died and the other 3 were seriously wounded by two lightening strikes)  
Book-NOT FOR VOTING Thrills of S&R
Starlight and Storm, Gaston Rebuffat (Modern Library 1999) (this French mountaineer climbed the hardest north faces in the Alps) Summit Fever, Andrew Greig (The Mountaineers 1997) (the poet author's account of becoming part of an expedition to climb the Mustagh Tower in the Karakoram Himalayas with no climbing experience whatsoever) Surviving Denali: A Study of Accidents on Mount McKinley 1903-1990, Jonathan Waterman (The AAC Press, 2d ed. revised 1991) (covers accidents involving climbing falls, crevasse falls, avalanches, frostbite and pulmonary and cerebral edema) Tears in the Wind: Triumph and Tragedy on America's Highest Peak Larry Semento (2016) (an account of a guided expedition on the West Buttress route of Denali and the fatal fall of an assistant guide) The Ascent of Denali, Hudson Stuck (Stackpole Books 2003) (narrative of the first climbing expedition to summit Denali in 1913 recounted by the author and expedition leader) The Beckoning Silence, Joe Simpson (The Mountaineers Books 2003) (British climber and author of Touching The Void, Simpson recounts climbing adventures around the world including an account of his attempt on the north face of the Eiger) The Boys of Everest: Chris Bonington and the Tragedy of Climbing's Greatest Generation, Clint Willis (Carroll and Graf Publishers 2006) (a narrative of British mountaineering history between 1958 and 1985 with Bonington as the central character; some of the "boys" include Boardman, Haston, Tasker and Whillans)  
Book -NOT FOR VOTING Inspirational
The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest, Anatoli Boukreev and G. Weston DeWalt (St. Martin’s Paperbacks 1997) (Boukreev defends his role as a guide in the May 1996 Everest tragedy against criticisms leveled at him in Krakauer’s account Into Thin Air) The Climb Up to Hell, Jack Olsen (St. Martin’s Paperbacks 2000) (a gripping account of a 1957 rescue effort on the north wall of the Eiger that received world-wide attention)  
Book -NOT FOR VOTING Narratives by the great Italian mountaineer
The Crystal Horizon, Reinhold Messner (The Mountaineers 1998) (an account of the author's 1980 solo ascent of Everest without oxygen)  
Don Whillans Quintessential blue collar mountaineer
The Endless Knot:K2, Mountain of Dreams and Destiny, Kurt Diemberger (The Mountaineers Books 1991) (impassioned account of a great climbing career and of the tragedy that took 13 lives on K2 in 1986)  
Mountaineering Books (Not for Voting) Avalanches
The Falling Season: Inside the Life and Death Drama of Aspen's Mountain Rescue Team, Hal Clifford (The Mountaineers 2000) (the author became a member of Aspen's mountain rescue team to write these thrilling accounts of rescues in and around Aspen, Colorado)  
Book-NOT FOR VOTING Engrossing
The Hall of the Mountain King: The True Story of a Tragic Climb, Howard H. Snyder (Scribner 1973) (the author's account of the 1967 Denali expedition where 7 climbers of a larger team that Synder's 3-man team was forced to join perished in a storm; the leader of the larger team, Joe Wilcox, later wrote his own account of the expedition, White Winds, partly in rebuttal to Synder's book; both works deserve a reading) The Hill: A True Story of Tragedy, Recovery, and Redemption on North America's Highest Peak , Ed Hommer (Rodale 2001) (after losing his lower legs in a plane crash on Denali in 1981, the author came back to climb the mountain 18 years later)  
We Aspired-NOT FOR VOTING Climbing in Grand Teton National Park
The Impossible Climb:Alex Honnold, El Capitan, and the Climbing Life, Mark Synnott (Dutton 2018)(a brief biography of Alex Honnold and an account of the training for and free solo of El Capitan)
The Last Step: The American Ascent of K2, Rick Ridgeway (The Mountaineers 1999) (an account of the first successful American ascent of K2 in 1978) The Lost Explorer: Finding Mallory on Mount Everest, Conrad Anker and David Roberts (Simon & Schuster 1999) (Roberts presents a biography of George Mallory while Anker provides a detailed account of the 1999 discovery of Mallory's body including Anker's attempt to replicate a key part of Mallory's 1924 climb) The Mountain of My Fear and Deborah: A Wilderness Narrative, David Roberts (Mountaineers Press 1991) (the author wrote these two accounts of adventures in the Alaskan mountains while in his 20’s) The Mountains of My Life, Walter Bonatti (Modern Library 2001) (includes a defense of his controversial role in the first ascent of K2)
Mountaineering Books (Not for Voting) Two works whose subject is Alaskan mountaineering
The Other Side of Everest, Matt Dickinson (Three Rivers Press 1999)(1996 ascent of north face) The Rescue Season, Bob Drury (Simon & Schuster 2001) (the story of the low profile U.S. Air Force parajumpers squadron and its heroic rescue work in the mountains of Alaska) The Villan: a Portrait of Don Whillans, James Perrin (Mountaineers Books 2005) (excellent account of the character and career of this British climbing icon)
Mountaineering Books-Not for Voting Yearly AAC reports
The White Death: Tragedy and Heroism in an Avalanche Zone, McKay Jenkins (Random House 2000) (set against the 1969 tragedy where 5 young climbers perished by avalanche on the north face of Mt. Cleveland in Glacier National Park, and the efforts to find their bodies, the author presents a fascinating natural history of avalanches)
Mountaineering Books-Not for Voting This comprehensive work is an invaluable resource
The White Spider: The Classic Account of the Ascent of the Eiger, Heinrich Harrer (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam 1998) (legendary ascent of the North Face of the Swiss Eiger) The Third Pole: Mystery, Obsession, and Death on Mount Everest, Mark Synnott (Dutton 2021) (the author's account of his search for Sandy Irvine of the 1924 Mallory Expedition during the 2019 season in which 11 climbers perished on the mountain)Thin Air: Encounters in the Himalayas, Greg Child (Mountaineers 1998) (superb writing about climbing the world's most perilous mountains from Gasherbrum IV to K2)
Mountaineering Books  -Not for Voting An exceptional publication
This Game of Ghosts, Joe Simpson (The Mountaineers 1995) (memoirs of a climbing life by the author of Touching the Void) Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations...One School at a Time, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin (Viking 2006) (the incredible account of how Mortenson went from a failed attempt on K2 to building schools in the breeding grounds of the Taliban as his own brand of the war on terror)
Tibet's Secret Mountain:The Triumph of Sepu Kangri, Chris Bennington and Charles Clarke (London:Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1999) (the story of the authors' expeditions to an unclimbed mountain in Tibet, 22,802 foot Sepu Kangri) To the Top of Denali, Bill Sherwonit (Alaska Northwest Books 1990) (stories of mountaineering on Denali including accounts of expeditions in the early 1900’s)  
Book -NOT FOR VOTING Unmitigated fascinating read
Touching the Void, Joe Simpson (Vintage 1997)(a thrilling read of the author’s survival in the Andes after a climbing accident) Ultimate High: My Everest Odyssey, Goran Kropp (Discovery Books 1997) (an account of bicycling from Sweden to Everest and summiting the mountain without supplemental oxygen) We Aspired: The Last Innocent Americans, Pete Sinclair (Utah State University Press 1993) (the author recounts his life as a climber and ranger in Grand Teton National Park between 1959 and 1970) White Winds: America's Most Tragic Mountaineering Expedition, Joe Wilcox (Hwong Publishing Co. 1981) (in the summer of 1967, the author led a 12-man expedition to climb Denali; caught in a hellish storm near the summit, 7 of the team perished; this book is partly in rebuttal to the first written account of this tragedy, The Hall of the Mountain King, by Howard Snyder)  
Book-NOT FOR VOTING Terrific read even if you don't plan to go there

Selected Other Essential Reading

Accidents in North American Mountaineering, Issue 59,The American Alpine Club (The American Alpine Club, Inc. 2006) (yearly published accounts and analyses of reported mountaineering accidents, including rock climbing, in the previous year within the United States and Canada)  
Book-NOT FOR VOTING If anything, better than Deep Survival
Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, 6th Ed., Don Graydon and Kurt Hanson, eds. (The Mountaineers 1998) (soup to nuts; touches on the A to Z's of mountaineering, climbing and wilderness travel)  
Book-NOT FOR VOTING A little technical but very informative
The American Alpine Journal:The World's Most Significant Climbs, Issue 80, The American Alpine Club (The American Alpine Club 2006) (published yearly, this multi-hundred paged journal includes feature reports on significant climbs, briefer reports on climbs and expeditions world-wide, and reviews of recently published mountaineering literature)  
Book-NOT FOR VOTING How to optimise the body's capabilities

Specialized Literature

Book-NOT FOR VOTING Absorbing case studies
Book-NOT FOR VOTING Terrific read even if you don't plan to go there
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, Laurence Gonzales (W.W. Norton & Company 2003) (gripping stories of disaster and survival in the context of the science and art of how humans deal with survival situations) Extreme Alpinism:Climbing Light, Fast & High, Mark F. Twight (The Mountaineers 1999)(the gist of the concept is climbing the hardest routes with the least gear and most speed; the author covers techniques, mental preparedness,cardio training, nutrition, equipment and clothing) Last Breath: Cautionary Tales from the Limits of Human Endurance, Peter Stark (Ballantine Books 2001) (what happens to the body and mind in the last moments of life when falling, freezing to death, drowning and other manner of death while engaged in risky outdoor activities)  
Book-NOT FOR VOTING If anything, better than Deep Survival
Book-NOT FOR VOTING A little technical but very informative
Life at the Extremes: The Science of Survival, Frances Ashcroft (University of California 2000) (this volume by an Oxford physiology professor explains the physiological response of the human body to extreme environments (altitude, heat, cold, underwater, outer space) and explores the limits of human survival) Survival of the Fittest: Understanding Health and Peak Physical Performance, Mike Stroud (Vintage 1999) (a very readable exploration of aspects of human physical performance from a scientific and evolutionary perspective and informed by the author's own experiences as a polar explorer and ultra endurance athlete)  
Book-NOT FOR VOTING How to optimise the body's capabilities
Surviving the Extremes: A Doctor's Journey to the Limits of Human Endurance, Kenneth Kammler, M.D. (St. Martin's Press 2004) (medical case studies based upon the author's practice of medicine in the most hostile environments on earth including high altitude, desert, high seas, jungle and underwater environments)  
Book-NOT FOR VOTING Absorbing case studies

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

Viewing: 1-18 of 18

MtnGuide - Jan 6, 2007 2:53 am - Hasn't voted


"Mountain of My Fear," by David Roberts, on climbing Mt. Debra and Mt. Hess in The Alaska Range, 1970s.

Augie Medina

Augie Medina - Jan 6, 2007 4:37 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Addition:

It's there. The title on my volume was "The Mountain of My Fear" so it's in my "T's."


eza - Sep 10, 2007 10:48 am - Voted 10/10

Another suggestion

"The Endless Knot", by Kurt Diemberger. About the tragedy on K2 in 1996. Couldn't put it down...

Augie Medina

Augie Medina - Sep 11, 2007 5:45 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Another suggestion

Muchisimas gracias. I will read it and add it to the list. It sounds great. Thanks for your input.

Augie Medina

Augie Medina - Dec 12, 2007 2:03 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Another suggestion

I have now read and added "The Endless Knot." Definitely a great contribution to the K2 literature.

Jack - Sep 14, 2014 3:23 am - Hasn't voted

The Rock Climbers by Jack Kantorczyk

The Rock Climbers is about a dangerous expedition as seen through the author’s eyes. That expedition was started in July, 1974 to Pirin Mountains located in southern Bulgaria, to prepare young people for the difficult tasks in their later years, into climbing the highest mountains in the world. As those people might operate later in the stressful climbing conditions they, need to be check their mental usefulness to stay for a long time in the mountain environment during dangerous climbing. The author, in a very interesting way, described the vagaries of natures and difficult crisis situations they had to defeat as well, he described in details about his personal experience during expedition and accompanying him, were his partners. Even the climbing of vertical walls is extremely serious business, and at the moment of climbing, the border between life and death is often very thin, still wins passion, willingness to compete, check themselves and their own possibilities. Undoubtedly, the book “The Rock Climbers,” is worthy of the attention not only people who are interested of mountains and the climbing thrill, but everyone else who likes story associate with mystery and adrenalin feeling.

Augie Medina

Augie Medina - Sep 16, 2014 5:56 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: The Rock Climbers by Jack Kantorczyk

Thank for that Jack. I'd like to check it out; sounds most fascinating? When was it published?

Augie Medina

Augie Medina - Nov 28, 2014 10:14 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: The Rock Climbers by Jack Kantorczyk

Jack--I'm reading it right now.


hans.schenk - Oct 19, 2014 7:00 pm - Voted 10/10


Curran, Jim. K2: The Story of the Savage Mountain. Seattle: The Mountaineers, 1995. In this book, Curran traces the history of primary ascents and attempted ascents on the Mountain of Mountains. He includes the 1986 disaster. In my opinion, it does for K2 what Harrer’s book, The White Spider, does for the Eiger Nordwand.

Augie Medina

Augie Medina - Oct 20, 2014 5:05 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Addition

Hans, I missed this one. I will add it. Thanks for the input.

Augie Medina

Augie Medina - Dec 9, 2014 2:56 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Addition



hans.schenk - Nov 7, 2014 6:13 pm - Voted 10/10

Yet some more potential additions...

I just finished these two as well... Bonington, Chris, and Charles Clarke. Tibet’s Secret Mountain: The Triumph of Sepu Kangri. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999. Bonington and Clarke see an unknown and unclimbed mountain in Tibet from an airplane. With their curiosity piqued, they take several expeditions to reconnoiter Sepu Kangri and attempt the summit. The climbing narrative is supplemented by details of their trekking and cultural adventures in Tibet. Hemmleb, Jochen, and Eric R. Simonson. Detectives on Everest: The 2001 Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books, 2002. In 1999 this team found the body of Mallory and wrote about it in Ghosts of Everest. In 2001 they returned to search for Irvine.

Augie Medina

Augie Medina - Nov 28, 2014 10:13 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Yet some more potential additions...

Thank you very much Hans. When I get some time, I will add these. Appreciate the input.

Augie Medina

Augie Medina - Dec 9, 2014 2:57 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Yet some more potential additions...

Both added.

Jarek - Dec 18, 2016 2:42 pm - Hasn't voted

Challenge the vertical by Jerzy Kukuczka

I recommend "Challenge the vertical" (previously "My Vertical World" ) written by in my opinion one of the greatest mountaineer in the history - Jerzy Kukuczka. It’s the amazing story of a mountaineer who managed to do great climbs in the Himalaya despite the isolation and poverty of their Soviet-dominated homeland. The reader observes Kukuczka's way to climb on all 14 eight-thousanders, not avoiding his emotional attitude to the mountains, his climbing partners. As I understand his family decided to reedit this publication so it is again available: :)

Augie Medina

Augie Medina - Feb 4, 2017 1:39 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Challenge the vertical by Jerzy Kukuczka

Thank you for that recommendation. I'll add it when I get a chance.


hans.schenk - Sep 22, 2017 11:29 am - Voted 10/10

Snow in the Kingdom

Here's another good one I just finished: Webster, Edward R. Snow in the Kingdom: My Storm Years on Everest. Eldorado Springs: Mountain Imagery, 2000. This account covers Webster’s four attempts to summit Mount Everest. The most notable being the small 4-man assault on the Kangshung Face up the Neverrest Buttress in 1988. This is the same ascent detailed by Stephen Venables in Everest: Alone at the Summit. Webster’s straight-forward, winsome, and honest book ropes you in, and is chock full of his excellent full-color photography. (puns intended - Webster is a rock-climber)


hans.schenk - Feb 16, 2019 5:44 pm - Voted 10/10

Only in English?

Are you open to Mountaineering books in other languages besides English or that have not been translated into English?

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