Matt's Recommended Reading
for Basic Class students and climbers

If you're interested in learning more about mountaineering, with a focus on climbing in the Pacific Northwest, here's a list of a dozen books that I consider classics:

"Touching the Void" by Joe Simpson
A must read - an amazing story of survival and endurance. One of the two best books on human survival I've ever read (the other is "Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage" by Alfred Lansing)

"The Challenge of Rainier" by Dee Molenaar
A complete climbing history of Mount Rainier, with tons of info on various routes, accidents, interesting statistics...

"The Challenge of the North Cascades" by Fred Beckey
A true classic of northwest mountaineering. Highlights from Mr. Beckey's illustrious career.

"Climbing in North America" by Chris Jones
A very complete account of moutaineering in North America through the 1970's.

"The White Spider" by Heinrich Harrer
The history of the north face of the Eiger - a mountaineering classic.

"No Picnic on Mt. Kenya" by Felice Benuzzi
Benuzzi was a POW in World War II, and held in a prison camp close by Mt. Kenya. This is the story of how he fashioned his own climbing tools and escaped from prison to attempt to climb Mt. Kenya.

"A Short Walk in The Hindu Kush" by Eric Newby
Newby has written some fascinating books, all with dry British humor and understatement - this one covers an exploratory expedition to the Hindu Kush region of the Himalaya.

"Annapurna" by Maurice Herzog
The first 8000 meter peak climbed - another mountaineering classic.

"A Walk in the Sky" by Nicholas Clinch
The first ascent of Hidden Peak, the only 8000 meter peak to have a first ascent by an American expedition.

"Everest: The West Ridge" by Thomas Hornbein
It's hard to pick just one selection for Mt. Everest, but I think this is one of the best.

"Minus 148 Degrees" by Art Davidson
The story of the first winter ascent of Mt. McKinley/Denali.

"Deborah: A Wilderness Narrative" and "The Mountain of My Fear" by David Roberts
A different approach to mountaineering literature, and probably not for everyone, but I found this "two books in one volume" fascinating. They deal much more with the psychological aspect of climbing, rather than the technical side of things.


OK - so I can't really stop at just 12! Here's a brief list of other books I've really liked:

"The Boardman-Tasker Omnibus" - by Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker
The Boardman-Tasker award given for the best mountaineering literature each year is named after these two climbers. This volume includes "Savage Arena" and "Everest the Cruel Way" by Joe Tasker and "The Shining Mountain" and "Sacred Summits" by Peter Boardman.

"Heroic Climbs: A Celebration of World Mountaineering" edited by Chris Bonington
Coffee table book with beautiful climbing photographs and classic mountaineering stories from around the world.

"The Climb" by Anatoli Boukreev
The Russian guide's version of the incidents on Everest in 1996.

"Mixed Emotions" and "Postcards from the Ledge" by Greg Child
Quick and often amusing reads by a world class writer and climber.

"Everest: Mountain without Mercy" by Broughton Coburn
Yet another coverage of the 1996 Everest tragedy, but much more info on Everest and the making of the IMAX movie as well.

"Mountain Fever, Historic Conquests of Rainier" by Aubrey Haines
Another work covering the climbing history of Mt. Rainier.

"Downward Bound, A Mad Guide to Rock Climbing" by Warren Harding
A hilarious and irreverant look at the "Golden Age" of climbing in Yosemite

"Into Thin Air" and "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer
The first book is his coverage of the 1996 Everest tragedy, and the second has nothing to do with climbing at all, but is excellently researched and written. It also turned me on to the writings of Everett Ruess.

"The North Cascades" by Tom Miller
A beautiful book of black and white photographs, including the Ptarmigan Traverse. Long out of print, but worth looking for.

"In the Zone: Epic Survival Stories from the Mountaineering World" by Peter Potterfield
Great reports on four mountaineering accidents, including Potterfield's own on Chimney Rock in the Cascades.

"Snoqualmie Pass; From Indian Trail to Interstate" by Yvonne Prater
Not about climbing per se, but an excellent history of an area Cascade climbers visit frequently.

"Camp 4: Recollections of a Yosemite Rock Climber" by Steve Roper
A bit more serious companion to "Downward Bound".

"In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods" by Galen Rowell
An uncompromising look at the 1975 American expedition to K2 led by Lou and Jim Whittaker. Rowell chronicles not only the environmental difficulties encountered, but the severe personality conflicts as well.

"Borders of the Impossible" by Lionel Terray
One of the greatest mountaineers, and a great read - the original French version was titled "The Conquistadors of the Useless". Long out of print, and hard to find, but an excellent account of Terray's life, and his thoughts on the philosophy (and uselessness) of climbing.

"Fall of the Phantom Lord" by Andrew Todhunter
With Dan Osman's recent death this book probably had a greater impact on me than it otherwise would have.

"Hold the Heights" by Walt Unsworth
A bit dry, but the most comprehensive history of mountaineering I've found.

"Scrambles Amongst the Alps 1860-1869" by Edward Whymper
Includes the classic first ascent of the Matterhorn.

"Monte Cristo" by Philip Woodhouse
Again, not specifically about climbing, but a great history of an area Cascade climbers know well.


Have you read other mountaineering books you've really liked? Click on my name below to send me email with your recommendations to add to this list. I'm also interested in purchasing first editions of mountaineering books and guidebooks covering the Pacific Northwest - if you've got any you're interested in selling, drop me an email. Right now, I'm particularly interested in getting a copy of "Tieton River Rock" by Matt Christianson - any leads would be appreciated!

If you're having difficulty finding some of the out of print books, some resources I can recommend are

Other book lists:


Home | Send email to Matt Robertson | Last updated: April 2, 2001