Since I started climbing regularly I have been reading a lot of books about climbing and mountaineering. I have found them majorly inspirational and they are now some of my favourite reads!
Below is a list of books I would recommend for anyone getting into climbing or mountaineering, or just wanting to find out a little more about it. I’m sure this list will keep growing, but for now here are seven of my favourites.
Touching the Void
Touching the Void follows the story of Joe Simpson’s successful, but disastrous, ascent of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andres with partner Simon Yates, which nearly cost him his life. There is also a film with the same name depicting the whole adventure, which will have you on the edge of your seats, even if you have read the book beforehand. It’s an absolute classic!
Into Thin Air
This is the story of the disastrous Everest expedition in 1996 which resulted in many fatalities and a huge amount of criticism of the whole idea of taking clients up the world’s highest mountain. The book is an account written by Jon Krakauer, a journalist who was present on the expedition, but many people feel it is quite a biased view. Whether that is the case or not though, it is one of the best known stories in Everest’s history.
It was made into a Hollywood film in 2015, which also triggered a huge amount of criticism and controversy. Read my review of the film here.
The White Spider
This was actually the first ever climbing book I read, and clearly I enjoyed it if I got so hooked on them! It is a first-hand account of the first ascent of the North Face of the Eiger – one of the most deadly big wall climbs in mountaineering history.
Many strong climbers had attempted this climb at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, only to perish before they could completed. In 1936, Harrer was part of a team that managed to make the first ascent of this route, which has since then become a classic line that many mountaineers dream of accomplishing.
Being a German, Harrer methodically lists all of the disasters that preceded his attempt in his book. Every single one…
Life and Limb
This is probably one of the most inspirational books I have ever read, and one that will really get you out of any state of depression or self-doubt you may be suffering from, because what this man has overcome is simply astonishing.
In 1999, Jamie Andrew and his friend Jamie Fisher got caught in a bad snowstorm, having climbed the north face of Les Droites, in the Mont Blanc massif. The pair spent five days trapped at the top of the mountain, unable to escape, bitterly cold and out of supplies. Andrew got rescued in the end, but the consequences of the accident were disastrous…
Alone on the Wall: Alex Honnold and the Ultimate Limits of Adventure
By Alex Honnold and David Roberts
My most recent read, this is basically an auto/biographical book about one of the greatest rock climbers of our generation, Alex Honnold. The man who solos routes that I cannot even imagine climbing on top rope. Soloing means climbing without a rope, or any other kind of safety equipment. It’s an enthralling read, and a very honest insight into what goes on in that man’s head. I used to think he was mental, but I sort of don’t anymore.
9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes
This book is actually only really relevant for those that climb regularly, as it covers various pieces of practical advice for climbers on how to become better at your sport. But if you are a climber, it is a must read! I “borrowed” it from my brother, and he hasn’t had it back yet…. (Sorry!!)
This book made me completely rethink my approach to training, and now I start every indoor lead climbing session with at least 10 falls on lead, for example. I can already feel it boosting my confidence massively! And that’s only one useful piece of advice. I have been annoying all my climbing friends in recent weeks by telling them “What would Dave do?” when they suggest one climbing technique or another. Evidently, this book has affected me deeply.