A Few Good Books on Mountaineering

Knowing about some good books on mountaineering never hurt amateur mountaineers. Reading about the experiences of veterans gives an idea as to what the mountaineering enthusiasts are up against.

Mountaineering basics can be well understood while learning the ropes for amateurs. However, at the same time, just as they say that one who wants to write should read a lot, those who want to conquer the mountains should read about good books on mountain climbing! One cannot possibly be climbing all the peaks and would not know the uncertainties attached with climbing a particular peak. So reading about what veterans have done, how they tackled the contingencies and prepared for their ascents and the whole treasure trove of experiences they have had, can add to our understanding. Therefore we bring to you some of the greatest books on mountaineering, which are a must read for aspiring traditional mountaineers as well as alpinists.

Into Thin Air - By John Krakauer

John Krakauer’s Into Thin Air is an absolute humdinger of a book on an Everest Tragedy which happened in 1996. What was supposed to be an attempt to write an expose about increasing commercialization of climbing Mt. Everest, turned into a nightmare when the climbing group encounters a terrible storm. What follows is a thrilling account of heroism, rescue attempts and decisions of life and death. Opens your eyes to handling disasters on an Everest Summit.

The Freedom of the Hills - By Ronald C Eng

This one is a must have for all sorts of mountaineers and climbers, from seasoned to those who are just starting out. This is actually a text book for mountaineering and climbing written by over 40 experts in the field. Published first in 1960, this one is a regular in North America.

Touching the Void - By Joe Simpson

This one is not for the faint hearted guys! Joe Simpson’s tale of his survival is an incredulous read. The book chronicles the events of 1985, when Joe Simpson and Simon Yates made the first ascent of the west face of Siula Grande (6344m) in Peru. The climb was perilous and to top it all, Joe falls on a ridge and breaks his right leg. Simon then ropes Joe and lowers him down, rope length by rope length. But Joe falls over a cliff again and dangles in thin air. After holding on to the rope Simon lets go, dropping Simpson into a crevasse. Read the book to find out if Joe survived! He miraculously, though, did! This book won 1988 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature.

Annapurna – By Maurice Herzog

Another thriller when it comes to mountaineering literature and good books on mountain climbing. This one involves Maurice Herzog’s ascent to Annapurna mountain range, which was dotted with frost bites, almost no medical care and weather which had turned a white out. This book was first published in 1952. The lack of accurate maps was perhaps what led them to this terrible plight, which they eventually came out of, unscathed.

The Crystal Horizon – Reinhold Messner

A book by one of the greatest mountaineers of all time has to be one of the famous books on mountaineering, isn’t it? And this one does not let the enthusiasts down. Messner, the first to climb all fourteen eight-thousanders (peaks higher than 8,000m above sea level) recreates through words his experience of his solo ascent to Mt. Everest from Tibetan side, which is considered to be a near impossible feat. Get insights into the mind of this hard core alpinist through this fascinating 1982 book. For Messner, everything became hazy and insignificant when pitted against conquering unassailable peaks.

In the Zone – By Peter Potterfield

Peter Potterfield’s masterpiece is one of the best books on mountain climbing. The book involves an account of 3 individuals and a riveting portrayal of struggle and survival on mountaineering expeditions. Basically a trilogy, the book introduces novices to tales of averting deaths in the most dangerous of conditions on the most well known peaks in the world. The gripping and breathtaking stories come to us in the form of interviews of these mountaineering greats.

Over the Top - By Peter Potterfield

Edited by Peter Potterfield, Over the Top is a comic take on mountaineering expeditions. Unlike the earlier popular mountaineering books, which involved grim tales of survival and tragedy, this one explores the lighter side of mountaineering expeditions. It is technically a series of anthologies comprising trips gone wrong, unfortunate pratfalls and hilarious reflections and embarrassing events. A good read for new entrants in the field, it was published in 2002.

Well, this is just what they call in the mountaineering jargon, the base camp, when it comes to good books on mountaineering. There are many more, like Climbing Free: my Life in Vertical World by Lynn Hill, The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest by Anatoli Boukreev, Conquistadors of the Useless by Lionel Terray, The White Spider by Heinrich Harrer, Everest: The History of the Himalayan Giant, by Roberto Mantovani and many others. All of these even though written by different mountaineers at different times, have a single thread running through them- undying passion for climbing and the tenacity of the human mind to survive near death experiences.

Happy Reading!

By - Medha Godbole