8+ Inspiring Mountain Adventure Books you should read

When I was younger, storybooks kept me company and were my only option of seeing the world. Although now I am finally able to explore the globe and go on real adventures I once only was able to secretly plot in my head, I still drift towards books, because reading is the best way of escapism.

Growing up in the eighties was so much fun. I didn’t have many toys except for Rubik’s Cube. If I needed to get someplace, I had no option but to walk.  Our dial-up internet only arrived when I was 17 years old, took a very long time to start up and was only available at the school library at certain hours.

So, it was no surprise that I became a literature devotee. Snuggling up, reading a book and learning about the world was my addiction. From paperback and hardback to storybooks and encyclopedias, I read them all. I read pretty much everything we had at home, Aghata Christie and Edgar Allan Poe including before I took advantage of what we had in the school library.

And in the process, I learned that books are inspirational. Sometimes scary and sometimes sad. I learned that books are wisdom, passion, and they are the best decorative pieces too.

My curiosity in high mountain climbing and a desire to dig deeper into alpine expeditions from an armchair perspective goes way back in earnest to Seven Years in Tibet.

Ever since reading it, over the years my bookshelves became filled with mountaineering books telling the tales of courage, death, triumphs and friendships and they provided me with lots of information on choosing equipment, tying knots and planning mountain expeditions.

 

“The absolute simplicity. That’s what I love. When you’re climbing your mind is clear and free from all confusions. You have focus. And suddenly the light becomes sharper, the sounds are richer, and you’re filled with the deep, powerful presence of life. I’ve only felt that one other time.”

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“Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere.” – Mary Schmich

 

8+ Inspiring Mountain Climbing Books you should read

In this blog post, we like to showcase some of the best mountaineer books worth your time and money. Over the years we’ve read lots of books on this particular subject and enjoyed every single one immensely.

Pick any of the books, and you’ll be transported to a frozen world where dedicated mountaineers try to reach the top while being exposed to the harshest climates on earth. You’ll get a chance to read stories with emotional depth and epic tales of adventure.

 

#1. The White Spider, by Heinrich Harrer

The White Spider, written by an Austrian mountaineer tells a captivating story of the first successful ascent of the Eiger Nordwand and examines numerous other attempts, both successful and not, and makes for one fascinating read.

I have yet to see the immense vertical wall of the Eiger North Face, famous for extremely unpredictable weather conditions in person and that’s what made reading the book even more exciting.

One of the first book written by Heinrich Harrer I had a chance to read was Seven Years in Tibet and ever since then I have admired the author, his writing style and his incredibly inspiring climbing adventures.

In the book, the author writes about several attempts, particularly from 1935 up to 1962. I especially enjoyed his graphic description of what it’s like to accent over on rock, waterfall and ice and how informative Heinrich was of his own attempt on the Eiger wall.

“We had learned on the North Face of the Eiger that men are good and the earth on which we were born is good.”

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“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” – C.S. Lewis

 

#2. Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man’s Miraculous Survival,  by Joe Simpson

An award-winning book, Touching the Void follows Joe Simpson’s and his friends Simon Yates climbing adventures in Peruvian Andes and tells a fantastic story of survival and endurance.

The book behind the BAFTA award-winning film makes for a fantastic read to those interested in outdoors and mountaineering and anyone reading it will find a healthy dose of inspiration and motivation between its 224 pages.

Just like the rest of mountaineer books I’ve read so far, this one too is a mix of pain, joy, despair, tragedy and adventure.  Just when the climbers reached the top of a 21,000ft peak in the Andes, disaster struck.

“He had sat numb, repeatedly questioning why his own tumble had been held on the same piton just before the Japanese leader had fallen and ripped it out. A day later he was his normal self again: an experience absorbed, shelved in his memory, understood and accepted, and left at that.”

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“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn

 

#3. K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain, by Ed Viesturs, David Roberts

Edmund Viesturs is a high altitude mountaineer and the only American who has climbed all 14 of the world’s eight-thousander mountain peaks. His book about the world’s most challenging mountain K2 located in Karakoram Range of northern Pakistan is one of the best I’ve read.

One of the reasons why I picked up the book –  not only it describes Ed’s ascent of K2 in 1992 but also chronicles the history of several other attempts on the worlds deadliest Mountain.

“Any “story” can be told in dozens of different ways. For that very reason, I believe, every time you go back and reexamine an important chapter in your life, you learn something new about it.”

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“‘Classic’ – a book which people praise and don’t read.” – Mark Twain

 

#4. The Adventures of a Mountaineer, by Frank Smythe

The book jumped off the shelf at me when we visited Charlie Byrnes Bookshop in Galway. As I’ve never heard about Frank Smythe, I was eager to get my hands on this book that only cost 6 euros.

I didn’t start reading it right away and only picked up sometime in January. I was surprised to find out that the book was first published in 1940, is illustrated with seventeen beautiful photographs and tells many amazing mountain adventure tales, both in Europe and Himalaya.

Franks candid writing was unlike anything I’ve come across before, and it made for a terrific read. It’s certainly an old school, and I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in mountaineering.

In mountaineering, it is easy to climb many of the greatest peaks of the Alps with comparatively little experience when the weather is fine and the conditions safe; it’s when the weather is bad, and the conditions dangerous the lack of experience tells. Therefore, begin at the beginning with safe and easy expeditions under expert tuition and do not tackle the great peaks until the voice of experience urges that to do so is justifiable. 

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“I read a book one day and my whole life was changed.” – Orhan Pamuk

 

#5. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Everest Disaster, by John Krakauer

Krakauer’s controversial account on events that happened on Everest in May 1996 when two guided expeditions got caught up in a storm resulting in 8 deaths – the highest ever recorded in the climbing history – is intensely moving.

As an avid reader of climbing non-fiction, I love Krakauer and his books, he’s a damn good writer.  Into thin Air is splendidly written, and I was never bored reading it, Krauker was present during the climb and when the tragedy took place, making the story particularly compelling.

“It was titillating to brush up against the enigma of mortality, to steal a glimpse across its forbidden frontier. Climbing was a magnificent activity, I firmly believed, not in spite of the inherent perils, but precisely because of them.”

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“A good book is an event in my life.” – Stendhal

 

#6. The Mountain: my Time on Everest, by Ed Viesturs

Yet another fantastic non-fiction book that’s written by the living legend Ed Viesturs and his co-writer David Roberts. The Mountain takes a reader on the journey to the worlds tallest mountain Everest, providing insights on his own as well as on many other climbing expeditions.

The book is intensely interesting and offers a great overview of the history of Everest including Mallory and Irvine, Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s. Although I’ve read many times about the history of the Mountain, it was a good way to refresh my memory and in earnest – there can never be too many mentions about the successful first summit.

“The first time I tried to climb Mount Everest was in the spring of 1987. It was a very different mountain than from the swarmed-over scene it’s become today. By that spring, there had been only 209 successful ascents of the Mountain by 191 different climbers. A single person, the Sherpa Sungdare, had reached the summit as many as four times.”

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“Beware of the person of one book.” – Thomas Aquinas

 

#7. No Way Down:  Life and Death on K2, by Graham Bowley

Three weeks ago I finally picked up No Way Down and devoured it couple of days. One of the reasons why I was eager to get my hands on this book; among the Dutch, Italian, Norwegian and American climbers was also an Irish mounatineer from County Limeric  – Gerard McDonnell.

No Way Down is yet another gripping story and detailed account of  one of the biggest climbing disaters on K2 known as the Savage Mountain. The book is skilfully written by New York Times reporter Graham Bowley and the events happen on August 1st, 2008 when 31 climbers from various countries are endavouring to reach the summit of the second highest mountain on Earth.

It was interesting to read a book written by someone who wasn’t on the mountain during the time when disaster struck and 11 climbers died on the Hymalain mountain, located in Northern Pakistan, yet it does not detract from the story.  If you get a chance, read the book yourself, you wont be dissapointed.

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“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” – Garrison Keillor

 

#8. The Ascent of Everest, by John Hunt

Interested in Everest and those that have climbed the mountain over the years, I couldn’t wait to read this book; after all, it’s the greatest adventure story of all time written by the expedition leader. What makes the Ascent of Everest an amazing reading material – it documents one of the most well known accomplishments in the history of Himalayan mountaineering.

Reading John Hunt’s memoir of reaching the summit of Everest in late spring of 1953 with his very detailed descriptions gives an insight into climbers lives, ambitions, dissapitments and shows how primitive their equipment was.

The book is beautifully illustrated with many photographs, maps and also includes a chapter written by Sir Edmund Hillary who reached the summit along with the Sherpa Tenzing.

“These two factors, the altitude and the weather, tend separately and together to defeat the climber. The height weakens, slows him down; it forces him to spend days and nights in the course of his assault on the summit; the weather, besides adding to the demands on his energy and moral fortitude, conspires to deny him the time he needs to complete his mission.”

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“Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.” – Dr. Seuss

 

More incredible mountaineering books to read: 

  • Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, by Donnie Eichar
  • Blind Descent: Surviving Alone and Blind on Mount Everest, by Brian Dickinson
  • The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre, by Kelly Cordes
  • The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest, by Anatoli Boukreev
  • Annapurna: First Conquest of an 8000-meter Peak, by Maurice Herzog
  • Dark Summit, by Nick Heil

 

“One must always be careful of books, and what is inside them, For words have the power to change us.” Cassandra Clare

 

…    …    …    …    …    …    …    …     …    …    …    …    …    …    …    …    …    …    …    …    …    …

Now, over to you!

Do you like to read mountaineering books? What’s your favourite?

Let us know in the comments below!

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Our Crossings follows the daily adventures of Latvian expats living in Sligo as they surf and explore the world

53 thoughts on “8+ Inspiring Mountain Adventure Books you should read

    1. Mountaineering involves minimal summit glory, but the way to the top and actual climbing, while learning the art of patience, makes for such a fantastic read. I picked up my first mountaineering book without much thought and got hooked up on it. It’s incredible what humans can achieve once they set their mind to it. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Inspiring! I used to climb but never at this level 😉 Clouds on both sides by Julie Tullis is a good read; also 3 cups of tea, the story of what happened to a man when he got lost on K2. Happy reading!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much! I’ve been way too caught up in COVID-19 everything lately and found that reading mountaineering books are a great way to cure cabin fever and get my mind off the craziness of the situation we are living in. Three cups of tea sound like a very interesting book to read. Thanks for your suggestions and have a good day. Aiva

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      1. I totally agree that reading is a good way of ‘switching off’ from the crazyness and stopping me from reaching for my phone too!! Thanks for blogging..reading your posts helps too 😉

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  2. I haven’t read a lot of books on mountaineering. The closest I came to the genre was Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer and that just made the hair at the back of my neck stand. It’s so chilling to think of people mastering the scariest peaks in the world. Will definitely try reading one of these soon!

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    1. Hi, Arshia! Mountaineers going for the worlds highest peaks are a different breed of people; in order to succeed you must be exceedingly driven, but if you’re too driven you’re likely to die. I love mountains and books about them, but because of my fear of fights wouldn’t be able to go on a proper climbing adventure. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good post. While I like hiking in the mountains, I have never once entertained the thought of being a climber. Now, at my age, it is best to live vicariously through other people’s exploits. Less chance of falling that way. Thanks for sharing and stay well. Allan

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    1. Hi, Allan! I love hiking and being in the mountains too, but would never be able to go climb a proper one where falling ice, snow-avalanches and falls into crevasses would be obstacles to deal with. I’m too clumsy, and that’s why it’s much safer for me to stick with the mountaineering books. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for compiling this list ! It’s wonderful ! I took note of it ! Here is another book, I read it and I think it’s interesting , “Doctor on Everest “ by Kamler. I took a picture of the cover to send it here , but I don’t think I can.

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    1. I’ve never read a book from a doctors point of view, and it would be amazing to read one, especially as this one describes what life was like on Everest during the infamous 1996 disaster. I think it’s amazing what it takes for the human body and mind to function at high altitudes. Thanks so much for your recommendations and have a lovely day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! I have to pass on recommending Krakauer. I didn’t enjoy his version of events. But I’ll add two to your list: Climbing High by Lene Gammelgaard, and Freedom Climbers by Bernadette McDonald.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Freedom Climbers by Bernadette McDonald is a book I wanted to read for a very long time, thanks for reminding me. Recently I stumbled upon Boardman Tasker Charitable Trust which was established to promote literature by providing an annual award to authors of literary works, the central theme of which is concerned with the mountain environment. There are so many amazing books nominated annually for the award; you should check them out.

      When it comes to 1996 Mount Everest disaster, I loved Jon Krakauer’ book, and I feel beyond guilty for finding so much fascination with what was the most horrific moment in Krakauer’s life, but there’s something about his writing. I loved how this is formatted, the way the facts are presented, and how coherent the timeline and his commentary is. Just everything about this invites the reader in such an informative and also highly emotionally way.
      Of course, I still have to read The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev and Left for Dead, which is a story of Beck Weathers.

      Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Banff Mountain Film Festival also has a book award. That’s where I find a lot of new authors. I’ll look for Boardman Tasker too, thanks for the recommendation. I think the book by Anatoli/Dave Roberts will show the other side, good for perspective.

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  6. Uh oh. Monkey’s Tale and I are going to have to disagree. 🙂 I think pretty much everything Jon Krakauer touches turns to gold. I love his writing style. I’ll be interested to check out some of the other books on your list.

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    1. I love Kraukers writing style too! From that opening paragraph of Into Thin Air and Into the Wild, I was hooked and eagerly devoured every single word. I would love to tell stories like Jon Krakauer. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from him – ”Reading is input. Writing is output. ” As simple as that. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva

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  7. I can’t say that I’ve read any mountaineering books, but I did go through a phase of watching a lot of mountaineering documentaries. One of my favourites is Touching the Void, which is one of the books you’ve listed above. It was very well done. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I love reading mountain books and watching documentaries about high altitude climbing. Touching the Void, the true story of two climbers and their perilous journey up the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985, was one of my favourites. I would love to attend the Banff mountain film festival in Canada and meet some of the key speakers. That would be a dream come true moment. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Jo! I love reading and try to read books on various subjects as I get an opportunity to learn new words. Seven Years in Tibet makes for a fantastic read because the writing of this book is nothing but spectacular. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Reading is my favourite addiction. Reading also enhances our language skills and develops fluency, allowing us to express our thoughts and ideas better. It was trough the books that I read in my childhood that I started to understand different cultures and learned how things work. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day, Mark.

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  8. I was excited to see this post. I need some new reading material and love a good mountain adventure. In this list I’ve only read Into Thin Air and Touching the Void—fantastic reads. Thanks for the list!

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    1. Hi, Caroline! Of all the skills I’ve learned growing up, arguably, none are more important than the ability to read. It is said that reading for an hour a day will expose you to four million words per year. How incredible is that! Thanks for stopping by and happy reading. I hope all is well. Greetings from Ireland. Aiva xxx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve just ordered The White Spider and No Way Down. Can’t wait! You absolutely need to see the Eiger. We did a wonderful family holiday when our son was younger, hiking between the lovely villages and imposing peaks of the Swiss Jungfrau region.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi, Caroline! That’s so exciting, I’m glad to hear you are eager to read more mountain climbing books. Seeing the Eiger in person is a dream of mine and hopefully, when the World starts spinning again and we are allowed to travel, I’ll be able to rejuvenate in the mountains. Did you happen to write a blog post about your family holiday in Jungfrau region? Have a good day and enjoy the books. Hugs and kisses from Ireland 😊 Aiva

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  9. Although I’ve never read any mountaineering books, these sound fascinating Aiva! Thank you for such an interesting collection. I feel motivated to look for one! All the best, hope you are fine. We are getting back to the “new” normal pretty swiftly now…

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    1. Thank you very much, Francisco. I make no claims that these are the best books about mountain exploration ever written because I can’t claim to have read them all, there are so many. I love reading mountaineer books as they bring me into another world of geology, philosophy, writing, and history. Non-fiction books have a way of captivating me and they kept me sane during the lockdown. Thanks for reading and commenting, my friend. Have a lovely weekend. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s the most important thing, to remain sane, happy and active during the lock-down, I am glad you found that in the books of mountaineering. They are certainly interesting to me as I also like geology, philosophy and history and there is nothing more enchanting than reading a great narrative of places far off. Take good care Aiva, wishing you a lovely Friday and a great weekend!
        All the best,
        Francisco 🙂

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    1. I love reading non-fiction mountaineer books and escape to the Himalayas during the lockdown. We are not allowed to travel anywhere within the country for another two-month, so I am gonna keep on reading. I hope all is well. Have a good day and thanks for stopping by, Allison. xxx

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      1. Thank you for the book suggestions! I have also been reading quite a bit lately, probably twice as much as I normally do this time of year. Strange times can lead to good things, like crossing many great books of the “to read” list. Stay safe!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Christie! I mostly stick to mountaineering and travel books, but lately, I’ve made a conscious effort to incorporate different genres. It helps me to expand my vocabulary and stimulates my creativity. So far I’ve tried romance, fantasy, horror, humour, self-help, and children’s books. Next on my list is historical fiction. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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  10. Hi Aiva! Unfortunately our trip to the Jungfrau region was long before my blogging days. I remember that we hiked between several beautiful towns: Grindelwald, Wengen, Lauterbrunnen, Mürren. It was easy to do with great trails and lots of mountain train/gondola connections. The Swiss have it completely dialed-in when it comes to hiking access.The villages are super charming and as you know, the scenery is out of this world. You can also select any of these towns and do wonderful day hikes. Happy dreaming/planning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I bet it was an amazing experience to explore the world in pre-digital times. Technology has certainly transformed the travel industry. I often find myself yearning again for how travelling used to be when I started out. Gosh, it’s not that long ago, but the landscape of travel has completely changed since Instagram came out and influencers started to appear. Thanks for stopping by and I hope all is well with you and your family. Take care. Aiva

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  11. Into Thin Air and Touching the Void are great. I’ve wanted to read No Way Down because of the author and now I also want to read the White Spider. Thank you for introducing new books to my reading list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are welcome. Over the last decade, I’ve read many mountain adventure books and loved every one of them. You would love the White Spider as the book is written by Henrich Harrer, who was an Austrian mountaineer, sportsman, geographer, and author. Thanks for stopping by and happy reading. Aiva

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    1. Thank you kindly. I love reading and I think that books can give us the ability to understand other people, cultures, and ways of living. Reading has certainly helped me with being isolated for so many weeks. Have a good day. I hope all is well with you and your family. Greetings from Sligo. Aiva xxx

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  12. Good reads. I read ‘Into Thin Air’ just after the latest disastrous Everest season (last year or one before? Time has gone weird lately…) when I was a bit obsessed with why people want to enter the death zone, it’s interesting on that aspect

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    1. Hi, Wendy! I love reading books about near-disaster stories in the mountains, climbing triumphs, and everything about Mount Everet in particular. At the moment I am reading Seven Summits, a story of two wealthy businessmen and their journeys around the world to reach the summits of all seven earthly continents. Thanks for stopping by. Into Thin Air is still one of my favorite books due to the way Jon Krakauer tells a story. Take care. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Haven’t read any of these but they all sound really interesting. Might pick up a couple of them and give them a read. Thanks for the recommendations 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Jason. There are so many amazing must-read and must-hear mountain stories out there, that you can easily spend your whole life reading them. I still have a big pile right beside my bedsite and it just keeps on growing, especially now that we can’t really travel anywhere abroad. One of the ways to keep me sane. Thanks for stopping by. I hope all is well with you and your family. Aiva

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