The best ten mountaineering and climbing books every climber should read
- Wednesday 3 March 2021
Over the last couple of years there have been a few mutterings about making climbing books a bit more touchy feely. A bit less about clinging to the side of the mountain and a bit more about being connected to the emotion and being one with the outdoors.
Personally, I think that is a load of rubbish. Don’t get me wrong, give me Sally Rooney or Gail Honeyman any day over Joe Simpson or Heinrich Harrer; but if I want to read a mountaineering book (which I occasionally do) I want to read a book where people actually climb mountains, or preferably don’t quite climb mountains. I want the fate of the protagonists to be in doubt from the first sign of clouds on the horizon, I want fingers and toes to get cold, very cold; and if I’m honest I don’t mind a bit of conquest. I’m not ever so bothered about how an ordinary climber climbed an ordinary route despite a difficult time at boarding school.
You’re probably not with me on this, in which case can I draw your attention to recent winners of the Boardman Tasker prize? No mention of bad weather there.
Black Car Burning from Helen Mort
If I wanted to have eleven books I’d have added in Cold Wars from Andy Kirkpatrick, but then I would need to also add in Unknown Pleasures in which Andy’s Troll Wall essay is singularly one of the greatest bits of mountain writing ever.
Your list might be different, but these are very good books and definitely all worth reading before you dust off that copy of The White Spider.