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Climbers reach the peak of Everest at sunset

40+ Best Climbing Books To Read Before You Die (& Mountaineering Books).

  • What are the best climbing books out there? Which stories send shivers down our spines and portray the magnificence of the mountains?

    If you’re a climber looking for inspiration, you’ll find everything you need in this list. From Everest to Yosemite, these are the best climbing and mountaineering books ever published.

    Inspired by Tommy Caldwell’s brand new book, The Push, we’ve put together a huge list of 40+ climbing books you need on your wishlist.

    The list is, of course, not exhaustive. Nor is there a particular order. It is simply 40 climbing books that will inspire your next trip to the mountains.

    The Push - Tommy Caldwell

    tommy caldwell the pushTommy Caldwell is best known for completing the hardest free climb route in the world: The Dawn Wall of El Capitan. In his words, it’s "the steepest, blankest big wall maybe in the world". He spent almost a decade meticulously bolting the route and scoping out whether it was even possible, before completing the climb in 2015 with Kevin Jorgeson. But Tommy’s story began decades earlier when he began climbing with other legends, like Chris Sharma. His new book, The Push documents his career from an enthusiastic kid to one of the world’s best-known climbers. A highlight is Tommy’s account of climbing in Afghanistan where he and his climbing partners were taken hostage. Tommy was forced to take a life to save his own. Read about it in his new book, The Push.


    Touching the Void - Joe Simpson

    touching the void - joe simpsonJoe Simpson’s faced the hardest decision of his life on Siula Grande in the Andes. Would he cut the rope and let his partner, Simon Yates fall to his death? Touching the Void is perhaps the most famous mountaineering tale, extending far beyond the climbing world itself to find mainstream success. The story has since been turned into a successful film, but the book gives you a closer, more intimate account of the toughest decision anyone will ever have to face.



    Ghosts of Everest: The Authorised Story of the Search for Mallory and Irvine - Jochen Hemmleb

    Ghosts of Everest: The Authorised Story of the Search for Mallory and IrvineDid Mallory and Irvine beat Hillary and Norgay to the summit of Everest? Mallory and Irvine’s expedition set off 30 years before Hillary and Norgay, but the pair disappeared before returning. They were spotted just 800 feet below the summit, but did they reach the top? It’s one of mountaineering’s greatest mysteries, and this book finally attempts to provide some answers. In 1999, an expedition set out to retrace their steps, uncover their bodies, and figure out whether the expedition ever reached the summit. This is their story.



    Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer

    Into Thin Air - Jon KrakauerInto Thin Air documents a vicious 24-hour period on Everest, during which eight climbers lost their lives. It tells the story of three separate expeditions which were each caught in a storm on the mountainside. Krakauer peppers the story with wonderful descriptions of Everest, as well as weaving short stories and accomplishments as we visit new parts of the mountain. Everest has become a contentious mountain for hard-core climbers, who worry it has been opened to inexperienced climbers. Krakauer touches on this throughout the book and leaves us questioning how we treat this mountain in the future. It’s worth noting that Krakauer has been accused of exaggerating the facts in this book, so take it with a pinch of salt (and perhaps read The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest for a second perspective of the same event.)

    The White Spider - Heinrich Harrer

    The White Spider - Heinrich Harrer The north face of the Eiger is one of the world’s most terrifying and notorious climbs. The wall has a German nickname, ‘Mordwand’ which translates to ‘Death Wall’ as it has killed more than 60 climbers since 1935. The White Spider documents the first successful attempt on the wall, back in 1938. Author Heinrich Harrer was one of four men that accomplished this impressive climb and opened the first (and most famous) route.



    No Way Down: Life & Death on K2 - Graham Bowley

    No Way Down: Life & Death on K2 - Graham BowleyAugust, 2008, marked one of the deadliest months in climbing history. An expedition set out to conquer K2, the world’s second largest mountain, and one of the most deadly. 18 reached the summit, but 11 never made it back to base camp. It was the deadliest expedition in the history of K2. After a huge sheet of ice broke and crashed through the climbers’ safety ropes, they were left to make their way down the mountain in the dark. This best-selling book tells the devastating story.



    Everest: The West Ridge - Tom Hornbein

    Everest: The West Ridge - Tom HornbeinThe West Ridge is the most deadly route up Everest (and the least climbed). Tom Hornbein documents his legendary first ascent with climbing partner, Willi Unsoeld. The book has recently been updated to mark the 50th anniversary of the summit attempt. It’s now larger, with stunning imagery and photographs.




    Alone on the Wall - Alex Honnold

    Alone on the Wall - Alex HonnoldHonnold is perhaps the world’s most recognized climber right now. Famous for ‘free soloing’ (climbing without any ropes or safety gear) some of the biggest walls on the planet. Among the many highlights is his free solo attempt on Half Dome, Yosemite. Some call it the purest form of climbing. Others call it crazy. But this book goes beyond the headline-grabbing ascents to understand the mind of Honnold. What we discover is a level-headed, calculated master of climbing. His approach and reasoning is a joy to read. Alone on the Wall digs into what drives Honnold to take risks and push climbing further than it has ever gone.


    FIVA: An Adventure That Went Wrong - Gordon Stainforth

    FIVA: An Adventure That Went Wrong - Gordon StainforthFIVA is a firm favourite among mountaineers, and it documents that moment you hope never happens. On a mountain in Norway, Stainforth and his twin brother were epicly underprepared for the dangers ahead of them. They soon found themselves fighting for their lives. The writing is gripping from the first paragraph and the story transcends mountaineering to create a classic survival story. Much like Touching the Void, this is a book that even non-climbers will love.



    One Man’s Everest: The Autobiography of Kenton Cool - Kenton Cool

    One Man’s Everest: The Autobiography of Kenton Cool - Kenton CoolKenton Cool has been described as the King of Everest. The man has stood on the summit twelve times, and even guided Sir Ranulph Fiennes to the peak. On one expedition in 2012, Cool left an Olympic gold medal at the summit. But, like all climbing biographies, One Man’s Everest is not without struggle. Cool shattered both heel bones during a climbing trip in Wales, but as the book explains, it hasn’t slowed him down.



    Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men & Mountains - Jon Krakauer

    Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men & Mountains - Jon KrakauerKrakauer’s book hops between various characters and figures in the climbing world. With each new section, we get a new perspective from the mind of a mountaineer. We visit K2 (the second tallest mountain on Earth, and one of the most dangerous), Mont Blanc and a frozen icefall. Each of the collected essays attempts to answer the question: why do we do it? Why do we climb? Why do we face such risks?



    No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks - Ed Viesturs

    No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks - Ed ViestursThere are only a handful of people who have climbed all 14 of the 8,000 meter peaks. Ed Viesturs is one of them, and he did it without the use of supplementary oxygen. Viesturs has popped up in countless other stories (including his heroic rescue efforts during the 1996 Everest disaster - documented in Into the Air) but No Shortcuts to the Top is his personal account. Find out what it’s like to stand on the 14 highest peaks, and why he once turned back just 300 meters from the summit of Everest.


    Climbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World - Lynn Hill

    Climbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World - Lynn HillLynn Hill is perhaps the climbing world’s greatest female athlete. She was the first person to free climb The Nose route on El Capitan, establishing herself as a climbing pioneer. Her generation of Yosemite climbers pushed the boundaries further than any other period in climbing history, and Lynn’s perspective is eye-opening. Her book also documents a unique perspective of female climbing in a male-dominated sport; and she has since devoted a great deal of time to promoting gender equality in climbing.



    The Mountain of my Fear - David Roberts

    The Mountain of my Fear - David RobertsThe Mountain of my Fear is an emotional, powerful book. Roberts wrote it quickly in a fever of passion after returning from an ascent up Alaska’s Mt. Huntingdon. While part of his group successfully made it home, a tragic accident left Roberts emotionally stricken. The sense of loss is palpable in the writing, and the writer leaves nothing on the mountain. It’s difficult to read at times, but there are few books that portray the physical and emotional struggles of climbing a mountain that seems to fight back every step of the way.



    Savage Arena - Joe Tasker

    Savage Arena - Joe TaskerUnfortunately, Joe Tasker did not live long enough to see the brilliant Savage Arena reach publication. He set off to explore a new route up Everest shortly after writing, but Tasker never returned. Savage Arena marked the end of long and respected climbing career. Tasker was part of the first British winter ascent of the Eiger’s north face and he was among the pioneering mountaineers to attempt K2. Both expeditions (and more) are detailed in this book.



    Vertical Mind - Don McGrath, Jeff Ellison

    Vertical Mind - Don McGrath, Jeff EllisonHundreds of books have been dedicated to improving climbing technique. But this book explores the other crucial aspect of climbing: psychology. The best climbers don’t just have the physical strength and technical prowess, they have a ‘vertical mind.’ They have an ability to control their fear and make rational decisions about risk. Vertical Mind shows you how to develop these unique mental skills. If you want to take your climbing to the next level, this book is essential.



    No Picnic on Mount Kenya: A Daring Escape, a Perilous Climb - Felice Benuzzi

    No Picnic on Mount Kenya: A Daring Escape, a Perilous Climb - Felice BenuzziLocked in a 1943 Prisoner-of-War camp in East Africa, Felice Benuzzi had just one goal: climb the foreboding Mount Kenya. Together with two other climbers, Benuzzi escaped the POW camp and set their sites on the summit. What began as a way to kill time became an all-encompassing ambition. Benuzzi’s account is funny, touching, and rewarding. It’s not just a great climbing book, it’s a wonderful story for every reader.



    Climbing in North America - Chris Jones

    Climbing in North America - Chris JonesThis is something of a bible for climbing fans. It documents the history of climbing in North America from the Native Americans rudimentary climbing exploits to the boundary-pushing free climb ascents in Yosemite. This is a must-have coffee-table book for any climber, filled with stunning imagery and poignant anecdotes.




    Nine Out of Ten Climbers Make the Same Mistakes - Dave Macleod

    Nine Out of Ten Climbers Make the Same Mistakes - Dave MacleodThere are no shortage of training books and climbing ‘how-to’ books, but this remains our favourite of them all. Macleod is a Scottish climber who famously put up some of the hardest trad climb routes in Scotland. His book delivers no-nonsense advice to anyone looking to improve their climbing technique. It’s funny, informative and straight to the point! Macleod analyses everything from motivation, mind-set, finding training time and how to analyze your own climbing technique.




    The Fall - Simon Mawer

    The Fall - Simon MawerSay hello to our first novel on the list. So far, we’ve covered the biographies, memoirs and tutorials, but climbing stories are also found in the pages of literature. The Fall is a true classic. Mawer tells the story of two accomplished climbers. Both grew up as children together, but then lost touch. When Jamie dies on a Welsh rock face, Rob vows to find out what happened. What follows is a deep story of friendship and adventure.



    Why We Climb - Chris Noble

    Why We Climb - Chris NobleWhen George Mallory was famously asked ‘why’ he wanted to climb Everest, he responded with the iconic response: Because it’s there.” But the true reasons for climbing go far beyond this infamous three-word quote. Published in 2017, Why We Climb is one of the newer books on the list, and it attempts to explore the connection between climbers and nature. Noble interviews some of the world’s best climbers and discovers a wonderful variety of responses.



    A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush - Eric Newby

    A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush - Eric NewbyMost climbing memoirs are tense, sober and epic in scale. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush is a refreshing alternative. It contains a healthy dose of awe and wonder, but it also has a lighter side. Newby’s account of his -admittedly ill-prepared - trek through Afghan mountains is funny, heart-warming and inspiring. It’s a thrilling read for any climber (and a tale of caution for amateurs!)




    Climb! The History of Rock Climbing in Colorado - Jeff Achey

    Climb! The History of Rock Climbing in Colorado - Jeff AcheyMuch like Climbing in North America, this book is a history and reference book. But don’t let that put you off. The newly updated version comes with a 16-page insert featuring beautiful imagery and unseen routes. Colorado has always been a hot-spot for climbing addicts, and this edition documents the development of the sport from a humble beginning to phenomenon.




    Beyond The Mountain - Steve House

    Beyond The Mountain - Steve HouseHouse took the modern ‘alpine’ style of climbing (lightweight, fast climbing) to new levels. In Beyond The Mountain, he documents his ambitious speed attempts on the dangerous 8,000 meter peaks. Like all great climbing books, Beyond The Mountain makes you want to get out into the wild and push yourself harder and faster.




    Women Who Dare: North America’s Most Inspiring Women Climbers - Chris Noble

    Women Who Dare: North America’s Most Inspiring Women Climbers - Chris NobleMeet twenty of the world’s best female climbers. From legendary figures like Lynn Hill to modern superstars like Emily Harrington and Alex Puccio, this compilation of personal accounts is a fascinating insight into the mind of the female climber. Each climber tells their own story, highlights their proudest moments and talks through the biggest challenges. And it’s all complete with unique photos shot by Chris Noble.



    Conquistadors of the Useless: From the Alps to Annapurna - Lionel Terray

    Conquistadors of the Useless: From the Alps to Annapurna - Lionel TerrayConquistadors of the Useless is a true classic of the climbing world. Terray documents the early evolution of mountaineering, including his part in the first ascent of Annapurna (known as the world’s deadliest mountain). He was also among the first to conquer the north face of the Eiger. Terray writes like he climbs, with fever, ambition and passion. It’s another thrilling read.


    Annapurna: A Woman’s Place - Arlene Blum

    Annapurna: A Woman’s Place - Arlene BlumAnnapurna has been referred to as the “life-taking mountain”. And for good reason. Annapurna has a fatality rate of 40% and has only been summited 142 times (compare that to Everest’s 2,500+). That’s what makes Arlene Blum’s ascent so compelling. Blum lead the first American ascent of the mountain, and her story is gripping.


    Wizards of Rock: A History of Free Climbing in America - Pat Ament

    Wizards of Rock: A History of Free Climbing in America - Pat AmentWizards of Rock hones in on the development and progression of ‘free climbing,’ a style in which climbers rely on just their hands and feet to scale the wall (no aids or tools for assistance). Ament interviews countless figures in the American climbing community and provides unique anecdotes from his own perspective.


    Rock Jocks, Wall Rats & Hang Dogs: Rock Climbing on the Edge of Reality - John Long

    Rock Jocks, Wall Rats & Hang Dogs: Rock Climbing on the Edge of Reality - John LongContemporary rock climbing, as we know it, was born in Yosemite in the 1970s. Climbers slept on the forest floor by night, and climbed by day. Various factions broke out and sought to out-do each other. Different styles developed and new routes were conquered. This era pushed sport climbing further than any other period of time. John Long was there and captured the essence of this movement.


    Left for Dead: My Journey Home From Everest - Dr Beck Weathers

    Left for Dead: My Journey Home From Everest - Dr Beck WeathersInto Thin Air told the story of Everest’s most tragic 24 hours. But Left For Dead picks up where Into Thin Air left off. Beck Weathers was one of the lucky survivors from the 1996 expedition, surviving a night in the ‘deathzone’ in the open air. What follows is the story of how he put his life back together and readjusted to life after the accident. It’s an interesting second perspective for those who loved Into Thin Air.


    One Man’s Mountains - Tom Patey

    One Man’s Mountains - Tom PateyPatey is yet another unfortunate climber who never lived to see his work published. One Man’s Mountains is a collection of essays and poems that beautifully summed up his adventurous life. It serves as a timely memorial, but the writing too is elegant and laced with a dry wit.


    Starlight & Storm: The Ascent of the Six Great North Faces of the Alps - Gaston Rébuffat

    Starlight & Storm: The Ascent of the Six Great North Faces of the Alps - Gaston RébuffatGaston Rébuffat is a legend of the climbing world. In fact, he even has a climbing move named after him, the gaston. His book explores climbing and mountaineering in its early, evolving stages. For instance, Rébuffat was the first man to climb the six great north faces of the Alps: the Eiger, the Matterhorn, the Grandes Jorasses, the Petit Dru, the Piz Badile and the Cima Grande di Lavaredo. This is climbing history and a must-read for modern climbers.


    The Shining Mountain - Peter Boardman

    The Shining Mountain - Peter BoardmanChangabang is an iconic mountain in the Himalayas. It is fiercely steep and aggressive, which was enough to put off even the most hardened climbers. But not Peter Boardman. Alongside Joe Tasker (author of Savage Arena), the pair finally submitted the fearsome granite rock face, but it took 40 days of isolation, abhorrent conditions and personal tensions. Boardman’s account is honest, emotion and profound. It also has a special resonance as Boardman and Tasker later perished together while exploring a new line on Everest.


    Kiss or Kill: Confessions of a Serial Climber - Mark Twight

    Kiss or Kill: Confessions of a Serial Climber - Mark TwightMark Twight was a true ‘Alpinist.’ He climbed light, fast, and hard. Kiss or Kill is a collection of essays and stories written for various magazines during his career. Each is thrilling and written with real passion and wit. As the title hints at, there is some darkness within the pages, but every good mountaineering book has an element of life and death.


    Annapurna: The First Conquest of an 8,000 Meter Peak - Maurize Herzog

    Annapurna: The First Conquest of an 8,000 Meter Peak - Maurize HerzogHerzog was part of the French expedition that first conquered Annapurna: the world’s most dangerous peak. But it wasn’t without sacrifice. Herzog was forced to dictate his account from a hospital bed after the expedition was over. It became an instant best-seller. Though it’s worth noting that some climbers have disputed its facts.


    Psychovertical - Andy Kirkpatrick

    Psychovertical - Andy KirkpatrickHow did a young boy from the bad-side of Hull become on the world’s most respected climbers? Psychovertical is Andy Kirkpatrick’s tale of epic adventure. It takes us from his Alpine ascents to his monumental attempt of Reticent Wall on El Capitan. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live and sleep on the side of a wall, Kirkpatrick reveals all. Psychovertical also goes deeper, answering the biggest question of all: why do climbers risk life and limb for the pursuit of adventure?


    Jeffrey Moffatt: Revelations - Jeffrey Moffatt

    Jeffrey Moffatt: Revelations - Jeffrey MoffattSome climb for fun. Others climb to release stress. But some climb to be the very best in the world. Jeffrey Moffatt was one of the latter. His book documents his rise to prominence and the major changes in the climbing world over a thirty-year period. Revelations was the Grand Prize Winner at the Banff Mountain Book Festival in 2009.


    Camp 4: Recollections of a Yosemite Rockclimber - Steve Roper

    Camp 4: Recollections of a Yosemite Rockclimber - Steve RoperCamp 4 was the epicenter of the climbing world during the 1960s. It was one of the most explosive periods in climbing history, during which new techniques helped push the sport to a new level. Rival factions developed and newcomers arrived to pioneer new routes. Steve Roper spent a decade living in the valley, and documented the whole scene.


    Learning to Fly: A Memoir of Hanging on & Letting Go - Steph Davis

    Learning to Fly: A Memoir of Hanging on & Letting Go - Steph DavisSteph Davis is a climbing legend in her own right (and avid BASE jumper). But when her husband, Dean Potter died in a tragic climbing accident, her story took a devastating and unexpected turn. Her book, Learning to Fly is an honest and candid account of her life both on the rope and off it.


    Feeding the Rat: A Climber’s Life on the Edge - Al Alvarez

    Feeding the Rat: A Climber’s Life on the Edge - Al AlvarezAl Alvarez is a self-proclaimed climbing novice, but his portrayal of climbing legend and friend Mo Anthoine is touching and wonderful. Feeding the Rat tells the story almost as an outsider looking in. What drives someone to climb and push themselves to the edge of death? Unlike some climbing books, Feeding the Rat is easy to read and packed full of humor and wit.


    The Games Climbers Play: A Selection of 100 Mountaineering Articles - Ken Wilson

    The Games Climbers Play: A Selection of 100 Mountaineering Articles - Ken WilsonThe beauty of climbing is that is means something different to each person. Everyone has a reason for their passion, and this book celebrates that. The Games Climbers Play brings together a collection of essays, poems and stories from countless climbers. Originally published in 1978, it gives a unique insight into the minds of some of the world’s foremost climbers.

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