If you love Mountains and you are aspiring mountaineer, you should read these 12 best mountaineering books of all the time.
Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man’s Miraculous Survival
In 1985, two young climbers, Joe Simpson (Brendan Mackey) and Simon Yates (Nicholas Aaron), set out to be the first to reach the summit of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. They succeed, and the two embark on the treacherous descent down the mountain only to meet with disaster when Simpson breaks his leg in a fall, leaving Yates to lower him the rest of the way with ropes. When a storm threatens both their lives, Yates belay begins to disintegrate and in a moment of utter desperation he cuts the rope between them. What follows is one of the greatest survival stories of all times. (Amazon IN)
Starlight and Storm
From the 1920s to the 1950s, the race was on in Europe to score first ascents of the most formidable routes in the Alps and Dolomites. Buoyed by the advent of artificial climbing techniques (primarily the use of pitons), teams from France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Poland scaled the north faces of the Eiger, the Drus, the Matterhorn, the Grandes Jorasses, and other hallowed peaks, often pooling resources to obtain previously unimaginable success (and often tragedy), while the world below was ravaged by two brutal world wars.
Noted French climbing guide Gaston Rébuffat lived at the center of this crucial era in mountaineering history. Starlight and Storm, first published in French in 1954 as Étoiles et Tempêtes, is his personal account of a rugged and glorious time before Gore-Tex, when men, soaked and chilled to the bone, sang to keep each other from falling asleep (forever) during exposed bivouacs in sub-zero degree snowstorms. Rébuffat’s love of the climber’s life is evident with each turn of the page. Rébuffat moves from one harrowing ascent to the next with uncommon gaiety and charm. “We have the instinct for it, the love of rocks and the necessary skill,” he writes of time spent on the Drus, “so that we can climb without being worried by technical problems. Thus the whole climb was pure joy, for, while superficially watching over the actual ascent, the spirit had leisure to wander happily.” The mysterious joy and lure of traversing earth’s high places are expressed with a boyish innocence lost on much of today’s climbing culture, making Starlight and Storm an enjoyable read, probably unlike any mountaineering journal you have ever encountered (Amazon IN)
Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage
Hermann Buhl’s momentous ascent of Nanga Parbat in 1953 (after Everest and Annapurna, the third 8000-metre peak to be climbed) set an agenda for adventurous mountaineers for the rest of the century. The pre-war and post-war mood was for conquering the major peaks with large, nationalistically-charged expeditions. Buhl, though also a member of a large expedition, with his long and committing solo summit push and painfully slow descent, reminded everyone that mountains could never be conquered – under favourable conditions they might be climbed, and the human spirit was invariably the critical factor.
Determined, well-trained climbers, charged with both humility and cautious judgment and supporting each other as a team, were the key elements. Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage, published after his historic first ascent, fired the imagination of a generation of climbers. The account of the harrowing summit climb to Nanga Parbat still thrills with its single-minded commitment and total loneliness. After Broad Peak, while attempting Chogolisa, he died in a cornice accident. This book and the vivid memory of his climbs is a lasting reminder of a climbing icon whose example (like that of Mummery, Preuss, and Cassin) resonates through the ages, inspiring climbers to this day. His influence has thus been profound. (Amazon IN)
The Mountains of My Life
Bonatti is one of the greatest mountaineers of all time, a man who continually reset the benchmark of human possibility by ascending routes that others dared not even contemplate. He climbed with an audacity and panache that epitomized the purest spirit of alpinism, and inspired an entire generation of climbers. Jon Krakauer calls him one of his heroes. He is not only a mountaineer of astonishing talent and vision, but one of the world’s most engaging writers about mountaineering.
Bonatti has also been dogged by controversy and often been at odds with the climbing community. The Mountains of My Life not only collects the best of Bonatti’s writing telling of adventures in the Alps, the Himalayas, and little-known South American peaks it also tells Bonatti’s version of what really happened on the Italian expedition that made the first ascent of K2 in 1954. Bonatti’s selfless actions helped avert disaster, yet in the expedition’s aftermath he found himself cast as a scapegoat. Part detective story, part hair-raising adventure, part meditation on his craft, The Mountains of My Life is as awe-inspiring and controversial as its author, and is beautifully illustrated with Bonatti’s own photos. (Amazon IN)
Conquistadors of the Useless
– Lionel Terray
Terray was one of the greatest alpinists the world has ever seen, and his autobiography is one of the finest and most important mountaineering books ever written. Climbing with mountaineering legends such as Gaston Rebuffat, Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal, Terray made first ascents in the Alps, Alaska, the Andes, and the Himalaya. He was at the centre of global mountaineering and climbing at a time when Europe was emerging from the shadow of World War II, and he emerged as a hero. The gripping adventures told within Conquistadors of the Useless capture the energy of French post-war optimism, a time when France needed to re-assert itself and when climbing triumphs were more valued than at any other time in history. Terray’s death, in the Vercors, robbed mountaineering of one of its most passionate and far-sighted figures. His energy, so obvious in his book, will inspire generations of climbers for years to come. A mountaineering classic. (Amazon IN)
Joe Tasker was one of Britain’s foremost mountaineers. A pioneer of lightweight mountaineering and a superbly gifted writer, in Savage Arena he vividly describes his participation in the first British winter ascent of the North Face of the Eiger; his first ascent of the West Wall of Changabang with Peter Boardman – considered to be a preposterous plan by the established climbing world; the first ascent of the North Ridge of Kangchenjunga; and his two unsuccessful attempts to climb K2, the second highest mountain in the world.
This is a story of single-minded determination, strength and courage in a pursuit which owes much of its value and compulsion to the risks entailed – risks which often stimulate superlative performances. It is also a story of the stresses, strains and tensions of living in constant anxiety, often with only one other person, for long periods in which one is never far from moments of terror, and of the close and vital human relationships which spring from those circumstances. It is a moving, exciting and inspirational book about the adventuring spirit which seeks endless new climbing challenges to face, alluring problems to solve and difficulties to overcome, for it is not reaching the summit which is important, but the journey to it. (Amazon In)
Annapurna: The First Conquest of an 8,000-Meter Peak
In 1950, when no mountain taller than 8,000 meters had ever been climbed, Maurice Herzog led an expedition of French climbers to the summit of an 8,075-meter (26,493-foot) Himalayan peak called Annapurna. But unlike other climbs, the routes up Annapurna had never been charted. Herzog and his team had to locate the mountain using crude maps, pick out a single untried route, and go for the summit. Annapurna is the unforgettable account of this heroic climb and of its harrowing aftermath, including a nightmare descent of frostbite, snow blindness, and near death. Herzog’s masterful narrative is one of the great mountain-adventure stories of all time. (Amazon IN)
No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks
For eighteen years Ed Viesturs pursued climbing’s holy grail: to stand atop the world’s fourteen 8,000-meter peaks, without the aid of bottled oxygen. But No Shortcuts to the Top is as much about the man who would become the first American to achieve that goal as it is about his stunning quest. As Viesturs recounts the stories of his most harrowing climbs, he reveals a man torn between the flat, safe world he and his loved ones share and the majestic and deadly places where only he can go.
A preternaturally cautious climber who once turned back 300 feet from the top of Everest but who would not shrink from a peak (Annapurna) known to claim the life of one climber for every two who reached its summit, Viesturs lives by an unyielding motto, “Reaching the summit is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” It is with this philosophy that he vividly describes fatal errors in judgment made by his fellow climbers as well as a few of his own close calls and gallant rescues. And, for the first time, he details his own pivotal and heroic role in the 1996 Everest disaster made famous in Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. (Amazon In)
The Shining Mountain
‘It’s a preposterous plan. Still, if you do get up it, I think it’ll be the hardest thing that’s been done in the Himalayas.’ So spoke Chris Bonington when Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker presented him with their plan to tackle the unclimbed West Wall of Changabang – the Shining Mountain – in 1976. Bonington’s was one of the more positive responses; most felt the climb impossibly hard, especially for a two-man, lightweight expedition. This was, after all, perhaps the most fearsome and technically challenging granite wall in the Garhwal Himalaya and an ascent – particularly one in a lightweight style – would be more significant than anything done on Everest at the time.
He had photographed the sheer, shining, white granite sweep of Changabang’s West Wall on a previous expedition and asked Pete to return with him the following year.Tasker contributes a second voice throughout Boardman’s story, which starts with acclimatisation, sleeping in a Salford frozen food store, and progresses through three nights of hell, marooned in hammocks during a storm, to moments of exultation at the variety and intricacy of the superb, if punishingly difficult, climbing.
It is a story of how climbing a mountain can become an all-consuming goal, of the tensions inevitable in forty days of isolation on a two-man expedition; as well as a record of the moment of joy upon reaching the summit ridge against all odds. First published in 1978, The Shining Mountain is Peter Boardman’s first book.
Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker died on Everest in 1982, whilst attempting a new and unclimbed line. Both men were superb mountaineers and talented writers.Their literary legacy lives on through the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature, established by family and friends in 1983 and presented annually to the author or co-authors of an original work which has made an outstanding contribution to mountain literature. (Amazon In)
Into Thin Air
A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that “suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down.” He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more–including Krakauer’s–in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer’s epic account of the May 1996 disaster. (Amazon IN)
A Slender Thread ( Escaping Disaster in the Himalaya )
Stephen Venables and three companions made the first ascent of Panchu Chuli V—a remote Himalayan peak on the borders of India, Nepal and Tibet. A rappel anchor failed on the descent, pitching Venables into a 300-foot fall. Crashing through the black night, flung from rock to rock, he assumed that he was plunging to his death. Against all odds he survived, but was left stranded 19,000 feet above a labyrinth of glaciers and snow slopes with two broken legs, the threat of gangrene, and scant food or medical supplies. If he was to return to his wife and son waiting at home some 5000 miles away, Venables knew he had to draw on his reserve of courage and determination. The third Adrenaline Classic, A Slender Thread is a spellbinding account of Venables’ survival—and his intense personal struggle to understand the risks he takes for the sake of his insatiable passion for climbing. He comes as close to anyone to answering the unanswerable question: Why do they do it? (Amazon IN)
No Picnic on Mt Kenya
In 1943, Felice Benuzzi and two Italian compatriots escaped from a British POW camp in equatorial East Africa with only one goal in mind–to climb the dangerous seventeen-thousand-foot Mount Kenya. No Picnic on Mount Kenya is the classic tale of this most bizarre and thrilling adventure, a story that has earned its place as a unique masterpiece of daring and suspense. (Amazon In)