Old Maps


Ten Top Books on













Best Book Lists


















Andy Cave - Guardian Newspaper:

Ten Top Books on Alpinism


Andy Cave, an author and one of Britain's top mountaineers, created a list of the ten top books on Alpinism.  The list appeared in the on-line version of the Guardiannewspaper, an independent paper in the United Kingdom.


In Cave's introduction, he stressed that good outdoor literature requires "evocative prose and original metaphor."  "The best," he goes on to say, "have emotional depth, allowing the reader to engage with the protagonists' internal thoughts and motives. Done well, the common theme of courage overcoming adversity can inspire us to seek new challenges in our own lives."


The following is Cave's list.  The reviews are mine.


1 Touching the Void by Joe Simpson


While on a descent of a cutting-edge climb of a South American peak, Simpson falls and breaks his leg.  His partner lowers the incapacitated climber down steep snow slopes, but at one point, he loses control and Simpson falls and dangles over the edge of the cliff.  His partner who is being pulled off his belay stance is left no other choice than to cut the rope. Thinking that Simpson is dead, the partner returns to base.  Simpson, however, is still very much alive.  He manages to climb out of a crevasse, and then begins crawling.  You won't be able to put this one down.  It's a remarkable story.   Amazon.com: More Information or Purchase



2 Starlight and Storm by Gaston Rébuffat


Gaston Rubuffat isn't as well known these days, but at one time, he was a household word in the outdoor community.  A number of years ago when I worked for the Outdoor Program at Idaho State, we used to receive catalogs addressed to Gaston Piton.  It was spoof, of course, a take-off on Rebuffat's name.  One of our student workers apparently had sent multiple catalog requests using the alias -- and had been quite effective.  Six or seven years after the fact, we were still receiving catalogs for Gaston Piton.  But had he known, Rubuffat would have thoroughly enjoyed lending his name to the effort.  When you read his writings, almost lyrical in nature, he comes off as someone filled with a joy for living -- and climbing, of course.  In the post World War II period, Rubuffat was one of the giants, putting up numerous classic ascents in the Alps and participating in the first ascent of Annapurna in the Himalaya.  This is the story of those days.   Amazon.com: More Information or Purchase



3 Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage by Herman Buhl


In 1953, Hermann Buhl achieved one of the great feats in mountaineering.  While on a German-Austrian expedition, he left companions behind and made a successful solo ascent of Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world.   Not only was this the first solo ascent of a 8,000 meter peak, but he did so without supplemental oxygen.  It was incredible test of human endurance, taking him 40 hours and including a precarious standing bivouac.   Amazon.com: More Information or Purchase



4 The Mountains of My Life by Walter Bonatti


A collection of writings of the famous Italian mountaineer Walter Bonatti.  Includes narratives of his experiences in the Alps, South America and the Himalayas. 


Amazon.com: More Information or Purchase



5 Conquistadors of the Useless by Lionel Terray


Lionel Terray was a prominent French mountaineer in mid 1900s.  Conquistadors is a compilation of stories of his climbs: the Alps (among others, including the Walker spur on the Grand Jorass and North Face of Eiger), the Himalaya (Annapurna), Andes (Huantsan), and the Alaska Range (Mt Hunter).  He also writes of his experience as a soldier fighting in the Alps during World War II.  Amazon.com: More Information or Purchase



6 Savage Arena by Joe Tasker


A British climber, Joe Tasker was known for his bold, alpine-style climbs in the Himalaya.  Savage Arena is the story of those climbs and how he got there.  In 1982, the same year this book was published, he disappeared with his British mate Peter Boardman (see next author) on the Northeast Ridge of Everest.  The Boardman-Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature was founded in memory of the two climbers.  His girlfriend, Maria Coffey wrote about Tasker and the hidden costs of adventure in Where the Mountain Casts its Shadow  (A National Outdoor Book Award Winner).


Amazon.com:  More Information or Purchase



7 The Shining Mountain by Peter Boardman


In 1976 Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker made the first ascent the West Face of the 22,520 foot Changabang located Garhwal Himalaya of India.  Using big wall techniques in the dangerous and unpredictable high mountain environment, the route took them 25 days.  As noted above, Boardman disappeared with Tasker in 1982 while on a climb of the Northeast Ridge of Everest.  The Boardman-Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature was named for the two climbers. 


Amazon.com: More Information or Purchase



8 Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer


It was John Kraukauer's book in 1997 which suddenly made New York publishers sit up and take notice.  Indeed, a book on outdoor adventure could make money and lots of it.  Into Thin Air describes the diaster that unfolded on Mt. Everest in 1996 when several parties were caught in a vicious storm.  Amazon.com: More Information or Purchase



9 A Slender Thread by Stephen Venables


While on the descent of Panchu Chilu V, a remote Himalayn peak, Stephen Venables  takes a 300 foot fall when a rappel anchor fails.  He survives the fall but both of his legs are broken.  Slender Thread is his gripping account of how he, with the help of his climbing companions, managed to escape from the mountain.


Amazon.com:  More Information or Purchase



10  No Picnic on Mt Kenya By Felice Benuzzi (1953)


This a very different tale of mountaineering.  During World War II, the Italian Felice Benuzzi is a prisoner of war in a British camp beneath Mt Kenya.  He and two other other prisoners break out, but instead of running, their purpose is to climb the great mountain that rises above them.  They don't quite make it to the highest point on the mountain, but they do reach a secondary summit.  There they plant a homemade flag and then descend back down to once again become prisoners.   


Amazon.com: More Information or Purchase


End of Listing







Top of Page