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Best Mountaineering Books

20 July 2012

  • Best Mountaineering Books

Best Mountaineering Books

The 100th issue of Leisure Wheels, which goes on sale this week, features an adventure guide sponsored by Yokohama. It is packed with articles regarding adventure activities such as rock climbing, trail running, mountain biking, canoeing, gorilla tracking, endure biking and, of course, off-road driving.

Hopefully you’ll have as much fun reading it as we had compiling it. We’re also hoping that it will whet your appetite for excitement and encourage you to go in search of adventure. After all, what is the use of owning a hardcore 4×4 if you don’t use it to have fun?

That said, however, we don’t all have the time and money necessary to dedicate ourselves exclusively to adventure activities. Sure, some people have the luxury of being able to spend a year unicycling through Africa or crossing the Pacific Ocean on a raft made of Coke bottles, but most of us have to work.

So if you’re desperate for an adrenaline fix, why not indulge in a bit of vicarious adventuring? Below are some of my favourite mountaineering books (for my favourite adventure, travel, hiking, trail running and mountain biking books, see Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday‘s posts).

Who knows? They might inspire you to pursue your own crazy adventure dream!

Note: Not all of these books are widely available in South Africa. However, most can be ordered on, and all can be downloaded on Also, you do not need to own a Kindle to read Amazon’s e-books. You can read them on your computer or tablet (there is a Kindle app available for Apple and Android tablets).

1. Annapurna – Maurice Herzog

In 1950, no mountain higher than 8,000 meters had ever been climbed. Maurice Herzog and other members of the French Alpine Club had resolved to try. Their goal was a 26,493-foot Himalayan peak called Annapurna. But unlike other climbs, which draw on the experience of prior reconnaissance, the routes up Annapurna had never been analyzed before. Herzog and his team had to locate the mountain using sketchy, crude maps, pick out a single, untried route, and go for the summit.

Buy online.

2. No Shortcuts to the Top – Ed Viesturs and David Roberts

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.

Buy online.

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

At 28,251 feet, the world’s second-tallest mountain, K2 thrusts skyward out of the Karakoram Range of northern Pakistan. Climbers regard it as the ultimate achievement in mountaineering, with good reason. Four times as deadly as Everest, K2 has claimed the lives of seventy-seven climbers since 1954. In August 2008 eleven climbers died in a single thirty-six-hour period on K2–the worst single-event tragedy in the mountain’s history and the second-worst in the long chronicle of mountaineering in the Himalaya and Karakoram ranges. Yet summiting K2 remains a cherished goal for climbers from all over the globe. Before he faced the challenge of K2 himself, Ed Viesturs, one of the world’s premier high-altitude mountaineers, thought of it as “the holy grail of mountaineering.”

Buy online.

4. Forever on the Mountain – James Tabor

In 1967, seven young men, members of a twelve-man expedition led by twenty-four-year-old Joe Wilcox, were stranded on Alaska’s Mount McKinley in a vicious arctic storm. All seven perished on what remains the most tragic expedition in American climbing history. Revisiting the event in the tradition of Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire, James M. Tabor uncovers elements of controversy, finger-pointing, and cover-up that combine to make this disaster unlike any other.

Buy online.

5. High Crimes – Michael Kodas

Climbing Everest has become big business, and people are willing to pay guides thousands in order to get them safely up and down the mountain. Michael Kodas examines how this market-driven approach to climbing the world’s highest mountain leads to greedy behaviour and short-sighted decisions.

Buy online.