The best outdoor adventure books. A carefully curated list of essential mountain literature. Click on the books to link to Amazon.
A fascinating history of human obsession with mountains and the wild places of the World. It investigates our emotional and imaginative responses to the mountain environment and how these have changed through the ages. It culminates in a gripping account of George Mallory's obsession and tragedy on Everest in 1924.
Feet in the Clouds documents the little known history of fell running in Cumbria and the heroes whose achievements are nothing short of super human. Legends like Joss Naylor, who once ran all 214 Wainwright fells in a single week, or Kenny Stuart who still holds the records for speed ascents of Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Skiddaw over thirty years since setting them. The author also takes us on his personal quest to complete the Bob Graham Round: a 70 mile run over 42 Lakeland peaks in less than 24 hours. Intertwined with his own account, he tells of the history of the Round and its hereos: such as record holder Billy Bland, who completed the circuit in less than fourteen hours in 1982.
Along with climbing partner Joe Tasker, Peter Boardman wrote some of the quintessential mountain literature before the duo's untimely deaths on Everest in 1982. Famous for lightweight assaults on Himalayan peaks, Sacred Summits tells the story of Peter's attempts on the Carstenz Pyramid in Papua New Guinea and Kanchenjunga and Gauri Sankar in the Himayala.
In similar fashion to Peter Boardman's Sacred Summits, Savage Arena tells Joe Tasker's ambitious attempts of some of the World's most formidable mountains. From Dunagiri and Changabang in the Indian Himalaya to the fearsome Karakoram behemoth K2: the World's second highest mountain and arguably its most dangerous. At times thrilling, harrowing and enthralling, Savage Arena is a must for anyone with an interest in expedition mountaineering at its most pioneering.
Alfred Wainwright's seven volume guides to the fells in the Lake District are nothing short of masterpieces. Handwritten, philosophical, with incomparible perspectives of routes and beautifully artistic sketches, AW's guides are like no other. Simply opening up a volume transports the reader to the most beautiful corner of England, whilst inspiring a hunger for the Lake District that pulls readers back time and time again. Essential.
Alan Hinkes is the only Briton to climb the World's fourteen highest mountains - all the peaks higher than 8000 metres. His personal quest, glories and struggles are brilliantly documented here. Each climb has its own chapter and, whilst the written accounts are undoubtedly enthralling, it is Alan's stunning photos that bring his achievements to life: taken in some of the most inhospitable places on the planet. A must for anyone at all interested in the great ranges of the Himalaya and Karakoram or the exploits of one of our greatest ever mountaineers.
Kenton Cool tells of his experiences during a career that has seen him summit Everest twelve times, complete a daring ascent of Annapurna III, guide extensively through the Alps and pioneer new philosophies on Denali in Alaska. Chief among his achievements is the World's first successful Triple Crown: the ascent of Nuptse, Everest and Lhotse in one go. All of this is made all the more remarkable when you consider Kenton smashed both his heel bones in an accident in Snowdonia early in his career. In the book, Kenton sheds light on the challenges of high altitude mountaineering, the conflict between climbing and family and the ongoing issues surrounding the World's highest peak, those who aspire to climb it and those whose task it is to guide clients to the top.
Cameron McNeish writes about Scotland's big mountains with a wealth of knowledge and authority. Detailed routes on every Munro are desirable but what makes this text essential are his beautifully written and evocative introductions to the mountains themselves. Whether he is gushing at the grandeur of Torridon or hyping up the ridges of Glencoe, McNeish stirs the soul and propells it towards the Highlands quite unlike any other Scottish mountain author. The photographs provide ample gloss to the writing, though some of the aerial photos do not successfully capture the character of the mountains. All in all though, this is the book, above others, that had me driving north away from The Lake District to the magic of the Highlands.
The story of the 1996 Everest disaster is told first hand by Jon Krakauer, a member of Rob Hall's ill-fated Adventure Consultants expedition. It is a stunningly vivid and harrowing account of the summit day and the events that lead up to and followed it. Krakauer, an accomplished mountaineer himself, explores the motivations and obsessions of those on the mountain, as well as analysing the actions and decisions that culminated in tragedy. Above all else, it transports the reader to the Khumbu and all the excitement and pain that goes with it. An indispensable read.
Eiger Dreams is a compelling compilation of features written superbly by Joh Krakauer. From paragliding in the French Alps to ice cimbing in Alaska, he explores the muti-faceted world of mountains, climbers and mountaineers, meeting some inspirational characters along the way. There is added interest in the way Jon becomes a part of each of his stories, as he recounts his personal experience in a variety of settings and situations.
The most serious mountain range in Britain is brought to life brilliantly in this comprehensive book by Gordon Stainforth. Featuring thoughts on first acquaintances with these iconic mountains, through to the vivid depiction of them as being the "British Alps", the book is poetically and wistfully written. To compliment the excellent writing is stunning photography that brings these primeval, spiky mountains into the living room.
Former Trail Magazine editor-in-chief Simon Ingram takes the reader through some of Britain's most dramatic mountain landscapes as he attempts 16 iconic summits. Whilst the narrative of his odyssey plays out over the course of a year, he links each mountain with its own theme (such as Danger or Wilderness, to name just two) and tells the incredible stories that make up the fabric of Britain's wild places in doing so. The result is an evocative and captivating read of the very highest quality. Painstakingly researched, beautifully written, this is a must for anyone who is in the slightest bit interested in Britain's mountains. Essential. Superb.
John Porter's brilliantly written One Day as a Tiger follows the life and remarkable climbing career of Alex MacIntrye – one of the leading lights in British mountaineering's most prolific era. An early pioneer of applying a light and fast ethos to the peaks of the greater ranges, Alex MacIntyre was also a visionary when it came to modernising climbing approaches and he predicted much of what was to come in terms of how mountaineering has changed. His life was sadly taken by a single stoen on Annapurna when he was just 28.
First things first, this is one coffee-table book and a half! It. Is. Massive. And, it has all the hallmarks of a great coffee-table book: stunning photography and a beautiful clean design. However, scratch further beneath the surface and you soon begin to realise what a remarkable achievement Ben Tibbetts' creation is. Each of his adventures on the 4000 metre peaks of the Alps is told in crystaline prose that inspires and excites. As the narrative of his climbs unfold, he weaves in material written by those who made the first ascents. Add Tibbetts' illustrations into the mix and you wonder if there is anything he can not turn his hand to. Wonderful.
A guide that has become something of a cult classic and must have for anyone heading for the wonderful mountains of Snowdonia. Aesthetically flawless, brilliantly written and containing fantastic photography, it is no wonder the book has become such an essential text. Each route has a loving introduction, the author's passion for the mountains shining through, whilst the guides are themselves are detailed and easy to follow. Images showing the lines of ascent only add to the interest and the ease of use. Fantastic book.
Garry Smith achieved something remarkable with North Wales Scrambles. But anyone who thought he was all about dry rock, sunshine and the Glyders was totally wrong! He followed it up with a gorgeous book about the Scottish mountains in winter. Here's the genius, the pitch of the book. It is a collection of fantastic grade I and II winter climbs in Scotland, achievable with a mountaineering axe, rather than climbing axes. Like North Wales Scrambles, the book is stunning with sumptous photography. It mixes classics you already know about (Aonach Eagach, Liathach) with routes you would have previously never heard of, elevating them up your mountain bucket list. It is totally inspirational.
Lizzy Hawker is one of Britain's greatest ever runners. She has won the Ultra Tour Du Month Blanc, perhaps the holy grail of mountain running for a record five times. In 2005, when she first entered the race, she had only owned a pair of trail running shoes for ten days. Runner tells the story of her rise to mountain running's upper echelons and beyond, Having conquered Europe numerous times, she then set about running in the Khumbu region of Nepal, in the shadow of Mt Everest. Her achievements there were equally impressive. Runner is a beautifully written account of a super-human athlete.