There’s nothing like a badass story about a badass climb to make you want to chalk up some rock, or head into the mountains and spend some alone time. When you’re looking for that perfect book to lounge in your hammock and read, these titles are definitely a good place to start:
Touching the Void
By Joe Simpson
The book behind the awesome award-winning film of the same name, Touching the Void never gets old. It follows the story of author Joe Simpson and his friend Simon Yates’ ultimately successfully but, frankly, disastrous, attempt to summit Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. Spoiler alert: there’s a situation where Yates has to cut the rope and let Simpson fall 150 feet and, naturally, takes him for dead, but he’s not. Touching the Void tells the story of how Simpson survived.
The White Spider: The Story of the North Face of the Eiger
By Heinrich Harrer
Heinrich Harrer, author of Seven Years in Tibet and mountaineer, was part of the crew that conquered the North Face of Eiger in 1938. He detailed his account of the landmark adventure—complete with incredible details of the treacherous conditions and just how mentally, let alone physically, difficult the expedition was—in The White Spider. Even in the years since its original 1959 publication, it’s still a must-read.
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
By Jon Krakauer
Even though there’s been some controversy about the book as to whether everything Jon Krakauer details is completely accurate, Into Thin Air is still an incredible, albeit terribly tragic read. Spoiler: eight people die on the expedition, including Krakauer’s guides, and several others are stranded by a storm. Even with that knowledge, it’s still an awesome read.
No Picnic on Mt. Kenya
By Felice Benuzzi
In January 1943, three detained prisoners of war, Felice Benuzzi, Dr. Giovanni Belletto and Vincenzo Barsotti escaped from a P.O.W. Camp in Kenya and climbed Mt. Kenya with improvised supplies and very little food. And then, after two of them reached the top, all three of them broke back into the P.O.W. Camp. Benuzzi details the expedition and the reasons behind it (boredom) in No Picnic on Mt. Kenya.
Conquistadors of the Useless
By Lionel Terray
Lionel Terray’s classic autobiography may very well feature the best title of all time: Conquistadors of the Useless. In it, Terray tells of his first ascents in the Alps, Alaska, Patagonia, Annapurna and more, all of which took place just after WWII, a time when Terray’s home country, France, severely needed a morale boost.
My Climbs in the Alps and the Caucasus
By Albert Mummery
If you can get your hands on an early edition of this book, you absolutely should. First published in 1895, My Climbs in the Alps and the Caucasus details Albert Mummery’s, well, climbs in the Alps and the Caucasus. It’s definitely worth the read, especially since Mummery is a really excellent storyteller.
Everest: The West Ridge
By Thomas Hornbein
A gripping account of the first ascent of Everest’s West Ridge, Thomas Hornbein’s book is one you won’t be able to put down. When he and Willi Unsoeld summited the peak, they became the first to do so—an achievement clearly spelled out in the pages of this book.