Outdoor and adventure sports literature: 5 books worth a read

Part 1 of an occasional series where I'll share a list of outdoor and adventure sports-related books I've read over the years that I feel people viewing this blog may be interested in.


1. Enduring Patagonia by Gregory Crouch

Quite simply my favourite book. Greg's hugely engaging account of his life leading up to climbs he's made on Cerro Torre and the Fitzroy massif in Argentina's Los Glaciares National Park in Patagonia. Greg's winter ascent (a first ascent) of the West Face of Cerro Torre in 1999, with Thomas Ulrich, Stephan Siegriest and David Fasel, via the Southern Patagonian Icecap, sparked the idea for my own journey to the ice cap. This, in turn, triggered other trips I've made to Patagonia, influenced my decision to write a Los Glaciares National Park trekking guidebook and ultimately, when I look back, was the catalyst for my desire to build a outdoor and adventure sports photography business.

(I'd also recommend 'Right Mate, Let's Get On With It' - Greg's e-book about Antipodean mountaineers Athol Whimp and Andrew Lindblade, whom Greg makes reference to in 'Enduring Patagonia').

2. Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen

Possibly more well-known for his children books, this is the entertaining and often funny story of Gary and his wife's journey from Minnesota to Anchorage as he learned to mush dogs in advance of an entry he'd made into the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, an 1150-mile journey across the wilds of frozen Alaska. A close second to 'Enduring Patagonia' in regards to the number of times I've read a book (easily double figures). Whenever I've picked it up and read the first chapter, I'm off again on the whole book. 

3. On the Ridge Between Life and Death by David Roberts

A quality memoir by one of the world's leading authors of mountaineering literature, reflecting on the experience of his own life spent in the mountains and the impact it had on himself and others. Includes accounts of Roberts' ascent of Denali up the unclimbed Wickersham Wall, with others, via their Harvard route (which I believe is still unrepeated in 2017), his epic retreat with Don Jensen on Mount Deborah in 1964 and their subsequent successful summit but tragic descent on Mount Huntington in 1965. Plus tales from other expeditions Roberts made to unexplored parts of the Alaska range, including a wash-out of a 52-day expedition to an unexplored region, 70 miles from the nearest landing strip, that they subsequently named the Revelation Mountains.

See 'The Mountain of my Fear' for more detail on Roberts' Mount Huntington expedition.

4. The Mountains of my Life by Walter Bonatti

Compelling tales from arguably Italy's premier post-war mountaineer, including his solo climb on the Aiguille du Dru up the Bonatti Pillar (a feature now sadly destroyed by rockfall), the madness that entailed during a group ascent of the Central Pillar of Freney, a detailed account of the controversy surrounding the Italian ascent of K2 in 1954 plus exploratory first ascents in Southern Patagonia.

(Bonatti retired from alpinism at the age of 35 and began a celebrated career as a photojournalist. If you can get hold of it, Bonatti's book 'Solitudini Australi', comprising solely of images from Patagonia, is excellent. Bear in mind it's all in Italian text).

See also Walter Bonatti's obituary by Luca Signorelli.

5. Total Alpinism by Rene Desmaison

An excellent autobiography by French alpinist Rene Desmaison that includes a gripping account of his 2-week long winter climb on the Grandes Jorasses in 1971 with a young Serge Gousseault. I remember reading those enthralling chapters well into the early hours of the morning.