NEClimbs - information for New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont rock and ice climbers
BugCON 4: almost too intense for climbing, DEET required
4 out of a possible 5
A Climber's Library (part 2),
by Richard Doucette
 Article List
• Making A V-Thread
• Another Day At Ducks Head (a.k.a. Trollville)
• Getting Your (Ice) Rack Together
• Buying A Digital Camera
• A Climber's Library (part 1)
• A Climber's Library (part 2)

But, getting back to real climbing books, Honorable Mention goes to the following:

In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods - Galen Rowell
I knew the guy could take great pictures, but he can write too. It's interesting to read a book about an expedition which failed miserably. This is one of the few books where the writer had access to the journals of several of the other expedition members. These accounts are woven into a great book.

Yankee Rock and Ice - Guy Waterman (Rest in Peace)
A must read if you are from these parts. Worth reading just to try and find the picture of Bill Atkinson among the other Appies, and the very 70s looking shot of Al (I once had a lot of hair) Rubin.

(Editors note: After being out of print for several years, the book is now available again. This time it's in paperback.)

A Most Hostile Mountain - Jon Waterman
Waterman (local boy) re-enacts the Duke of Abruzzi's sail to Alaska and ascent of Mt. St. Elias; thought at the time to be the tallest peak on the continent.

Burgess Book of Lies - Adrian and Alan Burgess
These two crazy characters kept turning up in other books. I finally found out they had a book of their own. I would love to party with these cowboys…but I would likely end up dead.

K2 Triumph and Tragedy -Jim Curran
One of the first climbing books I read. Tragic story, well written. Other writers (including the aforementioned Burgess Twins) have written about this same season on K2 when 13 die on the mountain.

One of the best "other accounts" of the 1986 K2 story is covered in "The Endless Knot", which I discovered in the "Kurt Deimberger Omnibus". (Omnibus = collection of the works of one author.) I read in that hefty volume that Deimberger was one of only two men to complete first ascents of two 8000 meter peaks. Hermann Buhl is the other; and of course he has an omnibus also (but doesn't call it one). "Nanga Parbat Pilgramage" is a fine account of the life of this important individual. He was doing "light and fast" long before Messner, who was long before Bouchard or Twight or these other Johnny-come-latelies. Other good Omnibuses include: "Boardman Tasker Omnibus" by Joe Tasker and Peter Boardman; and (my favorite) "Six Mountain Travel Books" by Eric Shipton. If you call yourself a mountaineer and don't know who Shipton and Tillman were, then shame on you. That might even be worse than not knowing who Fred Becky is…

Richard Doucette
Kinsman Notch

But the typical Omnibus can be bit cumbersome. Collections of Short Stories are easier for most people to handle, particularly for us TV-degenerated Americans. Among this category one must include:

Eiger Dreams - John Krakauer
Stories of climbing in Chamonix and The Eiger are a good read.

Tales from the Steep - John Long
Includes rousing stories by one of the great storytellers in the sport. Long's description of a notable fall (referred to as a "Homeric whipper") in the "Green Arch" is particularly memorable.

Thin Air, Encounters in the Himalaya - Greg Child
(Child's "Postcards from the Ledge" is good too. A catchy title always helps.)

You will note that I haven't yet mentioned the most popular mountaineering book ever, probably sold more copies than "Annapurna"…well I will add it here. John Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" is a riveting account of a very well known tragedy. But I am sick and tired of reading about Everest. Poor Mallory and Irvine roll over in their respective graves every time a new book is written on this topic. But, I will make a deal with you…I will give it at least an honorable mention if you will promise to read Anatoli Boukreev's "The Climb" also. Its only fair, as Boukreev came out looking a bit shabby in Krakauer's book. Too bad Henry Barber (oops that's "Harley") never wrote a book to respond to Taylor's "Breach". Then again maybe he did and I have not read it. (See note in part 1. Ed.)

That's it so far; but there are still many books to read. Some are old and hard to find…others are yet to be written. I haven't yet read anything by the two men who were perhaps the best mountaineers of our time: Reinhold Messner and Jerzy Kukuczka. Messner has many to chose from, the late Kukuczka has one that I know of. (Note: the Poles make even the French look like pansies.) I still haven't read "Seven Summits" by Bass, Wells & Ridgeway or Paul Pritchard's "Deep Play", but I will. Hey, I am a slow reader.

Two things I just realized after writing this. First, three of the books mentioned here include escapes from prison camps…perhaps escapism, striving for freedom and disdain for authority are important themes in climbing literature (and climbing itself). Second, none of the recommended books is written by a women. Either I need to branch out a bit more (Julie Tullis…Alison Hargreaves…) or maybe there just aren't enough women in prison camps.

by Richard Doucette

Copyright © 2002
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