Peter Boardman and The Shining Mountain

He doesn’t have a household name, but it comes up in mountaineering discussions periodically and in general literature too.

Today, Peter Boardman is best associated with the Boardman Tasker Prize in Mountaineering Literature, an award that was made to honor their memory. He was a pioneering alpinist that pushed boundaries and is still a hero to some climbers that are familiar with his legacy.

His most notable ascents were made with fellow Brit Joe Tasker. Their first together was chronicled in Boardman’s book, The Shining Mountain (1978), when they attempted the blank West Face of Changabang in the Garhwal Himalaya. Ken Wilson, a British climbing magazine editor, commented that their planned line, which Chris Bonnington announced to the public, “didn’t look like a married man’s route.” (Which makes me chuckle every time I read it.)

For some of us, his climbs were done before we were born. The mountains he climbed are recognizable, though the routes were firsts ascents or attempts: Petit Dru, Denali, Everest twice, Kanchenjunga, Carstenz Pyramid, K2 twice, and obscure destinations like Kongur in China, Gauri Sankar’s South Summit in Nepal, and, of course, Changabang’ West Wall.

One of the reasons there is a climbing literature award that bears his name is because of his quality writing and storytelling. The Shining Mountain is not only inspiring but covers the self doubt with honesty. It’s also leads by example: While it acknowledges not everything is easy or possible, it’s rarely dipping into the dark depravity of despair because he was objective inbhis analysis but confident with tempered optimism. The establishment of the Boardman Tasker Prize keeps his memory and his many accomplishments alive and relevant.

As part of another project, I recently reached out to Dougald MacDonald, the Executive Editor at the American Alpine Club and the fearless leader of Climbing magazine. I asked him about some of the best mountaineering books ever written by sharing my preliminary list. He looked at the titles and sent me only one title that he said sprung immediately to mind: Boardman’s The Shining Mountain.

He was right that it belonged on my short list. I included The Shining Mountain on a best-of list in a recent guest post on Desk to Dirtbag: Be sure to check out Ten Must Read Mountaineering Books. I hope that the list might have your next book for vacation or some escapist reading.

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Comments

  1. When it comes to mountaineering literature this title is almost as good as it gets. Very, very close to the top of the list.

  2. Have you read *Sacred Summits*, which was published posthumously? Stephen Venables just sent me a note to say that it’s as good if not better than *The Shining Mountain*.

  3. Yes, I’d agree with Stephen where it comes to the “as good as” part :-)

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