Beyond the Mountain is the alpine climbing autobiography of Steve House. For those of you not familiar with House, he is a progressive mountain climber that is known for great alpine challenges, or, as Reinhold Messner put it in the forward, “He climbs the right routes on the right mountains in a time when everyone is climbing Everest.” Generally, it is an engrossing, intense and at moments even offensive story about climbing at the highest possible level. He takes his reader straight into the action of his climbs from 1989 through 2004 without hesitation.
The book addresses House’s introduction to alpinism through the Slovenian student exchange program he was a part of when he was nineteen years old and the trip he took with his Slovenian hosts to Nanga Parbat and first the Rupal Face. He also addresses his most impactful climbs personally and in the climbing community, including a lightning ascent of the Slovak Direct Route on Denali and even a multi-expedition trip to conquer K7 in the Charakusa Valley of Pakistan, plus his ascents with famed-mountaineer, guide and one of his mentor’s, Barry Blanchard, in the Canadian Rockies.
The main take away from this story is about greatness. Steve House is a great climber. He’s got the 10,000 hours put in that qualify him as an expert climber. Not only that, he has an additional 10,000 hours on the most challenging peaks and alpine walls of our day to boot! The book gets at the idea of commitment as the way to greatness. Whole commitment. Maybe obsession is a better word. The book is worth the read if you want to be challenged to climb better and is inspiring to the armchair mountaineer on the idea of pursuing a goal relentlessly.
Of course, the goal that House chose was one that opened the door to the top without the potential for disappointment, unless he quit or died trying. While he started his young climbing career as wanting to be good enough to climb the Rupal Face, he matured and dogmatically pursued becoming the best alpine climber he could become. Whether he is the best is up for debate, but he is certainly in the top five of climbers currently climbing.
He continues to climb. He recently returned from climbing Makalu in the Himalayas. Beyond the Mountain was not a complete autobiography, but it was a milestone in climbing literature for its forthrightness and a rare chance at intimacy with a private, self-motivated climber that has a lot of life issues and value propositions that might offend, but his output from the equation of his life in climbing has netted out to being remarkable.