The 5 Most Interesting Climbing Books from 2017

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Honouring High Places by Junko Tabei and Helen Y. Rolfe.

Maybe this is the only Christmas wish/gift list you’ll need. I have only read one of these books so far, and am in the middle of another at the moment, but background knowledge about the authors alone makes these books genuine curiosities at the very least. At most, these stories might change the way you look at things and might even inspire you.

  • Honouring High Places: The Mountain Life of Junko Tabei by Junko Tabei and Helen Y. Rolfe, translatedfrom Japanese by Yumiko Hiraki and Rieko Holtved, Rocky Mountain Books (Canada 2017) — The writing is directly from Tabei herself, and carefully translated into English to tell, first hand, about her adventures among mountains. She tells the story that brought her to the top of Everest, despite avalanches, her slight frame, and gender. And the language is sensitive and smooth, and doesn’t feel forced, as translations often do. I am looking forward to sharing my full review in January.
  • Karakoram: Climbing Through the Kashmir Conflict by Steve Swenson, Mountaineers Books (USA, 2017) — Former American Alpine Club president and alpinist tied to a couple of Piolet d’Or-nominated climbs, Steve Swenson reflects on the best climbing in the world in one of the most challenging bureaucratic environments, which permitted access to only a few. Based on his efforts to penetrate the region for a period spanning decades, Swenson shares what he experienced on and around Gasherbrum IV and K6.
  • The Push: A Climber’s Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits by Tommy Caldwell, Viking Books (USA, 2017) — This is Tommy Caldwell’s memoir about how he arose to the challenge to free the Dawn Wall on Yosemite’s El Capitan with Kevin Jorgeson in 2015. The Dawn Wall ascent was well documented live, and much light has been shone on Caldwell since, but this is another and possibly more in-depth look into the character-building events and lessons he has taken in through a very challenging life. Most of us like to believe that he meets the challenge. I’m hoping to read it and glean something I can apply to my own struggles.
  • The Magician’s Glass: Character and Fate: Eight Essays on Climbing and the Mountain Life by Ed Douglas, Vertebrate Publishing (UK, 2017) — If you have read Ed’s work in Alpinist as I have, this book has to be on your list. He combines insight about climbing culture, mountaineering current events, and observations of integrity and flaws into an eloquent and enlightening read. With Katie Ives contributing the foreward, I have no doubt that this book is as good if not better than what we’ve read by him to-date.
  • The Art of Freedom: The Life and Times of Voytek Kurtyka by Bernadette McDonald, Rocky Mountain Books (Canada 2017) — This is the only book on this list that I have finished reading, and it was everything I hoped. Bernadette worked her way into Kurtyka’s circle to produce a work that met his approval, as well as the judges at Banff, Kendall, and Boardman Tasker. For details, check out my review here.

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What I am Reading Now and the Art of Freedom

My current reading list (All rights reserved)

I haven’t updated you about what I have been reading in a while, so this post is long overdue. I have a Goodreads account you can follow, but I usually keep this blog more up to date better than that website. Besides, between what’s happening in housing policy in Washington, DC and around the country (my day job), what’s going on with Bears Ears and the other National Monuments (my volunteer hours), and keeping up with Natalie and the kids (my favorite “job”), it’s a wonder that I have been reading anything. Well, I guess I cut out drawing to read, didn’t I?

This is what I have picking up from my narrow white bed stand and packing in my briefcase for my commutes during these last two or so months:

  • Trace: Memory, History, Race and the American Land by Lauret Savoy — Katie Ives recommended this book to several of her friends, and somehow I was fortunate enough to be included in that note. Trace is artfully written and complex, and has made me more sensitive to historical perspective. Savoy reviews how our human existence has been shaped by place and race as much as history and experience, perhaps more. As a person who grew up with some privilege, it’s been another treatment of self awareness and even a little therapeutic.
  • Alpinist 58 — This issue celebrates the late Royal Robbins, but also includes a tale of a mysterious cairn and personal stories. I particularly enjoyed “Paradigm Shift” about women that climb and how they are at the upper reaches of trad climbing’s known limits.
  • A Peakbagger’s Guide to the Canadian Rockies: North by Ben Nearingburg and Eric Coulthard — I like guidebooks. I just do. And this one covers ground that’s just stunning and accessible to the committed. Nearingburg and Coulthard combine easy descriptions and beautiful colored photographs to direct you where to go around the Columbia Icefield and skywards.

I am also reading Bernadette McDonald’s forthcoming book, The Art of Freedom: The Life and Climbs of Voytek Kurtyka. Rocky Mountain Books release it for purchase at the beginning of August. I’ll have my review for you to read at the end of July.

By the way, the next issue of Alpinist (59) will include a Local Hero piece, a tribute to a dear friend, by me; the subject is a secret. It will be on newsstands in September. I also hear that my friend and Alaskan pioneer, Clint Helander, will have an article about his recent first ascent of Mount Huntington’s South Ridge. Look it up!

Thanks again for stopping by. If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy receiving my newsletter with more climbing history, news on upcoming books, and climbing art by some talented artists.

What I am Reading Now

Just a quick note on what I’m reading in rare spare moments between excitement at work and family fun…

Alpinist 44 (starting with the editors note, the poetry on Alison Hargreaves, followed by Gildea’s range profile on the Sentinels, and every other morsel after those.)

2013 American Alpine Journal (finished the features and obituaries, now I am looking at the Alaskan and  Canadian entries. Then I’ll hit up whatever region catches my interest before putting it on the bookcase until I need it for a reference.)

Cheers.

Climbing matters even though we work nine to five.

Reading List Update

I’m about to finish Alpinist 43 and will move onto dissecting the 2013 American Alpine Journal. Perhaps “dissecting” is too strong of a word, but I think you get the idea.

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Climbing matters, even though we work nine to five.