The Best Mountain Book Ever Written

I hope you’re ready to expand your reading list.

Going into this event at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival on November 1, I was really curious about how the panel would make a choice for the best mountain book ever written. How does one even go about making such a claim? What would the criteria be for making the choice?

As it turned out, there was no criteria set for the panel. Instead, each panelist had to create his or her own criteria, and then use that to choose “the book.”

The panel, moderated by Alpinist Editor-in-Chief, Katie Ives, included outdoor writer and climber, Jon Popowich; Professor in the Department of English at the University of Calgary, Harry Vandervlist; author Bernadette MacDonald; climber and writer, Stephen Venables; and climber, writer and psychologist, Geoff Powter.

Some panelists chose their books based on a more objective set of criteria, using factors such as the book’s ongoing relevancy beyond time and place, and its accuracy, while others used a more subjective set of criteria. Did the book draw them back? How often did they take it off the shelf? What role has that book played in their life? Despite varying criteria, they all agreed that a book needs to be well written. It can be the most epic story of the century, but if it isn’t well written it didn’t make the cut.

All of the panelists chose a number of books, but mentioned one or two as his or her top choice. Here’s the final list…

The Best Mountain Book Ever Written

Click on the first thumbnail to view slideshow:

Other books that were mentioned by the panel (among many!):

The Mountain of My Fear, David Roberts

The White Spider, Heinrich Harrer

Conquistadors of the Useless: From the Alps to Annapurna, Lionel Terray

The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek, Sid Marty

K2: The Story of the Savage Mountain, Jim Curran

The Seventh Grade, Reinhold Messner

One Man’s Mountains: Essays and Verses, Tom Patey

Freedom Climbers, Bernadette MacDonald

Solo Faces, James Salter

A Hunter of Peace: Mary T.S. Schaffer’s Old Indian Trails of the Canadian Rockies, Mary Schaffer

That Untravelled World, Eric Shipton

Thin Air: Encounters in the Himalayas, Greg Child

Summits and Secrets, Kurt Diemberger

Kiss or Kill: Confessions of a Serial Climber, Mark Twight

In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods, Galen Rowell

Beyond the Mountain, Steve House

What do you think the best mountain book is?

Meghan J. Ward

Meghan J. Ward is an outdoor, travel and adventure writer, gear tester and outdoorsy mama based in Banff, Alberta. Meghan is a mountain sport enthusiast and enjoys international travel, photography, yoga and healthy cooking.

(Visited 76 times, 1 visits today)

Comments

  1. No book of Walter Bonatti? Hmmm … To paraphrase a famous line from Shakespeare, I would say there is something unclear in the kingdom of mountain books. References have they changed so much?

  2. I didn’t manage to capture every single book mentioned (there was quite a flurry). But, I do believe that Bonatti’s name was mentioned. Something I perhaps should have clarified is that all of the panelists pretty much agreed the task was impossible. But they still had to choose as part of the exercise. Everyone is welcome to contribute their own ideas!

  3. This must be the Best Mountain Book for Children…
    I read ‘Banner in the Sky’ by James Ramsey Ullman when I was about 12 years-old. It totally captured my imagination. And so began my love of mountains and my own climbing career.