Booked in Saint Paul April 2014

Booked in Saint Paul

Hi, I’m Ariel, a clerical worker who’s spent the last few decades working (mostly) at the Merriam and Highland Park libraries. I am reading extensively in the genre of mountain climbing, though I’m not entirely sure why. It could be all the exotic locations, the ever-present danger, or the vicarious catharsis of striving for the summit. I am not a climber or an expert on the associated literature but of the titles I have read, I’d like to share some favorites:

Climbing and Mountaineering Books

Ultimate high : My Everest Odyssey

Ultimate High : My Everest Odyssey

By Kropp, Goran and Lagercrantz, David
October 5th, 1999 - Discovery Books

Goran Kroop attempts to bicycle from Stockholm to Kathmandu THEN climb the tallest mountain in the world. He plans to do this entirely under his own power: without Sherpa support or bottled oxygen, carrying all his own gear and eating only food brought with him from Sweden! Earnest and imaginative, this journal is compelling in its sheer conceptual audacity. The mountain climbing portion of the journey occurred during the infamous 1996 season which claimed eight lives & overshadowed Goran’s record-breaking achievements.

A Walk in the Sky: Climbing Hidden Peak

A Walk in the Sky: Climbing Hidden Peak

By Clinch, Nicholas
December 1982 - Mountaineers Books

A Walk In The Sky retells the adventure of the first American climbers to reach an 8000-meter summit in the Himalayas. Understated, dryly funny and thoroughly enjoyable, Nick Clinch’s even style gives depth and texture to the mountain. Despite having remained unpublished for decades, this book retains an intensity that puts you right in the story. The refreshing absence of tragedy does not take away from the excitement. The scenery, the personalities, and the danger are all brought to life. Great pictures too!

Dead Lucky: Life After Death on Mount Everest

Dead Lucky: Life After Death on Mount Everest

By Hall, Lincoln
May 14, 2009 - Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin
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Lincoln Hall (not to be confused with Rob Hall who died a decade earlier on the same mountain) reconstructs his summit attempt on Mt Everest during a particularly deadly climbing season. His strangely detached style is full of observations, usually unencumbered with analysis, even when it seems to impinge his character. This dispassionate style lends itself to the book both as an objective lens and as a consistent anchor in a rollercoaster series of events. Summiting and even being left for dead are just the beginnings of Lincoln Hall’s misadventure in the death zone. Things start to get really scary AFTER he is ‘rescued’.

K2, the savage mountain

By American Karakoram Expedition (Charlie Houston, Robert H. Bates, and members of the Third American Karakoram Expedition)
- McGraw-Hill
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This classic adventure starts a little slow, like most expedition books, with budget and itinerary taking the spotlight, but the pace picks up when the climbing begins. This book details an attempt to climb the Abruzzi spur, includes the origins of the ‘Gilkey memorial’ and recounts Pete Schoening’s legendary life-saving belay; one of the most celebrated accomplishments in the ‘brotherhood of the rope’ mythos.

 Buried in the sky : the extraordinary story of the Sherpa climbers on K2's deadliest day

Buried in the sky : the extraordinary story of the Sherpa climbers on K2's deadliest day

By Zuckerman, Peter
June 3, 2013 - W.W. Norton & Co.
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There are many books about the 2008 K2 climbing season during which 11 climbers lost their lives. This is one of the less confusing accounting (of the ones I’ve read). It’s also refreshingly inclusive in recounting the experiences of the Sherpa climbers, a major omission in most books about Himalayan mountaineering. The cast of characters is extensive and the misfortunes not limited to the tragedy in the central bottleneck. The authors, however, manage to sort out the divergent eyewitness accounts and uncover previously unacknowledged stories of selflessness and courage.

Above the Clouds

Above the clouds : the diaries of a high-altitude mountaineer

By Boukreev, Anatoli
Linda Wylie (editor)
Lagovskaya, Natalia (translator)
Poston, Barbara (translator)
December 1, 2002 - St. Martin's Griffin
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Unlike his book, ‘The Climb’, which was written as a reaction to Krakauer’s ‘Into Thin Air’, this book is all about the climber’s experience. He asks himself why he climbs, mourns for friends lost on the mountain and explores the pleasures and challenges of kicking steps and breaking new snow. These journal entries and poems, published shortly after his disappearance on Annapurna, reveal much about the true nature of one of modern mountaineering’s most maligned characters.

Annapurna South Face: The Classic Account of Survival

Annapurna South Face : the classic account of survival

By Bonington, Chris
May 1, 2001 - Da Capo Press
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The first hundred pages describes the planning (yawn), the second hundred pages describes the approach march (still yawning) but then there is a really excellent climbing portion of the book in the author’s tragic, hang-dog style. Chris Bonnington is extremely emotive when the pressure is on and every tortured breath, every agonizing step is brought to life. This is followed by 100+ pages of packing lists (…zzz…).

Eiger dreams : ventures among men and mountains

Eiger dreams : ventures among men and mountains

By Krakauer, Jon
February 10, 2009 - Lyons Press
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Into thin air : a personal account of the Mount Everest disaster


Into thin air : a personal account of the Mount Everest disaster

By Krakauer, Jon
1997 - Villard
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These two mountaineering books by John Krakauer are dissimilar in style and content but both make excellent reading. The first, Eiger Dreams, is a collection of essays on climbing and the climbing sub-culture. It is far more personal and light-hearted than the second book, Into Thin Air, which tells the tragic story of Everest’s 1996 climbing season. Despite making Boukreev (who rescued 3 people that night) into the villain of the piece and it’s more somber tone, it is a good read and introduced me to the genre of mountain climbing literature.

Conquistadors of the Useless: From the Alps to Annapurna

Conquistadors of the Useless: From the Alps to Annapurna

By Terray, Lionel
August 15, 2008 - Mountaineers Books

I am currently reading what many climbers point to as the definitive climbing memoir. The autobiography of French climber Lionel Terray is, so far, an excellent read full of insights about life, war and (of course) climbing. Terray’s rich style makes the most technical information seem lyrical and translator Geoffrey Sutton’s footnotes are most helpful in extending my understanding of climbing parlance.