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Six Must-Read Climbing Books for Fall 2020

From rock climbing history to the Himalayas, this list has something for everyone

Some climbers love climbing books as much as they love getting outside. There’s nothing better than turning off the screen to get lost in the pages of a crisp new book on a cool autumn rest day.

Classic books most climbers have read include The White Spider by Heinrich Harrer, Touching the Void by Joe Simpson, Starlight and Storm by Gaston Rebufatt and Conquistadors of the Useless by Lionel Terray, but there are great new books that hit the shelves every year.

Here are five new climbing books that you should read this fall, all published in 2020.

All that Glitters

Margo Talbot’s 2011 memoir about ice climbing and addiction is being re-released by Rocky Mountain Books. All that Glitters, a Climber’s Journey Through Addiction and Adventure is Talbot’s honest account of a childhood characterized by abuse and neglect. Her descent into depression, addiction and criminal activity is both heartbreaking and ultimately inspiring.

Finding redemption and healing through her passion for the outdoors and, in particular, ice climbing, this memoir is a stirring testament to the power of the human spirit and the healing force of nature.

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Talbot is a Rockies climber and speaker who works with youth-at-risk and addictions programs, as well as individuals and organizations looking to enhance their mental fitness through a focus on vitality and resilience. In 2013, she did a TEDx talk called “Climbing Out of Addiction and Depression.”

“This is as much or more a story of climbing from the darkness to the light as it is of climbing mountains,” said Will Gadd. “Climbing is hard, but this remarkable story proves that the most difficult place to find is not a distant summit but peace with the savage terrain between our ears.”

All that Glitters

Emilio Comici

Written by David Smart and published by Rocky Mountain Books, Emilio Comici, Angel of the Dolomites is the first English-language biography of one of the most renowned Italian climbers, Emilio Comici, who bagged over 200 first ascents in the Eastern Alps prior to his death at 39 years of age in 1940.

Comici was one of the first to climb grade-six rock walls, and introduced ladders for aid climbing, stop-and-belay anchors and hanging bivouacs.

Smart is the editorial director of Gripped Publishing, the recipient of the 2019 Summit of Excellence Award, has written a number of books, including A Youth Wasted Climbing, Paul Preuss: Life and Death at the Birth of Free-Climbing and has been short-listed for awards by both the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival and The Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature.

“David Smart has created a nuanced and elegant biography of Emilio Comici, a climber who was immersed in the simmering ideological tension of eastern Italy between the two Great Wars, and who cared deeply about the aesthetics of climbing,” said Bernadette McDonald, author of Art of Freedom, Alpine Warriors, Freedom Climbers and Keeper of the Mountains.

Stories of Ice

Canadian writer and climber Lynn Martel brings us Stories of Ice Adventure, Commerce and Creativity on Canada’s Glaciers, published by Rocky Mountain Books.

The people behind these stories range from a mother/daughter duo who spent five months skiing across icefields from Vancouver to Alaska to scientists discovering biofilms deep inside glacier caverns to protesters camping for weeks to protect their beloved local glacier. Western Canada’s glaciers are dynamic, enigmatic, exquisitely beautiful, sometimes dangerous environments where people play, work, run businesses, explore, and create art every single day.

With gorgeous images by some of the country’s best outdoor photographers, Martel’s book shares the excitement, the mystery, and the wonder of Canada’s glaciers and poses questions about their future.

“Lynn Martel’s Stories of Ice is a fascinating and eclectic mix of tales about multiple aspects of glaciers: artistic, scientific, economic, recreational, touristic, historical and even spiritual,” said Chic Scott, author of Pushing the Limits, Powder Pioneers, Deep Powder and Steep Rock and numerous other books.

“Here in Canada we are richly endowed with glacial ice, but unfortunately it is disappearing quickly. This personal and informative book is a must read for anyone interested in the effects of climate change.”

Down

Top aid climber Andy Kirkpatrick’s new Down: The Complete Descent Manual for Climbers, Alpinists and Mountaineers was self-published and is a must-have book about climbing anchors. “This book will save your life,” says pro crack climber Pete Whittaker.

The purpose of Down is to create a single source for all descent techniques, both for the novice climber, and the expert.

The book was written and illustrated over three years by award-winning climber and writer Kirkpatrick and is based on four decades of epics. At 80,000 words (400 pages) and 300 illustrations, this is both a labour of love and an important and timely book for a community that loses far too many climbers to rappelling accidents.

Winter 8000

Award-winning author Bernadette McDonald’s Winter 8000: Climbing the World’s Highest Mountains in the Coldest Season was published by Vertebrate in the UK and Mountaineers Books in the U.S. This book focuses on some of the boldest and most dangerous climbs ever attempted.

There have been 178 expeditions, as of 2019, to the Himalaya and Karakoram during winter. Polish alpinist, Voytek Kurtyka, termed the practice the “art of suffering.”

The stories range from the French climber Elisabeth Revol’s solo winter attempt of Makalu, to American Cory Richards and his dramatic effort on Gasherbrum II with famed Italian alpinist Simone Moro and Kazakh hard man Denis Urubko.

McDonald traveled extensively to interview many of the climbers featured in this book, including Elizabeth Revol (the climbing partner of Tomek Mackiewicz) and Anna Mackiewicz, his widow, meeting them just a few months after Mackiewicz’s death on Nanga Parbat.

McDonald’s many personal relationships with profiled climbers and her ability to tap into emotions and family histories lend Winter 8000 an intimacy too often lacking in mountaineering histories.

Buried

A gripping memoir by Ken Wylie that grapples with the complex relationships that exist within the mountaineering community and how personal choices can have deep and tragic consequences.

On Jan. 20, 2003, at 10:45 a.m., a massive avalanche released from Tumbledown Mountain in the Selkirk Range of British Columbia. Tonnes of snow carried 13 members of two guided backcountry skiing groups down the 37-degree incline of a run called La Traviata and buried them. After a frantic hour of digging by remaining group members, an unthinkable outcome became reality. Seven people were dead.

The tragedy made international news. Photos of the seven dead Canadian and U.S. skiers appeared on television screens and the pages of newspapers. The official analysis did not specifically note guide error as a contributing factor in the accident. This interpretation has been insufficient for some of the victims’ families, the public and some members of the guiding community. Buried is the assistant guide’s story. It renders an answerable truth about what happened by delving deep into the human factors that played into putting people in harm’s way.

The story begins buried metres deep in snow, and through care-filled reflection emerges slowly like spring after a long winter, nurturing a hopeful, courageous dialogue for all who make journeys through the mountains of their life. The story illustrates the peace that comes from accountability and the growth that results from understanding.

”It is a rare story where a man exposes his soft underbelly in the telling of his hero’s journey,” said Sharon Wood, author of Rising: Becoming the First Canadian Woman to Summit Everest.