Everest: Reading About the Top of The World

If the new Everest movie leaves you wanting more high-altitude adventures, here are seven great reads
Webster Chang Webster Chang
August 28, 2015

Everest, documenting the awe-inspiring journey of two different expeditions challenged beyond their limits by one of the fiercest snowstorms ever encountered by mankind, debuts on September 18, 2015.

Starring Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson and Jake Gyllenhaal, this film is based on the incredible true story of the 1996 Everest disaster which was also recounted by Jon Krakauer in Into Thin Air

Assuming you’ve already read Into Thin Air, senior editor Mary Metz suggests these seven great reads to round out your Everest experience: 

When it wasn’t so crowded: Everest 1953

Back in the day, only one team got a permit to climb a Himalayan giant at a time, and in 1953 the lucky recipient was a British team that included a young New Zealander named Ed Hillary. Read the exciting story about how he and Tenzing Norgay became the first to stand on the highest spot on Earth in Mick Conefrey’s Everest 1953.

 

 

When other mountains get angry too: The Last Step 

An American team of elite climbers, led by Jim Whittaker, combined to tackle the world’s second tallest—and far more dangerous— mountain: K2. Rick Ridgeway was there—and became consumed by ambition to be the first American to reach K2’s summit. The competition, with the likes of John Roskelley and Jim Wickwire on the team, was fierce—as was the weather. Tempers became frayed and language strong as the team divided into separate factions; who would seize the prize—and who would play Achilles and sulk in a tent?

 When Everest Isn’t Enough: Jim Whittaker: A Life on the Edge

Then there’s someone like the first American to climb Everest, Jim Whittaker, for whom Everest is just part of the story, someone whose name seems to keep popping up in these other descriptions, decade after decade. Big Jim not only summited Everest (1963), he was also the leader of the expedition that saw the first Americans on the summit of K2 (1978). And he organized and led the 1990 Peace Climb that put a team of Americans, Chinese, and Russians together on top of Everest. And he was the first CEO of a little shop you may have heard of, REI. It’s an impressive list, but there’s still more to Jim’s life on the edge!

When you climb Denali in winter: Minus 148°

Art Davidson and his friends know you don’t have to travel halfway around the world to experience some death-defying hijinks in the mountains; you just have to attempt the tallest mountain in North America in the dead of winter. Trapped in separate camps as a storm rages high on Denali, each group is concerned not only for their own survival, but also about the fate of their compatriots.

 

When women are leading the way: Tilting at Mountains and Mountains In My Heart

Both Edurne Pasaban and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner would rather climb a mountain themselves than stay at a home, and certainly neither woman stopped at one! Edurne Pasaban was the first woman to climb all fourteen of the 8000-meter peaks (what, you thought there was only Everest?), while Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner climbed all fourteen without supplemental oxygen—or high altitude porters! Both tell their stories with honesty and gusto.

 

When you combine brilliant visuals and a great story: Everest: The West Ridge

As Jon Krakauer points out in his foreword for Everest: The West Ridge, only fourteen people have succeeded in reaching the summit of Everest via its west ridge while sixteen people have died in the attempt. Those are some scary statistics! Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld made both the first attempt and the first successful ascent via the West Ridge back in 1963, and Tom’s telling of the climb has been a classic for fifty years. Lushly illustrated with color photos from the American Everest Expedition, which put Jim Whittaker on the summit, Everest: The West Ridge is a story of heartwarming friendship, fierce competition, triumph, and tragedy. 

How many have you read so far? Which books are in your queue? Let us know!

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