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Climbing Books to Enjoy This Summer

As the Easter weekend proved, summer is well underway. More daylight and longer hours means much more time spent outdoors, but that doesn’t mean you need to neglect climbing completely during your down time. Here are some of the best climbing-related books to check out:

Tommy Caldwell – The Push

            Tommy Caldwell’s autobiography tells his story up to the completion of the Dawn Wall with Kevin Jorgensen, and includes insight into the infamous trip to Kyrgyzstan, his marriage and subsequent divorce from Beth Rodden, the accident where he lost half his finger, as well as personal anecdotes about his family. It’s funny, insightful, and extremely powerful. Even if you’ve already seen the Dawn Wall movie, the book is still well worth a read as it explores Caldwell’s experience developing and climbing the route that the movie doesn’t go into.

            Lynn Hill – Climbing Free

           No climbing reading list would be complete without Hill’s autobiography. Hill was the mega climbing star of the 1980s and 90s, and her book goes over her climbing career in detail along with cute stories from her California childhood. Hill has seemingly climbed everywhere and it’s hard not to be envious reading about idyllic climbs from California to Italy, but nothing can beat hearing first-hand accounts about iconic climbs such as her first free ascent of the Nose in Yosemite.

            Catherine Destivelle – Rock Queen

            What makes this autobiography so unique is the style of writing. Originally in French, the translation to English is extremely literal which really lets Destivelle’s voice shine through. As competition climbing becomes increasingly mainstream and an Olympic sport, it’s interesting to see the origin of it that Destivelle was part of. It’s also a nice contrast to the America and Yosemite-heavy climbing news that has dominated the scene since Dawn Wall and Free Solo were released.

            Jon Krakauer – Into the Wild

            Into the Wild may not be as climbing-centric as Into Thin Air, Krakauer’s book about the disastrous 1996 Everest expedition, but I’d argue that it is almost more relevant today. The story of Chris McCandless is well known now thanks to a major movie and numerous follow up articles, including a revisited article Krakauer wrote in 2015, but its theme is still important today. Enjoying the outdoors is a common interest that unites the climbing community, but what happens when that interest is taken too far? What happens when that identity becomes destructive, and how do people justify this potentially destructive identity with loved ones? It’s a recurring theme even today, especially with the prominence and, for some, tragedy surrounding climbers like Alex Honnold and Ueli Steck who are/were famed for pushing the sport beyond where anyone else is willing to go.

And a bonus film:

Valley Uprising

            Available on Netflix, Valley Uprising is a documentary about the legendary Camp 4 site in Yosemite and the different generations of climbers that have stayed there. Climbers like Warren Harding and Royal Robbins are featured heavily in the movie, as well as current superstars like Alex Honnold and the late Dean Potter. Don’t let the idea of a documentary put you off – the movie is fun, almost silly at times, and features loads of interviews from the climbers themselves.

Interested in more movies? Check out our reviews of Free Solo and The Dawn Wall.

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