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There are three things I will read almost any book about: Paris, India, and Mount Everest. So, for today’s post, we’re going to see 35 of the best books about Mount Everest, K2, and the Himalayas. I’ve read a few of these and have a bunch saved on Scribd to read hopefully this summer.
A lot of these books are about similar events, the 1996 Everest disaster, and the August 2008 K2 disaster. I have no desire to ever climb Mount Everest, or any mountain really, so instead, let’s see the best books about Mount Everest and the Himalayas so we don’t have to climb them ourselves.
Peak Marcello is forced to choose between living with his dad in Thailand or withering away in juvie after being arrested for scaling a skyscraper in New York City. It’s not much surprise when he chooses to go with his dad, who it turns out, has different plans for Peak: to be the youngest person to summit Mount Everest. While Peak is a climbing enthusiast, this will be the challenge of a lifetime. (This is fiction.)
Jordan Romero is actually the youngest person to summit Mount Everest at just 13 years, 10 months, and 10 days old. And that was just the beginning. By 15, he was the youngest person to reach the highest summits of all seven continents. This memoir is the story of his journey, the idea of which was sparked at just nine years old, where we see all the hard work and training result in a dream come true. I’m currently reading this and have really liked it!
On K2, the deadliest peak in the world, in August 2008, eleven climbers lost their lives. But two sherpas made it out alive. Coming from extreme poverty, they became two of the most skilled mountain climbers in the world and Buried in the Sky is the first time their story is being told. From K2 to the slums in Kathmandu, we hear their perspective on one of the most dramatic disasters in alpine history.
Into Thin Air is probably the most well-known book about Mount Everest. This is John Krakauer’s telling of the 1996 Everest disaster where eight climbers died. At the time it was the deadliest event, and season, on Mount Everest. He provides a balanced perspective on the events that occurred on the mountain that deadly day. Standing on the summit, he had no idea that a storm with such an impact was approaching.
Dark Summit is the story of the next deadliest season on Mount Everest (at the time, now it was April 25, 2015) when David Sharp lay dying near the summit of Mount Everest on May 15, 2006, while 40 climbers went right past him on their way to the summit. A week later, Lincoln Hall was left for dead in the same area only to be found alive the next day after spending the night there with no food or shelter. This is the story of a deadly season as well as an investigation into the dangerous climbing and risky expeditions. I just read this and really enjoyed it.
While K2 isn’t as tall as Mount Everest, it is more deadly. It’s on the border of China and Pakistan and is home to some of the harshes mountain climbing conditions in the world. Only six women have reached the summit of K2, versus the 90 on Everest, three died on their descent, and two have died on other climbs. Savage Summit shares the tragic, compelling, and inspiring stories of these courageous women.
Anatoli Boukreev shares his perspective on the 1996 Everest disaster as he climbed, alone and blind, and brought climbers back from the certain edge of death. Late in the day, 23 climbers and guides were caught in a blizzard and left disoriented and without oxygen on the descent as darkness approached.
On June 6, 1924, George Mallory and Sandy Irvine disappeared on Mount Everest. Mallory was discovered high on Everest in 1999, while Sandy’s body is still believed to be there. He was rediscovered in 1975 by a Chinese climber who was killed the next day. The sun rose on a day with few clouds in the sky. The two men emerged from their tents, shuffled around camp a bit, the lifted oxygen tanks onto their backs and were never heard from again. This is the most detailed reconstruction of what happened on that fateful day, combining personal experience and physical evidence found on the mountain.
Lincoln Hall ( from Dark Summit, above) likes to say that he died on Mount Everest. He really was pronounced dead and two sherpas spent two hours trying to revive him, but word came from the expedition’s leaders that they were to descend to save themselves. Word of his death spread fast, but the next morning an American guide, with two clients and a sherpa, found Hall sitting cross-legged on a sharp crest of the summit ridge. This is his story of the days leading up to the disaster, his death, and his night in the death zone, plus his history of mountain climbing.
Reinhold Messner, the premier classical free climber, was the first man to ever climb Mount Everest without the use of artificial oxygen. He altered the future of climbing. This is a candid account of his climb along with his inner thoughts and emotions during and after the climb.
On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay pushed tired bodies and aching lungs to stand on top of the highest peak in the world for the very first time. Hillary shares the bravery, frustration, agony, and glory that became his Everest quest. From discovering the southern route in 1951, through the Himalayan training of 1952, and the expedition in 1953, we see the mountain’s unforgiving conditions.
Jamling Tenzing Norgay gives an inside look at life as a Sherpa, and not just any sherpa, but the son of Tenzing Norgay, one of the first men to summit Mount Everest. This book interweaves his ascent during the 1996 disaster with his father’s historic climb.
No, not Lincoln Hall, but Brian Dickinson. About 1,000 feet from the summit, his sherpa got sick and had to turn around while Brian was faced with the decision: to summit or not to summit. Four hours later, he solo summited Mount Everest. He celebrated briefly with pictures and radioed his team to let them know he was on his way down when all of a sudden his vision was blurry and his eyes started to burn. Before you know it he was practically blind. Alone, with almost no vision and low oxygen, he was forced to use his Navy training, instincts, and faith to inch his way back down the mountain.
Sir Chris Bonington and Charles Clarke tell the story of Bonington’s most tragic expedition: an attempt to summit the Northeast Ridge of Mount Everest. This is the story of the attempt and death of two young men that set out one morning and never made it back.
Beeck Weathers stumbled blind back into camp after the 1996 Everest disaster. It was widely reported when he woke from a deep hypothermic coma, but the story of what led this pathologist to Everest in the first place is finally being told. He learned in his thirties that climbing helped with his depression, but it also practically disintegrated his family. While that is the case, when he was reported dead on the mountain, it was his wife Peach behind the daring rescue that brought her husband back. This is the story of his near-death experience and resurrection with everything that followed.
We switch things up here and get a woman’s perspective on climbing Everest on the day of the 1996 Everest disaster. Lene Gammelgaard was the first Scandinavian to summit Everest and it happened to be on that fateful day. Eight of her team’s climbers, including the leader Scott Fischer, died that day. This is her story of training, arriving in Nepal, the extremely difficult climb, and the storm that forced her and fellow climbers to huddle through the night, hoping to survive.
Ed Viesturs spent 18 years climbing to the tops the world’s 14 highest peaks, over 8,000 meters. From turning back just 300 feet from the summit of Everest to not shrinking away from Annapurna, known to claim one of every two climbers to reach the summit, this is Ed’s story of climbing. We learn about mistakes made, bad judgment on the mountains, close calls, and rescues along with the camaraderie that comes with it all.
Kurt Diembeerger brings us a harrowing first-hand account of the 1986 K2 disaster. He shares what happened during the disaster in frank detail: the final days of success, the accident, the storm, and the escape during which five climbers died. He came out of the disaster with one other person physically and emotionally ravaged, but also as a tenacious and instinctive survivor.
On August 1, 2008, 18 climbers set out to summit K2, but within 28 hours, 11 of those 18 lives were lost in a series of catastrophic events. After being stuck at Base Camp for weeks, a weather window unexpectedly opened and seven expeditions decided to coordinate their efforts while sharing equipment. Things quickly went south and over the course of three days, Pemba Gyalje and five other Sherpas were at the center of a series of attempts to rescue climbers that were stuck in the Death Zone. Countless stories emerged, some contradictory, other simply untrue. This is Pemba’s eye witness account drawn together with a series of interviews from survivors.
Jim Curran came to K2 as a climbing cameraman for an unsuccessful British expedition but stayed the entire season. This is his version of the dramatic events of the 1986 climbing season. It’s a story of ambitions both achieved and thwarted on the deadliest peak in the world. He describes the moments that contribute to the exhilaration of mountain climbing while assessing the tragedy of the summer.
In 1950, Maurice Herzog led an expedition of French climbers to the peak of the 8,075-meter peak of Annapurna. His team was the first to summit a peak over 8,000 meters with a route that had never been charted. They had to locate the mountain with crude maps, pick out a single untried route, and try for the summit. This is the story of the first ascent of Annapurna, as well as it’s harrowing descent involving frostbite, snow blindness, and near death.
After four days training in Wales, Eric Newby, a fashion industry worker, and inexperienced hill climber decided it was time for a change from 10 years in Haute Couture and ended up walking the Hindu Kush.
Levison Wood and his trusted guides trek 1,700 hundred miles over six months across the Himalayas and the Silk Road route through Afghanistan and the Pakistan/India border. He recounts the beauty and danger as he follows the footsteps of great explorers.
Ellis Stewart got caught in the two worst disasters in Mount Everest’s history, but that didn’t stop him from going after a lifelong goal. This is his account of not only what happened on the mountain during those two disasters, but also of what propelled him to climb them in the first place.
Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker decided to climb the unclimbed West Wall of Changabang, the Shining Mountain, in 1976. This would be the most fearsome and one of the most difficult, technical climbs on a granite wall in Garhwal Himalaya. At the time, al lightweight ascent would be more significant than anything done on Everest. It’s the story of how climbing a mountain can become all-consuming.
At just 23 years old and two years after breaking his back in a freefall parachuting accident, Bear Grylls became the youngest Briton to reach the summit of Everest. He overcame severe weather conditions, fatigue, dehydration, and a last minute illness on his trek to the top of the world.
This is a collection of contributions from some of the world’s premier mountaineers and alpine writers that examines the history of the Himalayas, home to the 14 greatest mountains in the world, each towering over 26,246 feet. We learn about the regions geographic origins, people, and discovery by the west along with the pioneering ascents, new routes, and new mountaineering techniques.
This is Grahm Bowley’s recount of the tragedy that hit K2 in August 2008 when 11 climbers died. He interviewed many of the survivors and pieced together their stories to find the most likely series of events that occurred on that fateful day.
This is Lou Kasischke’s, very different, perspective on the 1996 Everest disaster. This tells the harrowing story of what went wrong and why the climbers were so desperately out of time after the storm hit. The day of the summit, Lou and his fellow climbers faced a decision: to summit or not to summit. They faced the internal struggle of what to do when you’re close but out of time. Decisions were made while some lived, others died. This is a historic account of the events that occurred as well as the story of going home to the love of his life.
Yet another account of the 1996 Everest disaster, this time from the perspective of Graham Ratcliffe. He was a firsthand witness of the events having spent the night at 26,000 feet on Everest’s South Col sheltering from the storm. This telling shares some of the startling facts that haven’t been told yet. His quest for answers led to discoveries that helped understand the disaster and he questioned why they weren’t made public sooner.
Plagued by adversity and epilepsy as a child, Alex Staniforth developed a determination that led him from England to Everest at just 18 years old. While his will to reach the summit is strong, he didn’t anticipate the dangers and risks of the mountain.
This personal day-by-day chronicle takes us along on every step of an Everest climb. It starts as a trouble-free trek into the highlands of Nepal but quickly turns into a gripping tale of hardship, peril, and adversity. Their survival instincts fight their desire to reach the top of the world, the summit of Mount Everest.
Most climbers on Everest take the South Col route, but few try the East Face or the Kangshung Face, much less without oxygen. It is a sheer, avalanche-swept wall of snow and ice only conquered in 1983 for the first time. Until Stephen Venable and three unknown Americans decided to try it. The question wasn’t if they would reach the summit, but if they would live.
In August 1979, Mike Trueman set sail from Southwest Wales to Cornwall when he was caught in a storm in the Irish Sea for 24 hours. He faced force-10 gales in what became known as the Fastnet Disaster, taking the lives of 15 sailors off the coast of Ireland. Almost 17 years later, he was at Camp 2 in May 1996. The tragedy was unfolding above, but he was able to get to Base Camp to help coordinate the rescue efforts thanks to 24 years of experience as an officer in the British Army.
Fransisco quits his job and flies to Nepal embarking on a six-month trip trekking through the Himalayas. At the end of his trip, he meets a dying mountaineer who he spends the next 11 days with, suffering snow and storms with. This is a time to reflect on and remember the experiences that have made him who he is now.
Well, that’s it. The best books about Mount Everest, K2, and the Himalayas. I’m slowly working my way through this list myself, enjoying the climb vicariously through these books because we all know I’ll never be there myself.
Have you read any of these? Which ones? What is your favorite book about Mount Everest? Are there any you would add?