If you are interested in learning more about climbing, reading can be a fantastic way to get started. A cursory google search will provide you with hundreds of books concerning the sport and related climbing knowledge like rope work, anchor systems, strength training, and elements of mountaineering. There are also some books detailing the exploits of fabled mountaineers as they made their way up some of the world’s most dangerous and challenging climbing routes.
The List to Get You to the Top
Here is a list of must-read books that will benefit climbers of all skill levels, whether you’re a novice looking to jump-start your familiarity on your new hobby or an advanced climber trying to solidify your mastery. If you’re looking to understand climbing systems and the basics of mountaineering, learn how to build “bomber” anchors, improve your long-term conditioning programs, and get inspired by legendary mountaineers, the following reading list is worth checking out:
by The Mountaineers of Seattle, Washington
Originally published in 1960, this instruction manual has long been considered the bible of mountaineering. Currently, in its 9th edition (2017), Mountaineering is the ultimate book for new mountaineers. If you had to pick one instruction manual for learning everything you need to know about safely and effectively traversing across mountain ranges, this should be it. This incredibly comprehensive book covers all mountaineering topics including nutrition for mountaineering, navigation, dressing appropriately, and ice and rock climbing systems and techniques. Many professional climbers (including Conrad Anker and Mark Twight, for example) cite Mountaineering as the source for their understanding of rock climbing in their early days.
by Bob Gaines
Most new climbers heading out into the mountains on their own for the first time are usually in search of some single-pitch cragging and toproping adventures. If this sounds like you, Topropingis the perfect book for preparing for a day of toproping. If you’re in need of a technical manual to keep with you before your first steps into outdoor rock climbing, this is an excellent choice. For more advanced climbers that might already be participating in multi-pitch adventures, this book will still provide a wealth of information regarding necessary climbing skills making it worth reviewing.
Climbers interested in leading groups of untrained individuals into their first toprope climb will want to read more on this topic. Thay can also consider looking at The AMGA Single Pitch Manual, which is designed for leaders guiding groups out into the mountains.
by Bob Gaines and John Long
This book is for climbers that already understand basic rope systems and belaying but are looking to make the move into traditional climbing and proper gear placements. All trad leaders, novice or advanced, should definitely have this piece of literature on their shelf. It’s simply written and easy to read, and its most useful feature is the excellent picture examples of the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” regarding the placement of traditional gear.
This manual provides great images to show how to properly place all commonly-used traditional climbing gear (nuts, cams, hexes, etc.) and clearly outlines the most common mistakes that climbers make while placing gear. Furthermore, thereare many “advanced” placements that intermediate and experienced climbers should work on mastering. This book is also a must-read before your first trad lead.
by Steve House, Scott Johnston, Mark Twight
It took many years for climbers to get on board the “athlete” train, in the sense that climbers were slow to adopt the training approaches commonly employed by other professional athletes. In the early days, most climbers “trained” by just climbing (and maybe adding in the occasional run). That has since changed dramatically and, more than ever before, climbers are practicing like professional athletes with long-term training plans.
Whether you’re a recreational climber that mostly hangs out in the gym, or an advanced one hoping to be sponsored by Butora one day, this book can help provide an excellent overview of how to train like a pro. In this book, a thorough understanding of exercise physiology has been applied to specifically benefit mountain athletes. If you’re looking to improve your bouldering strength at the gym or summit Denali on your next expedition, this book might make you rethink your fitness.
by Tommy Caldwell
This is by no means a technical manual, but it is an excellent autobiography about an incredible mountain athlete. If you haven’t heard of Tommy Caldwell, he’s a world-renowned rock climber who recently (with Alex Honnold) reset the speed-record on El Cap. Some climber autobiographies are worth reading, but Caldwell delivers his story in a way that is both inspiring (and chilling) for climbers of all skills levels. And if you’re looking for a book to share with non-climbers, either to get them interested in the sport or just so they understand why you do what you do, this is your best bet at getting them curios.
Pick Up That Book
The short reading list is by no means an all-encompassing directory for what to read, it’s merely a nice progression for enhancing your understanding of climbing basics. If you want to learn more about climbing keep visiting the blog for new articles.