Must-Read Climbing Books

Must-Read Climbing Books

  • Posted by kaleigh
  • On March 24, 2020
  • Comments

When we’re not pullin’ plastic or crushing outside, you can most likely find us reading about climbing. Cause let’s be real: It has consumed our lives!

Below is a list of climbing literature that you should consider. Whether you are brand new to the sport or an old, weathered alpinist, we think it’s important that you become and stay immersed in the culture. Reading about the history or current happenings of the sport can inspire your own adventurous ideas and create a deeper connection to this crazy pursuit we all love so much! Plus, what better way to stay connected to the community while the gym is temporarily closed or the rock is wet?

The Rock Warrior’s Way
Arno Ilgner

Climbing is of course physical, but the mental aspect is often overlooked and just as important.

Whether you begin telling yourself as you tie in that the climb will be difficult, and you might fall, or that you’re just too pumped to go any further while on the wall, we all have experienced thoughts that limit our actions.

Arno Ilgner outlines a comprehensive program for training your mind to overcome everything from performance anxiety to the fear of falling, practices that even translate into daily life in the classroom, office or your home.

No matter what stage of climbing you’re in, “The Rock Warrior’s Way” should be topping your reading list.

American Rock: Region, Rock, and Culture in American Climbing
Don Mellor

The United States offers the most variety of geologic environments than any other country in the world (thankfully!). Across the country, we’re able to climb some of the globe’s highest-quality sandstone, granite, gneiss, basalt, limestone … the list goes on.

Not only do various regions in the nation have different types of rock, but they also offer a different climbing and cultural experience. In “American Rock,” Don Mellor thoroughly explores and celebrates our country’s various climbing regions, styles and cultures, making this book a must-read for anyone who loves and wants to better understand American rock, geography and diversity.

The Push: A Climber’s Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits
Tommy Caldwell

We’re certain almost all of you have seen “The Dawn Wall” by now. If not – read this first! While “The Dawn Wall” visually portrays an epic mental, physical and emotional tale of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, these pages do it just a little better (as books always do 😉).

For those unfamiliar with the story, professional climbers Caldwell and Jorgeson summited El Cap, after completing what is likely the most difficult climb in history – Dawn Wall (5.14c). But this remarkable achievement did not come without struggle. From being held hostage while on a climbing expedition in Kyrgyzstan to family deterioration, Caldwell’s story is one of drive, motivation, endurance and transformation – making for a tale that every climber should read.

The Impossible Climb: Alex Honnold, El Capitan and the Climbing Life
Mark Synnott

Mark Synnott was an early member of The North Face Team, notable for his writing in addition to his big wall pioneering. His work has been published in National Geographic, and he’s put up first ascents around the world.

Mark was also a leader on Honnold’s first expedition with The North Face and quickly established a friendly and working relationship with Alex. Synnott’s book offers an inside view of the tight-knit climbing community, as well as a candid portrait of one of the most famous free soloers of all time.

You must read this for a deeper glimpse into the tribe and for behind-the-scenes stories of Alex, which will probably give you a better understanding of and greater appreciation for the climber’s motivations.

Valley Walls: A Memoir of Climbing & Living in Yosemite
Glen Denny

Dive into the early days of Yosemite climbing culture with iconic black-and-white images and stories in the O.G. photographer’s memoir.

Denny reveals his place in the golden age of climbing through coming-of-age tales and achievements in the world’s climbing mecca. His stories tell about hauling water in glass gallon jugs up the east face of Washington Column, nailing the 750-foot Rostrum in a punishing heat wave and dangling overnight in a lightning storm on El Cap’s Dihedral Wall.

Read this for a portal to Camp 4 and other Yosemite adventures in the early days.


Above are just a few reads that you shouldn’t miss. But, of course, there are countless stories of human survival and adventure in the vertical world. Others you should add to your list are:

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills
The Mountaineers

Starlight and Storm: The Conquest of the Great North Faces of the Alps
Gaston Rebuffat

Maurice Herzog

The White Spider
Heinrich Harrer

Rock Jocks, Wall Rats, and Hang Dogs: Rock Climbing on the Edge of Reality
John Long

High Drama
John Burgman

Deep Play: Climbing the World’s Most Dangerous Routes
Paul Pritchard

Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains
Jon Krakauer

Moments of Doubt
David Roberts

Stone Crusade: A Historical Guide to Bouldering in America
John Sherman

Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape
Galen Rowell

Alone on the Wall
Alex Honnold

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If you feel like we left out your all-time favorite climbing tale, feel free to spew all your book beta at us by contacting: We just may share yours on our Facebook or Instagram!