With summer here across the northern hemisphere, one of the tried and true features that every magazine or newspaper features is a list of the “Best Beach Books” or something similar. But what if you do not go to the beach? What if you are obsessed with the high places in the world and want to read about your favorite pursuit, your passion, while enjoying time in the mountains? If this is what you want to read about during your time away from the hospital, clinic, or university this summer, then this list is for you.
If you are like most of the climbers that I know (myself included) then you are obsessed about the weight that you carry while in the mountains. Every piece of gear has a purpose and its utility is literally weighed against the space it occupies in a small pack, as well as the pain involved in the additional pounds placed upon the shoulders and hips.
All measurements aside, a book, or more likely for me an e-reader, is a constant companion on trips to the mountains. With the plethora of options for e-readers and the increasingly nominal price, taking, losing, or breaking one is not the tragedy of the pocketbook that it once was. As with all technology, you take the risk of staring at a cracked or gray screen while piled amongst your companions in a tent high in the mountains. So perhaps the low-tech paperback might be the best choice? No matter the type, having something to read on the journey to, the down times during, and the return trip is an essential for many mountaineers. With that in mind, lets review some of the best options.
Recent Medical Literature:
We will start the list off with a few journal articles from across the globe that deal with medical issues for mountaineers. From foundational documents, such as the Wilderness Medical Society Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Acute Altitude Illness, to recent case reports of accidents in the mountains, these articles are easy to print or transfer to your device of choice and can assuage your guilty conscience of leaving work or school behind. So here are some of the many great reads in climbing medicine literature today, presented in no particular order:
1) Wilderness Medical Society Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Acute Altitude Illness: 2014 Update - Luks et al. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine (2014).
2) Pulley Injuries in Rock Climbers - Schöffl et al. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine (2003).
3) Medical Knowledge and Preparedness of Climbers on Colorado’s 14,000-Foot Peaks - Brandenburg BS, Davis CB. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine (2016).
4) From Matterhorn to Mt Everest: Empowering Rescuers and Improving Medical Care in Nepal - Brodmann Maeder MM, Basnyat B, Harris NS. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine (2014).
5) Comparative grading scales, statistical analyses, climber descriptors and ability grouping - International Rock Climbing Research Association position statement. Draper et al. Sports Technology (2016).
Over recent years there have been quite a few interesting memoirs published. Some, like Alex Honnold’s Alone on the Wall, gathered much media attention, while others, such as Barry Blanchard’s The Calling: A Life Rocked by Mountains, flew under the radar. Here is a list of recent tomes that are worth a download.
1) Alone on the Wall – Alex Honnold. This book recounts his younger years, describes his ropeless exploits, and his reasoning for pushing the envelope in this realm.
2) Sherpa: The Memoir of Ang Tharkay – Ang Tharkay. Though I have yet to read this book, I am excited to dig in, as it is finally now available in English. Ang Tharkay participated in some of the most important expeditions in Nepal as sirdar to the successful French expedition on Annapurna, as well as adventures with Shipton and Tilman.
The Calling: A Life Rocked by Mountains – Barry Blanchard. While garnering little media attention, this memoir garnered the Boardman Tasker prize for 2015. Detailing climbs from his native Canada to Nepal, the story is an engaging retelling of his life.