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Books I've read: Outdoor adventure and exploration (Part 2)

1. This Game of Ghosts by Joe Simpson

What do you think it does to your mind when you dangle from a loose peg for 12 hours on the north face of Aiguille du Dru? Amongst other stories, Joe Simpson shares what must be just a tiny glimpse into his thoughts as he recounts how the pillar of rock on which they were bivvied on the side of the iconic peak above the Chamonix valley, collapsed in the middle of the night and fell to the bottom of the mountain. 'This Game of Ghosts' was the follow-up book to Simpson's mountaineering classic, 'Touching the Void'.

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2. Against the Wall by Simon Yates

Simon Yates (I’d suggest unfairly) is perhaps most popularly known to the public as ‘the man who cut the rope’ in Joe Simpson’s 1998 bestseller ‘Touching the Void’. Yates' own book 'Against the Wall', his first of 3 books from his climbing career, recounts a first ascent of one of the tall pepper-pot-shaped peaks in Southern Chilean Patagonia. It’s full of detail about what life is like living and climbing on a 4,000ft big wall (which we learn, by the challenges he overcomes, is not always fun).

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3. Deep Play: Climbing the World's Most Dangerous Routes by Paul Pritchard

Paul Pritchard was on the first ascent of the Central Tower of Torres del Paine that Simon Yates wrote about in 'Against the Wall'. Paul is an excellent writer on his own account, sharing stories and anecdotes from climbing on the slate quarries of Dinorwig in Wales, the sea cliffs of Gogarth, all the way to Mount Asgard in Baffin Island in a book that won the prestigious Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. I particularly enjoyed Paul's account of a planned day out winter climbing in Scotland with Slovenian hardman Silva Karo.

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4. Thin Air: Encounters in the Himalayas by Greg Child

Not the book about the 1996 Everest disaster by Jon Krakauer but hugely descriptive narrative by the Australian climber Greg Child of climbing in the high-altitude mountains of the Karakorum range in Pakistan. Greg climbed K2 in 1990 and he narrates this and other expeditions to 8000m peaks and technical climbs in the Karakorum, including Broad Peak, Shivling and Gasherbrum IV. There's plenty of anecdotes of his fellow climbers (including Georges Bettembourg and Doug Scott) and the level of detail he shares of the local lives and landscapes in this part of the world as he journeys into the mountains is fascinating.

5. Total Alpinism by Rene Desmaison

An excellent autobiography by French alpinist Rene Desmaison that includes a gripping account of his 2-week long winter climb on the Grandes Jorasses in 1971 with a young Serge Gousseault. I remember reading those enthralling chapters well into the early hours of the morning.

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Books I've read: Outdoor adventure and exploration (Part 1)

1. Enduring Patagonia by Gregory Crouch

Quite simply my favourite book. Greg's hugely engaging account of his life leading up to climbs he's made on Cerro Torre and the Fitzroy massif in Argentina's Los Glaciares National Park in Patagonia. Greg's winter ascent (a first ascent) of the West Face of Cerro Torre in 1999, with Thomas Ulrich, Stephan Siegriest and David Fasel, via the Southern Patagonian Icecap, sparked the idea for my own journey to the ice cap. This, in turn, triggered other trips I've made to Patagonia, influenced my decision to write a Los Glaciares National Park trekking guidebook and ultimately, when I look back, was the catalyst for my desire to build my photography business.

(I'd also recommend 'Right Mate, Let's Get On With It' - Greg's e-book about Antipodean mountaineers Athol Whimp and Andrew Lindblade, whom Greg makes reference to in 'Enduring Patagonia')

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2. Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen

Possibly more well-known for his children books, this is the entertaining and often funny story of Gary and his wife's journey from Minnesota to Anchorage as he learned to mush dogs in advance of an entry he'd made into the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, an 1150-mile journey across the wilds of frozen Alaska. A close second to 'Enduring Patagonia' in regards to the number of times I've read a book (easily double figures). Whenever I've picked it up and read the first chapter, I'm off again on the whole book. 

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3. On the Ridge Between Life and Death by David Roberts

A quality memoir by one of the world's leading authors of mountaineering literature, reflecting on the experience of his own life spent in the mountains and the impact it had on himself and others. Includes accounts of Roberts' ascent of Denali up the unclimbed Wickersham Wall, with others, via their Harvard route (which I believe is still unrepeated in 2017), his epic retreat with Don Jensen on Mount Deborah in 1964 and their subsequent successful summit but tragic descent on Mount Huntington in 1965. Plus tales from other expeditions Roberts made to unexplored parts of the Alaska range, including a wash-out of a 52-day expedition to an unexplored region, 70 miles from the nearest landing strip, that they subsequently named the Revelation Mountains.

(See 'The Mountain of my Fear' for more detail on Roberts' Mount Huntington expedition)

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4. Mountains of my Life by Walter Bonatti

Compelling tales from arguably Italy's premier post-war mountaineer, including his solo climb on the Aiguille du Dru up the Bonatti Pillar (a feature now sadly destroyed by rockfall), the madness that entailed during a group ascent of the Central Pillar of Freney, a detailed account of the controversy surrounding the Italian ascent of K2 in 1954 plus exploratory first ascents in Southern Patagonia.

(Bonatti retired from alpinism at the age of 35 and began a celebrated career as a photojournalist. If you can get hold of it, Bonatti's book 'Solitudini Australi', comprising solely of images from Patagonia and Italian text, is excellent).

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5. Cold Oceans: Adventures in Kayak, Rowboat and Dog Sled by Jon Turk

I imagine Jon Turk is a highly-driven individual, singularly focused on achieving his goals and not one afraid to fail. He often does fail though and his writing in Cold Oceans makes you feel like you are alongside him, as he describes the challenges of tough, character-building expeditions to the colder, wetter parts of the globe (including what must have been a remarkably stretching, solo sea-kayaking expedition around Cape Horn (he'd never sea kayaked before) and a dog sledding journey in Greenland that left him being stranded by his partner deep in the Arctic).

In 1996, Jon Turk completed his sea kayak around Cape Horn in 1996. (Source: Pique News Magazine). In 2011, aged 65, he kayaked and pulled his boat nearly 2,500km around the circumference of the world's 10th largest island, Ellesmere Island, north-west of Greenland, with fellow adventurer Erik Boomer, a professional kayaker nearly 40 years his junior. Jon recounts their extremely adventurous expedition in his 2016 book - Crocodiles and Ice.

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