A Mountaineering Bibliography

markadrian@juno.com (Mark D Adrian) writes:

In response to my query, I received several generous lists of guidebooks for the Sierra Nevada. I have consolidated these lists here and hope the title, sometimes less author name and ISBN, are enough for anyone to locate at their favorite climbing store(s). Furthermore, I have recently seen demoed a CDROM for the Eastern Sierra, but that was a prototype, despite the slick presentation and overwhelming amount of information. I should also mention I received commentary about specific guidebooks, some positive, some negative. I decided not to append (all) that here, but, rather, to allow threads to naturally develop as a result of this objective list. Furthermore, I want to thank those who responded and as such have annotated their contributions with their name.

Mark Adrian's list:

Although not a guidebook, per se, I think the historical significance is worth the mention : Camp 4 by Steve Roper

Tom Kenney's list:

  • The Pacific Crest Trail: California (Jenkins et al, Chockstone Press)
  • The Domelands (climbing guide, Chockstone)
  • The Needles (climbing guide, Chockstone)
  • 100 Best Climbs of the High Sierra (Fiddler, Moynier (sp?), Chockstone)
  • Sierra East Side (climbing guide, Bartlett, Chockstone)

    Fiddler duplicates much of the material that is in Secor's book (Peaks, Passes, and Trails), but has some new routes and Fiddler's/Moynier's variations, and the grading of the routes is more conservative (i.e., Roper 5.3=Secor 5.4=F/M 5.5). Bartlett is out of print, but may still be available at Chessler or some other dealer.

    Patrick Ibbetson's list:

    The following high sierra hiking guides are still in print, each representing a USGS 15' quad:

    These books also come with waterproof quads, which are far better, IMO, than the USGS 7.5 quads, because they actually went out and mapped the trails before they made the map. These books, by varying authors, are published by the wilderness press.

    Two books good for Fresno area climbs are "Best Short Hikes In California's Southern Sierra" which includes peak climbs of western peaks and lots of accurate hikes in the east and west sides.

    Another good book (maybe it was mentioned in the original message?) for fresno climbs is titled something like "Rock Climbs of Sequoia and Kings Canyon"....I can't find mine right now, sorry. Unlike other so called high sierra books, this one includes the courtright area (has ultra detailed routes on power dome, maxson dome, dogtooth peak (Yikes!)) and the mt. silliman area (watchtower, etc...). A must for any serious technical climber. I can't attest to the QUALITY of the route descriptions, as I have yet to do a climb listed in the book..... :)

    Paul Wilson's list:

    The best resource for your Sierra climbing reference list has got to be the AAC library. It is the second largest mountaineering library in the world. You can reach the library at "aalib@ix.netcom.com", her name is Gay Roesch. If you are not an AAC member you are missing their good publications. Membership info can be obtained at"amalpine@ix.netcom.com" and ask for new member info. You will have the option once you join to decide whether or not you want to be on the mailing list they provide to the mountaineering/climbing gear suppliers (I like getting their catalogs).

    Bob Sumner's list:

    I give you three more for consideration:

    Ron Hudson's list:

    Some other books to add to Mark's list are following. They are not necessarily the latest edition, but what I have accumulated over the years. There also is a CD-ROM by mtnimage.com; I don't know its name - it has trail descriptions, maps, profiles. Costs about $70.

    Wynne Benti's list:

    Don't forget the classic "Climbing Mt. Whitney" which was before RJ, Hellweg, Jenkins, Yamagata or Roper!

    And finally, we shouldn't ignore the up-to-the-minute reports submitted by the members of this list!

    Hal Murray's list:

    Anybody interested in avoiding avalanches should get a copy of Snowy Torrents. It's the avalanche version of the climber's accident reports.

    It's full of statistics and war stories. It's very well written. The stories are the sort of thing that's good to discuss over dinner or a beer. You want your climbing/skiing partners to have read it too so that when you get to an interesting place you can say "Remember the one where the idiots ..."

    It doesn't come out every year - only when they get enough energy to do the work. Each issue covers several years. The latest one came out in 1996. It covers 1980-1986. (No, that's not a typo. They really are that far behind.)

    Be sure to get the latest version. The older ones are also good, but this is the first one with serious shovel and beeper data.

    Authors: Nick Logan and Dale Atkins, 1996. ISBN 1-884216-52-8

    Order from Colorado Geological Survey at 303-866-2611. $16 plus $5 shipping. Friendly people. They take credit cards.

    I bought a whole box so I could give them out to my friends. (There was a price break at 31.)

    I'll be glad to loan my copy to anybody in the Palo Alto area.

    Book description: http://www.caic.state.co.us/Books.html (good cover photo)

    Press release: http://www.dnr.state.co.us/cdnr_news/geosurvey/970212155939.html

    Also, good photos at http://www.caic.state.co.us/photos.html (including a bigger version of the cover photo)

    Another good avalanche book is "Avalanche Handbook" by Dave McClung and Peter Shaerer from The Mountaineers in Seattle, (206) 223-6303. Again, beware of books with the same or similar title that are older. The right one is only a few years old and is significantly better than previous books with similar names.

    Avalanche Safety for Skiers and Climbers by Tony Daffern is also good.

    Tony Cruz's list:


    1. ALPINE CLIMBING, John Barry, Cloudclap press, 1988 This is my second favorite book on mountaineering (next to Freedom of the Hills). It is very concise and complete.
    2. THE ALPINE 4000m PEAKS by the CLASSIC ROUTES: A Guide for Mountaineers by Richard Goedeke, Hill Neate (Translator) Menasha Ridge Pr; ISBN: 089732111 I used this to read up on the routes on Mt. Blanc.
    3. CLIMBING CALIFORNIA'S FOURTEENERS: The Route Guide to the Fifteen Highest Peaks, by Stephen F. Porcella, Cameron M. Burns Paperback (April 1998) Mountaineers Books; ISBN: 0898865557 Brand new, available at REI, very detailed with great photos.
    4. CALIFORNIA'S FOURTEENERS, by Steven F. Porcella, Cameron M. Burns Paperback -(January 1996), Chockstone Press; ISBN: 1575400065 The original and shorter version. Describes the easiest routes only. A few problems: 1. The photo of White Mountain is reversed. 2. The photo of the crux move of Mt. Williamson does not depict the easiest way up, which does not require a rope. 3. The east ridge. route on Mt. Russell is said to be class 2 (it's class 3 and exposed as hell). A very good, compact book, THE one to get if you want a short guide on the easiest routes on the CA 14ers.
    5. TRINITY ALPS COMPANION, by Wayne Moss, Ecopress, 1997 quality paperback. I guarantee you'll go to the Alps if you check out the book. There are many good pictures; I'd swear they were of prime Sierra high country if I didn't know better.
    6. SUMMIT GUIDE TO THE CASCADE VOLCANOES, by Jeff Smoot Paperback - (January 1997) Chockstone Pr; ISBN: 0934641250 All I've needed for Rainier, Hood and other volcanoes in the Northwest.
    7. MEXICO'S VOLCANOES: A Climbing Guide, by R. J. Secor (Editor) 2nd edition (November 1993) Excellent guide for Orizaba, Popo, Ixta and several other Mexican volcanoes
    8. ACONCOGUA: A Climbing Guide, by R. J. Secor Paperback - (November 1994) Mountaineers Books; ISBN: 0898864062
    9. UTAH MOUNTAINEERING GUIDE and the Best Canyon Hikes, Michael R. Kelsey, Kelsey Publishing Co., second ed. 1986
    10. 10. CLIMBERS AND HIKERS GUIDE TO THE WORLD'S MOUNTAINS by Michael R. Kelsey, Paperback 3rd edition (July 1990) Treasure Chest Publications; ISBN: 0944510027 Fabulous and complete.
    11. 11. AVALANCHE AWARENESS : A Practical Guide to Safe Travel in Avalanche Terrain (Mountain Safety), by John Moynier (December 1993) Chockstone Pr; ISBN: 0934641722 Very short but informative.
    12. 12. SNOW CAVES FOR FUN AND SURVIVAL, Ernest Wilkinson, Johnson Printing, revised 1992 (paper) Written by a guy who has spent many a winter day in Colorado, NEVER using a tent! Short, easy to read and useful.
    13. 13. HIGH ALTITUDE: ILLNESS AND WELLNESS, the History and Prevention of a Killer, Charles Houston, ICS Books, Inc, 1993 (paper) Short and easy to read. Full of interesting historical anecdotes.


    1. ANNAPURNA, FIRST CONQUEST OF AN 8000-METER PEAK by Maurice Herzog, Nea Morin (Translator), Janet Adam Smith (Translator), e Shipton Reprint edition (August 1997) This is an account of the first ascent of an 8000 meter peak, by a French expedition that didn't even know what mountain they were going to climb! First they scouted Dalguari but couldn't find a route so they found a way to Annapurna. By contrast, the British had much more information before they tried Everest. Herzog was seriously injured and the tale of how he survived is as amazing as anything I've ever read. If you read ONE book on a mountain expedition, this is the one.
    2. NOTHING VENTURE, NOTHING WIN, by Edmund Hillary Out of print (I bought the paperback at a used bookstore) An autobiography and account of the first successful Everest Expedition. Hillary and Tensing were the "B" team. Hillary says some nasty things about his partner (the only flaw in a fine book)
    3. TIGER OF THE SNOWS, by Tenzing Norgay Out of print (I found my copy at the library) The autobiography of Tensing. He puts to rest the question: who made it to the top first, Tenzing or Hillary? Tenzing retired from mountaineering after the first successful Everest expedition but he had already been within a stone's throw of the top more than once before he joined the British team.
    4. THE SEVENTH GRADE: Most Extreme Climbing, by Reinhold Messner My favorite book by Messner is this collection of essays. He explains how he prepared for his famous no-oxygen assault of Everest.
    5. TOUCHING THE VOID, Joe Simpson, Harper & Row 1988 Another amazing tale of survival by a guy who falls into a crevasse in the Peruvian Andes. His partner cut the rope and left him for dead. Even my wife loved this book and she thinks mountaineers are batty!

    slide's list:

    I recently got a great book that I though might be of interest: The Geologic Story of Yosemite National Park by N. King Huber. It focuses on Yosemite but is applicable to all of the Sierra. It discusses the formation of the Sierra and the different events that lead to the geologic features such as the knobs on Cathedral Peak, the vertical sheets of Matthes Crest, the domes of Tuolomne, glacial cirques and valleys, dikes, weather pans, etc., etc. This book is totally accessible to someone without a background in geology yet goes into sufficient depth to give anyone who hikes and climbs in the Sierra a better understanding of their environment. Lots of cool pictures too!

    Michael Gordon's list:

    Those desiring to learn more about California's itty-bitty glaciers and glaciology should check out "Glaciers of California". It too, is a nice book with great images.


    The Secret Sierra: The Alpine World Above The Trees
    By David Gilligan
    288 pages, $18.95

    It's published by Spotted Dog Press (in Bishop) and though I've only had the chance to read a few pages, I think it's going to be a great book. Mr. Gilligan appears to be an eloquent and analytical writer. "Gilligan describes the Alpine Sierra Nevada with a naturalist's passion for both personal observation and science. The Secret Sierra: The Alpine World Above The Trees is dedicated to exploring the high and hidden world of the Sierra Nevada's alpine zone." I purchased the book at the Mono Basin Visitor Center. Or, link here to Amazon http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1893343014/gordiesramblinin

    The following book is also found at the Mono Basin VC....

    NEW, For Desert climbers:
    Desert Summits: A Climbing and Hiking Guide to California and Southern
    Andy Zdon, 416 pages, 130 photographs, 18 maps, ISBN 1-893343-02-2
    Published by Spotted Dog Press, Inc., Bishop, California
    Obata's Yosemite; The Art and Letters of Chiura Obata from his trip to the High Sierra in 1927 ( http://www.asianamericanbooks.com/books/2190.htm")

    Alan Ritter wrote:

    A friend here in St. Louis reads books to tapes as part of a "Books for the Blind" program. Her latest project involves a history of Everest, and she is unsure of the pronunciation of both mountaineering terms as well as the place names in the book.

    I wonder if anyone has run across an Everest glossary with pronunciation guidance, especially for those obscure Himalayan names?

    Tony Bulik replied:

    You might try "Trekking In Nepal: A Traveler's Guide", by Stephen Bezruchka, published by the Mountaineers. You can find it any travel bookstore or REI or EMS, etc. It has great pronunciation guide and and glossary in the appendicies. Unfortunately there is not allot of guidance on place names. The book also references a "Nepali for Trekker's" language tape that you can get via The Mountaineers that might be more helpfull.

    If your friend has a fairly simple request, I could take a crack at it but it's been a while since I've been there. I am sure many other's on this forum could also (and probably with greater accuracy).

    One general rule of thumb that I learned was that the emphasis is on the first syllable of many Nepali/Sherpa words. For instance the word Lobuche (or sometimes Lobuje -- a village not far from Everest base camp on the Nepali/South Col side) is pronounced

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    Alan Ritter's list:

    There are two state highpoints books which are current, plus at least one older one which covered only the 48 conterminous states, those being all that were in the U.S. at the time. The current ones are:

    "Fifty State Summits Guide with Maps to State Highpoints" by Paul L. Zumwalt, ISBN #0-930584-05-8

    "Highpoints of the United States" by Don W. Holmes, ISBN #0-87480-645-3

    The Holmes book recently came out in a "second edition", so is the more current of the two. However, Zumwalt includes topo map fragments, where Holmes has just sketches. Holmes' driving instructions are generally a bit clearer, though.

    Both are listed by amazon.com. I bought my copy of Zumwalt directly from Paul. He's in his 80s now and still active...a real character. I had a gift certificate for amazon.com, and grabbed a copy of Holmes with it. Zumwalt is definitely a pre-digital-age person, but Holmes includes a list of useful WWW sites in an appendix of his book. Both the HP club and Roger Rowlett's americasroof.com WWW sites are mentioned by Holmes, as are WWW sites in several states which may have useful info.

    Douglas Smith, Oakland Public Libary reference librarian, suggests these encyclopedic references on mountains of the world:

    Huxley, Anthony, ed. Standard Encyclopedia of the World's Mountains (G.P.Putnam, 1962) This is not at all comprehensive, upon appearance.

    Stone, Peter B. The State of the World's Mountains: A Global Report (Zed Bks., 1992) Not an encyclopedia, but a good book nonetheless.

    A more comprehensive reference is:

    Cohen, Saul B. The Columbia Gazetteer of the World. 3vols. (Columbia U., 1998) This of course has a lot more than just mountains, but allthe major chains are certainly listed and described.

    Steve Bonowski writes:

    When I moved to Colorado 20 years ago, one of the first guide books of any kind I purchased was Don Koch's "The Colorado Pass Book: A Guide to Colorado's Backroad Mountain Passes." Of course, it was strictly for "entertainment" as my vehicle then was a 1978 Pinto ( the "exploding" gas tank was fixed with that model year ("grin")). The book came out in 1980.

    I noticed a second edition of Koch's book in the early 1990s. While conditions of roads vary greatly from year to year as we all know, this may still be a useful reference for those wanting/needing to jeep to some obscure backcountry trail heads.

    Bill Oliver recommends:

    The search for Walter (Pete) Starr, Jr is one of the classic high Sierra stories. The 30-year-old solo mountaineer, close to completing his guide to the John Muir Trail, was reported overdue in the Minarets in mid-August, 1933. An exhaustive search was organized by Francis Farquhar of the Sierra Club. Among the searchers were Jules Eichorn from San Francisco, Glen Dawson from Los Angeles, and the legendary Norman Clyde. Details of the story appeared in the 1934 Sierra Club Bulletin and were later published by Clyde ("The Quest for Walter A. Starr, Jr.").

    Remarkably, well over 60 years later Sierra historian Bill Alsup succeeded in uncovering new insights and conclusions relating to the Starr search. His scholarly and highly readable narrative was recently published by The Yosemite Association: "Missing in the Minarets - The Search for Walter A. Starr, Jr."

    Quoting from the YA website: (www.yosemitestore.com)

    "This riveting narrative details the mysterious disappearance of Walter 'Peter' Starr, a San Francisco attorney from a prominent family, who set off to climb alone in the rugged Minarets region of the Sierra Nevada in July 1933. Rigorous and thorough searches by some of the best climbers in the history of the range failed to locate him despite a number of promising clues. When all hope seemed gone and the last search party had left the Minarets, mountaineering legend Norman Clyde refused to give up. Climbing alone, he persevered in the face of failure, resolved that he would learn the fate of the lost man.

    "Clyde's discovery and the events that followed make for compelling reading. This re-creation of a famous episode in the annals of the Sierra Nevada is mountaineering literature at its best.

    "William Alsup is a photographer, attorney, Sierra historian, and trial lawyer turned trial judge. He also assembled, annotated, and illustrated the 1864 letters and notes of William Brewer, published as 'Such A Landscape!' by the Yosemite Association. 216 pages; 6 inches x 9 inches; illustrated in black and white; case bound with dust jacket; copyright 2001, Yosemite Association. $24.95."

    Glen Dawson wrote the Foreward to this re-telling of the Sierra classic.

    George Sinclair replies:

    When I interviewed Jules Eichorn a few years before he died, he was under the impression that Peter Starr's remains were still burried on a ledge somewhere on the side of Michael's Minaret. Also, according to Jules, because of the lack of space on the ledge, Starr was positioned vertically before he was burried under some rocks placed by Jules and Norman Clyde. Apparently, according to Jules, Clyde was very squeamish when confronted with the dead Starr, and insisted that Jules do most of the dirty work. Has anyone ever seen this burial site on Michael's Minaret?

    Owen Maloy replies:

    Jules told us about this in 1978 on a trip to the Minarets. He told us he was not present for the burial. He said he believed that Clyde actually packed in cement using mules. I've never heard of anyone who has found the grave.

    Harlan Suits replies:

    Roy Lambertson and I ascended the Eichorn chute on Michael last summer. We didn't see anything, but then again....it's a big mountain with lots of nooks and crannies.

    Arun Mahajan replies:

    Do not go looking and if you happen upon it, then keep it to yourselves.

    George Sinclair replies:

    Although I asked the question, I really wasn't looking for morbid details. Instead, I was only curious if anyone has come across the site of Starr's grave, and was not looking for information regarding the exact location, etc. I agree that the site should remain undisturbed and the location kept non-specific.

    George Sinclair writes:

    Missing in the Minarets

    On a recent trip to Yosemite I noticed a new book was being offered at the visitor center called Missing in the Minarets. As I have always been interested in anything involving Norman Clyde or Jules Eichorn, I immediately purchased the book. However, I was a little puzzled how the author, William Alsup, could take the relatively simple story of Peter Starr's disappearance in the Minarets almost 70 years ago and make an entire book out of it. I was already familiar with the facts of the incident, and had already read the accounts written by Norman Clyde and Francis Farquhar. I was also familiar with the story from my interview with Jules Eichorn done a few years before he died. I was very curious to see what the author could add to what was already known about the Starr disappearance.

    On reading the book I found that the author enhances the basic story of Starr's disappearance with a good amount of background on the various personalities involved. Although I already knew most everything contained in the book about Clyde, Eichorn, and Farquhar, I did learn a few new things about Peter Starr, the Starr family, and Glen Dawson. However, much of the book is taken up with search trivia, and the author's attempt to make more of a mystery out of the basic story. Alsup takes up many pages going over the issue of whether Starr climbed Clyde Minaret or not just prior to his fateful climb of Michael Minaret (it is known that he did climb it the year before). He also devotes many pages to the mystery of whether Starr climbed Mt. Ritter on August 30, or August 31. Even for a devoted Sierra historian such as myself, I did not find this level of trivia particularly interesting.

    For the most part the author's attempt to make the basic story into an engaging mystery doesn't work. For much of the book either the details he investigated, and then spends many pages describing are too trivial, or the reader eventually learns that there basically isn't any mystery involved. However, when the reader gets to the last chapter things change. Suddenly several exciting mysteries surface in the chapter describing a recent visit to Starr's grave by Steve Roper (which Roper believed hadn't been disturbed in over 50 years). Many aspects of the grave did not fit the description given by Eichorn and Clyde. Did they lie to protect Starr's family? Also, what ever became of the knapsack, which to this day has never been found, that Starr was wearing when he died?

    Someone who knows nothing of the Starr disappearance may interpret this book very differently. For myself, in addition to the additional information contained on various personalities, I found that the book provided a good glimpse of Sierra mountaineering circa 1930. The use of many historical photos adds to the feel of the book. I also found the footnotes, of which there are many, to be very interesting. I think the star of the book (no pun intended) is Peter Starr's father, Walter Starr. An early explorer of the Sierra himself, Starr senior was drawn back into a more active role in the Sierra Club as a result of his son's death. He played a very important role in the early career of Ansel Adams and Jules Eichorn. In addition to Starr's Guide, he also was involved in getting several other important Sierra Club books published. One of these books, done with the help of Ansel Adams, was instrumental in creating Kings Canyon Park.

    On a personal note, I was somewhat surprised that the author made no mention of my interview with Jules Eichorn. Instead, Alsup, who apparently only met with Jules briefly just prior to his death, relies heavily on an earlier interview done by a friend of the Eichorns that existed only on audiotape. To my knowledge, my interview with Jules Eichorn was the only comprehensive one done that was also later edited and printed.

    Michael Strassman, A Rockclimber's Guide to the Alabama Hills

    (Range of Light Productions, Lone Pine CA, 2002, 76 pp, $14.95, ISBN 0-9714557-0-8)

    We have all seen the Alabama Hills while heading up to the eastern Sierra Nevada, but few of us have stopped to explore this magnificent rock garden. Michael Strassman's newly released climber's guide is the invitation we have all been waiting for. He has documented 200 routes in the area, mostly single pitch, ranging in difficulty from 5.6 to 5.13, with the majority at the 5.8 and 5.9 level. Precise hand drawn maps accompany every route description. The writing is folksy and fun, but still provides the key details the climber needs. The book is well organized and well indexed. Introductory material tells a bit about the history of the area, its rich cinematic lore, BLM rules, environment and safety. 1/5 of the book is magazine-style advertising for Owens Valley businesses. Buy this guidebook online at www.rangeoflight.com, and then head out to the Alabama Hills to climb the most famous Hollywood backdrop.

    George Barnes adds:

    What the review does not say is that the routes are loose, sharp, and lame, often rap-bolted with poorly thought out stances, poor anchors, and not worth a visit, let alone a guidebook.

    Yes, I went there a few weeks ago. B. bought the book at Wilsons and returned it the same day...