To celebrate National Book Lovers Day we asked our athletes and our staff to name their all-time favourite book… The resulting booklist will leave you itching to plan your next adventure.
Chris Bonington – Non-exec chairman of Berghaus
Mountaineering in Scotland by W.H. Murray
My home is full of climbing books but I also read a lot of military history which is why perhaps I led those big expeditions of the 70s, where good logistics and planning are essential. It’s very much like fighting a war with the big differences that you are not trying to kill anyone though you can get killed all too easily. I hate the term “conquering mountains”. I believe you should become tuned to them, approach them humbly and use your skill to climb them without defacing them with bolts.
The book that inspired me when starting to climb was “Mountaineering in Scotland” by W.H. Murray, who described pioneering climbs in the Scottish Highlands in summer and winter just before the Second World War.
He was taken prisoner by the Germans and wrote the book from memory on the toilet paper he managed to save whilst in a prisoner of war camp. It is beautifully written, capturing the unspoilt beauty of the Highlands and the joy of exploration.
It was something that as a sixteen-year-old in the aftermath of war when travelling abroad was beyond me, I could aspire to, following in his footsteps, hitch hiking up to Scotland, staying in youth hostels and finding people to climb with who knew as little about it as I did. I did, however, bump into some wonderful mentors as well, Hamish MacInnes in particular.
Leo Houlding – Climber and Adventurer
The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle
I think my Dad first read this to me when I was a child. A few years ago I thumbed through a copy and without realising read it cover to cover without putting it down! It is the quintessential, golden age of exploration, adventure novel written by one of the great masters. SOOOO good. Just thinking about it make me want to read it again!
I’m sure my love of these all action, adventure stories inspired my desire to live out real world versions as an adult.
I have yet to visit the actual scene of the adventure, Roraima Tepuy, but the expedition I led to climb Autana Tepuy in a different part of the Venezuelan Amazon in 2012 certainly lived up to the fearsome picture I envisaged from the book. Although we didn’t discover any living Dinosaurs the Shamanic Yopo ceremony was equally out of this world!
Queen Maud Land by Ivar Erik Tollefsen
I first came across this book on a trip to Norway in 1998. I was captivated by the tale of the remarkable Norwegian expedition led by Ivar Erik Tollefsen that discovered one of the most remarkable mountain ranges on Earth as late as 1994!
The spell binding peaks had me entranced! I knew that one day I wanted to climb Ulvetanna. Back then I had never climbed and big wall, never been on an expedition, never climbed in winter conditions and was generally very, very far away from reaching the base of that mountain never mind the summit.
However the desire smouldered in the back of my mind and 15 years later I had eventually gained all the experience, skill, comrades and partners necessary to realise my wildest dream.
Simply put that book profoundly altered the course of my life.
Mick Fowler – Mountaineer
The Hard Years by Joe Brown
I read many climbing and adventure books in my formative years but it was ‘The Hard Years’ by Joe Brown that stands out as a long-time companion and source of inspiration.
When I first read it I was enthralled and motivated by tales of the leading Rock and Ice club members and their exploratory rock climbs throughout the UK. The book perfectly captured the atmosphere of a ground breaking era in British rock climbing.
Joe, Don Whillans and friends were my idols and I never tired of reading about their exploits and longing to be good enough to climb the routes they were putting up.
As my climbing activities broadened to include the Alps and Himalayas the book kept returning to my bedside table and revealing more and more inspirational gems. Truly it became a book for all seasons.
Sadly my old friend that spent so many dog eared days on my bedside table is now lost. If it was not I’m sure I would still find a little revisiting of old Rock and Ice tales irresistible. In fact I might just look online now to find another copy…
Angelika Rainer – Rock and Iceclimber
I love to read history based novels, but both my all-time favourites don’t fall into that category.
Climbing Free by Lynn Hill
In my opinion, Lynn Hill has always been the most inspiring climber. Even though I have never had real idols, I have always admired her and when I started climbing as a teenager, she was the woman I looked up to.
Her book tells her story from getting into climbing, participating in the first sport climbing competitions (and winning many of them) in late 80ies and early 90ies and her transition to bigwig climbing with her famous first free ascent of the Nose on El Capitan. Her statement ‘It goes boys’ shifts girls dreams into a different light – they can become possible.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
I started reading this fantasy novel at high school, the first 3 books I read in my mother language German, but for the others I simply couldn’t wait for the translation to come out, so I started reading books in English for the first time.
The similar and still so different, magical world that is created in those books completely fascinated me and made me day dream about Harry’s adventures. I still sometimes read the books as I think that dreaming should also be a habit of us adults.
Rolfe Oostra – Mountain Guide at 360 Expeditions
Kiss or Kill – Mark Twight
I have more than 300 climbing/mountaineering books. I started this collection without intending to start a collection; I just never wanted to throw any of them out when I had finished reading them.
My favourite one of the lot is Kiss or Kill by the American Alpinist Mark Twight.
This gritty brutally honest book spoke to me in many different ways and showed what a climber can achieve through absolute determination. As a climber Mark Twight pushed the boundaries into the stratosphere and even today his routes make climbers think twice before committing to them.
I closely identified with the authors taste in music and equally gained inspiration from it in my climbing.
It is written in a style and character that I have never seen again in any climbing/adventure book and I must have read it about a dozen times.
Mark Twight writes as he climbs; He breaks away from all the norms and totally re-invents the genre.
In fact talking about this now has given me the urge to pick it up and read it again!
Steve Birkinshaw – Ultra Fell Runner
Stud Marks on the Summits” by Bill Smith
Most of the books I have read recently are running books. But my favourite is still “Stud Marks on the Summits” by Bill Smith.
This book covers fell racing from its origins up to 1983. It is definitely not the sort of book to read from cover to cover as it is 580 pages long and full of facts and figures. But I still regularly dip into it and end up getting absorbed into some fascinating information about races or runners. If I need to know the history of anything about fell running all the facts are there.
It is out of print and the books have recently been selling for £100. My wife, Emma, bought me a copy for my birthday about 20 years ago having found it for sale for £12 in a second hand book shop.
Bill Smith sadly died in 2011 whilst out in the Trough of Bowland.
Paul Cosgrove – Innovation Lead / Extrem Product Manager
I have three… They all deserve to be named so I didn’t want to leave any out.
Transglobe by Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
The first book I read from cover to back when I was 12 years old. Without a doubt it blew my mind and I wouldn’t have done or be doing what I do now without it.
I have 4 copies of it in different formats and lost count how many times I have read it. It was a highly ambitious, credible and superb expedition that took 7 years to prepare and 3 years to complete. Written with a clear love of what they all had achieved, it gave me a real passion for adventure
I’m very lucky to know key figures from the expedition today and to me, they are living heroes.
Across The Top of The World by Sir Wally Herbert.
Written by the true master British polar explorer. This book is superb.
The last truly great Arctic expedition and without a doubt the first team to the North Pole. While the world watched Neil Armstrong on the moon Wally Herbert led his men on one of the most incredible Arctic expeditions ever undertaken.
His writing style is emotive, obsessive and reflects the difficult psychology of what he and his team attempted. I read it often when I need a shot in the arm before a trip.
Everest The Hard Way by Sir Chris Bonington.
I must have read this book 10 times.
A stunningly hard expedition that was many years ahead of its time. An expedition undertaken out of the clear joy of mountaineering and an audacious objective.
Logistically mind blowing in Sir Chris’s tactics, the bravery of the whole team, the brutal determination of Doug Haston and Doug Scott who summited is outstanding. The first bivy under the summit of Everest! How did they survive?
Written by the master of documented mountaineering. Detail upon stunning detail delivered and woven into a compelling narrative.
James Hodgson – Senior Innovation Designer
Feet In The Clouds by Richard Askwith.
This is a story about one man’s fascination turned obsession with Fell running and his ultimate goal to take on the challenge of the Bob Graham Round – a non stop 66 mile run which tackles 42 of the lake districts highest peaks in under 24 Hours!
I grew up in Keswick, the start and finish of the Bob Graham round and fell running here is an obsession of many.
Arguably the first extreme sport the speed these runners descend technical terrain is mind blowing. Many legendary runners have been raised here, hardy sheep farmers and masters of the fells, some of the records have stood undefeated for many years despite many famous challengers.
Indeed Billy Bland’s 13 hours 53 minutes B.G.R record has stood since 1982. As rumours grow about Killean Jornet coming to attempt the BGR it seems like a good time to (re)familarise with some of these amazing feats and legendary characters including our very own head product tester of over 30 years and true local hero Ken Ledward.
Highly recommended “Feet in the Clouds is a chronicle of a masochistic but admirable sporting obsession, an insight into one of the oldest extreme sports, and a lyrical tribute to Britain’s mountains and the men and women who live among them.” Be warned, this book could start your own addiction to the Lake District hills and the legends who ran amongst them.
Nathalie Coulomb – Materials Lead
The Swiss Family Robinson
I read a lot of books, mainly historical novels, science fiction and fantasy. Growing up I went on a lot of adventures through some of my favourites.
The one I always said I would bring with me if I ever got stranded on a deserted island was The Swiss Family Robinson. It was clearly inspired by Robinson Crusoe but it was a whole family and over the years on their island, they transformed it into a real paradise.
We used to play in the woods and caves by my grandparents’ house with my cousins and emulate some of their adventures. I thought that it would give me all the tips I would need to survive would I ever get lost or stranded. I was only 8 years old.
Chris Lines – PR
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
My reading habits are relatively eclectic – fantasy, science fiction, sport, humour, the odd ‘classic’, comics/graphic novels (especially from the 2000AD canon), thrillers, a few autobiographies/biographies – but I’ve never found it easy to get through adventure or expedition books. In fact, I tend to get very stuck on the early pages.
My day job involves writing about the adventures of other people quite a lot, so in my spare time, I’d much rather go outside than read about going outside. However, when asked to choose a favourite adventure inspiring book one comes straight to mind.
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, because although it is an adventure book, it’s also not really an adventure book. It’s a richly embellished rite of passage buddy book that’s packed with loads of laugh out loud moments and great observations about the human condition. Highly entertaining!
Dave Gibbins – Berghaus Digital Marketing
Chris Bonington Mountaineer
I do read the odd fiction book but almost all my reading is non-fiction and I have quite a collection.
Thinking about all the books in my house there is one that keeps coming to mind. It is my large coffee table book – Chris Bonington Mountaineer. The reason I have chosen this book is because I have never tired of picking it up and gazing at the stunning scenery of some of the most challenging mountains captured within it.
It follows Sir Chris on over 60 years of historic mountaineering expeditions and I find that every page offers something different – some pages showing the smiles of success and others tell tragic tales.
It’s a book that stays on my coffee table and even my ‘non-outdoorsy’ friends pick up and comment on it.
If I’m ever in need of some motivation or inspiration a quick flick through this book and I’m ready.
Greg Stokes- National Account Manager
Mountaineering in Scotland by W.H Murray
(A second nomination)
My literature collection consists mainly of outdoor and adventure inspired titles along with many climbing guidebooks and BMC journals.
My favourite book from my collection and the one I find myself returning to time and time again is the classic Mountaineering in Scotland by WH Murray. This book was written in an era when many of the main mountaineering and climbing venues in Scotland were first being explored pre WW2 such as Glencoe and Ben Nevis.
I find this book an inspiration for my own foray’s into these areas as you read about the adventures Murray had with his companions just getting to these remote areas before road and rail networks were fully established, and then pushing the boundaries of winter climbing with such primitive clothing and equipment, all that was available at the time. It makes me appreciate what we have available today and be proud to work for a British brand that continues to innovate modern day performance mountain clothing and equipment.
So, are any of these featured books already on your bookshelf? Has your most adventure inspiring book made the list? And do you have a few more to add to your list after reading our lineup?
Happy National Book Lovers Day.