The Best Climbing Books to Read of 2021

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Climbing is an obsessive, detail-oriented sport. It is a fully immersive, challenging endeavor that takes a lifetime to master. Because of this, newbies are often intimidated even to try to get into the sport.  That does not have to be the case.

There exist a plethora of books directed towards beginner and intermediate climbers.  (Yes, we said ‘books’.  Contrary to popular belief, people still read).  However, choosing the right books to dedicate your time can be a task in and of itself.  We sifted through the madness for you to compile a guide to the best climbing books.

Whether you are a complete climbing novice, or an intermediate climber that yearns for knowledge and improvement, or if you enjoy an excellent climbing story, this guide to the best climbing books will get you headed in the right direction and ready to send.

Looking for a great listen? Be sure to also check out our reviews of the best climbing podcasts.

Our Top Beginners Pick
How to Rock Climb! (How To Climb Series)
Our Top Training Pick
Training for Climbing: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Performance (How To Climb Series)
Our Top Outdoor Book
Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills
Our Top Inspiration Pick
The Push: A Climber's Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits
Book Title
How to Rock Climb
Training for Climbing: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Performance
Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills (9th Edition)
The Push: A Climber’s Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits
Prime Eligible?
-
-
Our Top Beginners Pick
How to Rock Climb! (How To Climb Series)
Book Title
How to Rock Climb
Prime Eligible?
-
Our Top Training Pick
Training for Climbing: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Performance (How To Climb Series)
Book Title
Training for Climbing: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Performance
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Outdoor Book
Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills
Book Title
Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills (9th Edition)
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Inspiration Pick
The Push: A Climber's Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits
Book Title
The Push: A Climber’s Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits
Prime Eligible?
-

Last update: 2021-09-18 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Our Top Picks for Rock Climbing Books for BeginnersOur Top Picks for Rock Climbing Books for Beginners

Before you can touch the anchor and see the fantastic view, you have to tie in and know the basics.  The bottom line is climbing is inherently dangerous.

Lack of basic knowledge + heights = a recipe for disaster

It’s always best to avoid disaster.

If you want to enjoy a safe, prosperous, and enduring climbing career, start with the following:

How to Rock Climb by John Long

The title is about as straightforward as it gets.  If you want to learn to rock climb, start with this book.  It has tons of pictures to illustrate the basics of getting into the sport.  It covers:

  • Safety (because, as we said, climbing is dangerous)
  • Basic Gear
  • Handhold positions and footwork
  • A brief overview of the history of climbing and the rating system
  • The different types of climbing (sport, trad, bouldering, etc.)
  • Belaying and rappelling
  • Common climbing terminology
  • And much more

Make sure to grab the Fifth Edition, as it is the most up to date with techniques and gear.

On Sale
How to Rock Climb! (How To Climb Series)
  • Author: John Long
  • ISBN#: 9781575400785
  • Publisher: Falcon Guide

Last update: 2021-09-18 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Rock Climbing: Mastering Basic Skills (Second Edition) by Craig Luebben

This book is another fantastic overview for the beginner or intermediate climber.  Unlike many how-to guides that are naturally dry and boring, the information presented in this book is conversational and easy to digest.  The topics highlighted here are relatively consistent to those in How to Rock Climb.  However, the photos are better in that book, while Rock Climbing is easier to read.  Regardless, both works are, without a doubt, the best climbing instructional books.

* It is important to note that instructional climbing books cannot replace formal training.  They merely supplement the techniques and skills taught to you by experienced climbers.

On Sale
Rock Climbing, 2nd Edition: Mastering Basic Skills (Mountaineers Outdoor Experts)
  • Rock Climbing 2nd Edition
  • Donahue, Topher (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-09-18 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Our Favorites for the Best Climbing Books for Training and Improving TechniqueOur Favorites for the Best Climbing Books for Training and Improving Technique

So you now have the basics.  You’re no longer a complete noob because you’ve read the books in the previous section and you’ve been climbing at the gym several times a week for the past few months.  But you’ve found the jump from climbing 5.10 to 5.11 to be a little more testing than you had hoped. The following are the best climbing technique books to take you to the next level and achieve your climbing goals.

Training for Climbing: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Performance by Eric Horst

This work is a comprehensive training guide for climbers of all abilities.  It takes a scientific approach to maximize physical performance.  Injury prevention, climbing nutrition, advanced technique- these are just a few of the topics Eric Horst discusses in his book.  First and foremost, he highlights the importance of technique, because strength and power can only get you so far in climbing.

If your climbing gains have become stagnant, then you should consider implementing a training regimen.  This book details how to go about that and get the most out of your climbing.

On Sale
Training for Climbing: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Performance (How To Climb Series)
  • GLOBE PEQUOT PRESS TRAINING FOR CLIMBING 3RD
  • Horst, Eric (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-09-18 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Self-Coached Climber: The Guide to Movement, Training, Performance by Dan Hague and Douglas Hunter

The easiest way to get into climbing and gain essential knowledge is through a mentor.  Finding a climbing mentor is easier said than done.  We’ve all seen the elite climbers at the gym, with their too-cool-for-school attitudes, who wouldn’t give us mere climbing mortals the time of day.  Often it’s up to you to train yourself.

This work is, without a doubt, one of the best climbing training books.

If you genuinely want to improve your climbing with noticeable gains, then this is the book for you.  It is the tried and tested training guide for climbing gurus.

The ultimate basis of the book stresses the principles of movement:

  • Balance
  • Strength
  • Power
  • Endurance

By focusing on improving these physiological ideas, the authors suggest the fundamental skills of climbing will flourish.

Though the concepts presented in this book are more geared towards intermediate climbers, both beginner and advanced climbers would still seek to benefit from its lessons.

Simply put, read this book and you’ll see improvement in your climbing.

On Sale
Self-Coached Climber: The Guide to Movement, Training, Performance
  • Alpenbooks
  • Full color guide provides 52 practical training exercises designed to advance technique
  • Detailed anatomical illustrations explain climbing physiology

Last update: 2021-09-18 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


The Rock Warrior’s Way: Mental Training for Climbers by Arno Ilgner

Imagine: you’re 80 feet off the deck, 6 feet past the previous bolt- with another 4 feet to the next bolt, you’re at a tough move that you’ve never done before.  If you’re human, then odds are you might be overcome with a slight sense of fear.  The Rock Warrior’s Way outlines how to take that fear and repurpose it into positive energy.

A lot of climbing books will give you the physical strategy to improve your climbing while offering only the slightest on how to improve mental focus.  The Rock Warrior’s Way is entirely geared towards improving your mental capacity and breaking through your own limitations.

Nobody wants to fall and risk getting hurt.  Because of this, climbers often do not commit to certain moves that are well within their realm of physical possibility.  Arno Ilgner teaches you to implement mindfulness in your climbing; to do away with the ego and be present.  By using mindfulness and cognitive behavioral techniques, a climber can determine when natural defense mechanisms to protect one’s ego are clouding their capacity to accurately assess a situation involving risk and personal ability.

  • “Climbing through a challenging section of rock can resemble conversation. In conversation many people stop listening to what’s being said. Their attention becomes focused on why they agree or disagree with some early remark. They plan ahead to what they’ll say next, even though their remark will probably be out of context at that time. They end up channeling their energy into defending their old set of beliefs instead of being open to the possibility of learning something new from the speaker.”
    ― Arno Ilgner, The Rock Warrior’s Way: Mental Training For Climbers

The Rock Warrior’s Way can undoubtedly be applied to broader aspects of life.  But ultimately, if you want to be the best climber you can be, then you need the mental fortitude to be able to persevere through challenging and fear-invoking climbs.  The Rock Warrior’s Way is absolutely one of the most essential and best climbing books.  This book is for everyone.

The Rock Warrior's Way: Mental Training for Climbers
  • Recommended Use: climbing
  • Publisher: Desiderata Institute
  • ISBN#: 0974011274

Last update: 2021-09-18 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Our Top Picks for the Best Climbing Books for Climbing OutdoorsOur Top Picks for the Best Climbing Books for Climbing Outdoors

Gym climbing is unquestionably the easiest way to get into the sport.  Even Alex Honnold started his otherworldly climbing career in a gym.  But there comes a time in every climber’s life, where the gym walls begin to feel like the trash compactor scene from Star Wars.  When this happens, it’s time to get outside and experience a real crag.

Climbing outside is simply the best.  You spend a ton of time in the gym, improving your craft, so that when it’s finally time to get on some real rock you’re able to make the most of it.

The transition from gym to crag can undoubtedly be an adjustment.  For one, it is not a controlled environment.  Climbing outside is far more dangerous, and you absolutely must know what you are doing.

There is also the issue of etiquette.  It is always best to know how to act appropriately outdoors, especially with regards to a niche activity such as climbing.  After all, it’s there for everyone to enjoy and maximize one’s experience.

To teach you much of what you need to know when making the jump from gym climbing to the great outdoors is one of the best climbing books of all time.

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills (9th Edition) by The Mountaineers Club

This weighty tome is the end all, be all for everything you need to know to start a long, happy climbing career.  Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills was first published in 1960.  In that time climbing has changed quite a bit, thus resulting in 8 subsequent editions.

At 624 pages, this bad boy packs quite a bit of information.  Some of it may not be relevant for the casual climber, or even just rock climber.  It encapsulates all types of climbing, as well as mountaineering.  It is not only a fantastic primer for novice climbers but also a quality review for veterans of the sport.

The book is divided into six parts:

  • Part One: Outdoor Fundamentals
  • Part Two: Climbing Fundamentals
  • Part Three: Rock Climbing
  • Part Four: Snow, Ice, and Alpine Climbing
  • Part Five: Emergency Prevention and Response
  • Part Six: The Mountain Environment

Accompanying all of the written sections are numerous photos, charts, and graphs- all adding to easily digestible lessons.

Whether you want to learn how to sport climb outside, or you’re interested in winter mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills will provide you with all the information to get started.  Not only is it one of the best mountain climbing books of all-time, but many climbers also go as far to refer to it as the bible of climbing.

On Sale
Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills
  • Claimed Weight: 2lb 7oz
  • Recommended Use: mountaineering
  • Dimensions: 7.5 x 1.8 x 9.2in

Last update: 2021-09-18 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Our Favorites for the Best Climbing Books for InspirationOur Favorites for the Best Climbing Books for Inspiration

Reading about climbing technique and improvement is great and all, but eventually you learn most of the concepts, and the reading loses its luster.  When you can’t be out on the crag, reading stories about climbing might be the next best thing.

No matter how good you get at climbing, there is always going to be someone better than you- someone to look up to, perhaps even inspire you.  Every once in a while, these world-class climbers will come out and write a story to inspire a generation of climbers and set the community abuzz.  There exist tons of books written by professional climbers, but these are the best climbing books for inspiration.

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

Tommy Caldwell is one of the most famous names in climbing.  He is immensely respected by the climbing community and is nothing short of a climbing legend.  He is known for climbing the biggest, most difficult walls in the world.  But there was a time when Tommy was merely a mortal- an underdog, undersized climber with a chip on his shoulder.  The Push details Tommy Caldwell’s unexpected and inspiring rise to rock climbing superstardom.

Perseverance and a refined commitment to excellence have defined Tommy Caldwell’s life.  As an up-and-coming climber, Tommy lost his left index finger in a table saw accident.  The doctors told him he would never climb professionally again.  Instead, he vowed to work to offset the loss by significantly increasing the strength of his pinky. As a result, he started climbing harder than ever.

In 2000, Tommy Caldwell and a group of professional climbers went to Kyrgyzstan to climb some of the biggest rock walls in the world.  Things went south quickly when gun-wielding rebels kidnaped Tommy and his crew.  The group was held captive for six days until they saw an opportunity to escape.  Tommy was forced to push his captor off a cliff.  The group fled to a military base and made it safely back to America.

The Push intimately details these exploits and how they prepared Tommy Caldwell for his most considerable task yet, free climbing the Dawn Wall on El Capitan.  It was known as an impossible climb, but Tommy spent the better part of a decade figuring out the route and piecing together the moves.  He’d continuously go back year after year.  It became a life-consuming obsession.

In January of 2015, Tommy Caldwell and his climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson spent 19 days on the Dawn Wall.  Against all odds, they completed the climb, in what is considered by many to be the Super Bowl of climbing.  The Dawn Wall was a culmination of years of obsessive dedication and visionary pursuit that inevitably captured America’s attention for several weeks.

The Push is a brutally honest account of the hardships and achievements of Tommy Caldwell.  It’s not only a fantastic book for climbers; it’s an excellent choice for anyone looking for an inspirational read.

On Sale
The Push: A Climber's Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Tommy Caldwell (Author) - Johnathan McClain (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-09-18 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


The Mountains of My Life by Walter Bonatti

Walter Bonatti was one of the leading mountaineering figures of the twentieth century.  He climbed at a time before cell phones and GPS… before there was 24-hour connectivity to the world.  His writing reflects such seclusion from civilization and connection to nature.

Bonatti explored the physical limits of human possibility well before his contemporaries.  The Mountains of My Life details his mountaineering adventures of the Alps and Himalayas, including his controversial first ascent of K2 in 1954.

Bonatti was in constant search of the unknown and its limits.  If you have any interest in alpinism, then you have to check this book out.  It is not only spiritual and honest; it delves into the soul of a true adventurer.  It certainly has to be considered one of the best mountain climbing books of all-time.

Modern Classics the Mountains of My Life
  • New
  • Mint Condition
  • Dispatch same day for order received before 12 noon

Last update: 2021-09-18 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Award-Winning Climbing Books to ReadAward-Winning Climbing Books to Read

Much like our picks for the best climbing books for inspiration, the award-winning climbing books listed here serve as a means of escape to the reader- where the act of reading the story is in itself is an adventure.  The following books have received mainstream acclaim and are widely considered the best climbing books of all-time.

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

Perhaps the most well-known climbing book ever written, Into Thin Air details the tragedy of the 1996 climbing season on Mount Everest.  Journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer describes his firsthand account of what happened on one of the deadliest days (up until that point) in Everest history.

The story begins as lifelong climbing enthusiast and writer, Jon Krakauer, is asked to write about the commercialization of Mount Everest for Outside Magazine.  It had been a lifelong goal of Krakauer’s to summit the tallest peak in the world.  What unfolds is a heartbreaking account of what can happen on the push to the summit when weather rolls in.

Krakauer is a master at creating narrative tension and revelation.  His ability to immerse the reader in the story is unparalleled in climbing writing.  This book is impossible to put down.  Though it includes some technical climbing jargon, the narrative is presented so the non-climber can enjoy it just as much.  There’s a reason teachers will often have their students read it.  Not only was Into Thin Air a Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction in 1998, but it’s also one of the best mountain climbing books and adventure books ever written.

On Sale
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
  • Author: Jon Krakauer
  • ISBN: 9780385494786
  • Jon Krakauer (Author)

Last update: 2021-09-18 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Alone on the Wall by Alex Honnold and David Roberts

Whether you’ve been living under a rock or on the rock, chances are you’ve heard of the otherworldly climbing exploits of Alex Honnold.  If there is a rock god, his name is Alex Honnold.  Alone on the Wall is his autobiographical opus about his most formative and death-defying climbs.

Alone on the Wall is extraordinary in that there’s never been such a detailed account of free soloing.  The concept is dangerous, ridiculous, and so recognized that the masses have consumed this book.  It doesn’t hurt that Honnold is brutally honest and his philosophy on life so straightforward.

Climbers and non-climbers are so enamored with Alex Honnold that Free Solo, a film about Honnold’s most incredible free solo ascent of El Capitan, received nationwide release.  It also garnered an insane amount of critical reception, including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Alone on the Wall will have your full attention as you find out how Honnold deals with fear and the prospect of death.  But, beware: you’re going to need to chalk up your hands just to hold onto the book.

On Sale
Alone on the Wall
  • Honnold, Alex (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages - 10/02/2018 (Publication Date) - W. W. Norton & Company (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-09-18 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Summary of the Best Climbing Books

We’ve gone over a lot today. Here’s a helpful table to consolidate every climbing books we went over:

Our Top Beginners Pick
How to Rock Climb! (How To Climb Series)
Our Top Training Pick
Training for Climbing: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Performance (How To Climb Series)
Our Top Outdoor Book
Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills
Our Top Inspiration Pick
The Push: A Climber's Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits
Book Title
How to Rock Climb
Training for Climbing: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Performance
Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills (9th Edition)
The Push: A Climber’s Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits
Prime Eligible?
-
-
Our Top Beginners Pick
How to Rock Climb! (How To Climb Series)
Book Title
How to Rock Climb
Prime Eligible?
-
Our Top Training Pick
Training for Climbing: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Performance (How To Climb Series)
Book Title
Training for Climbing: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Performance
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Outdoor Book
Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills
Book Title
Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills (9th Edition)
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Inspiration Pick
The Push: A Climber's Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits
Book Title
The Push: A Climber’s Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits
Prime Eligible?
-

Last update: 2021-09-18 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

It’s easy to get addicted to climbing- in fact, most climbers are.  However, figuring out where to start and not look like a complete goober can be a daunting task.  Lucky for you, we have provided you with the best climbing books to start, and eventually, expand your climbing career.  So, whether you are new to the sport, or you are just looking for a good climbing book, we’re confident there is something in this article for you.  Happy reading, we’ll see you on the crag.

Want something to listen to while training? Be sure to also check out our reviews of the best climbing podcasts.

You may also want to check out our articles on the best Joshua Tree climbing guide books and best Red Rocks climbing guide books.

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