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Award Winners of the Banff Mountain Book Festival
Mountain Literature Category

Prize Background

Since 1994, the Banff Mountain Book Festival has brought together writers, publishers, editors, photographers and readers. The festival explores the world of mountain literature through speakers, readings, seminars, book signings and launches, a book fair and the presentation of internationally recognized awards for mountain literature. In addition to the Grand Prize Winners selected from all of the books, awards are also presented to the best books in each of the categories of:

bulletAdventure Travel
bulletCanadian Rockies
bulletMountain Exposition
bullet Mountain History
bulletMountain Image
bulletMountain Literature


The Mountain Literature Award Winners

The Mountain Literature category includes non-fiction and fiction books on mountaineering, mountain history, mountain travel, mountain culture and environment, mountain adventure and mountain experience of any kind. There are two lists of books on this page. The first list includes all of the winners in the Mountain Literature category since the award was first made in 1995. The second list includes all of the finalists. Please note that a number of these books are still unavailable in the US (at least through and that these are shown in red.

  Year   Mountain Literature Winning Titles and Author

The Climbing Essays
Jim Perrin

Quotes from the jury include:

bullet“Climbing has given Perrin his life,” says jury member Audrey Salkeld, a U.K.-based journalist and mountaineering historian. “And practice has polished his natural gift in conveying these irreconcilables onto paper.”

A special jury award was given to Strange and Dangerous Dreams: The Fine Line Between Adventure and Madness by Geoff Powter for his investigation into the psychology of risk; he examined the nebulous boundary between an adventurous soul and an unsound mind through 11 tales of troubled expeditions


On Thin Ice
Mick Fowler

Quotes from the jury include:

bullet“A far cry from the grunt/epic/hero/tragedy school of mountain writing. In many ways, the climbing is simply a backdrop to great story telling, powers of observation, travel writing, and humour that would do Tilman proud.”
bullet“Mick Fowler is the last of the high-powered amateurs — we should cherish him for his unquenchable enthusiasm, his sheer likeability and his awesome achievements.”
bullet“Mick Fowler writes with the fearlessness of a Lord Nelson. He simply goes at 'em, gets in close, and serves up delightful, self-deprecating, authentic prose.”
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Life and Limb: A True Story of Tragedy and Survival Against the Odds
Jamie Andrew

Jury members found that this book had a “compelling and agonisingly suspenseful quality about it.” It tells the story of Andrew’s rescue after five nights trapped by a storm on Mont Blanc.

Best Book of Mountaineering History
Ways to the Sky: A Historical Guidebook to North American Mountaineering
Andy Selters

This book documents the entire scope of climbing history on this continent, with route information on 47 historically significant climbs.

2003 Escape from Lucania: An Epic Story of Survival
David Roberts

(At Amazon UK)

Grand Prize Winner: A riveting story about the 1937 first ascent of Alaska’s Mount Lucania by two mountaineers who found themselves stranded on the mountain with inadequate gear and provisions due to bad weather and logistics. "The story leaps off the page," says jury member George Lowe about Bradford Washburn and Bob Bates’ climb of Mount Lucania, which in 1937 was the highest unclimbed peak in North America. "It loses none of its impact in the retelling by two 90 year-olds who had a miraculous escape by their own efforts."  Read our Review

Where the Mountain Casts its Shadow: The Personal Costs of Climbing
Maria Coffey

Mountain Literature Award: Coffey conducted many of her interviews for this book at past festivals, and wrote part of it at The Banff Centre during a creative writing residency. "The subject of death and loss in the mountains, and the impact this has on those who are left behind, is a difficult subject that few writers, or mountaineers, have challenged," says Child. "To dare this topic takes courage."

Tenzing: Hero of Everest
Ed Douglas
(At Amazon UK)

Best Work of Mountaineering History: Douglas tells the story of Tenzing Norgay, the Tibetan-born son of a yak herder who went on to become a legend after making the first ascent of Mount Everest with beekeeper Sir Edmund Hillary. "This is a fully-textured portrait of the man that avoids legend building and myth making," says Ramsay. "It becomes more magical simply because of Douglas’ confidence, patience, and incredible gift for timing which have always made him one of the best."

Special Mentions
Everest: 50 Years On Top Of The World (The MEF Auhorized 50th Anniversary Volume); George Band (At Amazon UK)
Everest: Summit of Achievement; Royal Geographic Society (At Amazon UK)

2002 Above the Clouds
Anatoli Boukreev, Linda Wylie (Editor), Galen Rowell

The book is a compilation of Boukreev’s mountaineering diaries from 1989 to his death on Annapurna in 1997. A Russian mountaineer, Boukreev is best known for his role in the 1996 Everest tragedy. "Above the Clouds is an interesting addition to the on-going Into Thin Air debate," says Powter, one of the 2002 judges. "It presents a much more rounded and sympathetic view of this important — and to some extent sidelined — player in the history of the Himalaya."

A Special Mention was earned by Climbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World by Lynn Hill with Greg Child

2001 Kiss or Kill: Confessions of a Serial Climber
Mark Twight

Dawson Stelfox, one of the 2001 judges, says Kiss or Kill "is an insight into the mind of one of the great climbers of this generation."  Read our Review
2000 Virtual Tibet: Searching For Shangri-La From The Himalayas To Hollywood
Orville Schell

"This is a fascinating book about a fascinating land, offering interesting insights and reflections on the West’s relationship with Tibet," says jury member Susan Golomb.

A Special Mention for Mountaineering History was earned by Pushing The Limits: The Story Of Canadian Mountaineering by Chic Scott

1999 Switchbacks: True Stories From The Canadian Rockies
Sid Marty

These interconnected stories are drawn from the length and breadth of Sid Marty's remarkable life in the mountains. The people - and creatures -- that Marty comes to know in the Rocky Mountains are sometimes larger than life. Switching back and forth in time and mood, all but two of the superb stories in this collection are previously unpublished. They are original, thoughtful and beautifully crafted outpourings of a writer at the height of his powers. "Sid Marty's stories express in wonderful words his deep passion for the mountains where he is at home," says jury member Michael Pause.

Special Mention awards were earned by Darkness And The Azure by Anne Sauvy and High Exposure: An Enduring Passion for Everest and Unforgiving Places by David Breashars  Read Our Review

1998 Postcards from the Ledge: Collected Mountaineering Writings of Greg Child
Greg Child

"This energetic, insightful and well written book captivated the jury," says jury member Bob Sandford. "There is a lot of intelligence in Child's book and a great deal of wisdom and humour. Like all good literature, the book tells its stories slowly and eloquently."
  Read Review

A Special Mention award was earned by
Chomolungma Sings the Blues: Travels Around Everest by Ed Douglas
1997 Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster
Jon Krakauer

Read Review

A Special Mention award was earned by Alaska Ascents: World-Class Mountaineers Tell Their Stories by Bill Sherwonit

1996 Into The Wild
Jon Krakauer

1995 K2: The Story Of The Savage Mountain
Jim Curran

A Special Mention award for Mountain Environment and Culture was earned by Leaning On The Wind: Under The Spell Of The Great Chinook by Sid Marty. A Special Mention award was earned by Stone Crusade: A Historical Guide To Bouldering In America by John Sherman
1994 Camp 4: Recollections of a Yosemite Rockclimber
Steve Roper




The following table includes a list of all of the non-winning finalists for the Banff Awards in the Mountain Literature category.

  Year   Mountain Literature Finalists
bulletThe Boys of Everest: Chris Bonington and the Tragedy of Climbing's Greatest Generation by Clint Willis
bulletHimalaya: Personal Stories of Grandeur, Challenge and Hope by Richard C. Blum, Broughton Coburn, and Erica Stone
bulletIllustrated Atlas of the Himalaya by David Zurick
bulletThe Last Season by Eric Blehm
bulletMount Everest: The Reconnaissance 1935 - The Forgotten Adventure by Tony Astill
bulletNo Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks by Ed Viesturs and David Roberts
bulletA Passion for Mountains: The Lives of Don and Phyllis Munday by Kathryn Bridge
bullet Strange and Dangerous Dreams: The Fine Line Between Adventure and Madness by Geoff Powter
bulletSummit: 150 Years of the Alpine Club by George Band
bulletThree Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations, One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson
bulletThe Wall by Jeff Long
bulletBreaking Trail: A Climbing Life by Arlene Blum
bulletBroad Peak by Richard Sale
bulletInto the Unknown: The Remarkable Life of Hans Kraus by Susan E.B. Schwartz
bulletLearning to Breathe by Andy Cave
bulletThe Longest Climb by Paul Pritchard
bulletLosing the Garden by Laura Waterman
bulletOn the Ridge Between Life and Death by David Roberts
bulletOn Thin Ice by Mick Fowler (from Amazon UK only)
bulletPossessed by Shadows by Donigan Merritt
bulletRock and Roll Mountains by Graham Forbes
bulletSavage Summit: The True Stories of the First Five Women Who Climbed K2, The World’s Most Feared Mountain by Jennifer Jordan
bulletThe Villain: The Life of Don Whillans by Jim Perrin
bulletWith Friends in High Places: An Anatomy of Those Who Take to the Hills by Malcolm Slesser
bulletEverest Pioneer, the photographs of Captain John Noel by Sandra Noel
bulletIn the Ghost Country: A Lifetime Spent on the Edge by Peter Hillary
bulletIn the Path of an Avalanche by Vivien Bowers
bulletThe Joy of Climbing by Terry Gifford
bullet Life and Limb: A True Story of Tragedy and Survival Against the Odds by Jamie Andrew
bulletPostcards from the Trailer Park by Cameron M. Burns
bulletTaking Leave by Roger Hubank
bulletA Test of Will: One Man's Extraordinary Story of Survival by Warren Macdonald
bulletUnder a Sheltering Sky by Colin Monteath
bulletWays to the Sky: A Historical Guidebook to North American Mountaineering by Andy Selters
bullet Every Other Day: The Journals of the Remarkable Rocky Mountain Climbs and Explorations of Alfred J. Ostheimer III; A.J. Ostheimer, Alpine Club Of Canada
bullet The Fall: A Novel; Simon Mawer (At Amazon UK)
bullet Mountains of the Mind: How Desolate and Forbidding Heights Were Transformed into Experiences of Indomitable Spirit; Robert MacFarlane (At Amazon UK)
bullet Tenzing: Hero of Everest; Ed Douglas (At Amazon UK)
bullet Tibet, Tibet: Dreams and Memories of a Lost Land; Patrick French (At Amazon UK)
bullet True Grizz: Glimpses of Fernie, Stahr, Easy, Dakota, and Other Bears in the Modern World; Douglas Chadwick (At Amazon UK)
bullet Where the Mountain Casts its Shadow: The Personal Costs of Climbing; Maria Coffey (At Amazon UK)
bullet Women on High; Rebecca A. Brown (At Amazon UK)
bullet The Yam: 50 Years of Climbing on Yamnuska; Chic Scott, Dave Dornian, and Ben Gadd
bullet Yosemite: Half a Century of Dynamic Rock Climbing, Alexander Huber and Heinz Zak (At Amazon UK)
bullet Above the Clouds; Anatoli Boukreev, Linda Wylie (Editor), Galen Rowell
bulletThe Backbone of the World: A Portrait of a Vanishing Way of Life Along the Continental Divide; Frank Clifford
bulletThe Beckoning Silence; Joe Simpson   Read Our Review
bulletThe Big Walls: From the North Face of the Eiger to the South Face of Dhaulagiri; Reinhold Messner
bulletClimb! The History of Rock Climbing in Colorado; Jeff Achey
bulletClimbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World; Lynn Hill with Greg Child
bulletDetectives on Everest: The 2001 Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition; Eric Simonson and Jochen Hemmleb
bulletThe Dishonorable Dr. Cook: Debunking the Notorious Mount McKinley Hoax; Bradford Washburn, Peter Cherici
bulletThe High Sierra of California; Gary Snyder, Tom Killion
bulletKilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa; Audrey Salkeld
bulletOver the Edge: The True Story of Four American Climbers' Kidnap and Escape in the Mountains of Central Asia; Greg Child
bulletPhyllis Munday: Mountaineer; Kathryn Bridge
bulletPoets on the Peaks: Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen & Jack Kerouac in the Cascades; John Suiter
bulletTenzing Norgay and the Sherpas of Everest; Tashi Tenzing
bulletTigers of the Snow: How One Fateful Climb Made the Sherpas Mountaineering Legends; Jonathan Neale
bulletW.H. Murray: The Evidence of Things Not Seen; W.H. Murray
bulletWalking the Big Wild: From Yellowstone to Yukon on the Grizzly Bear Trail; Karsten Heuer
bulletAmerican Rock: Region, Rock, and Culture in American Climbing; Don Mellor
bulletBelow Another Sky: A Mountain Adventure in Search of a Lost Father; Rick Ridgeway
bulletA Brief History of British Mountaineering; Colin Wells for the Mountain Heritage Trust
bulletDenali: A Literary Anthology; edited by Bill Sherwonit
bulletFearless on Everest: The Quest for Sandy Irvine; Julie Summers
bulletThe Flame of Adventure; Simon Yates
bulletHazard's Way; Roger Hubank
bulletHistory of the Great Mountaineering Adventures; Stefano Ardito
bulletIceman: Uncovering the Life and Times of a Prehistoric Man Found in an Alpine Glacier; Brenda Fowler
bulletKiss or Kill: Confessions of a Serial Climber; Mark Twight  Read our Review
bulletPathways into the Mountains; Ken Belford
bulletRaven's End: A Tale of the Canadian Rockies; Ben Gadd
bulletSnow in the Kingdom: My Storm Years on Everest; Ed Webster
bulletTouch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther Than the Eye Can See; Erik Weihenmayer
bulletTouching My Father's Soul: A Sherpa's Journey To The Top Of Everest; Jamling Tenzing Norgay
bulletClimbing The World's Highest Mountains: The History Of The 8,000 Meter Peaks; Richard Sale and John Cleare
bulletEl Capitan: Historic Feats And Radical Routes; Daniel Duane
bulletExtreme Rock and Ice: 25 Of The World's Great Climbs; Garth Hattingh
bulletLife and Death on Mt. Everest: Sherpas and Himalayan Mountaineering; Sherry Ortner
bulletMy Quest For Yeti: Confronting The Himalayas' Deepest Mystery; Reinhold Messner
bulletNot Without Peril: 150 Years Of Misadventure On The Presidential Range Of New Hampshire; Nicholas Howe
bulletPushing The Limits: The Story Of Canadian Mountaineering; Chic Scott
bulletTrue Summit: What Really Happened on the Legendary Ascent of Annapurna; David Roberts
bulletA Slender Thread: Escaping Disaster In The Himalayas; Steven Venables  Read Review
bulletStone Palaces; Geoffrey Childs
bulletTwo For The Summit: My Daughter, The Mountains And Me; Geoffrey Norman
bulletView From The Summit: The Remarkable Memoir by the First Person to Conquer Everest: Edmund Hillary
bulletVirtual Tibet: Searching For Shangri-La From The Himalayas To Hollywood; Orville Schell
bulletThe Wildest Dream: The Biography of George Mallory; Peter and Leni Gillman
bulletAscent: The Climbing Experience In Word And Image; Allen Steck, Steve Roper, and David Harris
bulletDarkness And The Azure; Anne Sauvy
bulletEverest: The Ultimate Hump; Tami Knight
bulletGhosts of Everest: The Search for Mallory & Irvine; Jochen Hemmleb
bulletHigh Achiever; The Life And Climbs of Chris Bonington; Jim Curran
bulletHigh Exposure: An Enduring Passion for Everest and Unforgiving Places; David Breashars  Read Review
bulletThe Last Climb; The Legendary Everest Expeditions Of George Mallory; David Breashars and Audrey Salkeld
bulletLost On Everest: The Search For Mallory And Irvine; Peter Firstbrook
bulletRegions of the Heart: The Triumph and Tragedy of Alison Hargreaves; David Rose
bulletSherman Exposed; Slightly Censored Climbing Stories; John Sherman
bulletSwitchbacks: True Stories From The Canadian Rockies; Sid Marty
bulletThe Totem Pole And A Whole New Adventure; Paul Pritchard
bulletTibet's Secret Mountain: The Triumph of Sepu Kangri; Chris Bonington and Charles Clarke
bulletTo The Summit: Fifty Mountains That Lure, Inspire and Challenge; Joseph Poindexter
bulletThe Top Of The World; Climbing Mount Everest; Steve Jenkins
bulletChomolungma Sings the Blues: Travels Around Everest; Ed Douglas
bulletPostcards from the Ledge: Collected Mountaineering Writings of Greg Child; Greg Child Read Review
bulletWorld Mountaineering: The World's Great Mountains by the World's Great Mountaineers; Audrey Salkeld
bulletThe Climb; Anatoli Boukreev
bulletDarkShadows Falling; Joe Simpson My Review
bulletThe Death Zone; Matt Dickinson
bulletEscape Routes: Further Adventure Writings Of David Roberts; David Roberts
bulletInto Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster; Jon Krakauer  My Review
bulletMont Blanc: Discovery And Conquest Of The Giant Of The Alps; Stefano Ardito
bulletThe Measure of A Mountain: Beauty And Terror On Mount Rainier; Bruce Barcott
bulletA Most Hostile Mountain: Recreating The Duke Of Abruzzi's Historic Expedition on Mount St. Elias; Jon Waterman
bulletRisking Adventure: Mountaineering Journeys Around The World; Jim Haberl
bulletAlaska Ascents: World-Class Mountaineers Tell Their Stories; Bill Sherwonit
bulletHimalaya Alpine Style: The Most Challenging Routs On The Highest Peaks: Stephen Venables
bulletIn The Zone; Peter Pottersfield
bulletInto The Wild; Jon Krakauer
bulletLandmarks: An Exploration Of Great Rocks; David Craig
bulletStorms Of Silence; Joe Simpson
bulletThe Story Of The White Crystal; Hildegaard Diemberger
bulletThe Burgess Book of Lies; Adrian Burgess and Alan Burgess
bulletCampfire Howlers: Stories To Amuse And Entertain; John Long
bulletA Hard Day's Summer: Six Classic North Faces Solo; Alison Hargreaves
bulletIcefields; Thomas Wharton
bulletK2: The Story Of The Savage Mountain; Jim Curran
bulletThe Last Hero; Bill Tillman, A Biography Of The Explorer; Tim Madge
bulletLeaning On The Wind: Under The Spell Of The Great Chinook; Sid Marty
bulletRock Jocks, Wall Rats, and Hang Dogs; John Long
bulletStone Crusade: A Historical Guide To Bouldering In America; John Sherman
bulletStories Of A Young Climber: An Autobiography; Pat Ament
bulletVertical Pleasure: The Secret Life Of A Taxman; Mick Fowler


If you like this list and want to see other award winning books on mountaineering and the outdoors, check out the winners of these three awards:
bullet American Alpine Literary Award
bullet Boardman-Tasker Memorial Award for Mountain Literature
bullet National Outdoor Book Awards


Return to TheRagens Books homepage. For other books on our lists of recommended books, follow the links below.
bulletOur Current Book List. The list of books on our current reading list.
bulletMountain Climbing and Outdoor Adventures with the cover graphics.
bullet Books on Wine Appreciation and Winemaking.
bulletChildren's Books that our boys or their cousins are reading. Click here for the Seattle Children's Theatre recommended booklist.
bulletHistory Books that relate to our family history or that we have enjoyed.
bulletOther Books that we are waiting to categorize.


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