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Beyond the Mountain Paperback – January 12, 2012
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"[Beyond the Mountain is] a rare and profoundly personal glimpse of the drive, dedication and focus behind today's light-and-fast ascents." --Michael Kennedy, editor-in-chief, Alpinist
“House's Beyond the Mountain is raw, funny, and tragic, but never forced. Above all else, this is a story of goals fueled by energy, rewards, and triumphs meshed with soul-baring confession.” –The Daily Camera
Winner of the 2009 Boardman Tasker Prize for mountain literature
Winner of the 2009 Banff Mountain Literature " Best Book" Award
About the Author
Steve House, along with Vince Anderson, pioneered a new direct route on the Rupal Face of Pakistan's 8,126-meter Nanga Parbat. He also spends time pursuing climbs in the Alaska Range, the Canadian Rockies, and the European Alps. Steve has been particularly prolific in the Canadian Rockies in recent years, having opened big new routes on many of the major faces in the range including: Robson’s Emperor Face, the North Face of Mount Alberta, the North Face of North Twin, the East Face of Howse Peak, and the East Face of Mount Fay. He has worked as a Patagonia alpine ambassador since 1999. Now an independent guide, he has guided for Exum Mountain Guides, the American Alpine Institute, and North Cascades Mountain Guides. Raised in La Grande, House now is based in Central Oregon, near Bend.
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Steve House's alpine climbs are amazing - he is probably the best American alpinist. However, he does not bring it is his writing like he brings it on his climbs. I have read accounts of many of these climbs previously in Climbing and Rock and Ice and the accounts of these same climbs by Marc Twight and Barry Blanchard are far more riveting than this book.
While in climbing, Steve House always takes the sharp end of the rope, in writing this book, he has passed on taking the sharp end in reviewing and writing about emotion. His accounts of a client dying on a climb or going to a climbing friends funeral seem to pass on emotional reflection and report it- - it is very difficult to write about - but that is what makes a climbing story gripping, sympathetic and a great read. I was also disappointed as the tension of climbing with partners seemed to be glossed over, such as when Steve dropped or forgot stuff. How did it affect his partners? It seemed that the author did not want to dwell on any tension with climbing partners in writing this book, so we end up reading a sanitized version of his amazing climbs.
"What does it take to be one of the world's best high-altitude mountain climbers? A lot of fundraising; traveling in some of the world's most dangerous countries;"
Furthermore, every climbing/adventure/mountaineering book I've read had the effect of inspiring me to do more, learn more, stretch myself more, be more. 95% of this book did the opposite. It's hard to articulate accurately, but an off putting arrogance from House and his climbing partners emanates from many of the pages and their stories. Undoubtedly, House is one of, if not the greatest American Alpinist ever. That's why I bought the book. But why put down people, or partners, because they are not as great? or put people down who are unwilling or unable to give up everything to train for the perfect line. Should others not climb because they are not willing to quit their jobs and live out of a van in order to climb on a moments notice? Great acts speak for themselves. Some people will never, nor should they ever, accept the level of risk and exposure that House did on such a regular basis. You don't need to put anyone down or toot your own horn to make your accomplishments noteworthy.
That being said, the Epilogue changed my entire opinion of the book. House gave credit to someone in the acknowledgments section crediting them with help on the epilogue. Perhaps they wrote it. I don't know, but it put the entire rest of the book into perspective. House admitted his mistakes. He allowed himself to be human. He apologized for his human frailties without apologizing for the sacrifices necessary to achieve his numerous accomplishments. I appreciated the technical nature this book. And after reading the epilogue I would recommend the book to others. Just be mindful that I almost put the book away before I got the the epilogue.
But, what is interesting about this book, and sets it apart from the rest, is the connection to his personal life. There is scene he describes after he completes what is essentially his life's work. The scene is dark and grimy, something most people would not admit, but most can react to in some way. When authors are blunt it makes the book better.
The connection is constant between the "normal" life and climbing, or, the question of "what is the point?" Being an outdoorsman I often find myself asking "why" when it comes to pushing physical limits or the wild. What House does is beyond what most people can comprehend so he tries to answer that question.
I wanted a little bit more at the end, but overall this was a great book.