Steve House lets nothing get in the way of his mountaineering, and he deserves his position as one of the foremost extreme alpinists in the world. Readers of `Beyond The Mountain' will be awestruck by his commentaries on daring and difficult exploits with routes up demanding mountains in various parts of the globe. Steve House recalls his amazing adventures and achievements in fearsome and formidable detail and there is no doubting his total commitment and eminent capabilities. As a writer his narrative is episodic and he deliberately introduces sudden time-shifts like recounting the descent before the ascent as on Nanga Parbat. Occasionally his stories appear inadequate as with information withheld after a crevasse incident above Chamonix. These aspects may be awkward for some readers though generally Steve House writes bluntly in a business like manner. He clearly has strong feelings and without complete answers he hints at the motivation that has driven him to the apex of the extreme alpinist game, giving explanations on relationships and trust with partners as well as insights to solo epics. Throughout his climbing career he has striven to be the best mountaineer he can be, and when confessing to inadequacies he does not downplay his courage and he does not belittle his accomplishments. Always Steve House's accounts are pragmatic, but in `telling it as it is' his narrative seems stark and somewhat lacking in humour, and to me this suggests a degree of arrogance. He professes to dislike a title bestowed on him as `The great white hope' but perhaps signs of self-glorification and false modesty may be detected. There are contradictions to Steve House's character shown by his criticism of the award of the `Piolet d'Or' for a Russian expedition style ascent of Jannu, yet the next year he accepts the award - albeit for a minimalist alpine style ascent of Nanga Parbat. Other possible flaws peep through such as the superiority expressed over another climber on Cho Oyu or condescending exchanges with skiers after North Twin. However there may be discrepancies between noble intent and what is actually written - and what is written makes an excellent mountaineering book. And what do I know? `Beyond The Mountain' is already widely appreciated, having won the 2009 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature.
on 26 October 2010
Beyond the Mountain is the type of read that will appeal to the broadest possible spectrum from seasoned mountaineers familiar with the metalic clank of gear and a knot of deep-stomach adrenalin, to would-be climbers happy to take their risks vicariously. Steve House's writing style is much like his approach to mountaineering - lean, lightweight and very effective. Indeed, the book is a distillation of mountaineering itself: a bitter-sweet mixture of tales of reaching extreme goals and the harsh (and often very personal) price to be paid for doing so. His account of finally summiting Nanga Parbat will raise a lump in even the driest of throats. The author has been accused of arrogance and hypocracy but anyone who is prepared to admit very publicly to making such high altitude bungles as losing a boot or a head torch when it really does matter is, I think, perfectly well aware of their infallability; such moments make the author seem less of a mountaineering machine and more of bloke who is not immune to occasionally screwing up. Leap-frogging forward and back in time can make following events a little tricky at times but also gives the text more complexity and depth. Awesome photos (in the proper sense of the word) complete what will surely become one of a generation's classic mountaineeering volumes.
on 28 November 2011
I must start by saying that I really wanted to dislike this book.
Before reading this I thought that he was without doubt one of, if not the best Alpinist of our generation, but that he had some outspoken views that made him seem aloof and elitist. A trait that I struggle to come to terms with.
However I couldn't have been more wrong. Yes he does have firm views on styles of assents and the aesthetics involved in climbs but these come from his love and respect for the mountains.
The book opens up a whole new side to Steve that me, the reader, never knew existed, self doubt, confidence in his own ability, trouble devoting himself to marriage/relationships, sadness at lost partners and friends and a humility that can sometimes get lost in translation on this side of the pond.
The descriptions of the climbs are written in a way that made me feel as though I was there with him. Suffering the cold, discomfort and even the adrenaline rush of nailing a difficult pitch. The writing even has you hooked after the summit has been achieved or the wall scaled you remain hooked, feeling the tension on the descents, only being able to relax after he is down.
That said the book is not written purely for Alpinists as the jargon is kept pretty much to a minimum and could easily be read by somebody who likes autobiographies or adventure books.
Steve lays himself bare in this book, and for that he should be commended, he talks about his inability to commit to both marriage and climbing. His search for the one true partner to climb with, and his soul searching following the loss of friends. He talks about his own failings as a climber and throughout the book you feel Steve grow into the role of the Great White Hope (as he was labelled).
The only downside to this book for me (and it's not a criticism) is that the book lacked any sense of humour. By that I mean in an Andy Kirkpatrick kind of way. This may just be a British / American thing, and perhaps an unfair one as Andy Kirkpatrick is a naturally gifted mirth merchant as well as a brilliant climber.
Overall Steve House - Beyond the Mountain is a gripping book, a must have for any anyone interested in climbing and in what makes the Elite tick.
on 15 November 2011
Steve House's autobiography gives a fascinating and lucid insight into what has driven him to some very dizzying and scary heights, and some very dark lows. The book takes you on a journey through his mountaineering career which is riddled with significant ascents and repeats from early on culminating in an alpine style-ascent of Nanga Parbat (for full climbing CV see [...] no point in repeating it here).
Its a very honest book, with House reflecting on what drives him to do the climbs he does and the costs of doing them (not just physically, but emotionally and the effect it has on his relationships), and I would highly recommend it for anyone with an interesting in climbing, mountaineering or human endeavor.
on 4 March 2010
Winner of the 2009 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. Nanga Parbat book ends Steve House's climbing career with his early attempt on Nanga Parbat in 1990, and his successful ascent in 2005 with Vince Anderson of a new route on the extremely difficult Nanga Parbat Rupal Face Central Pillar, done in five days plus two down, in alpine style, making them winners of the famous Piolet d`Or that year.
In between, Steve chronicles his climbs, including the unclimbed Denali Father and Son Wall in 1995, a new route solo on Denali Washburn Wall in 1996, the second ascent of the Barely Legal ice pillar in 1995, his harrowing escape from a crevasse on the Nant Blanc Glacier near Petit Dru in 1996, an attempt on the Emperor Face of Mount Robson in 1997, ascent of Howse Peak in 1999, attending Alex Lowe's funeral in October 1999, a 60 hour alpine push on the Denali Slovak Direct route in June 2000, a fast 25 hour ascent of the Mount Foraker Infinite Spur in 2001, an attempt on the Nuptse South Face in 2002, an attempt on Masherbrum and K7 in 2003, the third ascent of the Twin Tower in 2004, the second ascent of K7 in one single 42 hour push on his seventh attempt in 2004, a failed attempt on Nanga Parbat in 2004, and the North Face of Mount Alberta with Vince Anderson in 2008. There are 20 pages of colour photos, 60 pages of bw photos, and 3 maps.
After climbing in Slovenia, House participated in his first attempt on Nanga Parbat on a Slovene expedition. trying the Schell Route. On July 31, 1990 Marija Frantar and Joze Rozman reached the summit via the Schell Route. After a failed attempt in 2004, House was back with Vince Anderson to attempt a new route on the extremely difficult 4100m Rupal Face in 2005. House switches back in forth in time from the ascent to the dangerous descent to the ascent as he highlights the challenge and success.
Steve House and Vince Anderson reached the summit of Nanga Parbat via the 4100m Rupal Face on September 6, 2005. "Just before the top, I kneel in the snow, overwhelmed by emotion. Years of physical and psychological journey - to make myself strong enough, to discover whether I am brave enough all fold into this one moment. It seems sacrilegious to step onto the summit. ... frozen tears fall to the snow at my feet, becoming part of Nanga Parbat, as it became part of me so many years ago. ... In that moment, I understand that on the outer edge of infinity lies nothingness, that in the instant I achieve my objective, and discover my true self, both are lost." Steve and Vince became the first North Americans to win the Piolet d'Or for the first rapid alpine-style ascent of the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat.
House's writing is intelligent, honest, illuminating his progress as a climber and his innermost thoughts on the dangers of climbing. The stories are short and to the point, keeping them taught and interesting. The photos are very good and plentiful enough to help visualize the stories.
on 12 November 2015
No doubting he's a great climber, with some extremely impressive and fast ascents on his CV, An interesting book, quite well written, but although I understand you probably have to be a bit of an egomaniac to climb at such extremes, I'd rather he'd left out some of the self-aggrandising bulls***. Yes, we know you're a better climber than almost anyone else, but I don't want to be continually reminded of it.