Recognizing that now is the era of the non-reader, the 140 character limit, the visual story-teller, the YouTube clip as cultural reference point, it may serve those that love the outdoors in all forms, to harken back to adventure in the written word. Climbing, skiing, backpacking, paddling all have deep literary histories, headlong pages of embellishment, reflection and the type of self-important navel-gazing that time alone in the wild inspires.
Given that Ibex culture comprises of finding a new take on a traditional natural fiber, we present five adventure books that you either haven’t read, or some classics with our slightly different view of why their pages are worth turning. New to you or not, these are texts guaranteed to make you itch with the urge to get out, to find adventure, and journey to wide open spaces, and to make meaning from time outside.
The Future of Ice: A Journey Into Cold, Gretel Ehrlich (2004)
The silence of the arctic is something few authors convey with books on arctic travel. Cold and solitude win out in classics like Endurance but rarely does an author spend time with the sonic isolation that cold and snow offer. Gretel Ehrlich doesn’t shy away from this and as a result, her look at the meaning of seasons bears an impact that meets a high standard for literature, that it can do things other mediums cannot. Here’s the hiccup: there are endless books that kick off in a playful push of hedonistic delight. This is not that book. As a brand that loves winter, Ehrlich offers up adventure and meaning while considering the real, here-and-now threat that climate change poses to our favorite season. Think of it as a post-modern heir to Ernest Shackleton’s call, this time however, the trapped vessel is any fan of ice, snow and beauty.
[Insert Any Book by Jim Harrison] (1971 – 2015)
Chances are, if you asked most outdoor types to name the first book with a Vietnam vet, his lady friend, heavy drinking, and a car filled with dynamite purchased in the hope of blowing up a dam in the American southwest, Harrison’s not the author you’d pick. Yet, Jim Harrison penned A Good Day to Die two years before Abbey’s much lauded, The Monkey Wrench Gang and without the cinematic caricature or overwrought importance. It was Harrison’s novella, Legends of the Fall written in 1989 that gained him the most recognition, at least through a mainstream audience. But for the rest of his leading male characters, Brad Pitt might have been too pretty a hero and that’s where the gritty texts Harrison wrote find their best feel through old growth forests, trout streams and forgotten rural landscapes. Harrison, who died last year, was an unapologetic glutton, a drinker, chain smoker and hard living bird hunter, fisherman, and man of letters in the traditional sense. If his novels don’t move you, his collections of nonfiction and poetry demand a steadfast love of wild places. “The earth’s proper scripture could be written on a three by five card if we weren’t drunk on our own blood.”
Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer (1996)
Before you nod and skim this paragraph having seen Into the Wild on countless other adventure book lists, hear us out. Because it is a polarizing book, replete with countless follow-up articles and arguments for or against its merit. Any argument about Into the Wild highlights the wandering protagonist, Christopher McCandless, as alternatively a mentally ill suspended adolescent, a wise-beyond-his-years sojourner on the hunt for meaning, a happy-go-lucky kid, and a troubled soul. His death from starvation in the Alaskan wilderness catapulted his standing in the outdoor world beyond typical earl adulthood journeys of self discovery into something either pointless and tragic (due to the mapless adventurer dying so close to help) or beautiful and committed. Krakauer, in an interview about the book, made a case for the latter explaining the avoidable death this way, “If you want a blank spot on the map, you gotta leave the map behind.”
Deep Powder Snow, Dolores LaChapelle (1993)
Any serious skier can make a case for organizing a life around sliding on snow. For skiing pioneer, Dolores LaChapelle, her book Deep Powder Snow makes a case for organizing all of life sliding on snow. LaChapelle was a subscriber to the Deep Ecology movement, a philosophical offshoot suggesting a blending of human and natural interests was possible and necessary to solve the environmental ills of the planet. LaChapelle used her pioneering status as a deep powder skier to illustrate a connection to the earth, “There is no longer an I and the snow and the mountain, but a continuous flowing interaction. I cannot tell where my actions end and the snow take over…that’s Deep Ecology.” Deep Powder Snow pauses the philosophy lessons for insights into skiing at the most iconic areas of the American West during skiing’s earliest days in the country. LaChapelle doesn’t rarify all the aspects of her life as a skier; her failed marriage and her avalanche injuries are on display and highlight the precarious balance life requires to carve turns metaphorically and in Alta powder. The outspoken skier died in 2007 at the age of 81 but not before she became a leader in ski mountaineering, an advocate for sustainability, and an icon of skiing history.
The River Why, David James Duncan (1983)
Even if you aren’t fishing crazy, reading The River Why is an inspiring look into life consumed by the outdoors. Gus Orviston is a fishing genius, a young man coming to grips with the modern world, and a foil for every soul that’s ever wanted to leave the rat race for a simpler life of outdoor balance. He “learned what solitude really was. It was raw material – awesome, malleable, older than people or worlds or water. And it was merciless – for it let a man become precisely what he alone made of himself.”