Boardman Tasker Award 2023 Shortlist Announced

Since 1983, the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature has celebrated the best climbing books of the year. On their fortieth anniversary, they’ve announced their 2023 shortlist.

Twenty-one entries – featuring authors from Great Britain, Bulgaria, the U.S., and Nepal – were narrowed to five finalists. This year’s crop includes personal memoirs from Leo Houlding and Katie Brown, an examination of sherpa culture, an ode to the Cairngorms, and a meditation on British mountaineering history.

The winner will be announced at the Kendal Mountain Festival on November 17. The 2023 judges are Matt Fry (Chair), Joanna Croston, and Paul Pritchard.

The Boardman Tasker Charitable Trust wrote the following descriptions for the five finalists.

Sherpa: Stories of Life and Death from the Forgotten Guardians of Everest by Pradeep Bashyal and Ankit Babu Adhikari

With a narrative that focuses on an often-overlooked aspect of climbing literature, Sherpa takes us on a beguiling journey into the culture, folklore, and survival of the native people who live in the high Himalayas. These are the people who have helped so many Western expeditions scale the highest peaks in the world, enabling the experiences that have shaped mountaineering history. This book tells the story of the Sherpas in their own words and, in a timely statement, also gives us a glimpse into the melting world that they live and work in – a world being rapidly and irreparably altered by changing climate.

Unraveled: A Climber’s Journey Through Darkness and Back by Katie Brown

A compelling, raw , and honest memoir from one of the most successful climbers of her generation. Brown’s bold book gives us a no-holds-barred insight into her early life, her struggles with mental health and eating disorders, all against the backdrop of her meteoric rise to climbing fame as a teenager in the mid-90s. The question of ‘what happened?’ is constant and fascinating theme throughout this unforgettable read and shows how climbing can provide escapism in its rawest form.

The Hidden Fires: A Cairngorms Journey with Nan Shepherd by Merryn Glover

Drawing on the work of Nan Shepherd and her classic, The Living Mountain, is not an undertaking to be taken lightly and Glover doesn’t disappoint in this beautifully written and well-researched journey through the Cairngorms. Intertwining her own personal experiences of the mountains with Shepherd’s own observations, this book is an ode to the unique landscape and a valuable addition to mountain literature.

Closer to the Edge by Leo Houlding

Without doubt, Leo Houlding is one of the world’s foremost current climbers. There is barely a feat of adventure or endurance that he hasn’t tackled. Leo started climbing at ten years of age in the Lake District and was the youngest person (and first Briton) to free climb El Capitan. This dynamic, honest and, at times, harrowing book goes the extra mile – teaching us all about the pressures of balancing a life lived in pursuit of exhilaration but also one’s own adventure, whatever that may be.

British Mountaineers by Faye Rhiannon Latham

In this truly unique and thoroughly engaging short book, we are taken on a dream-like and wintry tour of F.S. Smythe’s original 1942 work, British Mountaineers. Latham uses the processes of erasure, curation and collage to create a reframed look at a classic text in an exciting, contemporary form. This is a thoughtful artwork as much as it is a meditation on climbing history.

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a writer and editor for ExplorersWeb.

Martin has been writing about adventure travel and exploration for over five years.

Martin spent most of the last 15 years backpacking the world on a shoestring budget. Whether it was hitchhiking through Syria, getting strangled in Kyrgyzstan, touring Cambodia’s medical facilities with an exceedingly painful giant venomous centipede bite, chewing khat in Ethiopia, or narrowly avoiding various toilet-related accidents in rural China, so far, Martin has just about survived his decision making.

Based in Da Lat, Vietnam, Martin can be found in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.