The Climbers book by Jim Herrington

Grand Prize - 2017 Banff Book Awards

Mountaineering History Award - 2017 Banff Book Awards


"Absolutely sumptuous."

— BBC World News


"20 years of gorgeous photos by Mr. Herrington. A gift of beauty and grit."

— The Wall Street Journal


“The next two decades had Herrington vagabonding from California to Cumbria to Kathmandu to capture the world’s elder alpinists who had defined the sport earlier in the century. Herrington more than achieves his aims: to both inspire and provoke his readers to reflect on how we’re transacting our own lives, which end all too quickly. The stills—all black and white, all starkly honest—speak for themselves.”

— Outside Magazine


"Jim Herrington captures the men and women behind the superhuman feats. His experi­ence as a climber allows him access to their world, but his talent as a photographer is what brings them back to ours. In these portraits we are reminded that great climbers are still people, sharing the same humor motivation, and humanity as the rest of us.

— Alex Honnold


“We have all had good ideas but it takes a certain level of commitment, and dare I say it, obsession, to pursue an idea like this to its conclusion. We are indebted to Herrington for his persistence and vision, as we are left with a truly remarkable body of work. We rate this as a must-own book.”

— The Project Magazine


"Jim Herrington’s wonderful new folio volume of portraits, titled simply The Climbers, aims at a lofty plateau. For one thing, it is international in scope, and though Herrington seeks to crystallize his own Golden Age — defined by him as “those who were vertically active between the 1920s and 1970s” — he tries not only to document the visages of his heroes in their older years, but also to plumb those faces for keys to the character beneath. It is as if Richard Avedon had photographed mountaineers rather than movie stars, minus the props and gimmicks. Someone once said, “After 40 you get the face you deserve.” If that mordant judgment applies to climbers, the portraits in this collection bear it out in spades — what comes across again and again in the faces is a fierce belief in the rightness of going against the social grain, to devote one’s best days to the “useless” pursuit of new routes and first ascents."

— David Roberts


"A stunning collection of portraits."

— Alpinist Magazine


"Representing the fruits of a twenty-year photographic quest, Jim Herrington's stunning black and white portraits of climbing luminaries of the mid-20th century confer a quiet dignity on their aging subjects.  He has somehow managed to capture in their eyes the visionary zeal of their youthful climbs.  The photographer's tone might be summarized in a single word: respect, and you can't help feel that in the best of these shots something like the climber's soul has been revealed."

— David Stevenson, 2017 Banff Book Competition Jury


"There is something in their eyes that Herrington is able to capture — an intensity, a sense of calm, a surprising sensitivity — that underscores their humanity and their indomitable spirit."

— The Aspen Times


"Remarkable portraits."

— BBC Newsday


"The Climbers is a twenty year photography project that celebrates personages from the Golden Age of climbing.  The portraits document in searing detail many of the preeminent founders of the sport. These innovators, some of the most adventurous of all time, were active in a unique period of unbridled exploration. Now aged beyond their most active years, the visible mortality and frailty of the subjects alerts us to a reality often glossed over by the dominant cult of youth in adventure sports.  As survivors of intense experiences, the effects of lives spent in pursuit of extremes is made obvious. Jim Herrington renders in images captured on black and white film a simulacrum of the subjects' groundbreaking spirit. We are fortunate to benefit from this effort by a photographer renowned for his portraiture of musical stars.  For at a time of explosive growth and public recognition why should the luminaries of climbing not receive this rock star treatment, as revealing and gritty as it may be?"

— Ian Welsted, 2017 Banff Book Competition Jury


“A sumptuous and delightful book. The figures represented are an inspiration. We heartily recommend that you get hold of a copy.”

— Monocle Magazine 24 Radio


“A spectacular and nourishing contribution to climbing history, literature (and photography) and culture.” 

— Dick Dorworth, U.S. Ski Hall of Fame


"What a wonderful record of those intrepid climbers!"

— Sir Ian McKellen


“What a magnificent, beautiful testament to passion, love and perhaps a certain sweet madness.”

— Dave Alvin


"The Climbers goes to the soul of what it means to climb. You see it in the faces of Herrington’s climbing legends. Look into their eyes.”

— Terry McDonell, author of The Accidental Life


Photographs by Jim Herrington

Foreword by Alex Honnold

Essay by Jim Herrington

Essay by Greg Child


Nearly twenty years in the making, The Climbers by photographer Jim Herrington shares a stunning collection of portraits of icons in mountaineering — from Beckey, Cassin, and Diemberger to Messner, Robbins, and Bonington, rugged individualists who, from the 1920s to the 1970s, used primitive gear along with their considerable wits, talent, and fortitude to tackle challenging climbs around the world. 


In his foreword, climber Alex Honnold provides context for looking back at past achievements on rock while Herrington’s introspective essay reveals how he came to take on this project and the travels and travails undertaken to achieve it.  Writer and climber Greg Child's personable and informative essay explores the history and accomplishments of both well-known and not-so-known climbers from this "Golden Age" of 20th century climbing. Yet it is Herrington's images shot on analog film — the result of his twin pas­sions for climbing and photography — that pull us in, allow us to study the faces of these men and women who ascended bold, visionary lines, often in remote regions, far from the media spotlight. The portraits captured here reveal the utter humanity of obsession, determination, intellect, and, at times, frailty. 


This volume features a linen-covered slipcase; sixty black-and-white photographs and capsule biographies of each featured climber.

192 pages

11.5 x 2.5 x 12.5 inches


Published by Mountaineers Books

ISBN: 978-1-68051-083-6

Distributed by Ingram