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David Roberts (climber)

David Roberts (born 1943[1]) is a climber, mountaineer, and author of books and articles about climbing. He is particularly noted for his books The Mountain of My Fear and Deborah: A Wilderness Narrative, chronicling major ascents in Alaska in the 1960s, which had a major impact on the form of mountaineering literature.

David Roberts
Born1943 (age 75–76) [1]
ResidenceCambridge, Massachusetts
Alma materHarvard University (B.S., Mathematics)
University of Denver (Ph.D., English, 1970) [2]
Occupationclimber, author
Known forauthor of books on mountain climbing
Parent(s)Walter Orr Roberts (father) Janet Smock (mother)

Early life and climbing in AlaskaEdit

Roberts is the son of astronomer and scientist Walter Orr Roberts (a mentor to Jon Krakauer). David Roberts attended Harvard University, where he received a mathematics degree in 1965. He was a member of and former president of the Harvard Mountaineering Club where he led exploratory first ascents of many peaks in Alaska. He also received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Denver in 1970.[2] In thirteen seasons spent in the Alaskan wilderness, Roberts is well known for many first ascents, including the Wickersham Wall on Mount McKinley, the West rib of Mount Huntington, climbing in the Western Brooks Range and the Kichatna Spires, and on the East Face of Mount Dickey. Roberts also named Alaska's Revelation Mountains, giving many of the peaks Biblical names because he had been reading the Bible as part of his English literature studies at the time.[3] [4]


From 1970 to 1979 Roberts was a professor of literature at Hampshire College, in Amherst, Massachusetts, as well as designing the college's Outdoors Program.[2]

He is often acknowledged as the "dean" of American climbing literature and has published extensively on mountaineering.[5]

Personal lifeEdit


  • The Mountain of My Fear. (1968) Vanguard Press.
  • Deborah: A wilderness narrative. (1970)
  • Moments of Doubt: And Other Mountaineering Writings. (1986) The Mountaineers. ISBN 0-89886-118-7
  • Jean Stafford: The Life of a Writer. (1988)
  • Once They MOVED Like The Wind: Cochise, Geronimo, and the Apache Wars (1993)
  • Escape Routes: Further Adventure Writings of David Roberts. (1997) The Mountaineers. ISBN 0-89886-509-3
  • In Search of the Old Ones. (1997) Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-83212-7
  • A Newer World : Kit Carson John C Fremont And The Claiming Of The American West. (2001) Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-87021-5
  • Great Exploration Hoaxes (2001). Modern Library. ISBN 0-679-78324-5
  • True Summit : What Really Happened on the Legendary Ascent on Annapurna. (2002) Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-0327-5
  • Escape from Lucania : An Epic Story of Survival. (2002) Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-2432-9
  • Four Against the Arctic: Shipwrecked for Six Years at the Top of the World. (2003). Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-2431-0
  • On the Ridge Between Life and Death: A Climbing Life Reexamined. (2005). Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-5518-6
  • Sandstone Spine: Seeking the Anasazi on the First Traverse of the Comb Ridge, photographs by Greg Child. (2005) The Mountaineers. ISBN 1-59485-005-4
  • The Pueblo Revolt: The Secret Rebellion that Drove the Spaniards Out of the Southwest. (2005) Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-5517-8
  • Devil's Gate: Brigham Young and the Great Mormon Handcart Tragedy. (2008) Simon & Schuster. ISBN 1-4165-3988-3
  • The Last of His Kind: The Life and Adventures of Bradford Washburn, America's Boldest Mountaineer. (2009) William Morrow. ISBN 978-0-06-156094-1
  • Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer. (2011) Broadway. ISBN 978-0-307-59176-0
  • Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration. (January 21, 2013) W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393240160
  • Lost World of the Old Ones: Discoveries in the Ancient Southwest. (April 2015) W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-24162-4
  • Limits of the Known. (February 20, 2018) W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-60986-8
  • Escalante's Dream: On the Trail of the Spanish Discovery of the Southwest. (July 16, 2019) W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-65206-2

Co-authored booksEdit

Edited booksEdit

  • Points Unknown: The Greatest Adventure Writing of the Twentieth Century (2002) W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-32378-1

Selected awardsEdit

  • Prix Mediterrane
  • Prix du Salon de Livre de Passy
  • Prix d'Autrans
  • American Alpine Club Literary Award
  • Folio Magazine Award
  • 2003 Grand Prize at Banff Mountain Book Festival, Escape from Lucania[6]
  • Club Medal by Harvard Travellers Club
  • 2001 National Geographic Adventure ranked The Mountain of My Fear and Deborah among the 100 best adventure books ever written


  1. ^ a b Cf. Library of Congress catalog entry for David Roberts
  2. ^ a b c "About: David Roberts", Facebook page
  3. ^ Clint Helander, The Question: The Direct East Face of Golgotha, Posted on: March 16, 2015
  4. ^ David Roberts, On the Ridge Between Life and Death: A Climbing Life Reexamined (2006)
  5. ^ Does Climbing Big Mountains Prepare You For Fighting Cancer?
  6. ^ Dougald MacDonald (November 5, 2004). "Banff Book Awards". Climbing. Archived from the original on 2013-03-21. Retrieved April 27, 2018.

External linksEdit