The Best Northeast-Related Outdoor Books and Movies to Keep You Occupied and Stoked

The stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and closing of climbing gyms in the early days of the pandemic gave us plenty of time to refine our basement workouts and reacquaint ourselves with our hang boards. It also provided plenty of time to dig into our bookshelves, video libraries, and deep-dive YouTube in search of outdoor inspiration. While there’s no shortage of great books and films documenting outdoor adventure, here are some of our favorites with a focus on the Northeast.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, Bill Bryson

A Walk in the Woods is an interesting and humorous journey along the AT in which Bryson, recently returned from England and living in Hanover, New Hampshire, details his time on the trail and digs into its history. The Eastern Mountain Sports store in West Lebanon even shows up on a few pages when Bryson outfits himself for the trail. Don’t like books? You’re in luck—it’s now a movie too, starring Robert Redford.

The Last of His Kind, The Life and Adventures of Bradford Washburn, America’s Boldest Mountaineer, David Roberts

Written by former Amherst professor and one-time Harvard mountaineering club President David Roberts, The Last of His Kind details the life of Cambridge, Massachusetts, native and founding director of the Boston Museum of Science Bradford Washburn. An extraordinary individual, the book follows Washburn from his early exploits in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range to the Alps to his numerous first ascents in Alaska. Despite being most active from the 1930s to 1950s, Washburn’s tales, photos, and maps are still inspiring adventurers today.

Where You’ll Find Me: Risk, Decisions, and the Last Climb of Kate Matrosova, Ty Gagne

Partially piecing together what happened to hiker/climber Kate Matrosova on her fatal Presidential Traverse attempt and partially telling the story of the search and rescue effort that tried to save her life in horrific winter conditions, Where You’ll Find Me is an excellent and thoughtful book that takes readers into the minds of both hikers and SAR-personal (all without judgment) and through terrain familiar to most White Mountain hikers. Former EMS Climbing School Manager, Charlie Townsend, even makes an appearance on a few pages of Where You’ll Find Me.

Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship, Tom Ryan

If you’re in need of a more uplifting read after Where You’ll Find Me, look no further than Following Atticus—an inspiring tale of an out-of-shape Newburyport, Massachusetts, journalist and a miniature schnauzer’s attempt to climb all forty-eight of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot mountains twice in a single winter as a tribute to a friend who died of cancer. Recognizable peaks, familiar struggles, White Mountains adventure, and the bond between a man and his dog make this a must-read.

Yankee Rock and Ice: A History of Climbing in the Northeastern United States, Laura and Guy Waterman

Written by famed New England climbers and conservationists Laura and Guy Waterman, this book chronicles climbing in the Northeast from scrambles in the early 1800s to the ushering in of 5.13 in the 1980s. More than just detailing ascents, Yankee Rock and Ice details the personalities, ethics, and styles that make the Northeast a unique climbing destination. Don’t miss this one if you’re at all into the history of the routes you’re climbing.

The Mountain Guide Manual: The Comprehensive Manual—From Belaying to Rope Systems and Self-Rescue, Marc Chauvin and Rob Coppolillo

What better time to improve your rope management skills? Co-authored by Marc Chauvin, a fixture in the Northeast guiding community, The Mountain Guide Manual contains innumerable tips, tricks, and skills that will make you a more efficient climber. Filled with step-by-step instructions and pictures, it allows you to work on skills at home or at out-of-the-way crags during busy times. Attentive readers will also notice several New Hampshire destinations in the pics, including rock climbing at Cathedral’s Thin Air Face and North End and ice climbing at Frankenstein and Willey’s Slide.

Uncommon Ground; A Northeastern Climbing Documentary, Rob Frost

A cult classic among northeast climbers, Uncommon Ground gives viewers an in-depth look at the crags, climbs, and characters that define the Northeast. Along the way, viewers join notables like Jim Surrette and Mark Synott on a tour of Cathedral Ledge classics, watch Dave Graham’s first ascent of Speed of Life at Farley, and join Jeff Butterfield for a wild climb on Acadia’s coast. That’s just the beginning of other notable northeastern climbers that appear—stay tuned for Henry Barber, Tim Kemple, Peter Kamitses, and Joe Kinder on routes ranging from the backcountry of the Adirondacks to Rumney bolt ups.

Epoch: Climbing, Skiing, and Discovering the History Behind the Highest Peaks in the Northeast, Meathead Films

No all-East Coast movie list is complete without a contribution from the Vermont-based Meathead Films, better known in recent years for webisodes like Working for the Weekend and Promised Land. Unlike many ski movies, Epoch is more focused on telling a story than simply showing powder porn, following seven skiers as they set out to hike and ski five of the Northeast’s most recognizable peaks—Mount Greylock, Mount Washington, Mount Marcy, Mount Mansfield, and Katahdin—while digging into the history of these state highpoints.

The Fifty, Episode 23—Mount Washington: The Eastern King of Backcountry Skiing, Cody Townsend

Like many of us, you were probably hoping to get up to Mount Washington for some backcountry skiing this spring. While those plans likely got scrapped, you can at least dream about ripping classic lines in Huntington and Tuckerman Ravine just like Townsend and friends do in Episode 23. At just over 15 minutes long, there’s no reason to miss this episode of The Fifty.

Dosage II & Dosage V, Big Up Productions

It should come as no surprise that New York City-based Big Up Productions’ early movies feature a fair amount of East Coast-centric content. Two favorite segments come from Dosage II and Dosage V. Dosage II treats viewers to a tour of the classic hard climbs on Rumney’s Waimea—courtesy of Dave Graham, Joe Kinder, and Luke Parody. Dosage V drops the rope and takes us to some of the Northeast’s toughest boulder problems and more secretive spots with Paul Robinson and a host of local hardmen.

Québec ICE trip 2008: Team Petzl in Festiglace, Petzl

An oldie but goodie, this video spotlights a group of Canadians on the way to Festiglace—an ice climbing festival in Québec—the team pauses along the way to visit all-time ice destinations such as New Hampshire’s Frankenstein Cliff and Cathedral Ledge and Vermont’s Lake Willoughby. The best part about Québec ICE trip 2008 is that it’s free to watch on YouTube.

If you make it through this list, a few other honorable mentions are Snow in the Kingdom: My Storm Years on Everestby Boston-born climber/mountaineer Ed Webster. Also featuring Webster is the movie Luxury Liner: The First Ascent of Supercrack (free to watch on Vimeo), which details the first ascent of the desert splitter Supercrack, an especially impressive feat in the pre-cam days. Lastly, if you haven’t yet watched Valley Uprising, now is the time! Be sure to note the way New England legend Henry Barber took the Valley by storm in the 1970s.

Did we miss a must-read book or must-see movie about the Northeast? If so, let us know in the comments below!