When David Roberts first climbed in Alaska, in 1963, he felt what he describes as a “wistful sorrow” that he was unable to explore an unmapped region like the British explorer Eric Shipton had just a generation prior. “Every explorer thinks he was born too late,” Roberts told me over the phone from his home in Watertown, Massachusetts. Yet he still managed to summit unclimbed mountains in Alaska with the help of USGS maps.

His stories about those early harrowing climbs, first ascents, and deaths of climbing partners launched his writing career. His first book, the mountaineering classic The Mountain of My Fear, focused on the death of Roberts’ climbing partner Ed Bernd during the descent of Mount Huntington in Alaska. It also asked the question: Is it worth it? Over the next 50 years, Roberts established himself as a prolific climbing and adventure writer with a compulsion for that same self-examination.

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