Go Beyond the Puffy Coat with Patagonia Books

Jon Foro on October 27, 2017

Image from Surf Is Where You Find It by Gerry Lopez

You probably already know about Patagonia, the makers of outdoor gear and clothing—particularly that most ubiquitous of down jackets designed for mountaineering, but more commonly observed in upscale shopping malls and on the sidewalks of tech-industry neighborhoods. But if you're at all interested in tales of nature and adventure sports, you should be paying attention to Patagonia Books. Way back in 2007, Patagonia ventured into publishing with Yosemite in the Sixties, with subsequent titles following intermittently over the the next several years. Lately, the program has grown in both scale and ambition. While the list initially mirrored the obsessions (mountaineering, surfing, and fishing) of the company and its co-founder, Yvon Chouinard, additions to the catalog have ventured into a more active environmentalism, a course in line with their corporate ethos of sustainability and responsibility. And like their gear, the books are bomber—handsomely produced editions from outright legends. Steve House might not a household name, but those in the know might call him the LeBron James of climbing. Likewise surf-god Gerry Lopez, and Chouinard himself, a fly fishing evangelist/enthusiast of the highest order. Here are a few of my favorites; you can find more here.


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Yosemite in the Fifties: The Iron Age
Along with the aforementioned companion volume covering the 1960s , Yosemite in the Fifties documents the dawn of modern climbing through restored photographs and firsthand accounts of its outsized personalities, including legends Warren Harding and Royal Robbins, whose contrasting philosophies not only spurred a contentious rivalry, but also pushed each other to increasingly audacious accomplishments.

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The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre
An intriguing aspect of climbing is the occasional difficulty in verifying some of its accomplishments. In this age of adventure cameras, it's pics or it didn't happen, but new routes or notable summits in the pre-digital past required a level of trust—and it didn't always exist. Such is the case with Argentina's 10,262-foot Cerro Torre and Italian climber Cesare Maestri, whose claims of a 1959 first ascent were met with suspicion and outright derision almost immediately and ever since. Cordes's book is not only a masterful history of one of climbing's most contentious chapters, but an examination of its insular, often inscrutable ethics.

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Surf Is Where You Find It
Born in Honolulu, Gerry Lopez spent his youth chasing waves on Oahu's North Shore, where he soon became a legend—and champion—for his stylish technique and mastery of tubes such as the Banzai Pipeline. Not content to limit his innovation to the water, Lopez pushed the limits of surfboard technology, developing a line of short, high performance boards, while traveling the world to seek out previously uncharted waves. (He was also in Conan the Barbarian.) Surf Is Where You Find It collects 38 stories of surfing legends, accompanied by his own stunning collection of photos documenting a golden age of sport and culture.

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Beyond the Mountain
A world-renowned climber, House, along with partner Vince Anderson, won the 2005 Piolet d'Or for their ascent of the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat in the western Himalayas. Beyond the Mountain (recipient of the 2009 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature) recounts that climb, along with other grueling "adventures" that led to it. It's an illuminating peek inside the head of an elite athlete—his motivations, self-doubts, and uncanny ability to push through fear—at the pinnacle of what is most often a solitary pursuit.

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Chasing Rumor: A Season Fly Fishing in Patagonia
It would be easy to fill up this list with climbing and surfing stories , but Patagonia is equally passionate about fishing. Chasing Rumor takes readers to the rivers of geographical Patagonia, where, in the tradition of all of the best fishing stories, the pursuit of legendary species of 20-pound trout leads to a deeper relationship with the land and its people, and a larger mission to preserve an irreplaceable element of its environment.

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