Cover image for Limits of the known / David Roberts.
Limits of the known / David Roberts.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2018]
Physical Description:
xxi, 306 pages : maps ; 25 cm
Farthest north -- Blank on the map -- Prehistoric 5.10 -- The quest for the other -- First descent -- First contact -- The undiscovered Earth -- The future of adventure.
A celebrated mountaineer and author searches for meaning in great adventuresand explorations, past and present. --Publisher.

Roberts, a celebrated mountaineer, has spent his career documenting voyages to the most extreme landscapes on earth. Reflecting on humanity's-- and his own-- relationship to extreme risk, he examines the motivations of explorers who have pushed the limits of the human body on their perilous journeys. Then he considers our future in a world we will have mapped and trodden from end to end. -- adapted from jacket.
Personal Subject:


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
796.522 ROB Book Adult General Collection
796.522 ROB Book Adult General Collection

On Order



A Finalist for the 2019 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing

A celebrated mountaineer and author searches for meaning in great adventures and explorations, past and present.

David Roberts, "veteran mountain climber and chronicler of adventures" ( Washington Post ), has spent his career documenting voyages to the most extreme landscapes on earth. In Limits of the Known , he reflects on humanity's--and his own--relationship to extreme risk. Part memoir and part history, this book tries to make sense of why so many have committed their lives to the desperate pursuit of adventure.

In the wake of his diagnosis with throat cancer, Roberts seeks answers with sharp new urgency. He explores his own lifelong commitment to adventuring, as well as the cultural contributions of explorers throughout history: What specific forms of courage and commitment did it take for Fridtjof Nansen to survive an eighteen-month journey from a record "farthest north" with no supplies and a single rifle during his polar expedition of 1893-96? What compelled Eric Shipton to return, five times, to the ridges of Mt. Everest, plotting the mountain's most treacherous territory years before Hillary and Tenzing's famous ascent? What drove Bill Stone to dive 3,000 feet underground into North America's deepest cave?

What motivates the explorers we most admire, who are willing to embark on perilous journeys and push the limits of the human body? And what is the future of adventure in a world we have mapped and trodden from end to end?

Author Notes

David Roberts is the award-winning author of twenty-nine books about mountaineering, exploration, and anthropology, including Alone on the Wall which was written with world-class rock climber Alex Honnold, whose historic feats were featured in the film Free Solo.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Roberts, an adventurer and author of nearly 30 books (Alone on the Ice, etc.), movingly reflects on his life prior to undergoing throat-cancer treatment that made physical exertion nearly impossible for him. The diagnosis led him to consider the meaning of his own adventures and those of other explorers, such as Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay and British Arctic explorer Henry Worsley. Interspersed with these vivid retellings of other's adventures are reminiscences about Roberts's own outdoor pursuits, many of which were life-or-death undertakings. Roberts's initial revelation while undergoing chemotheraphy was that when he looked at explorers, he saw "little point... in trying to unearth an overarching purpose in our madness," yet he eventually surmises that his love for adventure was "encoded" in his DNA; he felt an inherent need for the knowledge and companionship that dangerous situations require. Roberts also reflects on life's bittersweet joys, such as when he looks at a recent photo, taken with his wife on a short hike, that captures "my emaciated feebleness but also the happiness of that day." Roberts conveys the exhilaration and vitality of adventuring as well as the agony and anger of a cancer diagnosis with equal aplomb, making for a moving narrative that speaks to the glories of the human spirit and the limitations of the human body. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Roberts (Alone on the Ice) is a widely published mountaineer and explorer with more than 25 books and numerous articles written on the subject. With the news of his recent cancer diagnosis, he sets out to answer questions surrounding his professional life choices. Why have I devoted my life to exploration? Have I contributed anything to this world? To help him come to terms with his life choices and answer these questions, Roberts considers the stories and motives behind several expeditions, explorers, and extraordinary feats throughout history. What follows is a recounting of an attempt to reach the North Pole when many were competing to get there first, a traverse of the globe's last undocumented terrain in the mountains of Pakistan, an examination of the remarkable climbing skills the Anasazi displayed in their daily lives, and first expeditions by raft down treacherous rivers in New Guinea and Ethiopia, among others. Roberts' preference for a traditional and purist approach to exploration might be off-putting to some, as he often shows disdain for technology-guided and media-documented projects, but his engrossing writing and gripping adventure stories will appeal to outdoors and history enthusiasts. VERDICT Highly recommended, especially for those who enjoyed Jon Krakauer's Eiger Dreams.-David Miller, Farmville P.L., NC © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. xi
1 Farthest Northp. 1
2 Blank on the Mapp. 47
3 Prehistoric 5.10p. 85
Interlude: The Quest for the Otherp. 121
4 First Descentp. 133
5 First Contactp. 171
6 The Undiscovered Earthp. 207
7 The Future of Adventurep. 253
Note on Sourcesp. 299
Acknowledgmentsp. 303