Two Mountains And A River by H.W. Tilman Book Review

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Book Review: Two Mountains And A River by H.W. Tilman

When I got my hands on Two Mountains And A River by H.W. Tilman, I knew very little about the author. As I started to read Two Mountains And A River, I was pleasantly surprised and I quickly learned that Tilman was one of the greatest adventurers of his era and that his adventures took him on epic mountaineering missions and daring sailing adventures to remote spots around the world. Any mountain enthusiast will be captivated by Tilman’s adventurous spirit and his ability to paint a picture of wild places and his crazy adventures using his proper British style and vast vocabulary.

Two Mountains And A River by H.W. Tilman
Two Mountains And A River by H.W. Tilman

Two Mountains And A River highlights Tilman’s adventures in 1949 as he heads to the Himalaya to do a bit of mountaineering. He joins forces with two Swiss climbers and they make an attempt on Rakaposhi. Even though the team never made the summit of this 25,550 feet mountain, it didn’t stop Tilman from continuing his explorations through this unknown frontier.

The book documents Tilman’s observations as he travels throughout the mountains of China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and to the source of the Oxus River. As Tilman tries to fill in blank spots on the map his adventures explore remote landscapes, look at local culture, and detail his arrest on suspicion of being a spy. The book is superbly well written in a classic British style that slowly captures your imagination and brings you right into the adventure of a lifetime. Two Mountains And A River had me reading wide-eyed late into the night and often I found myself laughing out loud too.

What blew my mind is that Tilman was doing these things long ago. It was a different world back then and his adventures were on an entirely different scale – and this guy had more than his fair share of adventures as I soon learned.

Harold William “Bill” Tilman is quite the explorer. His mountaineering and sailing exploits have taken him to some of the wildest places on the planet. After serving in the British military during World War I, Tilman (1898-1977) settled down in Africa to grow coffee. There he met his adventure partner, Eric Shipton, and began exploring the mountains and oceans of the world. Tilman summited mountains in Africa, Asia, Europe, and even attempted Mount Everest twice – once reaching 27,000′ without oxygen back in 1938!

His list of first ascents includes Mount Raleigh on Baffin Island and Nanda Devi (25,643′) in India. Tilman’s adventures read like a world class highlight reel. Beyond just climbing peaks, his sailing adventures on his boat, Mischief, took him to far flung and remote locales like Patagonia and the Shetland Islands.

Unfortunately, Tilman disappeared in the South Atlantic Ocean in 1977. His legendary adventures live on his classic sailing and mountaineering books that have withstood the test of time. Lucky for all of us, they are once again hitting the mainstream for keen readers like you and I to devour.

Tilman’s entire collection of books is currently being released in a collaboration between mountaineering publisher, Vertebrate Publishing and nautical publisher, Lodestar Books. The collection consists of 15 titles by Tilman including 7 mountaineering titles and 8 sailing titles – plus J.R.L. Anderson’s biography of Tilman titled High Mountains and Cold Seas – for a total of 16 books.

The Tilman Collection includes the following titles listed by publish date:

  • September 2015
    • Snow On The Equator
    • Mischief In Patagonia
  • December 2015
    • The Ascent Of Nanda Devi
    • Mischief Among The Penguins
  • March 2016
    • When Men & Mountains Meet
    • Mischief In Greenland
  • June 2016
    • Mount Everest 1938
    • Mostly Mischief
  • September 2016
    • Two Mountains And A River
    • Mischief Goes South
  • December 2016
    • China to Chitral
    • In Mischief’s Wake
  • March 2017
    • Nepal Himalaya
    • Ice With Everything
  • June 2017
    • Triumph and Tribulation
    • Bonus: High Mountains and Cold Seas – A 1980 Biography by J.R.L. Anderson

After reading Two Mountains And A River by H.W. Tilman, the rest of this collection is definitely on my reading list – and it should be on yours too. Tilman’s knack for drawing the reader into the book using his proper British style and his ability to entertain readers on every page will keep any keen reader coming back for more. There’s never a dull moment with Tilman.

Learn more about the Tilman Collection at TilmanBooks.com.


Two Mountains And A River by H.W. Tilman was published on 22 September 2016 by Lodestar Books and Vertebrate Publishing. Vertebrate Publishing sent Two Mountains And A River by H.W. Tilman to A Mountain Journey for review. We give it a thumbs up. Enjoy.


FYI – You Can “Look Inside” the book and read a quick snippet or two from the book on Amazon.com.


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