Twelve entertaining essays on mountaineering, all but one culled from Outside, Smithsonian, etc. Krakauer, a Seattle-based free-lance writer and ""part-time mountaineer,"" confesses that by the age of eight ""climbing was the only thing I cared about."" Not exactly an ace climber--the occasional humor in these pieces tends to derive from his failures on the slopes--Krakauer conveys well the formidable, even terrifying aspects of the sport, The title piece tells of his aborted attempt to mount a deadly Swiss peak; ""Club Denali"" similarly recounts his unsuccessful assault on Mt. McKinley (although he did hang out with a group of climbers--""The Throbbing Members""--who reached the top). ""Gill"" reports on John Gill, a mathematician who works his way up boulders; ""Canyoneering"" describes ascents in the wild backcountry of Arizona; ""The Burgess Brothers"" celebrates a legendary mountain-climbing set of identical twins. Other essays examine K2, Chamonix, glacier flying, frozen-waterfall ascents, the issue of which mountain is the tallest (it's still Everest), and a harrowing climb that Krakauer made as a young man. A solid if not towering debut, likely to please not only mountain maniacs but adventure-buffs in general.