Fiva: rave reviews and online accolades

Reviews in the press, magazines, and on line

The best outdoor adventure book I have ever read, bar none.

… Intending initially to read the first four pages to get a flavour of the book, I could not put it down, so engrossing and well-written was the story. Seldom is a mountaineering epic written where you feel like you are on the face, in the cold, confused by the route finding, one minute optimistic, another minute terrified that you may never return. What makes this book truly special is how well it accounts, in first person narration, the youthful exuberance of relatively novice mountaineers.
Peter G. Williams, OutThere Monthly, September 2014

A fast-paced engrossing story

Usually stories of setting out on adventure unprepared are frustrating—it can be hard to feel sympathy for the adventurer who doesn’t understand what they’re getting into. Gordon Stainforth’s account Fiva: An Adventure That Went Wrong of his disastrous attempt on Store Trolltind doesn’t elicit this frustrated and judgmental response from me at all. Although Stainforth and his twin brother John drastically underestimated the time (and the food) their route would take and also overestimated their route finding capabilities on the mountain, I instead felt myself willing them up the wall as I read … Fiva is a page-turner. … Despite looking more than forty years into the past, Gordon Stainforth has written a fast-paced engrossing story of a misadventure.
BETH, On The Page,, October 2013

Will have you on the edge of your seat as much as any Hollywood thriller

Fiva is a remarkable story, and all the more remarkable because it’s true. … There are a great many stories of mountain adventures and disasters available to those who have enjoyed climbing, and they usually appeal only to those who have some familiarity, at least, with the rigours, trials and dangers involved. Occasionally a story is compelling enough to warrant a wider audience, Touching the Void was one such, and Fiva is certainly another. Its accessibility is made possible by the simple but eloquent writing style, and the open way in which the author relates his feelings, which swing through the entire gamut of human emotions: anxiety, terror, hope, despair, shame, anger and gratitude. It is easy to identify with the story because the human voice is so immediate and so compelling.
This is a real Boy’s Own adventure, but one that has dark levels and bottomless depths, much like the mountain itself, who becomes an implacable and dreadful third character in this epic tale. It’s very easy to read, but not at all simplistic, and will really have you on the edge of your seat as much as any Hollywood thriller. Immensely enjoyable, terrifying and heart-warming in equal measure. Highly recommended.
‘First Olympian’, Immortal Life,, September 2013

A future cult classic

… Stainforth’s subtitle, An Adventure That Went Wrong, speaks for itself; it also carries the flavour of laconic self-mockery that makes this book such a delight. The boys’ plight – they were just teenagers at the time – was dire, yet in retelling it Stainforth cannot resist drollery. His attitude to life (and death) epitomises that quip about the difference between Americans and the English: to Americans life is serious but not hopeless; to the English life is hopeless but not serious….  It unfolds as such a gripper that it would be churlish to go into detail over the plot…. What elevates Fiva is the manner of Gordon Stainforth’s telling of it. …  There is a sense of much careful forethought as to character of the final product. He didn’t just sit down and trot out an account, dramatic though it would have been. The book is written in the first person present tense, a bold move that has been skilfully carried off… Fiva should, as publicists like to say, appeal to climber and non-climber alike. If there were any justice in the publishing world it would be a best seller, eclipsing ‘the Void’.
Stephen Goodwin, Alpine Journal 2012

A page-turner of a book

The story is very well-written and very easy to read, a combination of virtues which placed me in the predicament of not wanting to stop reading but not wanting to reach the end. It is well-constructed: to paraphrase Kenneth Wolstenholme, I thought it was all over, but it wasn’t yet. It’s also inspiring: like all good travel writing it made me want to go there and climb, although I’d prefer my adventures without such a massive capital ‘A’.
Mike Blood, Northumbrian Mountaineering Club’s County Climber, October 2012

The Wrath of the Troll

Fiva is a gripping account of an epic climb, and one from which many of us can learn important lessons, or use to reconnect with our own life-shaping adventures on the cliffs and mountains …
Tom Richardson, Climb, November 2012

I really enjoyed reading Gordon Stainforth’s Fiva, An Adventure That Went WrongIt is clearly written and energetically paced. The account of the climb is both exciting and graphically described….
Bookwitch, online book blog, July 2012

Gordon Stainforth’s Fiva

A fingernail-whittling account of two gauche young adventurers…. The contemporaneous first-person style gives the account the authentic feel of a story written by a young man recounting events which had happened but a few weeks before. That is not to suggest that the writing is in any way unrefined. Far from it. The author crafts the tale in a manner befitting the subject matter. Tightly drawn, to the point but not without humour…. If [the reader is] looking for a book which is well written, perfectly paced and which ratchets up the tension by degrees in the manner of the very best works of Mountaineering non-fiction then Fiva delivers….Certainly one of the better books to emerge from what is generally a crowded and often overworked genre….
John Appleby, Footless Crow, May 2012

A superbly crafted story that once read will never be forgotten.

Once or twice in a lifetime a mountaineering story crosses the divide between pure mountaineering and human interest…. After reading Fiva I seriously doubt that Touching the Vode would have had half the success it has achieved if the epic story of the Stainforth twins had been written first. Like Touching the Void, [Fiva] reaches far beyond the limitations of the sport and into the realm of epic survival stories…. Writing from the perspective of a teenager, forty years on, the author does an amazing job in revisiting what must have been a life changing experience. The confidence and invulnerability of youth is all there as if the tale was only yesterday … There’s nothing new in the approach but in Fiva it’s taken to extreme and each single sentence is individually honed and crafted in such a way that the book, like the climb, becomes all consuming. Fiva breaks the modern trend of psycho-analysing everything from “why I climb” to family relationships … but in it’s own unique way it answers those questions like no other book. Fiva may be a book about a mountaineering epic, but in reality it’s far more. It’s a doorway into the mind of not just the author and his brother, but into the glow of youth. The quality of the writing superb, the pace slowly builds as the story unfolds making it almost impossible to put down.
Dave Mycroft,, May 2012

A high octane read

Fiva falls squarely into the ‘sticky book’ category – a book so adhesive that no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t put it down until you’ve finished it…. The pace is flat out from the very first page. This is not a book you’ll slowly meander through over a period of months, it’s a high octane read that you’ll get through in less than a week.
Gareth Hanson, Rock Climbing UK, March 2012

Every step of the terrifying, life-changing journey, … has been chronicled in thrilling and frank fashion in Gordon’s latest book. Fiva: An Adventure That Went Wrong … has already garnered significant praise from reviewers, whether they know about climbing or not; testament to Gordon’s ability to write in an engaging and accessible way.
Jonny Birkin, The Derby Telegraph, March 30, 2012

What a story! … As it becomes clear they have bitten off more than they can chew – which is pretty serious hanging 3000 feet above certain death – the fear is palpable…. Things get bad, and then they get worse. By a third of the way through the book, I was absorbed, finishing it in one sitting and worn out by the end..
Daniel Neilson, The Great Outdoors, May 2012

Judges’ citations at The Banff Mountain Festival (Winner of Mountain Literature Prize) and runner-up for the Boardman Tasker Award, 2012

Stands among the classic tales of climbing ‘epics’

… The breathless teenage voice that leaps off the first page never waivers. Not once. Rather, it becomes an unrelenting force, sweeping the reader ever higher on Norway’s Store Trolltind as events spiral out of control for two young, bold, and grossly inexperienced twins. An evocative period piece, Fiva is human, innocent, and unflinchingly believable. This little, unassuming book stands among the classic tales of climbing ‘epics.’
Bruce Kirkby, Judges’ citation, Best Book of Mountain & Wilderness Literature, Banff Mountain Festival, 2012

Totally engaging … Gordon pulls it off to spectacular effect

… The first person present tense … makes for an extremely technically difficult piece of writing, but if anyone can pull it off Gordon can (given his writing, photography and cinematic credentials) and he does so to spectacular effect…. It remains totally engaging.
Bernard Newman, from the Boardman Tasker Prize adjucation speech, 2012

Tweets & post after winning at the Banff Mountain Festival, 2012

Nigel Dodd ‏@nigelbdodd
@gordonsta Gordon that’s great news many many congratulations. I’m delighted Fiva is getting the success it deserves.

Alpine Club ‏@thealpineclub
Congratulations to @gordonsta on taking the Mountain Literature Award at Banff for Fiva – a book that should be on every climber’s list.

Alex Roddie ‏@alex_roddie
Gordon Stainforth wins best mountain book award at #Banff for his book #Fiva. Truly deserved for an excellent book.

Joe Simpson @TouchingTheVoid
Congrats on Banff prize well done mate 🙂

MyOutdoorsUK @MyOutdoorsUK
Great news on so many levels Gordon, Congratulations on a deserved success

Judi Chrysanthou
hey just heard you’ve won the banff mount lit prize ..well done!!! not in the bit surprised you know how i loved it and read it in one reading ..without a break !!! great for you to get recognition for wtiting such a well written and riveting book a well deserved priize

David Linnett
Hi Gordon Maa-hoosive congratulations on Fiva winning the Mountain Literature Prize at the BANFF Mountain Festival. A most worthy winner! 🙂

Gordon, your book is fabulous. A great read with plenty of momentum and bursts of lyricism in exactly the right places. Gorgeous and clear language. Congratulations!

Clare Danek
Hi Gordon,
Thought I’d drop you a line to say congratulations on the Banff award – very well deserved! It’s brilliant to see the exposure Fiva’s getting, and the subsequent praise too.

Hilary McKay
Brilliant! Many congratulations, Gordon! Freda emailed the wonderful news. You deserved that, and I’m so pleased you got it.

by – ericinbristol on – 11 Nov 2012
Well done Gordon! Thoroughly well deserved. Amongst the best books ever written about mountaineering.

by – pneame on – 10 Nov 2012
Yeah, but with Fiva one can totally identify with it! I’m sure it’s only a matter of luck that I didn’t have a similar epic at some point. It’s great to see its well deserved positive reception.

by – crustypunkuk on – 09 Nov 2012
Congratulations Gordon. Best recent mountain specific book I’ve read, so well deserved.

by – Nicholas Livesey on – 09 Nov 2012
Congratulations Gordon, Fiva’s a wonderful book so no surprises! Very well deserved.

by – Jim Walton on – 09 Nov 2012
Well deserved.

by – hokkyokusei on – 02 Nov 2012
Brilliant. I was wondering how it had done. Just finished the copy I received for my birthday. It’s a great read – a real page tuner that make you feel as though you’re right there in the middle of it.

by – pneame on – 02 Nov 2012
excellent news. Well deserved

by – Andy Mountains on – 02 Nov 2012
Well deserved too. Congratulations Gordon!

by – Greenbanks on – 02 Nov 2012
Read it on hols – should’ve put my tenner on it then. An unusual, common-touch story that’s a well-deserved winner. Congratulations Gordon

More recent on-line comments on
Twitter, Facebook, and other internet forums

@gordonsta Just finished reading Fiva, what an incredible story written so well!
Jonny Forster @Jonny4ster, Twitter, 1 Dec 2014

Buy this book on Amazon and be amazed by the sheer enormity of what twin teenagers Gordon and John Stainforth attempted in terms of a ‘quick’ rock climb one Sunday in Norway.
Stephen Scott-Fawcett, Facebook, 27 Nov 2014

I’ve got a signed copy and it’s a treasured possession, it’s a really cracking read. I couldn’t put it down till I’d finished it. Sat up till about 1am in a campsite reading it.
mattrm, UKClimbing, 7 Oct 2014

Have you read Gordon Stainforth’s book Fiva? There was something refreshingly simple about how Gordon described the climbing itself (something often missing) and his physical and mental state. I really felt like I understood the route he was on and could therefore empathise with him.
Oujmik, UKClimbing forums, 6 Jun 2014

@gordonsta I honestly think it will become a classic must read the sort of book you read when planning your first big climbing trip
paul hanks @The_Data_Adonis, Twitter, 18 May 2014

Gordon Stainforth’s ‘Fiva’ is a must read…a modern classic 😉
Nicholas Livesey, UKClimbing forum

I have just read “Fiva” by Gordon Stainforth.  Wow!  If you want a good absorbing read for a journey, take this with you.
Sue Knight, SUE KNIGHT’S BLOG, 10 February 2014

Fiva is a belter, first book in years I read in one sitting.
Andy Whitmore, Facebook, 3 February 2014

Just finished reading #Fiva. What an epic and beautifully written. #mustread
paul @rockandfell, Twitter, 24 January 2014

old school adventure, expertly written. Top notch.
the_birds_and_bees,, 3 January 2014

Not long finished FIVA! and found it extremely entertaining and exciting. Read it cover to cover during a 36 hour marathon trip from LA to Manchester, the trip seemed to pass rather quickly thanks to that book.
wilkie14c, UKClimbing forums, 16 September 2013

Just finished reading it yesterday. A good choice of narrative style and a great read – well deserved!
Mark Horrell @markhorrell, Twitter, 19 August 2013

Hi Gordon – Having just read the fantastic Fiva in France on holiday, I think that would be a great text to motivate older lads to read.
Mark @rem2ram, Direct msg on Twitter, 19 August 2013

I can’t believe I finished this book within the day of starting it!! … Great read!!
Nicholas Potts @nicholaspotts, Direct msg on Twitter, 1 August 2013

just finished FIVA in less than a day – couldn’t put it down. Brilliant stuff!
Oli Reed @olireedoutdoors, Twitter, 14 July 2013

Did all my holiday reading in one go last night. Sat down with @gordonsta’s Fiva and couldn’t stop. Amazing book.
Christopher Sleight @csleight, Twitter, 12 July 2013

#Fiva best book I read in a couple of years. Brilliant message for young people on benefits of adventure and understanding and managing risk.
Gareth Price @quietfundraiser, Twitter, 12 June 2013

Just finished a brilliant unputdownable adventure book called #Fiva.
Gareth Price @quietfundraiser, Twitter, 12 June 2013

an amazing and honestly written story of survival. @gordonsta I admire your courage and skill to bring back the past, good and bad.
Sari Latva-Pukkila @latvasa, Twitter, 1 June 2013

One of the best books I’ve ever read.
Edward Dalton, Facebook, 17 May 2013

Superb read, one of my all time favourites. This was a difficult book to put down.
Edward Dalton, Facebook, 16 May 2013

Just about to finish “Fiva”. Darn good yarn.
JLS, UKClimbing forum ‘What are you reading?, 20 February 2013

Re. expressing the “soul” of a climbing experience, might I recommend a read of his account of a “rather harrowing” day or two early in his climbing career -?
Martin Bennett, UKClimbing forum, 19 February 2013

A real page turner of a book, and the winner of the Banff Mountain Literature Award 2012. Just loved it.
Philip Children, Facebook, 16 February 2013

@gordonsta just finished #Fiva couldn’t put it down. Great read although bit of a toe curler!
Lisa O’Keefe @OKeefeLisa, Twitter, 6 February 2013

Finished reading #Fiva @gordonsta last night. Brilliant book. A real must-have on the bookshelf!
Stuart Rose @stuartjamesrose, Twitter, 3 February 2013

… I’m currently reading Gordon Stainforth’s ‘FIVA’, … It’s a bit like ‘Touching the Void’ for old school punters…  It is such an amazing read that as soon as I finished it the first time I went straight back to the start to read it again. It actually made me weep at one point. Thoroughly recommended anyway.
CathS, Leeds Mountaineering Club Bulletin Boards, 31 January 2013

‘Fiva’ by Gordon Stainforth is another excellent book detailing a major epic … I read this book in two long sittings, I couldn’t put the dan thing down!
Rob Lilley (Manchester, UK), forums, 26 January 2013

@whitespiderltd @gordonsta Thrilling and fascinating story! Outdoor people will really enjoy reading this book!
arild nordengen @ArildNordengen, Twitter, 8 January 2013

@gordonsta just finished FIVA in 24 hours, epic read and epic adventure, highly recommended to anyone with any outdoor interest. Well done
Tommy Dallmeyer @whitespiderltd, Twitter, 7 January 2013

Brilliant book, very cleverly written, somehow unlike any other climbing book I’ve read.
Robert Durran, UKClimbing forum, 6 January 2013

a modern classic
boogie_man, UKClimbing forums, 30 December 2012

FIVA, by Gordon Stainforth – finished in one marathon session. Gripping story well told. See all the hype it got? Totally justified.
Neil Reid @Cairngorm22, Twitter, 28 December 2012

@gordonsta just finished Fiva…what a story!!
Stephen Smith @littleslip1986, Twitter, 24 December 2012

Any inconsistency of tone caused by [the first person narrative] is more than compensated for by the immediacy of experience and tension that gives to the descriptions of the adventure….  It’s an exciting story that deserves all the good things that have been said about it.
mcdougal, UKClimbing forum, ‘Fiva .. Gordon Stainforth’, 21 December 2012

…. a very slick bit of writing craft … Gives you a much more of a “I am there with them” feeling (without the thirst, pain, hunger, of course).
pneame, UKClimbing forum, ‘Fiva .. Gordon Stainforth’, 20 December 2012

FIVA is an epic version of a youthful adventure gone wrong; skillfully and enjoyably retold. A great read.
Jim Braid, UKClimbing forum, ‘Fiva .. Gordon Stainforth’, 19 December 2012

Amazing read. Gripped me from start to finish. I would definitely recommend this book to climbers and non-climbers as it is a great true story. My wife wants to read it now……..
Jamie, Goodreads, 18 December 2012

Completely agree – started well and got better and better as it went on.
Mooncat, UKClimbing forum, ‘Fiva .. Gordon Stainforth’, 18 December 2012

Yes, finished it last week, brilliant stuff. Using the present tense really added to the emotional impact, it felt like you were actually there on the climb with them. The passage describing the incident where it all turned very serious was pure horror … Possibly the best mountaineering book ive read …
no more scotch eggs, UKClimbing forum, ‘Fiva .. Gordon Stainforth’, 18 December 2012

The writing is excellent and the book is surely going to become one of the classics of mountaineering literature. Well done, Gordon, you’ve produced a real gem there.
Mark F, UKClimbing forum, ‘Fiva .. Gordon Stainforth’, 18 December 2012

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again! ;o) Couldn’t agree more. Completely riveting.
JohnnyW, UKClimbing forum, ‘Fiva .. Gordon Stainforth’, 18 December 2012

I’m knackered this morning … from reading it last night long after I wanted to be asleep.
Submit to Gravity, UKClimbing forum, ‘Fiva .. Gordon Stainforth’, 18 December 2012

I recently bought the book FIVA, and i’m writing this post to say GO BUY IT. It’s got to be one of the best books i have ever read, what a story to tell got the book friday and it was done and dusted for saturday, absoloutley brilliant..
gazfellows, UKClimbing forum, ‘Fiva .. Gordon Stainforth’, 18 December 2012

FIVA [is] one of the most gripping, beautifully written mountaineering books ever
Cotswold Carmarthen @CotswoldCarms, Twitter, 12 December 2012

Thought Cold Wars was a good book but that Fiva was great and lasted much longer in the memory for me.
Hindu, UKClimbing forums, 16 November 2012

This book was an excellent read! Dynamic forward momentum with perfectly-placed bursts of lyricism.
Monica Meneghetti, Facebook, 14 November 2012

Fiva best of the year by a long margin for me
ben b, UKClimbing forum, 13 November 2012

It’s a great read. Classic old-school noobitry + vague topo leads to a totally gripping survival story told in a great style. It does sort of linger in the psyche for a few days after finishing it.
justthemaid,, 11 November 2012

Just finished reading Fiva whilst on a climbing trip in Turkey. Great read, I enjoyed every page. Thank you #Fiva
Will Casson @CassonWill, Twitter, 22 October 2012

This week I read ‘Fiva’ by @gordonsta an excellently written 1st person account of an ascent in Norway 40 yrs ago that goes wrong. Gripping.
Raph Bleakley @raphbleakley, Twitter, 30 September 2012

Just finished #Fiva by @gordonsta Excellent book! Superbly written, really captures the atmosphere of an amazing climbing epic.
Mark Aitken @MarkAitken2, Twitter, 27 September 2012

Last week I read Gordon Stainforth’s “Fiva” is a single sitting (on a plane) which was hugely enjoyable and gripping.
Mark Bull, UKClimbing forum, 13 September 2012

Great to see Fiva has made the list [the Boardman Tasker shortlist], a truly fantastic book!
southern sam, UKClimbing forum, 13 September 2012

I’ve got to say, it’s one of the best Mountain or Adventure books I’ve read. I was worried that the hyper-exciteable first person perspective would irritate but it didn’t and, Gordon, your inner voice sounded a lot like mine when I was 19 and going to the Alps in winter for the first time! Great story, brilliantly written and, at times breathtaking.
hindu, UKClimbing forum, 29 August 2012

… a superb can’t put down story. The first person narrative worked really well for me. Like Gordon I was climbing in the 60s and the descriptions of the equipment and feelings of that time came right back at me. Great book and I’m sure it will be a success.
Jim Braid, UKClimbing forum, 28 August 2012

Finished reading #FIVA by Gordon Stainforth. Great book, agonizing epic climb!
Joanna Croston @Joanna_Croston, Twitter, 27 August 2012

…  an incredible tale of climbing in the early days by two fearless young men. I really enjoyed it – Gordon Stainforth has done grand job. … it takes you to another time and is pretty gripping right up to the end.
David Whalley,, 27 August 2012

Well I read it on holiday and I enjoyed it very much. …What made this refreshing for me was the inexperience of our protagonists compounding already bad decisions. A situation many of us have been in, …. I wanted to shout “STOP NOW YOU BLOODY IDIOTS!!!” as they continued into the jaws of disaster. My wife had to put the book down at one point as she couldn’t bear to read what was about to happen next. I loved the cockiness of youth that got them into trouble but also the determination that eventually got them out of it (no spoilers we all know they made it).
Duncan Bourne, UKClimbing forum, 23 August 2012

A brilliant book… going to be a best seller.
David Whalley, Facebook, 21 August 2012

Tremendous book”. I did not know what to expect. …As for the story; I was horribly gripped by it. At times torn between going back a couple of pages to re-read the drama or jumping forward a couple of pages to get past it. …. After “Touching the Void”, “Jim Perrin’s Climbing Essays” and now “Fiva”, is there any need for another climbing book for a few decades? Many thanks to you.
Roger Reid (Fremont, CA), Facebook, 20 August 2012

Completely riveting Loved it. I was there with you both! Thanks for sharing it with us all…………………….
JohnnyW, UKClimbing forum, 19 August 2012

Gripping story, superb evocative writing!
ericinbristol, UKClimbing forum, 16 August 2012

Another thumbs up from me, a great read, well written and a very interesting story. Makes my epics look like a nice easy day out in the countryside. The fact that it’s written in 1st person definitely makes it all feel a little more personal if you like. It’s as though you’re watching in real time, knowing you can do nothing to help. Different to the usual account looking back on the epic – i like it!
Dan Lane, UKClimbing forum, 15 August 2012

I’ve just finished reading Fiva, Gordon. Brilliant book, well written and a good story. makes my epics look like nice days out in the countryside!
Dan Lane, UKClimbing galleries, 15 August 2012

A great read, stayed up past my bed time last night to finish it! …The bit near the end where Gordon is crawling uphill after realising they are on the wrong descent route and his body refuses to move, miles from help, bloody bricked my pants imagining myself in that situation, very well written.
Taurig, UKClimbing forum, 15 August 2012

REALLY involving read, I felt like i was living it with you. Very erudite, without being overly pretentious. A really well written account of a hardcore ascent, which I’m sure many of us aspire to – either in spirit or in reality. Thanks from a fellow Gordon.
crustypunkuk, UKClimbing forum, 14 August 2012

I read it last week, and found it difficult to put down. I enjoyed the “first person”-ness of it (it felt like a diary, written at the time of the action – whilst a moment’s thought tells you it can’t be that, its not a book to make you want to stop for that moment’s thought). I felt to be “inside the head” of the author in a very powerful way, and therefore to be part of the adventure…. the “crunch point” at which it all starts to go horribly wrong surprised me in both its timing and intensity. To sum up: a fantastic book.
Yrmenlaf, UKClimbing forum, 14 August 2012

First time .in a couple of years I have read a book in 2 days. About to read it for the second time.
Andy Mountains, UKClimbing forum, 3 August 2012

Really enjoyed it, first time in a while I’ve read a book through in one sitting. Much better than the normal angsty books that seem to be common these days (Twight, House, Kirkpatrick etc).
mattrm, UKClimbing forum, 3 August 2012

Just finished reading the book, one of the best I’ve read in ages. Really enjoyed it. I also felt the youthful arrogance a little bit exaggerated at the beggining but it didn’t detract from the story overall.
Ben Sharp, UKClimbing forum, 2 August 2012

Best read I’ve had in a while.Gripping although I read the first half with a sense of dread.
Toby_W, UKClimbing forum, 31 July 2012

Really would urge anyone who hasn’t read FIVA yet to buy the book (it’s worth it!)
Only a hill, UKClimbing forum, 25 July 2012

I was completely blown away by Fiva and found it compulsive reading. It’s in a league of its own and Gordon should very proud of it. I’m off work with a bad back today so I’m going to read it again 😉
Nicholas Livesey, UKClimbing forum, 23 July 2012

Yes – the most intelligent disaster story to appear for years
Stephen Venables (mountaineer and author), Facebook, 20 July 2012

The first time in ages I have read a book in a couple of days! I found myself looking forward to every opportunity I had to pick it up.
Andy Whitmore, Facebook, 20 July 2012

Really enjoyed this – sweaty palms and a terrible sense of dread, but laugh out loud moments of wide-eyed naive innocence too. Highly recommended. I picked up this, Joe’s new novel and Simon Yates’ new books last time I was overseas and Fiva was head and shoulders above the others, enjoyable as they were.
ben b (New Zealand), UKClimbing forum, 20 July 2012

Just finished. Loved it. So gripped – just realised now 6pm! Was a bit dubious about whether 1st person 19yr old voice would work but after 2 pages was totally gripped.
Lissa Cook @heasonevents, Twitter, 14 July 2012

The book is one of only two climbing books that gripped me so much that I read them non-stop at full pace, the other being Touching the Void.
Steve Clarke (‘Offwidth’), UKClimbing forum  11 July 2012

Certainly a well deserved accolade Gordon, I near enough read Fiva in one sitting, though I was in a tent in Langdale getting rained on at the time. A fantastic book and one I shall read again and again no doubt!
southern sam, UKClimbing forum 11 July 2012

Wonderful, nostalgic, gripping, classic epic yarn with great humour deserves to win many many awards – read it 🙂
Joe Simpson @TouchingTheVoid, Twitter, 6 July 2012

This was followed shortly by:

Agree, agree, agree, agree! MT @TouchingTheVoid FIVA by @gordonsta
Sarah Payne @PayneSarah, Twitter, 6 July 2012

My review of Gordon Stainforth’s book Fiva, on display in Waterstones Derby:
This true story left me exhausted & triumphant
If you still haven’t read it yet, what the hell are you waiting for? Buy it, read it and enjoy.
Mary McLean Farmer, Facebook, 3 July 2012

Read “Fiva” a couple of weeks ago. Possibly the most “sweaty palms” climbing book I’ve read because I could so easily identify with Gordon Stainforth and his brother. Reminiscent of “Touching the Void”, but I never felt “that could be me” with the latter.
pneame, UKClimbing forum ‘What are you reading?’, 2 July 2012

I finished reading it last week whilst on holiday, and felt utterly wrung out and a bit emotional by the end, which I hadn’t been expecting at all – as if I’d lived through the epic alongside him and his brother. It feels as if he’s nailed his experience completely, right down to the public schoolboy terminology, the all-consuming preoccupation with one’s pain, the mindless songs and sayings that haunt us at all the wrong moments. His book … reminds us that we’re all human, and we can all screw up, and we can all be terrified. Not all of us are prepared to admit to it though… So yes, that’s my big recommendation.
Clare Danek (Tall Clare), UKClimbing forum ‘What are you reading?’, 1 July 2012

I’ll second NWClimber’s recommendation for Fiva – gripping and pacy, written in a self-effacing way. An excellent read.
full stottie, UKClimbing forum ‘Please recommend me a book’, 23 June 2012

Just finished Fiva by @gordonsta – bloody hell! Feel shattered and a bit damp. Youthful gung ho spirit and a catalogue of mistakes = epic!
Clare Danek @c_j_d, Twitter, 22 June 2012

Did your mountaineering reading include Gordon Stainforth’s ‘Fiva’? Great narrative drive makes it difficult to put down but at the same time I didn’t want it to end. Am currently re-reading it with a bit more attention to detail! Definitely recommended.
nwclimber, UKClimbing forum ‘Please recommend me a book’, 21 June 2012

one of those unputdownable books where you’re glad it wasn’t you.
Clare Danek @c_j_d, Twitter, 15 June 2012

@gordonsta It is an astonishing book
Digital Maverick @digitalmaverick, Twitter, 11 June 2012

Bought a copy over the weekend in the Lakes. Loved the book, devoured it in one evening. Great book, puts all my epics to shame. Well worth buying. Bought a signed copy by accident, but glad I’ve got it, it’s going to get pride of place on my bookshelf.
mattrm, UKClimbing forums, 5 June 2012

Just finished reading Fiva by @gordonsta: epic misadventure, brilliantly written, brought tears to my eyes.
Nigel Dodd, @nigelbdodd, Twitter, 3 June 2012

The true story of fist-gnawingly tense close escape from a death-on-a-stick route in Romsdal. It’s a treat to read and his devastatingly honest description of his youthful naivety also makes it very funny in places.
ben b, Dunedin, New Zealand, comment on UKClimbing, 31 May 2012

I read it in one push and thought it was great. It was refreshing that it wasn’t full of soul searching and questions of meaning etc, just two 19 year olds having an epic. That gully sounded like absolute death on a stick!
Red Rover, UK Climbing forums, 19 May 2012

another better than ‘Void’ review so glad for you Gordon! Well done mate 🙂
Joe Simpson, @TouchingTheVoid, Twitter, 15 May 2012

Folks, this is possibly the finest book of it’s type I have ever read and I can’t recommend it enough … do yourselves a favour and buy it! It’s fantastic …
Nick Livesey, Facebook, 9 May 2012

I’m reading Fiva, Gordon Stainforth’s new book. It’s absolutely gripping and as it unfolds I’m feeling increasingly sick with fear! … [Later] It’s bloody brilliant.
Nick Livesey, Facebook, 7 May 2012

Hi Gordon, Just finished reading Fiva. Just brilliant, could not put it down. It must be a strong candidate for the Boardman Tasker this year. Keep up the great writing.
Allan Brown (Dundee Mountain Film Festival), Facebook, 4 May 2012

‘Fiva’ perfectly (uncannily) captures the mountaineering near-death epics of our youth.
Gordon’s style in all his books shows a passionately intense devotion to the truth of an experience or sensation – be it a landscape, a memory, or an intellectual concept – and to lovingly transmute that truth into an image or prose. For me, ‘Fiva’ perfectly (uncannily) captures the mountaineering near-death epics of our youth (be they miniature or massive – Cerro Torre or some slimy Welsh gully). Fortunately most of us ‘lived to tell the tale’ – and happily, for mountaineering literature (as well as for his own personal catharsis and tribute to his youthful character), Gordon has lived to write his engrossing tale.
Marc C, UKClimbing forums, 27 April 2012

So far I’m about halfway through the book and am really impressed by it. Each sentence has been skillfully put together by a true craftsman. Often in climbing books you find yourself skip reading long sections to get to the ‘fun bits’ but not with FIVA. To me the writing has the story telling skill of Peter Gillman, the dramatism of Rene Desmaison whilst retaining the poetic feeling of Giusto Gervasutti.
This has the BT award written all over it, [other contenders are] going to have to be incredible to beat this.
Jim Walton, UKClimbing forums, April 8, 2012

[Jim Walton’s review, continued]

This book hasn’t been written, it’s been crafted. Each passage, each sentence even has been written with a meaning. There’s no filler in this book. This book has feeling. The tempo moves the reader along as the climber moves. Steady as the climbing gets reserved yet suddenly explosive as the climbers adrenalin rises.
You know that something bad is going to happen, you don’t know when and you don’t know how. But when it does happen the author has brought you along. the tempo and style change as panic kicks in, the writing goes all over the place. This isn’t by accident, you’re in the mind of the leader and things are not clinical when the s#it hits the fan….
Go back and savor it. Bring out the whisky and take many evenings to re-discover what I think will become known one of the best pieces of climbing literature written for many years.
Jim Walton, UKClimbing forums, 26 April 2012

It’s a cracking read and deserves a wide audience. God, I’m glad the gear has improved a bit since then!
Postmanpat, UKClimbing forums, April 2, 2012

Best book I’ve read in a long time… Fiva by Gordon Stainforth – Talk about epic!!!!
Gareth Hanson, Twitter, March 30, 2012

I was lucky enough to read a pre-publication copy …it really should carry a warning with it – “do not have anything planned for the few days after you’ve started to read it”, because once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. It’s totally enthralling.
Steve Clarke, UKClimbing forums, 30 March, 2012


Dear Gordon Stainforth,
… Fiva has brought back memories, some scary, some enjoyable. It’s a gripping read, inspiring. Captures the feel of the climbing, the awe inspiring rock faces, and the gear…
I look forward to reading your next book …
Very best wishes
Tony Crosby, email to the author, 18 Feb 2014

Hi Gordon,
Just wanted to say I got Fiva for Christmas from my sister (who lives on the same street as you!) and I really enjoyed it.  Great read, well done!
Cheers, Es.

Es Tresidder, email to the author, 29 Jan 2014

Dear Gordon,
Time to put pen to paper again – after over 10 years – to send you another fan letter! (The first was due to the outstanding Cuillin book.) Good heavens ‘Fiva’ is a fantastic book – simply couldn’t put it down. I was given it for our 26th wedding anniversary and read it, almost, in a oner in a wind and rain lashed tent in Sutherland – the wild cold weather (despite being June … ) was perfect somehow! Alasdair then read it with a gammy knee (from falling in a bog near Ben Stac) so – ditto!
Anyway – we both really wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed it. What an experience to go through so young, and what a brilliant piece of writing that conveys it so freshly and so well after 40 years.
Thanks for such a cracking read, and we wish you all the very best,
Simon + Alasdair McKee, letter to the author, 30 June 2013

With apologies, because you must be sick of people telling how good “Fiva” is, but I’ll say it anyway! My daughter and I read it while on a small (non-climbing) adventure in Sicily last week, and found it un-put-downable (you know how it is when your kids grab the book you are trying to read?). I suppose I read it primarily with the mindset of the mother of teenage children; I knew the outcome, of course, but I was still on the edge of my seat until you were safe.
… It takes great humility for any of us to step back into our teenage selves and record an experience as we saw it then, and very few could do it so effectively, and so honestly, as you have done.
Thank you for a great read!
best wishes
Lizzie Cooke, email to the author, 15 April 2013

Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed it. A great piece of writing from the heart. I felt very much with you on that route, willing you and your brother on. Strangely enough only last week i fell due to a small wind slab avalanche and nearly ended up falling head long down the devils cellar. If is wasn’t for a small turf boss and a wild axe placement i wouldn’t be writing this. Luck eh.
Again well done.
Adam Crook, email to the author, 11 April 2013

Hi Gordon
I stumbled across ‘Fiva’ by accident in Waterstones at Christmas, and bought it on the basis of also being a big fan of ‘The Cuillin’ (which I was lucky enough to get hold of second-hand last year) and the fact it had won the Boardman Tasker Prize.
It’s a brilliant read; thanks for telling the story. The way it’s written you can really imagine being there. The abseil off at the end was mind-blowing! Best of luck with its future promotion. I’m sure it will grow to be an all-time classic of mountain literature!
Cath Sanders (Leeds), email to the author, 1 February 2013

I pulled an all-nighter reading [Fiva] shortly after you left.  Truly great and epic.  Amazing how stupid you used to be….and lived to tell.  Just kidding.
Larry G, Houston, email to John Stainforth, 7 January 2013

Hi John and Gordon
Just read Fiva….. lives up to the reviews, and we enjoyed it tremendously.  Looks like it’s been a great success, the result of amazing collaboration between the two of you.  Must be greatly satisfying.
Happy Christmas from NZ
Pauline and Rowan Syrett, Email to the author, 20 December 2012

Please tell Gorgon that I have now survived reading FIVA. I had to put it down when they reached the misleading cairn … sweating palms would no longer grip the book.
I took it up this evening … could not put it down … thought of belaying myself to the table … but at last the relief of tarmac. A wonderful book, I still have the taste of moss in my mouth … and I think my knee came out in sympathy.
George Jones, Email to a friend, 19 December 2012

Enjoyed Fiva. Deserves its excellent reviews. Now I know why you upstaged me at the first student mountaineering club slideshow in October 1969. And I thought the Matterhorn made me top dog. Sigh …
Mike Danford, Card to the author, 18 December 2012

We had some friends round for dinner last night, they used to be climbers, not in your league but you know, hanging off things on ropes. They took away Fiva and Jayne has just been round a bit grumpy saying she is suffering from sleep deprivation because she stayed up all night reading it. Thought you would like to know that!
Hilary McKay, Email to the author, 11 December 2012

What superb news that Fiva is taking off in the way it thoroughly deserves and I really hope it succeeds. I personally feel that in its own way it fires the imagination at least as much as Touching the Void.
Tony Smythe, Email to the author, 8 December 2012

May I say that I found Fiva a quite incredible read. Totally gripping! I loved being taken back to the days of cord breeches with peg-hammer pockets etc. etc. etc. etc! I squirmed constantly. Quite incredible. Why didn’t they award it to you? – Oh well….
Tony Smythe, letter to the author, 4 December 2012

Hi Gordon
Read “Fiva” this weekend (while on visit in London). A very good read!
Thank you.
Jan Inge Tomren, Romsdals Budstikke, Norway, Email to the author, 27 November 2012

I enjoyed the book immensely
Many congratulations on both the short-listing of Fiva for the Boardman Tasker Prize and especially for your success at the Banff Mountain Festival. I enjoyed the book immensely although I found it emotionally difficult to read. I already knew the general outline but I was torn between wanting to know further details and fear as to what horrors I might discover. The fact that I had seen both John and yourself alive and well over 40 years later at the book launch in Hathersage only a short time before did not seem to help very much…. I am sure that it will prove to be increasingly popular and widely appreciated.
Kind regards
Brian Capper, Email to the author, 18 November 2012

Boardman Tasker
I’m still confidently backing you. Best of 🙂
Joe Simpson, private tweet to the author, 15 November 2012

I read Fiva with horror, I could not put it down. The fact that I know it ended happily did not seem to make me feel better. Beautifully written – Many congratulations.
Janet Guest, private letter to author, 4 November 2012

Hi, Gordon
I just heard about your book, Fiva, being shortlisted for both the Boardman-Tasker Prize and the Canadian Banff Mountain Book Competition.
I thought your book was a terrific read and is fully deserving of winning at least one of the above.
My regards to you and John.
Hugh Tassell, Email to the author, 24 October 2012

As a similar visitor/explorer of Romsdal’s pleasures in the 70’s and early 80’s, I would like to say how much pleasure I got from reading Fiva. The excitement and pleasure came in the doing (the reading), and a certain sadness in the completion. A bit like climbing really.  Thank you.
Richard Fisher, Email to the author, 7 October 2012

Hi Gordon
Just a quick line to say that I read Fiva while away on a short break in the Dolomites and I thoroughly enjoyed it 🙂
Your narrative in the first person and from a historical perspective of when you were 19, was inspirational as really to me as the reader I was back there with you.
Very well written, exciting to the last and interesting as, like Touching the Void, always knowing you survived the experience didn’t take anything away and in fact added to the drama. I found myself avidly reading on thinking ‘what next?’, and the post-fall epics were gripping.
What an almighty cock up eh? But I have to take my hat off to you and your brother for not only attempting it but surviving. Boy you were lucky!
Great book mate, I hope it will do well at the Boardman Tasker awards. You certainly have my vote.
Andy Birtwistle, Email to the author, 3 October 2012

My girlfriend is currently working her way through Fiva while finishing her thesis (alpine botany) and is comparing it extremely favourably with I Chose to Climb which has been, hitherto, her sole experience of UK mountaineering literature.  She says she prefers your writing: so high compliments there!
Yours Aye,
Andrew Huddart, Email to the author, 29 August 2012

Hi Gordon
Congrats on the Amazon reviews.  Well deserved.  Fiva is a riveting read.
All the Best
Ashley Franklin, Email to the author, 23 August 2012

Read “Fiva” and really enjoyed it. In fact Michele had to put the book down at one point as she couldn’t bear to read what happened next in much the same way as you can’t bear to look when you know something is about to go horribly wrong (she did read it eventually when she had calmed down though). So excellent read, very gripping.
Duncan Bourne, Email to the author, 22 August 2012

Hi Gordon
I have just finished it. Wow. Fantastically well written. I would love to read a follow up essay about the aftermath/recovery/bounce back.
Best wishes and many thanks
ericinbristol, Email to the author, 18 August 2012

Dear Gordon
Last year I spent rather a long time in hospital, during my convalescence my wife got hold of your Cuillin book. I just wanted to say how inspirational the book was and how helpful it was in giving me something pleasant to think about while recovering.
MattG, Email to the author, 16 August 2012

I have now finished reading Fiva and what a read it was. I did it in two sittings – one to the top then the second covering the descent. I really enjoyed it, so send regards to Gordon on a great story …
Keith Ratcliffe, email forwarded to the author, 6 August 2012

I just finished reading your book last night. It’s definitely one of the best and most original climbing books I’ve read. I was really impressed by your efforts and survival and it’s incredible that you could recollect the experience with enough detail to create such a personal and gripping book. I guess that’s not the kind of experience that you forget easily.
I hadn’t quite comprehended the type and limited amount of gear you were using until I got to the end and saw the pictures. It really brought home the level of commitment, what a totally different game to climbing today.
Ben Sharp, email to the author, 2 August 2012
It’s brilliant – every young climber needs to read it.
Colin Mortlock, Spirit of Adventure Foundation, email to the author, 23 July 2012
I hugely enjoyed Fiva – read over a couple of nights on call, didn’t make the day job any easier! – and thought you did a great job of capturing that wonderfully innocent state of blissful ignorance and magnificently misplaced confidence of youth. You did a great job of not toning this down, which surely was quite difficult given how embarrassed we all are at our youthful decision making at times! I really enjoyed the filial dynamics too, and having read Tony Howard’s Troll Wall a few weeks earlier, the area (and to some extent era) were still quite fresh in my mind.
So thanks again for such a great little book!
Ben Brockway (New Zealand), email to the author, 20 July 2012

… I found Fiva wholly absorbing, alive in every muscle and nerve, and with a wholeness of experience quite often lacking in ‘extreme’ books. Your choice of present tense was dead right and as a narrator you correctly (and, these days, unusually) never defused the incidents by signalling them. Things that happened suddenly were sudden for the reader. The side thoughts about this and that, e.g. what your father would make of it all, made the central adventure properly complex.
The frequent evocations of the colossal ugliness and forbiddingness of the place struck me very much. I’ve always climbed where it’s beautiful, and open, and reasonably dry. So I could only boggle at the hardihood of the two of you in taking on a place so dark and oozing….
So – that was a heck of an achievement, Gordon, and I admire your grit (and your brother’s) in undertaking it and surviving it. My main point is that you’ve made the most of it, in literary terms (down to the cunning device of a smaller type for the echoes – that worked beautifully). In Touching the Void, the writing doesn’t quite match the intensity of the experience; in Fiva it does.
I do hope the book gets the currency it deserves.
David Craig (author of ‘Landmarks’ etc), from a letter to Gordon, 19 July 2012

… I’ve just now fallen across Fiva. Absolutely magnificent! I remember you telling me about your Norway saga, but your book is really good. There are parallels with Touching the Void, but your story is so much less claustrophobic with there being two of you. And it is written much more intimately…. You should be really proud of your book – and boy, are you and John lucky to be alive! …
Robert Barton (Switzerland), from an email to the author, 18 July 2012

Just finished your book ‘Fiva’, and wanted to say thanks – it was such a good read, and reminded me of a few (far less serious) scrapes we’ve got into in the past.
Tim Harrop, private email to the author, 11 July 2012

Its very easy to say it’s the best book I’ve read. Especially as I’m not that “well read”. But it is. I’ve loaned it to a fellow walker who has two of your photographic books, I couldn’t get him to read it a first but I pushed him. He really enjoyed the book. I’ve also recommended it to other friends.
As reviews say, it is a very gripping story. A book I struggled to put down on an evening. When I get the book back next week I will read it again referring to the topos on the Golden Arrow Books/ Fiva website.
When is the film coming out? 😉
Michael Gent, email to the author, 24 June 2012

Just finished reading Fiva, and it is a really absorbing story, told with great pace and style. I am sure it will be/has already been/ enjoyed by climbers old and new, and non-climbers who appreciate adventure and the outdoors. Congratulations on a fine book.
I enjoyed it immensely.
Dave Hume, email to the author, 19 June 2012

I hasten to write – between attacks of vertigo – to thank you for sending ‘Fiva’. – What a splendid and beautifully written account of your dicey adventure with John on the Store Trolltind climb, forty three years ago. I have been recommending it to some of my old climbing friends.
Alastair Garvie, ex-Scottish Council for Physical Recreation, letter to the author, 21 May 2012

I’m so pleased – I think it an outstanding book and I was mentioning this to someone yesterday only to be told, ‘yes, I already know that!’
Richard Else, TV Producer, email to the author, 15 May 2012

I really enjoyed ‘Fiva’, after slight hesitation at the beginning, the narrative totally gripped me, almost to the point where I had to put it down, to take a break from the tension! Well done!!, and I hope it will get the wide readership that it deserves.
David Hope, Letter to the author, 8 May 2012

Today I received (and read without putting down) your brilliant book. I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed it. It certainly brought back those days very vividly to me. I reckon you have a real success on your hands with this one, Gordon. Well done.
Nick Alcock, email, April 10, 2012

I really enjoyed this book, I enjoyed every word. I rate it as an instant classic and I read it in one go – never done that before –  with a few refreshment breaks accompanied by Schubert on the radio.
Will Taylor, email, March 31, 2012

Terrific read – the narrative brilliantly captures the paradoxical mixture of unfolding dread and innocent youthful excitement.
Marc Chrysanthou, email

Pre-publication accolades from readers

What a brilliant and refreshing read! Some of our best epics are those early ones when everything is fresh and new, our ambitions great, our experience thin. Gordon has captured all of this in his wonderful little book, that once started you just can’t put down.
Sir Chris Bonington, CBE

This magnificent book, enjoyed enormously during wet leaf delays at Clapham Junction and subsequent flight from Gatwick to Venice, was a breath of civilised fresh air. I love the period detail, the humour, the visceral sense of wild landscape and the nail-biting denouement.
Stephen Venables, author of Everest – Alone at the Summit

Absolutely superb and totally gripping from the first few pages until the end. What an adventure! I think it’s a future classic.
Richard Else, TV producer of The Great Climb, etc.

It’s tremendous; and also a very accessible read for a non-climber. The pace is excellent – no slack in the rope! It made me laugh. It’s a cracking story.
Hilary McKay Winner of the Whitbread Prize and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.

Just finished reading Gordon Stainforth’s latest book, Fiva. Absolutely incredible story, very emotional and even though I know nothing about climbing I felt as if I was there. Do yourself a favour and get a copy.
Mary McLean Farmer, University of Stirling (posted on Facebook, March 23)

I read the book this weekend in three sittings. Need to get my breath back now! Stupendous, compelling, beautifully written, up with the best climbing books that I’ve ever read. Thank you on behalf of the climbing community for producing this wonderful work.
Steve Clark, lecturer at Nottingham Trent University

A nerve-shredding tale of innocence, near-disaster and the fight for survival on a peak in Norway. With the tension and intensity of Touching the Void.
Peter Gillman Award-winning author of The Wildest Dream

I was absolutely rivetted, enthralled, hooked. Suffice to say such was the writing that I felt the author’s pain, his hunger, his desolation and finally his joy. I actually cried with relief at the end.
Jenny Trigona, ex-publicist, Paramount TV UK

Utterly gripping, it builds up to an unexpected climax… Intense and seriously frightening at times, conveying a strong sense of isolation in a truly wild part of Norway.
Steve Dean, author of Hands of a Climber

I really, really enjoyed it. It had me hooked from page one and caused me to switch off my bedtime reading light later than usual for several nights. What a great story and I’m left full of admiration for how these two young climbers survived that nightmare.
Charles Masefield, great nephew of poet laureate John Masefield

An excellent book. A great, hilarious horror story.
Tony Howard, Author of and first ascensionist of the Troll Wall


***** Gripping, engrossing story of the follies of youth. I had trouble putting this down. But it’s so intense that I had to take a break at a couple of points!…. This book has been writing itself in the authors’ head for 40 years and like a fine wine, it has matured into a classic piece of prose. … The author writes extremely well, giving a detailed “you are with us” feeling to the book, so that reading it I could feel the adrenaline, the nausea and the doubt that comes from being on a long and committing climb where things are not going according to plan.
Peter J. Neame “PJN” (Tampa, FL)

***** A great page-turner for climbers of all standards and non-climbers as well

Excellent. Rarely do climbing epics get written by average climbers (no offence meant to Gordon and his twin). Their route-finding difficulties resonated with me as someone who has been left clueless at a guidebook instruction of “go 150 ft up and left to the obvious groove”. Other technical decisions were well described without detracting from the pace of the tale. Again, they resonated for this less than average ability climber! I liked the writing style and Gordon’s attempt to put himself back into his mindset at the time worked very well.
Julia Gale

***** This adventure certainly did go wrong! First time I have read this author. I recommend this book. Thanks!


The great thing about Fiva is how Stainforth tells the story (in the first person present) from the point of view of an under-prepared teenager. I was able to identify completely with his growing feeling that they were in over their heads, and the frustration at not being able to find the proper route … A true epic, exceedingly well told
Mike Lee, The Eager Reader,

***** Within the title itself: “An adventure that went wrong” the reader is provided with immediate enticement and I was eager to find out how the what, where and how elements of this adventure would unravel. To begin with let me say that this is not your run of the mill mountaineering story. Written in the first person, almost like a diary, and from the perspective of the author 40 years ago, it gradually sucks the reader into the narrative and very soon you are almost part of the story yourself. …  this is gripping stuff that lurches from one near disaster to another and eventually to a fitting climax. This book really is a thoroughly good read and it deserves to become a classic in its genre. A number of my non-climbing friends have read it and are equally enthralled as it reaches out to all of us.
Andy Birtwistle,

**** Although an account of events of more than forty years ago, Fiva is written in the first person present tense, giving it an immediacy that meant once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. Stainforth perfectly captures the sense of youthful adventure of the two brothers, brimful of confidence, climbing Troll Wall. The writing is evocative – you get the sense of Stainforth choosing each word carefully whether describing the ‘damp flanks of the dinosaur’ they are climbing or discussing the limitations of phrases such as ‘curtain of rock’ …. Stainforth expertly keeps the tension in his tale right to the nail-biting conclusion.
Jaimella Shaikh,

**** Great rollicking climbing adventure. For climbers of a certain vintage there is just so much nostalgia … Also highly recommended for non-climbers. A kind of “Touching the Void” which doesn’t take itself too seriously.
John Keith,


***** Amazing read. Gripped me from start to finish. I would definitely recommend this book to climbers and non-climbers as it is a great true story. My wife wants to read it now……..
Jamie Robinson,


**** I couldn’t put it down, although at times I wanted to as the way the drama unfolds minute by minute had me feeling totally involved as if I was on the route with them. It’s beautifully written and though a blow by blow account it doesn’t become remotely tedious as many mountaineering tales can. Once I’ve got my breath back I’m gong to read it again! If you haven’t got it, then get it. I seriously think Gordon’s got a future classic on his hands. Touching the Void was brilliant but Fiva’s even better and possibly the best mountaineering book I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading!
Nick Livesey

***** The subtitle, An Adventure That Went Wrong, speaks for itself; it also carries the flavour of laconic self-mockery that makes this book such a delight. Epics are standard fare of mountaineering narratives; what elevates Fiva is the manner of Gordon Stainforth’s telling of it. … Like all the best climbs, Fiva is a gripper. It should, as publicists like to say, appeal to climber and non-climber alike. If there is any justice left in the publishing world it will be a best seller. ‘Touching the Void’? Move over!
Wild Eden

*****  HEY GUYS THIS WAS UNPUTDOWNABLE!! I READ IT FROM COVER TO COVER IN ONE GO .. even put off having tea until I got to the last page ….Gordon writes so well, a real craftsman and every page is a joy to read. I went through every emotion as the Stainforth twins with youthful exuberance, naivety , charm and arrogance …yet blessed with keen intelligence and sensitivity embarked on their climbing adventure. I thoroughly recommend it, fabulous story brilliantly told.
Pookiejuju (Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire)

***** What a great story. Saw the range of excellent reviews with some disbelief. However, I have now read the book and have to agree with other reviewers. It is a quite extraordinary, all the more so by the fact that the gestation period was over forty years. … the present tense makes the reader feel as if he might be there now, as he reads. I like the honest and slightly self-deprecating tone that weaves its way through the story…. It isn’t a long book or exceptionally technical and would appeal to a wider audience than climbers and mountaineers alone.

***** This really is THE most gripping book I have ever read! Gordon grabs your attention right at the beginning then holds it to the very end at an incredible pace. Better known for his superb mountain photography, Gordon shows that he can also pen at the highest level, writing here at his brilliant best. The use of the first-person present tense is an inspired choice of format that gives the story a remarkable immediacy, and moves the events along at a rapid pace. 40 years on from when the events took place, Gordon disarmingly bares his soul in this frank account of youthful naivety and exuberance, wonderfully capturing the unbridled enthusiasm that so quickly turned into a true mountaineering epic and near total disaster…. This is so much more than a tale of derring-do and disaster in the mountains, and deserves a much, much wider audience. I’d certainly put it alongside, if not above, ‘Touching the Void’ and ‘127 Hours’. Gordon deserves immense success – a thoroughly refreshing, absorbing and compelling story.
Nick Gregory

A brilliant, toe-curling read.
Dave Macleod

Despite all that has been argued about the “death of print,” great climbing books are still being written now. .. Gordon Stainforth’s Fiva resounds with dark-amber echoes of old-fashioned boys’ adventure novels.
Katie Ives, The Sharp End,

***** As the title suggests `Fiva: An Adventure That Went Wrong’ is a book about when things go wrong on a grand scale … Be prepared to read this book from cover to cover, as you won’t want to leave the brothers Stainforth on the hills alone. Be warned, Gordon’s use of the first person leaves you tied into the rope, shivering on the belays and feeling his pain and hunger as the ascent continues.
Phil Children

***** Often in climbing books you find yourself skip reading long sections to get to the ‘fun bits’ but not with FIVA. To me the writing has the storytelling skill of Peter Gillman, the dramatism of Rene Desmaison whilst retaining the poetic feeling of Giusto Gervasutti. A book to be read and read again, this isn’t a dull “we went out, climbed a route, it was hard, nearly died but didn’t” story. Nor is it a book trying to explain “why we climb etc”. It’s just a great story that happens to be true written by a true craftsman.
Gordon is one of the few climbers out there who can actually write. The best climbing book of 21st Century so far – this book is destined to become a classic.
Jim W

**** Although an account of events of more than forty years ago, Fiva is written in the first person present tense, giving it an immediacy that meant once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. Stainforth perfectly captures the sense of youthful adventure of the two brothers … The writing is evocative – you get the sense of Stainforth choosing each word carefully whether describing the ‘damp flanks of the dinosaur’ they are climbing or discussing the limitations of phrases such as ‘curtain of rock’…. Stainforth expertly keeps the tension in his tale right to the nail-biting conclusion.
Blizzard lizard

***** Fantastic! FIVA is a truly extraordinary account of mountaineering at the `sharp end’. I would put it alongside “Touching the Void” … The pace and freshness of the text transported me on to exposed rock, balanced over an abyss, with adrenalin coursing through my veins. This is an unputdownable account of the Stainforth twins’ absolute determination not to be beaten….

***** Fiva could well become a “classic” in climbing literature as it bridges the divide between a truly personal and almost terminal experience and the sport of mountaineering itself. … The tale begins in a playful mood but as doubt sets in and things begin to turn against them the narrative tightens and it becomes gripping and tense, almost to a point where the reader is rushing to turn the pages in synchrony with their upward movement. …

This is without doubt one of the most refreshing books about climbing I have ever read. Although a real event it reads like great fiction and the characters, not being big names or hardened professionals are so easy to identify with that the reader is sharing their epic with them. I loved it.
Andrew Birtwistle

***** A gripping yarn. I read Fiva last week, and found it difficult to put down. I enjoyed the “first person” – ness of it … I felt to be “inside the head” of the author in a very powerful way, and therefore to be part of the adventure. … And I enjoyed the sort of (public) schoolboy banter that could quote Les Dawson and Milton in nearly the same breath …. The “crunch point” at which it all starts to go horribly wrong surprised me in both its timing and intensity. To sum up: a fantastic book.
Yrmenlaf (Durham)

***** As the drama of the story unfolds the sheer power of the writing style becomes very apparent. FIVA goes beyond mere description. Because we’re locked into Gordon’s head, we see and experience every moment exactly as he does, and it’s quite a ride: confidence giving way to uncertainty, frustration, the confusion of getting lost and off-route. When disaster strikes, the mental processes are mapped out with such amazing honesty that I found myself transported back to the (thankfully rare) occasions when I too have been close to death in the mountains….
After finishing the book, I’m left with the profound feeling that this is one of the best books about mountain misadventure that I’ve ever read. There are plenty of climbing books out there that feature harder routes, or higher mountains, even higher stakes. The beauty of FIVA is the unflinching honesty, the authenticity, and the intimacy. In experiencing such a harrowing experience from Gordon’s perspective, so skilfully written, we experience it for ourselves in a way that many climbing books just can’t manage…. It deserves to become a classic of the genre, and based on the wealth of other enthusiastic five-star reviews I’ve seen on the internet for the title, I have no doubt it is destined for widespread success.
Alex Roddie

***** Though I do the PR for an adventure sports events company and am married to an adventure sports journalist, I’m possibly the least adventurous person I know … So I picked up the book after a run on Saturday thinking I was being dutiful and getting a bit of PR research under my belt. Fast-forward 6 hours, a bag of toffee and numerous cups of tea later and I’d had one of those holy grail of reading moments – a truly unput-downable read. … What’s refreshing is that you’re swept up in their youthful, naive enthusiasm and enjoy their close rapport and silly in-jokes. … The description of their feelings of guilt and shame at the torture they will put their father through the moment when it appears they aren’t going to get down the mountain are truly touching …
I really can’t recommend the book highly enough. If you loved Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void, you’ll love this.
Lissa Cook

***** A gripping, engrossing story of the follies of youth.
Thrilling, and I had trouble putting this down. But it’s so intense that I had to take a break at a couple of points! … a classic of the “most accidents are the cumulative result of quite minor errors” genre. But it is much more than that.
This book has been writing itself in the authors’ head for 40 years and like a fine wine, it has matured into a classic piece of prose.
It is astonishing that a single, not especially difficult climb, albeit a very long (6000 feet) climb and the subsequent descent could be so engrossing. At one point, even though I knew that the author obviously survived, I was completley carried along as he contemplated his mortality….
At the end, one of the other climbers in the area says “had an epic?”. In fact, it’s really two epics. One going up and the other going down. That nearly killed them, both times.
The author writes extremely well, giving a detailed “you are with us” feeling to the book, so that reading it I could feel the adrenaline, the nausea and the doubt that comes from being on a long and committing climb where things are not going according to plan.
Peter J. Neame (Tampa, FL)

***** Gordon is a very good writer and has used put his skills to good effect in describing both the harshness of their environment, and their utter despair at the situation they found themselves in. Reviews online have compared it to Touching The Void. Had that book not already paved the way I rather suspect that this could have done something similar, bridging the gap into the general audience.
Matt Heason – Heason Events

***** This is a superbly crafted account with a refreshingly authentic narrative voice and vivid, original imagery. The tension is maintained throughout.
Annie W

***** Excellent! This book is superbly written and really captures the atmosphere, emotions, thoughts and drama of an amazing mountain epic. … Highly recommended!
Mark Aitken

***** A much recommended read for those like me who enjoy a good tale of old school climbing adventure … this is a very refreshing [account] of what it is actually like when attempting … a high calibre route; the self doubt, the excruciating effort, the resignation, but above all, the self searching and ability to dig deep when physically injured and all seems lost.

***** Absolutely incredible story, very emotional and even though I know nothing about climbing, I felt as if I was there. Very easy to read and it really is unputdownable!
Mrs Peel

***** I don’t normally review anything on Amazon but this book was so awesome I felt compelled to change that. Like other readers I read it all in one go. I started about 10pm and switched off my light around midnight but then couldn’t sleep because I needed to know what happened so switched it right back on again and read through to the end…. The style of writing immediately grabs you and doesn’t let go right until the end.

***** A true epic … I went from rolling my eyes at their antics to gripping the sides of the book willing them onwards.

***** Do not buy if you have a deadline coming up! Really enjoyed it – sweaty palms and a terrible sense of dread, but laugh-out-loud moments of wide-eyed naive innocence too. Highly recommended. …  ‘Fiva’ is head and shoulders above the other (similar tales), enjoyable as they are in their different ways …I read it over a couple of nights on call, didn’t make the day job any easier! Gordon makes a great job of capturing that wonderfully innocent state of blissful ignorance and magnificently misplaced confidence of youth. In short, excellent. This book has a clear historical perspective, gripping adventure, and a vividly recounted atmosphere.

***** Anyone who walks or climbs in the mountains will immediately identify with this captivating story … a tremendously inspiring and exciting book.

***** Possibly the finest climbing story I have ever read! It isn’t often that I say, “I couldn’t put it down”, but on this occasion it is literally true. Having bought the book in the morning, I sat down after lunch and didn’t stop reading it until I finished that evening….
This book is certainly up there with “Touching the Void”.

***** Gordon captures the thought processes of climbing in a way that i have not come across in a book before, The fear, the joy, the humour, the darkness, it’s all in there.
… I was just so into it that i could not put it down.

***** I cannot recommend this true-life gripping, ripping yarn of the Stainforth twins too highly. Gordon Stainforth’s story-telling style is completely captivating. My palms were sweating for the entire book which I could not put down.

***** Pick this up and you won’t put it down until the last page! Absolutely brilliant Young Adult account of three days in the life of two young climbers who very nearly did not live to tell the tale. Think Touching the Void with jokes!
Hilary McKay

***** At last – an exciting, intelligent, humorous disaster story by someone who can write English.
Stephen Venables

***** The events that occur in this book will knock your socks off. I have read ‘Touching the Void’ and think that this is almost, or even just as good a book, whether you compare them by the story or writing.

***** Gripping! An enthralling and vivid survival story that communicates intensely the highs, lows, drama, absurdities, miseries and gallows humour of youthful misadventure. You don’t need to be a climber to love this book. It is exceptionally good at communicating two kinds of things going wrong – the gradual, mounting sick feeling of things getting out of control little by little, and the shocking lurch from thinking you’re on top of things to being hurled into a violent, chaotic crisis.

***** A superb can’t-put-down story. The first person narrative worked really well for me …
Great book, gripping well written story and can thoroughly recommend it.
Jim Braid

***** A great story and a compelling read.
Dudley Clark

***** I have long been a fan of Gordons photographic work but this book proves that he can tell a great story as well as take great pictures. As a tale of endurance & survival it ranks with the best … The writing draws you into the utter despair and distress of the climbers and I almost forgot that they must survive to write the story.
Fantastic little book – I heartily recommend it.
Keith Ratcliffe

***** A top draw mountaineering book. The use of the first person present tense works brilliantly. It draws you into the moment, mountain and climb. The pace is quick, the tension high, and it is completely riveting to the end. I really couldn’t put it down and I very highly recommend it.
Mr S Cole

***** The first time in 2 years I have read a book in 2 days! … I have read pretty much all contemporary mountaineering books that have been published, and this is up there with the very best of them!
Andy Mountains

***** As good as the reviews. … In 200 truly gripping pages we are led through the small highs and monumental lows of a mountaineering experience that could have so easily been a mountaineering tragedy. The writing is at all points gripping, vivid and emotional.
jerry morefat

***** I don’t usually believe the praise heaped on a book by various well-chosen celebrities but this time it is accurate. I’m lucky to have time to have read it in one go – an afternoon and evening. …  a rivetting read.
funky nanny

***** Fiva: the unputdownable adventureBy far one of the best books I have read in recent years. I read it in 24hrs as I couldn’t put it down. I suggested my wife read it, and she did, again in 24hrs and the same for my Dad. We all thought the same, what a fabulous read.

***** A wonderful, throat grabbing, evocation of the dangers, challenges and experiences resulting from an eager desire to explore a remote rock face in the 1960’s. Reading the book filled me with a nostalgic pleasure, a vicarious excitement. Held in thrall by events, eagerly wanting to reach the top of the climb, yet reluctant to reach the end of a great adventure. Marvelous stuff.

***** An amazing record, written up 40 years later, of a terrifying experience – it all makes for an un-put-down-able book. It takes great humility for any of us to step back into our teenage selves and record an experience as we saw it then, and very few could do it so effectively, and so honestly, as this writer has done. Highly recommended.

***** The book is like super glue. I felt as if I was sharing every moment with them. It was absolutely entrancing, the section at the end is almost to much, how they coped with that was truly amazing.
FFDalton (Derbyshire)

***** What a cracking read! Well written and clips along at a fair pace. … All in all, one of the best books I’ve read about the subject. Heartily recommend it.

***** Fantastic read … actually as exciting as misadventure itself... Best mountain book since touching the void …

***** Brilliant!! For once a book who’s cover reviews I wholeheartedly agree with. This booked gripped me from beginning to end. I finished it in a day, quite unlike me. The writing is excellent, found I was totally emotionally drawn in. I cannot recommend this enough!!

***** I loved this book; the author really conveyed the dire situation that he and his brother found themselves in. Once you pick it up it is very difficult to put down. The last few pages beggar belief
Amazon Customer

***** A page turner: this is a perfect book to give to someone if you don’t want them to talk to you for a whole day. A page turner, this was [also] an unputdownable book for my partner whom I couldn’t get a word out of till the last page had been read!
Julie Manchester

***** Gripping. An absolutely absorbing read told really well. I felt like I was there living every nerve-wracking moment with them. Deserves to win many prizes – one of the best mountaineering tomes – have read, right up there with the very best …

***** Amazing! A brilliant description of a great adventure. Compelling all the way through …  somehow has a very different tone to the typical “climbing trip gone wrong” books.
Richard Fergie

***** Very exciting book, well written. The pacing and detail makes you feel like you are right there with them …

**** Gripping read.  A great account  … without the waffle-space-filling-text like some from this genre; maintains a good pace, picking up the speed towards the end.
D. Fisher (England)

***** A most superb and captivating read.
Bald Eagle

***** One of the best adventure climbing books I have read, I wish it was longer. I read it during a stay in hospital and the time passed like magic.

*****  like most reviewers here, i found this book engrossing and absorbing. It is well written and well paced. Excellent.
stv (cheshire uk)

***** A great, absorbing read.
Glen Ben (Bucks, UK)

***** Excellent book, enjoyed just as much as Touching the Void. And that is saying a lot about FIVA.

***** Outstanding, gripping read from beginning to end, you will not be disappointed. Just worn out by this incredible narrative. Should have won the Boardman Tasker Prize.
Jack Aubery

***** One of the best mountain adventure/climbing books in recent times
One of the best mountain adventure/climbing books in recent times. I was on the edge of my seat throughout.
Monkey “blinded by science” (UK)

***** This is a fabulous book. The story of two climbers, twin brothers, getting into a life-threatening situation is told with immense skill by Gordon, who manages to create unbearable tension, mix horror with humour and keep us hanging on right until the very end. …  It deserves to become a classic.
Nigel Dodd

***** A future classic of mountain literature. It’s a brilliant read; a bit like ‘Touching the Void’ for old school punters. … It’s such an amazing read that as soon as I finished it the first time I went straight back to the start to read it all over again. It actually made me weep at one point. A ‘must read’ !

* Shouldn’t have gone to print … amateurishly written … The quality of the sub-heading says it all – An Adventure That Went Wrong – terrible. The ordeal of the climbers stands a retelling down the local pub, but doesn’t merit the writing of a book some decades after the event.
Andy Reynolds

Leave a Reply

6 + 1 =