over photo of Gram Zimmerman’s book on his accomplishments and near-death experiences as one of the most talented climbers of the 21st century. Photo courtesy of Mountaineers Books

Climbing in an area of the Alaska Range known as the Revelations, and out of sight of his climbing partner, Graham Zimmerman felt the hidden snow bridge beneath him collapse, and fell with enough force to wedge him into the bottom of a crevasse like a cork. 

“This is bad, this is really bad,” he thought. 

But then, an hour later, his able partner Clint Helander pried him out, using a traditional pully system. 

The incident is one of several near-death experiences involving himself and others in Zimmerman’s passionate recollections of becoming one of the most skilled climbers of the 21st century and his passion now to raise awareness of climate change. 

For extreme climbers, who doubtlessly have some similar experiences, from Alaska and Washington state to New Zealand and Pakistan’s Karakoram, Zimmerman’s book “A Fine Line” is a hair-raising enough read — but for those of us with no such experiences, the only reassurance that Zimmerman survived all these difficult technical climbs is he lived to write the book in our hands. 

Zimmerman now lives in Bend, Oregon, with his wife Shannon and their dog, Pebble. He wrote the book in his mid-30s, describing in great detail the challenges of extreme mountain climbing from New Zealand to the Alaska Range and numerous peaks between. The book is his effort to describe how he fell in love with the practice of climbing and how it, alongside the amazing community of folks who participate in it, has taught him far more than he could have ever expected. 


Along with the satisfaction of getting to some of these very high peaks, in daylight and darkness, he acknowledges that there have been a number of other climbers he knew who lost their lives in these mountains, “kindred souls, people who defined our generation by pouring their hearts into this practice. In many ways, I feel that I am writing this book because I am one of my generation of alpinists in the United States left to tell this tale,” he wrote. 

After the last climb in the Alaska Range, described again in great detail in the book, Zimmerman acknowledges that his early climbs in Alaska and New Zealand compelled him on to a journey of unbelievable places and incredible people, and how lucky he has been to do so. 

“Those mountains, cast across the globe, are places I will always love,” he writes. “They will always haunt me. And whether I want to or not, I will always return.” 

Throughout his climbing career he has always made it a point to include in planning such expeditions his 100-year plan — that is to plan and execute these journeys in a way that he will live to be 100. 

What is most striking about this book is the detail in which he describes each expedition, including the skills and shared passion of his climbing partners and the extreme weather and challenges of reaching or not reaching summits in the sky. 

For those with a passion to follow in his footsteps, “A Fine Line” is a cautionary lesson plan on what to expect, but never to assume, on each of these expeditions that Zimmerman undertook for more than 12 years. 

With equal passion now, through an organization called “Protect Our Winters (POW), Zimmerman is engaged in lobbying to slow climate change. He has found balance in his life by advocating for climate policy and a pathway to support communities of the Karakoram in northern Pakistan — working with an organization focused on building schools, with an emphasis on girls’ and young women’s education. 

This has been, he wrote, “the balance I wanted.” 

“A Fine Line,” was published in 2023 by Mountaineers Books, an independent nonprofit publishing company in Seattle.