The Young Savages by Claudia Ziegler Book Review

© Panico Alpinverlag

'The Young Savages - Die jungen Wilden' by Austrian photographer Claudia Ziegler gives an insight into the lives of thirteen young up-and-coming climbers who have pushed the limits of sport climbing and bouldering. Some continue to do so, whilst others have boldly decided to take their climbing lives in a different direction.

The Young Savages  © Panico Alpinverlag
The Young Savages
© Panico Alpinverlag

The book is not your usual climbing publication - one adorned with grades, photos of the hardest possible climbs and psyche-related hyperbole. Instead, Ziegler has chosen to portray each individual climber in a unique light. She has sought out what makes them tick; their idosyncracies and quirks of nature which make them truly stand out from the crowd. Their grades and achievements are mentioned in passing, but the true focus is the behind-the scenes of their hard ascents or competition success - documenting the daily lives of students, friends and family members, away from the limelight, clouds of chalk and the campus board.

A portrait of Alex Megos  © Panico Alpinverlag
A portrait of Alex Megos
© Panico Alpinverlag

The featured climbers are as follows:

Johanna Ernst (AUT), Adam Ondra (CZE), Matilda Söderlund (SWE), Brooke and Shawn Raboutou (USA), Mihou Nonaka (JPN), Alexander Megos (GER), Ashima Shiraishi (USA), Shauna Coxsey (GBR), Jonathan and Cameron Hörst (USA), Mélissa le Nevé (FRA), Domen Škofic (SLO).

Intimate portraits in their appartments, family homes and even on the toilet (!), help to build a picture of each climber's personality.

The accompanying text is supplied in both German and English, is well written and succintly describes the personalities of each climber, with bold statements and personal anecdotes. The text focusses on topics such as pressure from sponsors and fans, dealing with injuries and the struggle to maintain a healthy equilibrium between climbing, education and social life as a child or young adult.

The images vary from simple and abstract portraits to the occasional climbing or training shot, but all are of high quality and are visually appealing. From Johanna Ernst's greenhouse to her time in surgery as a medical student, Shauna Coxsey's dinner with friends in Sheffield and family time with her nephews in Liverpool and Adam Ondra's scabby hands writing notes in a lecture - great attention to detail has been paid to these varying lifestyles outside of climbing.

Ashima Shiraishi: world-class climber, but still a young child  © Panico Alpinverlag
Ashima Shiraishi: world-class climber, but still a young child
© Panico Alpinverlag

The layout is minimalistic, but this helps to make the images stand out, with simple black and white portraits beginning each climber's story and more colourful lifestyle images accompanying the text. 

Ziegler has done well to convey an intimately human portrait of each climber, far away from the heavily media-influenced representations we may have of these climbing 'stars.'


A high-quality publication which would be perfect to dip in and out of at the coffee-table. This book is a must for anyone with an interest in top-end sport and competition climbing and makes for a refreshing break from grades, sponsors and training. If you would like to find out more about the lives of young professional climbers and how they deal with the growth of our sport, injuries and pressure from sponsors away from the limelight, then this book is for you!

Contents Blurb: "Stories of young and very young climbers who push the sport as far as humanely possible have kept astonishing us regularly in recent years. Photgrapher Claudia Ziegler has accompanied some of these young, exceptional talents with her camera all day long for several days. Her primary aim was to present these climbers with their complex personalities rather than just looking at their athletic performance. As a result, this book collects intimate portraits that show the young climbing stars as family members, friends, students and as normal youths and young adults. Claudia Ziegler shared the everyday life of the protangonists by staying in their houses for several days, and thus was able to capture glimpses of the lives of the young climbers which the public rarely gets to see otherwise."

Key information:

  • Price: 39,80 Euro
  • Available from: Panico Alpinverlag
  • Published by: Panico Alpinverlag
  • Hardback + Cover
  • ISBN 978-3-95611-033-7
  • Printed in Germany
  • 185 pages

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