Sam Lightner Jr

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Sam Lightner, Jr. (born February 15, 1967) is a rock climber who has notched first ascents around the world, an author of books including “All Elevations Unknown” and the forthcoming “Heavy Green: The Most Classified Battle of the Vietnam War,” and a writer whose articles have appeared in national magazines. Lightner’s climbing has taken him across the globe—he was among the first to climb in Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, on Moon Hill in southern China, in [Railay Bay,] Thailand and in the Vang Vieng Province of Laos. His writing about these places and the adventures that ensued is credited with exposing North American alpinists to new exotic locations around the world that have since become rock climbing destinations.[1]


Sam Lightner Jr. was born February 15, 1967, in Corpus Christi, Texas, but grew up in Jackson, Wyoming. He learned to climb in the Tetons when he was 16 years old. He attended Southern Methodist University and the University of Wyoming, where he studied history. Lightner lived in Krabi Province of Thailand for much of the 1990s and 2000s. In the days following the December 1994 tsunami in Thailand, he created Rally for Railay. He helped search for the missing, assisted in body identification and raised more than $70,000 to help the people of Thailand from purchasing food supplies, to buying fishermen new boats. Lightner has also called Moab, Utah, and Banff, Alberta, Canada, home. He moved to Lander, Wyoming, in 2012, where he lives with his wife Liz and dogs Lexi and Moki.

Magazine articles

Sam Lightner Jr.’s writing career began on a 12-hour plane ride back from his first climbing trip in Thailand in 1992. “Apocalypse No!” told the story of what he expected to be a miserable trip in the jungle, but turned into an adventure in paradise. It graced the cover of Rock and Ice’s March 1992 issue and launched Lightner’s writing career. While climbing is often part of his stories, it is the people and places of the sport he loves to capture in his writing. His climbing has taken him across the globe and his writing has taken readers with him. His writing has appeared in Climbing and Outside magazines, as well as other publications.

First Ascents

Sam Lightner Jr. has claimed numerous first ascents around the world. Among some of the most notable:

All Elevations Unknown on Bukit Batu Lawi (10b), Kelabit Highlands, Borneo, with Scott Morley and Volker Schoeffl

This was the second ascent of the twin-peaked mountain in Borneo and the trip and attempt inspired Lightner’s book “All Elevations Unknown.”

Dark Side of the Moon on Moon Hill (5.12d), Yangshuo, China, with Todd Skinner

This was the first route on Moon Hill and the first in the area. Yangshuo is now a major climbing destination.

Lord of the Thais (12b), Thailand, with Greg Collum

Widely viewed as one of the best climbs in the world because of its style and grade.

North Ridge on Shipton’s Arch (5.6) near Kashgar, China, with Nancy Feagin and Mark Newcomb

The first ascent of the world’s largest arch made the December 2000 issue of National Geographic magazine.

The Ivory Tower on Castleton Tower (5.13a), Moab, Utah, with Chris Kalous

This route takes on prominent features, including arêtes, that draw climbers.[2]

Yodel This on Disappointment Peak (5.12b), the Tetons, with Mike Fisher and other climbers

This large-face climb is one of the more difficult routes in the Tetons.


Sam Lightner Jr. is the author of several books and climbing guidebooks.[3] His newest book “Heavy Green: The Most Classified Battle of the Vietnam War,” is scheduled for release in spring 2017. “All Elevations Unknown” Armed with little more than a description from a book and a map with the warning “all elevations unknown,” Lightner and a climbing partner found themselves in the jungles of Borneo on a mission to a climb a mountain only rumored to exist. “All Elevations Unknown” charts the harrowing quest complete with leeches, vipers and sweat bees, to ascend Borneo’s Batu Lawi mountain, while also telling the story of Major Tom Harrisson, a British World War II soldier who parachuted into the Bornean rainforest in 1945 to try to reclaim the island for the Allies. A review in USA Today said “Lightner's detailed account of his expedition and the climbing culture will enthuse readers who love to travel, and make those who prefer armchairs wonder what they're missing.”

“Exotic Rock: The Travel Guide for Rock Climbers”

“Exotic Rock,” Lightner’s first book, introduced the Western world to climbing in Korea, Japan, South Africa, Morocco, Thailand and Malaysia.

“One Move Too Many”

Sam Lightner Jr. helped sports medicine doctors Volker Schoeffl and Thomas Hochholzer compile an in-depth examination of the unique injuries caused by rock climbing. They include prevention and treatment for these injuries caused by stress from climbing.

“Roads Through Time: A Roadside History of Jackson Hole”

Called the “single best history book on northwest Wyoming,” this book guides visitors on the history of the areas they see through the car window when vacationing to Jackson Hole or Grand Teton National Park.

“Roads Through Time: A Roadside History of Moab”

The desert-region of Moab, Utah, comes alive in this meticulously researched roadside-history of the area.

“Rock Climbing Wyoming”

This guidebook contains 550 routes for climbers ranging in skill from beginner to expert. Maps, color maps and stunning action photos accompany clearly written descriptions of the routes.

“Thailand: A Climbing Guide”

This book covers more than 350 routes on amazing rock faces, near perfect beaches in Thailand. It also covers the do’s and don’ts of traveling in the country and weaves in first-person stories, along with history of the region.


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