The holy grail of backcountry travel in Greater Yellowstone gets an encore.


Thrumming with the resonant call of the wild, the compilation of route descriptions, geology and history of 107 prominent peaks across 13 mountain ranges, known as Select Peaks, has for decades been a backcountry essential akin to scripture for those who view the alpine as altar. Routes have been scribbled in notepads or photocopied, pages even torn out, then pocketed and carried into the wild heights of Greater Yellowstone to be followed with devout reverence. The first edition’s limited print run of just 5,000 copies selling for $44.95 each made it a thrift store jackpot for a fortunate few, while others found themselves in feverish eBay auctions with bids soaring beyond $300. As time passed, the physical manuscript remained coveted even as mountain- goers learned to navigate the online landscape of terra digitalis.

Since its original publication in 2003, Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone: A Mountaineering History & Guide has retained a grail- like mystique, a fact only emphasized by the second edition’s 2023 release, which its disciples had been eagerly waiting for at the feet of its author, Thomas Turiano. Expanded to 613 pages and a substantial 4.4 pounds, the guidebook is finally within easy reach, offering its wisdom to all seekers. As Select Peaks continues to captivate a cult-like following, Turiano reflects on the book’s relationship with both its audience and its subjects. After all, he conveys, its pages are not only a gift to those who climb mountains but also a love letter to the mountains themselves.

The Select Peaks routes are diverse, varying from walk-ups and easy scrambles to fifth-class multipitch. It’s a thrilling gateway for novices as well as a resource for seasoned climbers in search of test pieces. Marrying his education at the Colorado School of Mines with a lifetime of mountaineering wisdom, Turiano delivers an expansive, revelatory tour of the 107 peaks, punctuated with historical insights and narratives.

He dedicates a chapter to each of the 13 mountain ranges in a clockwise spiral: the Madison Range’s glacial horns, rock fins and precipitous metamorphic faces; the Gallatins’ U-shaped valleys of crumbling rhyolitic lava and ash, hewn by rivers of ice; the North Absaroka’s aiguille-crowned ridges, tumultuous slopes and tenacious ecology; the Beartooths’ ancient massifs and tundra-like plateaus in stark relief with crystalline tarns; the Central Absaroka’s juxtaposition of breccia and granite in distinctive, jagged skylines and lush wildlife corridors; the Southwest Absaroka’s sentinel crests, volcanic cores, and remote canyons; the Southeast Absaroka’s high-altitude volcanoclastic spires, turrets and petrified forests; the Wind River Range’s elegant granite domes, sleeping boulders and countless lakes along a still-glaciated continental spine; the Gros Ventre’s kaleidoscope of cliffs, escarpments, plateaus and forested valleys; the Salt River Range’s classic cirques, slender crests, and verdant foothills; the Wyoming Range’s geological island of bold peaks and rolling valleys painted with exposed strata; the Snake River Range’s sharp ancestral summits and rugged, rolling terrain; and lastly, the Tetons’ cathedralesque skyline, jagged aretes and proudly soaring crown, levitated by seismic surge and sculpted by glacial chisel.

There in the Tetons, author Thomas Turiano found his home and inspiration.

Turiano’s Life Lived Alof

A professional guide, prolific climber and ski mountaineer, conservationist, guitarist, co-founder of the American Packrafting Association—and, of course, writer—the multihyphenate Turiano could also be called a purist, for the intense devotion he brings to his mountain pursuits. Win Goodbody, ski mountaineer and touring partner of Turiano’s, describes him as “one of the wizards of ski mountaineering and touring in Yellowstone.”

“In the late 90s and early 2000s, Tom was like an old-fashioned telephone switchboard operator,” Goodbody said. “Everyone would call him to see what was happening or who needed a partner for something. He was a one-man Backcountry News Network who knew everything that was going on around Jackson. Whenever I got back from a trip, I would contact Tom to debrief. Select Peaks is the accumulated result of hundreds of people doing the same thing over decades. It’s the distilled knowledge of hundreds of people exploring every nook and cranny of Greater Yellowstone on foot.”

Despite his authoritative influence, the man is a gentle force, zen-like and thoughtful. You lean in when he speaks, as if all that time in the wild has shaped him into someone of magnetic authenticity. Yet he centers our conversations on the landscape, the research, the 1964 Wilderness Act, his climbing partners and mentors—almost anything other than himself. This humility extends to his books—he entrusts the Select Peaks foreword to someone else, and fills a massive acknowledgments section with hundreds and hundreds of names. I was touched to find my own in there, for a small exchange over photos that weren’t even featured. Such is his generous appreciation of every contribution.

“Growing up in New York state, we skied a lot but I was intimidated by our local T-bar, and preferred to sidestep uphill—that’s where my love for ‘uphill travel’ was born,” Turiano said. “We were in suburbia, but on our acre of property, there was wild, wild land. An amazing hill with steep, icy, snowy, rocky conditions. Great adventuring for a young boy. Eating black raspberries in the woods, mapping the trails in my mind … that kind of play was formative.”

As Select Peaks came to life––not satisfied with secondhand adventures–– Turiano’s goal quickly evolved from writing about the mountains, to experiencing them himself. In the pre-digital age, a map of the Tetons covered in hand-drawn ski routes hung on the wall of Turiano’s Jackson home, chronicling countless hours spent among the seven Select Peaks in that range alone. When the first edition came out in 2003, Turiano had climbed 85 of the 107. Tackling the remaining 22 peaks would take another 20 years, culminating in August 2023, just months before the second edition was released. Turiano reached the 13,620’ summit of remote, technical Mount Helen in the Wind River Range––the final peak of his ambitious list––alongside longtime climbing partner Forrest McCarthy.

Turiano elevates the book’s narrative beyond a list of conquests and facts into a vivid portrayal of landscapes, the intricacies of navigating them, and the personal stories of those who dare to explore. His interest isn’t just in history for history’s sake but in understanding the lived experiences of others. “As I’m climbing a peak, following in the footsteps of a surveyor-turned- mountaineer from the 1800s, I don’t just want to know who did it first—I want to know how it felt for them.” This interest in human connection to nature, a communion transcending centuries of change, infuses a raw romanticism that makes Select Peaks a masterpiece that would make any poet proud. It’s as much a love letter as a history book, a song of the sublime.

Turiano shares, “I hope the book gives people something bigger than a bucket list. There’s so much more out there–– from lesser-known peaks to climb, to old surveyors’ journals that haven’t even been transcribed yet.”

Mountaineer Tim Worth echoes this sentiment, saying, “Select Peaks can help disperse use, by giving people new ideas of where to go. Parts of the Tetons are overrun, but out in places like the Absaroka or Wyoming ranges, I hardly ever run into anyone beyond the trailhead––there’s plenty of room for others.”

Inner Landscapes: The Topography of Transformation

Eventually, my conversation with Turiano shifts to the rhetorical––why we seek the wild, how going deeper into nature takes us deeper into ourselves. The wilderness ignites our senses while calming the static of our minds. As the journey oscillates between adrenaline and peace, our ultimate task becomes embracing its dualities.

Antidote to the frictionless curation of modern life, wilderness offers a raw, immediate cadence––unmediated by screens or algorithms–– that shifts us from observer to participant, part of an ancient yet immediate saga. The 1964 Wilderness Act’s articulation of “untrammeled” speaks volumes while underscoring a paradox: When we go to “find ourselves” in nature, we also find we are not separate from it. This acknowledgment of ourselves as human animals, part of an intricate and interconnected ecosystem, is vital to our cultural and individual ripening from a position of dominion to stewardship––a truth long understood by the Indigenous peoples who have always known these lands not as just as resources, but as relatives, animate beings with their own stories and spirits.

Through this perspective, Select Peaks brings us back to the wild for something more nuanced and profound than escape or adventure. Every summit becomes a pilgrimage, a return to our place as part of a greater whole. By protecting these mountains, we honor those “untrammeled” parts of ourselves, and in this symbiosis, we find our own truest expression—caretakers of a world that, in turn, cares for us.

Turiano crafts Select Peaks with unselfconscious authenticity. While its narrative centers on the details of topography and history, every word is deepened by the intimacy of firsthand experience. This depth is echoed in the letter penned by Livingston author Todd Burritt, that Turiano chose to introduce Select Peaks, in which Burritt writes:

“I saw that my little world belonged to something much bigger, something as wild and rugged as my dreams… There are still a handful of Select Peaks I haven’t climbed. Sometimes it feels like I’m saving them–– like if I ran out, a frontier would close. That’s not quite true, though… This isn’t a list of boxes to check. It’s a concept that you explore with your life … Your Select Peaks might not even have anything to do with climbing mountains. And that is the mark of mountain literature at its absolute best.”

Lauren Burgess weaves poetry, storytelling, and stoke into brand messaging, marketing, and creative writing, helping good people and businesses connect with their communities and elevate their impact. Her next big adventure is into the wilds of entrepreneurship–she’s starting Caldera Cacao Roasters, a bean-to-bar chocolate company in Bozeman, with her husband, Logan.