Sam Lightner, Jr. 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.
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.
Traveling and living in such diverse places has helped Sam greatly as a writer. Not only has it provided a plethora of settings to build stories upon, but also given insight into diverse people and cultures.
Sam says, “I never intended to be a writer… it just happened. I fell in love with Thailand on my first trip to the country in 1989, and was so inspired that I had to put my experience down with pen on paper.” Since then he has been traveling and writing all over the world. Most of his work has revolved around the outdoor industry, specifically climbing, but Sam is passionate about history and actually prefers to write on that subject.
Long before Sam was a writer, he was a climber. “Virtually everything I have done over the past 40 years has revolved around the sport of climbing, and that includes my writing. There is no way to track “what might have been,” but I’m pretty sure if I had not become a climber, I would not have become a writer.” To Sam, climbing is not just a sport. It is a lifestyle.