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Rock Climbing, Essential Skills and Techniques
24/11/2004

Rock Climbing, Essential Skills and Techniques, is the second production from Mountain Leader Training, following the successful and well received Hillwalking by Steve Long.
While Libby Peter, experienced International Mountain Guide, has taken on the role of author, the format remains the same.

The book is generously filled with colourful, clear photographs. Climbers will be able to play ‘spot the crag’, as images have been taken from all around Britain. The diagrams are well drawn, and again the use of colour makes them attractive and easy to follow, despite the snakes’ tea party of rope which can get involved in some of the more advanced rescues and procedures. This colour and clarity is perhaps the single feature which distiguishes this book from its many predecessors.

The text is relevant and accessible, with an impressive range of up to date topics covered succinctly. The first colour coded section deals with Environment and History. Rather than being an instant turn off, bite size, well illustrated paragraphs have useful titles such as ‘Where can we go?’. The section also gives an overview of current climbing ethics, and how they have come about, for example with a small text box entitled ‘To bolt or not to bolt?’.

Next comes the ‘Getting Moving’ section. A logical journey is taken through warming up, training, movement on rock and injury avoidance. Then comes the technical stuff, with fall factors and grades made about as simple as they could be. An excellent diagram will allow a beginner to get their head around the language of the crag, showing exactly where you would find a stance, a top rop or a bottom rope. Modern and not so modern kit is also assessed for its uses and reliability.

The next two sections deal with bouldering and single pitch, and with multi pitch climbing. This is the meat of the book, outlining just about every conceivable skill and rope trick necessary for a life on the crags. Keeping the text bang up to date, sport, indoor climbing and deep water soling are also covered.

The purple section begins with a thorough look at scrambling techniques, and is concluded with a few pages on sea level traversing and gorge scrambling. These pages are perhaps the one area which is not as exhaustive as the rest of the book. Only rigging a clip line and a tyrolean traverse get the diagram and photo treatment, and general hazards are explored. Admittedly these are the techniques most often done unsafely, and perhaps the topic deserves its own book to cover the many other combinations of rock, rope, water and body.

Finally, we are reminded of the current political climate surrounding all ‘adventurous’ activities, with a section on accidents and the law. A sensible accident procedure is suggested, which is backed up by ‘Climbers and the law’, explaining were a climber would stand legally should an accident happen to themselves, their partner or another crag user.

This is a book which was written primarily to be the official handbook of the Mountain Instructor and Single Pitch Awards. However, the result is a text which will be of interest to all climbers, from beginner to instructor. Shaded boxes with a special symbol indicate information specifically for instructors, which seems like a good idea for both types of reader.

The plan is for a third book to be produced in the series, which will address all wintery aspects of the British mountains. Officially it will be the handbook of the Winter Mountain Leader Award and the Mountain Instructor Certificate. At time of writing, the author has not been finalised.

Overall, this is the kind of book you will pick up, and discover that half an hour has passed while you mentally scale the faces and successfully exricate yourself from all sorts of situations. Rock Climbing is destined to become a much thumbed addition to the book shelves of new and established rock jocks, weekend craggers and instructors alike.

Review by Alex Williams

Alex is a freelance instructor (MIA) based in Brynrefail, Gwynedd.


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