When asked why he wanted to climb Everest, the mountaineer George Mallory famously replied, ‘Because it’s there.’
Dedicated climbers have answers ranging from the romantic to the ridiculous when urged to reveal what makes them want to inch their way vertically up a sheer rock face, but the late Tom Patey, Scottish author and climber, summed up it up perfectly.
In an article entitled ‘Apes or Ballerinas?’, Patey, who died in 1970 while abseiling from a sea-stack off the Scottish coast, suggested that if every climber took time to consider Darwin and his evolution theory, the reason to climb would be obvious… it’s the natural thing to do.
For Nigel Shepherd, author of an authoritative and informative new climbing manual from Haynes Publishing, the thrill of climbing is the physical exercise it offers, the opportunity to get into the hills to walk and scramble and, of course, that addictive element of danger.
However, climbing doesn’t have to be perilous… not all ascents involve cranking out difficult, technical moves on a steep limestone wall. There is also the simple enjoyment of ambling up a long, gentle incline in beautiful mountain scenery on a sunny summer’s day.
Shepherd, an experienced mountain guide, photographer and author, gives us a thoroughly modern introduction to what is now a fast-growing adventure sport in a book that includes comprehensive coverage of all aspects of climbing with 500 colour photos and illustrations.
From getting started with equipment, clothing, fitness and basic skills through to advanced techniques and coping with tricky situations, this manual is packed with practical step-by-step sequences and inspirational photography, making it the perfect guide for the novice or intermediate climber.
There is everything you need to know about clothing and technical kit as well as invaluable advice on the various techniques of climbing including the basics of movement and the types of foothold and handhold.
Learn how to tie knots like tying into the rope, attaching to anchor points and coiling, and get up-to-date advice on protection and safety including crack protection, safe anchors and belay devices.
For the more serious climber, there are instructions on how to lead a climb whether that is on indoor walls, sports climbs or traditional climbing, or trad climbing, a style of rock climbing in which a climber or group of climbers places all gear required to protect against falls, and removes it when a passage is complete.
One of the finest attributes climbing offers is the ability to express yourself rather than accepting that this is the way things must be done. Thus the techniques are presented here in a rather simplistic manner, relying heavily on real climbers doing real climbing to underline the principle that there is more than one way to achieve the same result.
The only aspect of climbing on which there is little room for error, misunderstanding or flexibility is safety.
Climbing, says Shepherd, is a never-ending journey of discovery, not just about techniques but also about yourself, and his aim is to encourage adventurers to have a go and take those first steps into the vertical world of rock climbing.
So whether you are heading to the hills for a gentle scramble or preparing to learn the skills of serious rock climbing, this is just the companion you need to instruct, inform… and inspire.
(Haynes, hardback, £21.99)