I was really excited to read this; I listened to Rebecca’s seminar for the Women’s Climbing Symposium during lockdown and found it incredibly useful, so I was looking forward to more of her advice. Climb Smarter hasn’t disappointed at all. Rebecca’s clear breadth of experience and knowledge make this an invaluable resource for anyone who feels they can improve their mental approach to climbing (presumably nearly everyone?!).
Born to Climb by Zofia Reych
In Born to Climb, Zofia Reych traces the history of climbing from the 1300s right up to today. It’s a comprehensive look at how abilities, techniques and safety have progressed and how much climbing standards have improved, both on rock and in competitions. There are many historical accounts of climbing already out there (although I’m not aware of another one that covers ground right up to, and including, the 2020 Olympics), but what sets Zofia’s apart is its clear intention to be inclusive and representative. With this perspective, they manage to put a fresh spin on historical accounts that have already been covered so many times, and it’s refreshing to see a frank discussion of those who haven’t always been remembered or represented in more traditional climbing accounts.
A Line Above the Sky by Helen Mort
There is a line made by climbing and a line made by falling. There is the flawed line of my body. The parallel lines two bodies make. The line of someone walking into the distance. Someone else moving close. The line of want, the line of touch, of merging. Then there is the line of the pregnancy test, blue as the rope I climb with, slim and unforgettable.
Is March too early to decide on my outdoorsy book of the year for 2022? Quite probably, but with A Line Above the Sky, Helen Mort has set the bar so incredibly high that I’m pretty tempted to make the call already. It’s one of those very rare books that makes me want to write a gushing email to the author thanking them for putting this out into the world.
Imaginary Peaks by Katie Ives
Once you begin to look for imaginary peaks, you start to see them everywhere: each furrow of crag and hill has its own local myths; each square of map conceals forgotten phantom heights. Each human mind contains innumerable ranges, sparkling like starlight and like snow.
I was so excited to read this; Katie Ives’ writing is always stunning, and this book had me hooked right from the title. Imaginary Peaks is an intriguing exploration of the fascination held by empty spaces on the map, and of mountains that aren’t represented on maps.
Mountaineering has always felt otherwordly to me, lingering somehow right on the edge between reality and a vivid fantasy. There have been moments in the mountains that I’ve later struggled to explain and I’ve always been frustrated by what feels like a huge inability to re-tell my own experiences, so I felt very comforted (and validated!) by Katie’s discussion of the sheer difficulty of fully capturing our experiences in the mountains, let alone the impossibility of trying to pin down such vivid and complex terrain onto a flat piece of paper.
Presumptuous Pinnacle Ladies
In nineteen hundred and twenty-three
They swarmed on the rocks from cairn to scree.
If you dodged them there, you met them at tea,
Those parlous Pinnacle ladies!
In nineteen hundred and twenty-four,
We found them leading climbs galore.
We growled, we groused, we even swore!
Presumptuous Pinnacle ladies!
There’s a handful of books by women climbers that I turn to when I’m in need of inspiration or reassurance before heading into the mountains: things like High Infatuation by Steph Davis, and more recently Waymaking. (I’ve also got an incredible women’s alpine history book which I really love, but helpfully can’t remember the title of and my books are all still in boxes after moving house…)
Anyway, this is definitely a title that I’m going to be adding to that collection. The Pinnacle Club is a club for UK women climbers, and I was lucky enough to spend last week on their centenary meet – one hundred women all psyched for some brilliant trad routes around Snowdonia. I was delighted to find a copy of this book in my goody bag, and it made for perfect rest day reading.
Statement is a lovely biography: it’s personal, easy to read, and gives a close and compassionate view of Ben’s character and climbing. Douglas gives us some fascinating insights into other top climbers, and into the relationship between Ben and Jerry Moffatt – it’s interesting to compare the different abilities and mindsets of two climbers both operating right at the top level of the sport, and to see how they inspired and motivated each other.
If climbing is speaking a fluent body language,/ yesterday was all Greek/ to me …
I really loved this book, but it feels impossible to be sure anyone else would enjoy it. It’s certainly unique; I can’t really think of anything else similar to compare it to. Poetry is interspersed with deeply personal memoir, out of order and occasionally out of sense. It’s an eclectic collection and I found myself never quite sure what I might be about to read next.
I’m pretty sure it would be impossible to read The Climbing Bible and not become a better climber. I was really impressed by how comprehensive and accessible this manual is, thoroughly covering the physical side of training, but also with in-depth sections on technique, mental training and tactics for a successful send.
I first read this a couple of years ago now; I loved it and I still think about it all the time. I really can't recommend it enough, particularly if you're a woman spending a lot of time outdoors and feeling quite alone in it.
The risk game is addictive.
‘Quest for Adventure’ describes 17 bold expeditions: crossing oceans, flying, climbing mountains and caving. It’s definitely a fascinating read for anyone interested in the broader spectrum of adventure and exploration.
Predominantly climbing/outdoors literature, mountaineering history and nature writing.