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.
This book is about places like that. Places that transport. Portals.
I am […] trespassing in another world, a world that does not belong to me. It is the same realisation I had seeing the miniature reefs of ice high on the Cairngorm plateau: there are things happening here that have nothing to do with people.
Outlandish is a book about misplaced landscapes, parts of the world found in the wrong part of the world. I was hooked the moment I read the blurb – I’m always fascinated by writing that manages to make the familiar strange, capturing new and uncanny strands in places we thought we already knew. Outlandish does this so very well, wandering between Scotland, Poland, Spain and Hungary in search of environments that feel out of place: Arctic tundra in Scotland, primeval forest in Poland, desert in Spain and grassland steppes in Hungary. The places seem to exist as a glimpse of the past, deep time lingering into the present, echoing with a warning for the future.
The lure of the magical is hard to resist.
I really, really loved Wanderland. It’s gentle, honest and full of hope - just a joy to read. Jini Reddy gives an open and authentic account of her journey to find connection with the land, exploring new and hidden places around the UK. It feels like a really special book in its warmth and authenticity, and I’ve found it pretty tricky to write a review that captures any part of this; I would really just recommend reading it yourself if it sounds even remotely like the sort of book you’d enjoy.
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.
Tops of the North is a delightful and esoteric romp across the north that never takes you quite where you expect it to.
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 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.
Mastermind is a must-read for anyone looking to improve their headgame in climbing, regardless of what level you’re currently operating at. It’s also good for psyche levels; I read it during a very wet winter which turned out to be a great help with training motivation. Some of the techniques definitely helped me to have a couple of breakthroughs on routes I’d been stuck on, and I’m looking forward to using more of these strategies over the next few months as travelling and climbing hopefully opens back up.
I read The Last Blue Mountain by Ralph Barker a few months ago now, and I still catch myself thinking about the ending. The tragedy of it has lingered in the back of my mind in a similar way to the death of Toni Kurz – so drawn out and with escape so, so close.
Predominantly climbing/outdoors literature, mountaineering history and nature writing.