Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Holy Trinity of Climbing Instruction Books

A REALLY old photo I took,  probably  from the late 70's. 
While recently sorting through some books in my library, I pulled three off the shelf that and I consider my Holy Trinity of Climbing Instruction Books; Basic Rockcraft (1971) and Advanced Rockcraft ( 1973) by Royal Robbins and Walt Wheelock’s Ropes, Knots and Slings for Climbers (1961).  Yes, I am that old!

I caught the climbing bug the summer of 1974, when I was 16, after being introduced to ropes, slings, carabiners and brake bars while rappelling sixty feet off a water tower, and overhearing the people who taught me how to rappel talking about their climbing adventures at Seneca Rocks, WV.  Soon after that first rappel, I somehow managed to acquire these three books, and along with some Goldline Rope, nylon webbing which I tied into diaper slings, carabiners and break bars, taught myself and some friends how to climb and rappel.

Basic Rockcraft and Advanced Rockcraft taught me theory as well as ethics.  While Robbins wrote about pitoncraft as well as nutcraft in Basic Rockcraft, I have never placed a piton. I came to climbing after the advent of the clean climbing movement, and Basic Rockcraft and Advanced Rockcraft gave me all the theory I needed to learn about placing clean protection.  The practice I gained from following other clean climbers and eventually leading.  Ropes Knots and Slings for Climbers rounded out my early climbing education, filling in any gaps not covered by Robbins.

My copies of these three classics are not originals.  I wore those out years ago and eventually replaced them.  Nearly forty years later, I have read many other climbing instruction books, but these three still stand out as holy writ, sacred works of climbing.  As I flipped through their pages, looking at the photos, diagrams and drawings, I was reminded of younger days when I dreamed of Yosemite and Everest, climbing heaven.

I learned how to lead scaling the walls of Seneca Rocks, WV, and have since climbed in New York’s Shawangunks and West Virginia’s New River Gorge as well as other smaller cliffs and crags.  I even free rappelled off West Virginia’s New River Bridge, through over 700 feet of thin air.

I never made it to Yosemite or Everest, although I still dream . . . someday. I never put up a new route.  But I have enjoyed rock.  I have loved rock.  I have worshiped rock, thanks to this Holy Trinity of Climbing Instruction Books.  Flipping through their pages, I could almost feel the rock under my hands and feet, feel the sun warming me and rock, feel the wind rustling trees and hair, smell the nearby pine trees, and the rock and lichens just inches from my nose.

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