Whether you’re just starting out at rock climbing, or a seasoned veteran looking to refresh your mind on a few long forgotten techniques, instructional books are a great tool that many climbers have benefited from. Along with this instructional books always prove to be one of our most popular gifts at Christmas. However, with over 70 titles to choose from amongst rock climbing techniques books alone the choice can be a bit overwhelming! With this in mind I’m going to give a quick run down of a few of our best-sellers to help you pick the right book for your needs.
The Beginner's Guide for Climbers - Sophie Mitchell A book for absolute beginners and kids, outlining basic skills, climbing etiquette and also an outline of the NICAS indoor climbing scheme. NICAS is an "indoor climbing" award which involves climbing with ropes and harnesses. This is done with two people, one climbing, and one holding the rope and lowering the climber (the belayer). Beautifully illustrated in a fun way this Rockfax book is ideal for those looking for a basic grounding in climbing and particularly good if you’re starting your climbing via a climbing wall environment. Buy Book
Basic Rope Skills for Climbers – Nigel Shepherd This colourful and clearly laid out book is squarely aimed at those taking their first steps on rock. The book is slightly miss-named in that it actually covers all the main aspects of rock climbing; from equipment, belaying and gear placements; to abseiling and leading. The book does a good job of clearly showing basic techniques such as tying in and belaying using large and colourful photos and concise text descriptions. Due to its coverage of basic instructing techniques this could also be a good buy for more experienced climbers looking to introduce others (particularly children) to the sport.
Rock Climbing, Mastering Basic Skills – Craig Luebben This is probably one of the most wide ranging instructional books out there, covering most aspects of rock climbing in enough detail that even the geekiest of climbers are likely to learn something new. As you’d expect from an American book, written for the American market not all of the information is that relevant to the average British climber – the entire chapter on crack climbing techniques for instance! There is also the odd difference in terminology to contend with: Rappelling/Abseiling and Munter Hitch/Italian Hitch for instance; although this is unlikely to cause a problem for the experienced climber, it could be a source of confusion to the novice. Although I’d say this book is probably a bit too in-depth for the average beginner, it is ideal for the climber with a bit of experience looking to expand their repertoire of techniques and maybe eliminate a few bad habits picked up down the line. Buy Book
How to Climb Harder – Mark Reeves As the name suggests this book is aimed at anybody looking to “take their climbing to the next level”. Although it doesn’t specifically say so the book has a strong bias towards trad climbing and therefore covers much of the same ground as Trad Climbing+. Where this book differs from the Rockfax publication is in its slightly more methodical approach. How to Climb Harder is laid out as a series of exercises, both mental and physical, that can be carried out. No doubt if you are dedicated enough to follow these through then you will progress. Obviously this style of learning isn’t for everybody, and the likes of myself with a rather short attention span may struggle with the format! If you are really psyched to improve however, then there's a wealth of valuable information here for you. Buy Book
The Rock Warrior’s Way – Arno Ilgner First published in 2003 this book is now on its second edition. Although several of the books above cover mental training techniques, it was The Rock Warriors Way that really got the ball rolling. The book blends elements of ‘warrior’ philosophy, sports psychology and practical rock climbing experience to produce a training manual to guide you on the path to greater awareness and focus. Although mind control skills are clearly essential in order to progress to the higher grades of climbing, or release your full potential, The Rock Warriors Way may not be to everybody’s taste. For the typically slightly cynical British climber I suspect a lot of the ideas in the book may seem a little new age, sometimes verging on the cranky. For those open minded enough to get past this stumbling block, this book should prove a powerful tool. Buy Book
9 Out of 10 Climbers Make the Same Mistakes – Dave MacLeod As arguably Britain’s top all-round climber Dave Macleod is pretty well placed to write a coaching book. Despite the fact that 9 out of 10 climbers covers a broad spread of topics the main premise of the book is very simple: identify and target what is really holding you back in your climbing. As for Rock Warriors Way there are no pictures to distract you from what should be fairly thought provoking reading. Don’t let this put you off – the text is actually very simple to comprehend, with no technical jargon. Again I frequently find myself re-reading chapters to re-cap on areas of weakness. This is probably how these books work best, even the most planet sized brain would struggle to take in and apply a whole manual in one sitting, whilst small sections can be taken in and applied relatively easily. Buy Book
Redpoint - Hague and Hunter This book (and DVD) is probably slightly mis-named, as the subtitle says it is 'The self-coached climber's guide to redpoint and on-sight climbing' - although it also dips into bouldering and trad climbing. That said most of the information will be of greatest relevance to the dedicated sport climber. As with 'How to Climb Harder' there are a number of excercises to be carried out if you want to get the most from the book. The sequence reading problems are particularly interested and surprisingly difficult I found! If you are prepared to take the structured approach of the book and have the patience to carry out the exercises then Redpoint is undoubtedly a great resource - as with all of the self coaching books it's most important that the style of the book suits your character if you want to get the most out of them. Buy Book