Crack Climb­ing: The De­fin­i­tive Guide

By Pete Whit­taker Moun­taineers Books 2020

Gripped - - REVIEWS -

As Pete Whit­taker would have you be­lieve, climb­ing cracks, what­ever their size, is largely a mat­ter of tech­nique. His new book, Crack Climb­ing, seeks to com­pre­hen­sively ex­pose the tech­niques that can take you up some of the best climbs on the planet. At the heart of Whit­taker’s project is an un­der­stand­ing of the physics and biome­chan­ics in­volved. Con­tact forces, fric­tion, vol­ume, sur­face area, torques, force vec­tors and cen­tres of grav­ity all come into play as do no­tions of lock­ing ver­sus hold­ing, and us­ing your body’s struc­ture rather than its strength.

Start­ing with high level con­cepts, this ex­cep­tion­ally wellil­lus­trated book seeks to de­velop your reper­toire of crack climb­ing skills: hand, foot and body po­si­tion by po­si­tion. Lest you con­flate this with a yoga man­ual, the author re­lates these to the sit­u­a­tions en­coun­tered on rock, be it Yosemite, In­dian Creek, Squamish, or the Peak District. Each width of crack sug­gests a spe­cific ap­proach, often cre­ative and, at times, coun­ter­in­tu­itive. Taken to­gether, there are over a hun­dred po­si­tions and move­ments to learn. In case you for­get the de­tails of one high above your last piece, you can al­ways jump up a level to the key con­cepts: fill­ing the space ef­fi­ciently, us­ing your body as a cam­ming de­vice and keep­ing ev­ery­thing in line with the crack.

Crack Climb­ing is both a book of in­struc­tion and in­spi­ra­tion. Each chap­ter is punc­tu­ated by a sec­tion ti­tled “Meet the Master,” which in­tro­duces a great climber and gives you a sense of how they ap­proach the crack climb­ing craft. Al­though lay­back­ing doesn’t get a chap­ter (per­haps you can hear about it on clas­sic rock ra­dio), stem­ming and roof cracks do. If there’s a com­pan­ion book to be writ­ten, it would be called Train­ing for Crack Climb­ing – to the ex­tent that most of us don’t live that close to range of cracks de­scribed, nor do we nec­es­sar­ily have pa­tient and ded­i­cated be­lay­ers. Also, the book should per­haps come with a trig­ger warn­ing that read­ing about squeeze chim­neys may pro­voke surges of nau­sea and/or be a gate­way drug to cav­ing.—tom Valis

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