Archive for April, 2010

Book Blog Launched!

April 2, 2010

“We clattered up the gully, humbled by the mute power of the tilting walls, the boulders, the heat; it was idyllic…we had the crag to ourselves..”

Julian Lines (excerpt from Central Gully Wall, Creagan Dubh Loch)

From the moment climbing entered my radar, I’ve always been inspired by other climbers writing about their adventures.  Not so much the cutting edge – just gripping tales about gripping routes on big, gripping cliffs.  Fighting death on the slippery verticals.  Almost before I set foot on a mountain, my head was full to brimming with nerve-jangling accounts of historic epics played out years before; the hallowed walls, the infamous routes and of course the great pioneers themselves, brought to larger-than-life by the power of the pen. 
It’s a fine art, and arguably a dying one.  When was the last time you read a really engaging and inspiring contemporary tale about hard climbing in Scotland?  There’s certainly been plenty of action out on the crags, but who’s putting it down on paper? And I’m not talking about the here-today-gone-tomorrow uncensored diatribe of the Internet Forums, I’m talking crafted, passionate and evocative literature. Maybe it’s the onset of old age, nothing more than nostalgia, but it seems to me and the others involved in this project that climbers don’t write much about climbing these days.  Even in the magazines (where there’s a financial incentive) there appears to be a dearth of material containing much of what one might loosely term ‘human interest’; a sense of connection with the people and places, with the rock and the ice.  The focus seems steadfastly on grades, and rather tiresome comparisons of alleged objective difficulty – “who is the best climber”. 

Who cares!  Well, I suppose we do, but we’re equally interested in who’s got the best tale to tell, and where the best crags are.  Surely mountain climbing, more than most sporting activity, is subject to such a plethora of subjective circumstance and extraneous influence, such spontaneous beauty and indescribable grandeur, as to make the exploration of these aspects the most worthy cause?  The equipment malfunction that left you both exposed.  The storm raging in causing mayhem at the last ropelength.  Looking down on birds of prey, your second’s jangling echoes beneath you.  The smell of sparks from falling rocks.   That wonderful sense of intimacy and belonging that comes from exploring the same crag, by different routes, with different people  in all weathers.  The things that bring climbers together rather than set them apart – that’s what we want this book to be about.

And the great crags in particular, our celebrated theatres of risk – a vast, towering family of monoliths.  It’s hard to imagine any other facet of life where so many of us become so actively engaged and associated through time with such singular geological expressions.  And in such wonderfully exciting and character-defining ways.  These are worthy subjects for our collective creative juices, and in this book they’ll take centre stage.  Carn Dearg, Central Gully Wall, Mainreachan Buttress, West Central Wall and Sron Ulladale to name a few – approaching forty of them in total.  Each one lavishly pictured, described from the heart, and embroidered with first hand tales from climbers who’s fingers and crampons have left their mark.
With BIG STONE COUNTRY we want to celebrate wildness, and put scale and beauty back alongside difficulty.  We want to bring recent Scottish mountaineering history alive by getting the pioneers and younger climbers to tell their many tales. We want to explore the wider dimensions that climbing on big remote cliffs can offer the modern climber, which seem either muddied by the rippled waters of a controversy-hungry media or, worse still, ebbing out of vogue. In so doing we hope to create a big, colourful and inspiring collection of pictures, impressions and first hand tales of adventure from across Scotland’s great crags.  Will you be inspired?  We hope so! 

The ball is well and truly rolling, and over twenty contributors have already put pen to paper.  Myself, Adrian Crofton, Blair Fyffe and John Watson will all be doing our bit to try and pull it all together on the inevitably long journey to the printers.  Over the coming months (maybe years) we’ll post updates and routes lists and issue calls for route photos and more, so stay tuned if you want to keep up to speed and help us make this thing work…

Cheers and happy climbing, Guy