Review: How to Climb Harder

As part of the book checking process I asked Martin Chester to look through the book for possibly mistakes, and at the same time make a review of the book. I can’t thank Martin or others who have helped me out in the long process of writing this book enough. Below is his review which was based on one of the final drafts, although not the finished product only minor alteration have since been made.

How to climb harder

by Mark Reeves

In these 240+ pages Mark Reeves does more than just help you climb harder, he helps you learn how to climb. Full stop!

This exciting new book is a true labour of love, and testament to the depth of Mark’s involvement, connections and research into the world of coaching climbing. Within you will find all the gems that Mark has drawn from his career so far as a climbing coach, his involvement in coaching courses; ideas from coaches from many sports and disciplines at Plas y Brenin National Mountain Centre; a Masters degree in coaching at Bangor University; and his involvement in the BMC source group for ‘coaching in mountaineering’.

This book is the product of that powerful combination – of someone so well educated, motivated, and well connected as Mark. Mark really has brought together all the latest thinking from coaches that he has worked alongside over the past few years, combining the best of current theory and practice across the climbing landscape. This really is the modern ‘one stop shop’ for becoming a better climber.

You could be forgiven for not being entirely clear as to ‘what exactly this book is’, but trust me – that’s a good thing. At first, the leap from basic rope skills to complex psychology, at the turn of a page, seems too broad a remit. But what you will find packed into these 240+ pages, is a book that will grow with you throughout your climbing career. From the beginning there is a thorough grounding in the skills to get you climbing, and keep you safe as you learn. Here you will find everything you need to know from placing your first natural protection and belaying a mate, through to training for higher performance and developing your technique.

For those with some experience tucked under their belts already, it is like a Louis de Bernieres novel – you have to endure the lengthy introduction of all the key characters before you get to the really good bit of the story. But stick with it – the quality of the latter chapters on psychology and imagery are sure to strike a welcome chord with even the most experienced climber, looking for an advantage. For those starting out from scratch, then rest assured that no stone is left un-turned. It is not all plain sailing though, as one would expect:

The difficulty of being ‘all things to all people’ means that in places there is potential for some confusion in differentiating exercises from prescriptive techniques. Just make sure you learn to spot the difference early on. The helpful layout and superb graphics work of the Pesda Press team helps to make this as clear as possible for the reader.  Philosophically – whilst I embrace Mark’s desire to climb in a more relaxed and efficient manner, I struggle to believe the pursuit of “Lazy Climbing” will make a positive contribution for most readers!

Packed full of the latest thinking, and with useful tools for both climbers and coaches alike, this volume is bound to be a ‘must have’ book on the shelves of anyone who takes the development of their own climbing, or the ambition of those in their care, seriously.

Martin Chester

Martin Chester is the Director of Training for Plas y Brenin National Mountain Centre (, and the Publicity Officer for the British Mountain Guides ( He is a member of the BMC source group for coaching in mountaineering, the BMC Training and Youth Committee, and regularly writes and presents his views on the development of coaching in mountaineering (If you’re a BMC member then he often writes the PYB column in SUMMIT magazine).

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