How to Climb Harder: Review by Mal Creasey of the MLT

Nick Bullock strolling up Right Wall in his jeans.

I returned from the field to find this review from Mal Creasey one of the officers at the Mountain leader Training Boards, based in Capel Curig. Mal is a great guy who also volunteers on the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team from time to time. Although I don’t have the book in front of me (one of my students is up to his neck in it at the moment), the fuzzy image on p17 is just artistic licence I am afraid, I think I have one with the belay in focus and the climber out of focus as well. As for the Jeans, I have to apologise, as I am of the generation where summer rock climbing is as much about comfort and fashion as it is high performance clothing. Illustrated by Nick Bullock, strolling up Right Wall E5 6a on Dinas Cromlech in a pair of jeans.

I think it is important to point out weakness as well as strengths though, and I must thank Mal for taking the time to review the book. Although Mal does mention these are very minor niggles.

“This is the latest offering from Pesda Press of Caernarfon who are turning out books on a regular basis these days. This latest book is a little bit of a departure in that it is, as far as I know their first out and out rock climbing instructional book. The sub title on the cover states this is a Practical Manual – Essential Knowledge for rock climbers of all abilities and surprise, surprise that is exactly what it is. First impressions are always important and leafing through the pages after it arrived on my desk the book was colourful, clear, had lots of good photographs and diagrams and appeared to follow a good logical progression from the basics through to advanced skills culminating with a section on training and nutrition, something which is undoubtedly considered far more important now than it was when many of us more mature climbers were starting out way back when! However if we had known about such things then we probably wouldn’t have so many knackered joints or the same knees as many of us do now!

Seriously this book is not just about mind games, training and advanced bouldering, all of which I have no doubt help everyone to climber harder and in better style but it also has to clear instructions on rope work, building better belays and placing gear which is probably more important and quite rightly this section is at the beginning of the book. In fact almost half of the book is dedicated to what the author calls the basics and apart from rope skills there are also chapters on warming up, footwork, handholds and gaining rests. The second section moves each of those techniques on a little, for example more advanced bouldering techniques to tweaking gear placements or fine tuning what you have on your rack before the final section which looks at training for strength and endurance, and as mentioned earlier, nutrition. There is an interesting short section on training for the younger climber which I’m sure some mums and dads will find informative.

Each section is colour coded in the top right hand corner of the page with green for the basics, blue for the moving on section a pink for the training and nutrition section. The photos and diagrams are clear and generally have good contrasting colours and clear captions which help to illustrate the point. There are always minor niggles such as the slightly blurry image (or is it artistic licence) on the top photo on page 17 or the model wearing jeans (page 111 amongst others) but these are very minor, so much so that one could say they don’t really matter and they certainly don’t detract from what is really an excellent addition for climbers interested in climbing to the best of their ability.”

Mal Creasey