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Tears of the Dawn is the autobiography of UK climber Jules Lines. Jules is one of those British climbers that are held in the highest regard by their peers; bold, understated and with perfect climbing technique, Jule's reputation goes before him. I first heard of him around 15 years ago, in hushed whispers when rumour went around the gritstone edges that a guidebook, accidentally dropped at the crag, had been found. The ticks in the book were unparalleled, almost unbelievable. Not only because they contained some of the hardest routes on gritstone at that time, but virtually all the other routes were ticked also. The name in the front of the book? Julian Lines. I never saw the book, but I can only assume the rumour was true.
In his new book Tears of the Dawn, Jules takes us on his life's adventures, which start off with his munro bagging youth, and gradually morph in to him soloing more and more desperate climbs, in summer and winter, mainly in the UK. There is also some foreign travel thrown in.
It's clear from the way Jules writes that he is deeply in touch with himself, but also with the natural world and the rock on which we all climb. His descriptions of his early forays on to rock are wonderfully vivid, and his youthful enthusiasm and small adventures are joyful to read. As his adventures start to include harder climbs, the general theme stays the same, Jules is a troubled man, unhappy with aspects of his home life, but happy without a rope on the rock. And night after night he takes a cold and uncomfortable bivouac at a quiet and isolated crag, before soloing yet another amazing extreme route.
His philosophical musings are soft, introspective and interesting, adding an extra dimension to the book. Jules doesn't come to any eureka conclusions, or preach in any way, he just discusses how, over the course of hundreds of solo ascents, he has used meditation and an understanding of his conscious vs unconscious mind to grapple with himself, as he grapples with the rock.
The tales of climbing are sometimes cute, sometimes terrifying, and sometimes funny, but they are all very real, and give a fantastic insight in to the mind of one of the UK's least known climbers.
The writing is crisply descriptive, and flows like the spindrift down March Hare's Gully, which nearly saw the end of Jules on one of his exciting solo climbs. However despite the ease with which the words fall off the pages, this is very much a climbers' book, and a certain knowledge of climbing, its history and characters, as well as some of the routes that Jules finds himself clinging to, will add a little depth to the book. A complete non-climber may well be a little lost in the edges of Derbyshire, if they don't know their Hard Grit.
A must read for those with an interest in UK trad climbing, and those who are keen to discover more about one of the UK's most fascinating characters. An insightful and compelling journey through the life of Jules Lines.
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