2014 Book Round-Up - Christmas Reading Review

2014 has been a bumper year for climbing publications. Here's a few of the ones that we have either read, or ones that we really want to read! We've listed them here with links to more information, and not only have we rounded-up the 2014 publications, but we have chucked in a few all time classics too.

We might have missed something vitally important, so please feel free to add any other essential reading in to the forum thread. Hopefully this list will give a few ideas for Christmas reading for those long winter nights by the fire...




Pete Livesey Book  © UKC Gear
Pete Livesey Fast and Free

"Collected biography of Pete Livesey with contributions from: Geoff Birtles, Martin Berzins, John Cleare, Jean Claude Droyer, Jim Eyre, Peter Gomersall, Dennis Gray, Ron Fawcett, Peter Livesey, John Long, Nicho Mailander, Mark Radtke, John Sheard and many more. This compilation of inspirational and at times downright funny tales forms a loose climbing biography that charts his journey from cave explorer to one of the world's leading rock-climbers."

Hanging On, Martin Boysen's new biography  © Vertebrate Publishing
Hanging On - Martin Boysen Biography

"Wry, laconic and self-deprecating, Martin Boysen’s Hanging On is an insider’s account of British climbing’s golden age."

One Day As A Tiger  © Vertebrate Publishing
One Day As A Tiger - Alex MacIntyre and the birth of light and fast alpinism

"One Day As A Tiger, John Porter’s revelatory and poignant memoir of his friend Alex MacIntyre, shows mountaineering at its extraordinary best and tragic worst – and draws an unforgettable picture of a dazzling, argumentative and exuberant legend."

Law Unto Himself  © UKC Gear
Law Unto Himself by Mike Law

"In the early 1970s a young red-headed Sydney schoolboy exploded onto the Australian climbing scene. Michael Law was born in era of dinosaur lines, etriers and ironmongery but, by a stroke of luck, his appearance also coincided with the first ripples of the free- and clean-climbing movement that was soon to become a tsunami. Young, quirky and tormented, Michael quickly became what many of us believe to be the most talented of Australia's now legendary 'New Wave' generation of the 1970s and 80s. 'Law Unto Himself' is his climbing story."

Beyond Limits  © Vertebrate Publishing
Beyond Limits by Steve McClure

"Beyond Limits is the autobiography of Steve McClure, one of the world’s top rock climbers. From his childhood encounters with the sandstone outcrops of the North York Moors right up to his cutting-edge first ascents such as Overshadow (F9a+) at Malham and Mutation (F9a) at Raven Tor, Steve explores his deep passion for climbing and how it has dictated and shaped his life."



Jack Geldard  © Jack Geldard
Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor
UKC Staff Pick - Jack Geldard Chief Editor


"My top three picks for the year are quite varied, and I haven't even read one of them!

Top spot has got to be Jon Griffith's Alpine Exposures photo book. I'll confess to knowing Jon pretty well, and if that hasn't put me off the book, then it must be pretty good. More and more I'm inspired by the higher mountains of the world, and Jon's photo book catapults me to places I have been and places I really want to go. It can be described in one word: Amazing.

Another favourite, not from 2014, but from the 90s (and one I re-read this year) is Paul Pritchard's Deep Play. An perfectly freeze-framed snapshot in time and a book that inspired me as a younger climber, and a big part of why I moved to North Wales.

Lastly, a book that I have heard a lot of good things about but haven't read yet (looking forward to some Christmas evenings with this one!) is One Day as a Tiger by John Porter. Alex MacIntyre is a legendary figure in British Alpinism, and I've heard this book is really well written. I'll report back after I have actually read it!"


Coffee Table Books:


The Great Mountain Crags of Scotland  © UKC Gear
The Great Mountain Crags of Scotland - compiled by Guy Robertson and Adrian Crofton

"Guy Robertson and Adrian Crofton have compiled firsthand accounts from many of Scottish mountaineering’s great writers and climbers, recounting historic achievements and notorious misadventures. The crags are the tallest, steepest and most majestic anywhere in the British Isles, and always a good hike from the nearest road. Many of them are described and illustrated here in detail for the very first time."

Rock Climbing Down Under  © Simon Carter
Rock Climbing Down Under by Simon Carter

"A hard-cover coffee-table book featuring 350 images by photographer, Simon Carter. The result of over 20 years work, this is an exciting photographic journey to 21 of Australia’s climbing destinations."

Alpine Exposures  © Jon Griffith - Alpine Exposures
Alpine Exposures by Jonathan Griffith

"The Alpine Exposures Photo book is a coffee table book that will showcase Jon Griffith's work over the last ten years in the mountain sports industry. True to Jon's work ethic the book only shows photos taken in real situations in order to offer readers an in-depth experience of the world of extreme mountain sports. Featuring shots from around the European Alps from the Eiger North Face to Mont Blanc, there are detailed captions accompanying every shot- there is a real focus here on inspirational photography not just eye candy."



Front Cover shot of Adi Gill on Shock Horror E6 6b  Ilkley (Rocky Valley) Photo Mike Hutton   © Adi Gill

Yorkshire Gritsone Vol 2 by YMCC

"An inspirational and definitive rock climbing guidebook to the routes and bouldering of the south-western sector of Yorkshire Gritstone. Produced by the Yorkshire Mountaineering Club and compiled by a vast team of committed, volunteer climbers who know the area like the back of their hand."

Peak Bouldering Rockfax Cover  © Rockfax
Peak Bouldering by Rockfax

"The Peak Bouldering Rockfax is a massive book covering a huge area including all the main bouldering venues of the Peak District. It includes many more low-grade problems than have ever been documented before including 17 circuits with problems at V0+ 5a and under, and a further 21 circuits with problems at V2 5c and below."

Dolomites : Rock Climbs and Via Ferrata Rockfax Cover  © Rockfax
Dolomites by Rockfax

"This guide covers everything you need for a climbing trip regardless of ability, whether it be sport, trad, via ferrata or a combination of all three. It features all the major areas and is the only guidebook available to have such comprehensive coverage."

Roca Verde Cover  © Richie Patterson

Roca Verde by Richie Patterson"Roca Verde contains over 40 selected crags with over 190 distinct sectors and nearly 3000 routes. Just as importantly, it includes the information the locals know; how to choose the right venue for sun or shade, summer or winter and for whatever grade you climb."

Hebrides and Arran Cover  © SMC
Inner Hebrides and Arran Guidebook

"Climbing on the beautiful and remote-feeling islands of Arran and the Inner Hebrides is now more accessible than ever with this guide to both summer and winter climbs. Including maps, photo diagrams and information on access and amenities, this guide also has action photos that will inspire you to book a ferry immediately."

North Wales Limestone cover  © On Sight Publishing
North Wales Limestone by Pete Harrison and Andy Boorman

"The definitive guide to the climbing on North Wales Limestone by Pete Harrison and Andy Boorman, with all profits going to the bolt fund to support ongoing route maintenance."

Rock Climbing In Ireland  © UKC Gear
Rock Climbing in Ireland by David Flanagan

"Rock Climbing in Ireland documents the best of Irish rock climbing. It details over 400 classic climbs spread across 22 crags in some of Ireland’s wildest, most beautiful coastal and mountain areas. With routes from Diff to E9 there is plenty for all climbers no matter what their ability and taste."

Scafell and Wasdale  © FRCC
Scafell and Wasdale by FRCC

"The definitive rock climbing guide to Scafell and Wasdale in the western Lake District - and what a corker! Superb photo diagrams and loads of inspiring action shots and scenic views. Includes the incomparable East and Central Buttresses of Scafell and Buckbarrow among many other top rate venues."

Fair Head  © UKC Gear

"Fair Head is the greatest expanse of climbable rock in Ireland or Britain. It is the ultimate climbing venue stretching for 5 km. This books describes over 400 routes that includes new routes since last published in 2002. Detailed colour maps, route explanations and photographs makes this an essential source of information for climbing at Fair Head."

South West Volume 2  © UKC Gear
South West Climbs Vol 2 by Pat Littlejohn

"The second volume of the selected South West Climbs covers the Granite of West Penwith, Dartmoor, the Channel Islands and Lundy – the guide also covers the North Cornish and North Devon coasts."

Lancashire Bouldering Guide Cover  © UKC Articles
Lancashire Bouldering

"Lancashire Bouldering is packed full of all the stuff that makes a climbing guide taste real good…full colour photo topos, action photos, maps, graded lists and interviews with key figures. There are loads of venues, with tons to do whether you are travelling from afar to sample the best bits, or just keen to discover some new local crags for an after work hit."



Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing  © Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing
Rob Greenwood Advertising Manager
UKC Staff Pick - Rob Greenwood Advertising Manager

"Law Unto Himself by Mike Law - I couldn’t stop laughing whilst reading this, it’s a ridiculous book written by a man that took serious climbing about as un-seriously as possible. 99% of the Aussie references were probably lost on me, but somehow it seemed unnecessary to completely understand them and added to it’s charm and character of both the book and Mike Law’s writing. Plus, I now know what a Jaffle is...

Great Mountain Crags of Scotland - We all want to climb in Scotland, it’s just that there’s usually 101 reasons not to go - it’s a long way, it’s midgy, it’s probably raining etc... Inconveniently this book provides 304 pages of reasons to go, thus tipping the reasons for/against in favour of going by 202 arbitrary/meaningless points. 

Yorkshire Gritstone Vol 2 by YMCC - The two previous books are great, but I’m a long way from Australia and Scotland won’t thaw out for 6 months; therefore, I’m going to need something to keep the psyche ticking along over winter. This guide has been my bog-time reading for two weeks (other people do that too don’t they?) and I’m still discovering three star routes/crags I’ve never even heard of."


All Time Classics:


Deep Play Cover Image: Pritchard on the North Tower of Paine.  © Paul Pritchard/Vertebrate Publishing
Deep Play by Paul Pritchard

"Deep Play is a unique, stylish and timeless commentary reflecting the pressures and rewards of climbing some of the world's hardest and most challenging trad climbs and big walls, and a penetrating view of the adventures and preoccupations of a contemporary player. First published in 1997 by Ken Wilson at Bâton Wicks, it was awarded the prestigious Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature in the same year."

Games Climbers Play  © UKC Gear
The Games Climbers Play compiled by Ken Wilson

"Games Climbers Play is a collection of essays, tales and stories that plugs into the frenetic world of rock climbers and mountaineers."

Hard Rock  © UKC Gear
Classic Rock / Hard Rock / Extreme Rock 

"A trio of absolute classic coffee table books featuring some of the best climbs in the UK. A must have."

Vertical Pleasure  © Mick Fowler
Vertical Pleasure - Mick Fowler

"This is the first set of mountaineering memoirs of one of Britain's leading mountaineers that was shortlisted for the Boardman/Tasker Award and published in Britain and the United States. Fowler describes his full development as a climber initially under the tutelage of his widowed father, then with school friends in London, then to Britain's more esoteric haunts, (sea stacks and far flung ice climbs) and finally in the Alps, the Andes and the Himalaya."


Signing a summit book on Hintere Reibung (VIIa), Schrammsteinkegel, Elbesandstein, Germany.  © Karsten Kurz
Alan James UKC Director
UKC Staff Pick - Alan James UKC Director

"I had the pleasure of going to the launch do for Steve McClure's new book Beyond Limits last week. There have been some good (auto)biographies in recent years - Livesey and his tactics, Dawes and his eccentricity, and Moffatt and his brashness are all obvious candidates for an interesting read, but on the surface Steve's story has always just been quietly efficient without ever really courting controversy.  So far though it has been a surprising revelation of nice anecdotes and a good portrait of an obsessed climber written with a big dose of self-depreciative humour.

My main obsession though is with guidebooks and my mate Dominic brought a copy of Dave Flanagan's new guide Rock Climbing in Ireland to the pub last week. I love flicking through books to areas I don't know very well, getting enthusiastic about a trip, and what we have here is an entire country in a single volume. Okay, 'best of' only obviously, but it certainly looks the part and did the pre-requisite of any guidebook - it made me want to go and climb there.

I am going to be a little self-indulgent on my final choice and go for James Rushforth's amazing Dolomites : Rock Climbs and Via Ferrata book. I know I have a big vested interest in this one but this really was an amazing project to work on and James has done an incredible job of showcasing these spectacular mountains. I have never been to any of the areas covered yet I feel I now have an intimate knowledge of most of the classic climbs of the area and could hold my own in any pub conversation! This is testimony to the brilliant photos and research work put in by James."


Something a Little Different:


Secret Life of War  © UKC Gear
The Secret Life of War by Peter Beaumont

A great read from Beaumont - a climber himself, it includes very occasional references to climbing - "The Observer's chief foreign correspondent Peter Beaumont, takes us into the guts of modern conflict. He visits the bombed and abandoned home of Mullah Omar; discovers a deserted Al Qaeda camp where he finds documents describing a plan to attack London; talks to young bomb-throwers in a Rafah refugee camp."



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20 Nov, 2014
In reply to UKC Gear tears of the dawn...?
20 Nov, 2014
It's a great book Angus, that's for sure - I reviewed it here: http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=5992 It's not in this list as it was out in 2013, but you're right - maybe we should have squeezed it in anyway! Cheers, Jack
20 Nov, 2014
I also thought about Tears of the Dawn but in addition, The Langdale Guide and Dave Flannagan's Bouldering Essentials. All impressive books of their type that with a December review sort of miss out (being too late for their year).http://ielt9.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=6032http://ielt9.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=5985 Im reading Bouldering Essentials now and Tears of the Dawn next so its a bit ironic for me.
20 Nov, 2014
Wow, it's been quite a year for biographies!
20 Nov, 2014
What! No mention of Graham Hoey's & Phil Kelly's Peak Rock. It's on my Christmas list.
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