Book review – A gripping insight into bouldering – Times & Star

Lake District Bouldering by Greg Chapman (Vertebrate Publishing, £36.95).

Keeping your hands and fingers well-chalked is essential. Boulderers normally carry a little bag of powdered chalk at their waist.

Other than that there is very little equipment, except a quality pair of rockshoes. There’s no helmet, no ropes, no axes: just yourself, a bodily frame that’s in fine shape and the nerve to give it a go.

And then you need some crash pads on the ground beneath you.

You climb up a boulder some 20 or 30ft, exploiting the roughness in the rock, the finger top crevices, the places where you can get the merest toehold, and you cling on to the sheer face or hang suspended beneath the rock.

It’s the most exciting and exhilarating sport in the world.

Greg Chapman has been exploring the boulders in the Lake District since 2003. He argues that: “With varied landscapes, intricate geography, disparate beauty and diverse geology the Lake District… offers up more variety than any other similar bouldering area in the UK.”

And he proves it with this exhaustive 600-page guide to “3000 individually numbered problems and dozens of variations and link-ups at over 70 venues.”

The most famous boulder of them all is The Bowderstone: “2,000 tons of bouldering perfection… steep, smooth and sensuous”.

In the 1980s Jerry Moffat and Pete Kirton opened up the classic routes, which now go by such names as Picnic Sarcastic, Inaudible Vaudeville, Impropa Opera and Unfinished Opera. Later climbers pioneered new routes such as Power Pinch and the ultimate “Rising Damp”… “Done by the left-hand sitter to Picnic and finishing up Impropa, via a now-broken hold, the line has since been retro-climbed via the remaining (very) thin crimps and is a fully desperate 8a+.” And that’s about as hard a climb as you’ll ever want to attempt. Hock’s Marathon Finish is 8a, Special People, Dark Edges and Sidekick 8a+, and, the aptly-named Crescendo an 8b+.

This is a wonderful book for all who love getting to grips with the rocks. The technical information must be mouth-watering for the aficionado and the pictures are vertiginous for the uninitiated.

It will be a Bible for Lake District boulderers. As for me, I notice that the National Trust has just installed a new nine metre metal ladder on the stone. It’s level of difficulty is -8b.

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