Sport Climbing by Andrew Bisharat

GearFlogger reviews Sport Climbing by Andrew Bisharat Readers of Rock and Ice magazine are familiar with Andrew Bisharat's spleen-of-consciousness writing. That voice is absent as he takes a first try at the long form in his book Sport Climbing: From Top Rope to Redpoint, Techniques for Climbing Success. The result is a bit of a mixed bag: some good advice, somewhat disorganized, ultimately unsure of its audience and with some glaring omissions.

The first chapter of SC is great, covering the history of SC, how it differes from bouldering and traditional climbing, and even gets straight to the heart of the matter: climbing is about falling, failure and fear, no matter what level you're operating at. There are a number of nice psychological nuggets like this throughout the book, even if the author does let his yoga fetish go a bit too far, e.g. "Let any expectations float to the surface and evaporate in the sun." I don't know about you, but when I'm pumped out at a scary bolt it's all I can do to keep my expectations from squirting out my butt onto my belayer's head. The detailed strategy recommendations for onsighting and redpointing are likewise worthwhile.

The chapter on gear is decent, with helpful tips on when to retire different pieces, but gives incomplete advice like "wire gates are… less likely to come unclipped," and "don't clip your belay carabiner through the tie-in points" without explaining the why and why not (triaxial loading and gate lash respectively). On the other hand, great detail is given to SC-specific techniques like regaining your high point, stick clipping and cleaning a route. Even here, however, there is no mention of simply walking to the top and setting an anchor, which even for SC can be useful.

The biggest shortcoming of the book is its superficial treatment of safety. The author lists wearing a helmet as the first safety rule on page 101, but it's barely covered in the gear section and worse, there's not a single photograph or illustration of a helmet being worn anywhere in the book. Talk about too cool for school. There's also no discussion of setting anchors, fall factors, multi-pitch climbing techniques or how to escape a belay. The advice to quickdraw yourself to a bolt and climb above it also deserves more discussion: the author notes that a static fall can hurt, but neglects to mention the increased probability of total gear failure, especially with a high-tensile dogbone.

This book is the first I've read that dilutes the otherwise stellar quality of the Mountaineers Outdoor Expert series, and fails to make the GearFlogger Backcountry Bookshelf. Hopefully they'll go back to the drawing board with a more focused, balanced and comprehensive second edition.

$15.80 at Amazon



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