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Bouldering Essentials

Review: Bouldering Essentials by Dave Flanagan

We were lucky enough to receive a copy of Bouldering Essentials, written by David Flanagan and published by Three Rocks Books, here’s what we thought.


This is designed to be an introductory guide for newcomers to the sport and perhaps a companion to those who already know their stuff but wish to back up the knowledge and techniques that they have already developed along the way. It would also be useful for those wishing to coach or teach climbing/bouldering as it often describes difficult-to-articulate concepts and moves – Have you ever tried to explain a drop-knee!
First impressions of the book are how well presented it is; with a wealth of not just inspiring but instructive photos and clearly laid out, well thought through text.
Instructional books are always a funny one as there really is no substitute for just getting out and trying it but as a supplementary companion, they can be very useful. One of the big barriers to progress when first starting out (at least in my experience) is confidence. There is nothing worse than wanting to join in the banter at the wall or ask for advice at the boulders but holding back for fear of saying something wrong or showing your naivety. Arming yourself with some of the lingo, concepts and backgrounds to the sport can do wonders for confidence.
I can’t imagine any young (or old) boulderers sitting at home with this book in one hand while trying to make a crimp in the air with other. But at least when it comes to discussing beta, reading guidebook descriptions or figuring a sequence, it provides the newcomer (or coach for that matter) with the terminology to clearly and concisely express themselves.
On top of all the usual chapters on Centre of Gravity and Crimping, there is some great advice on training, injury prevention and treatment (for when the former overtakes the latter). It’s this sort of info that is of use to any of us, not just beginners.
Whilst it’s true that the majority of the information held here is available online and down the wall, searching out the good beta from the bad is often difficult and takes time and experience that many of us just don’t have. This then acts as a great reference and starting point to knowing what to look and ask for.
Aside from the practical applications of the book, there’s nothing like great photos of amazing locations and problems to get you psyched. At the back of the book, there is a low down of some of the world’s best-known bouldering venues. From Stanage to Castle Hill, there is just enough info to let you know there is a world of rock out there, waiting for you to get on it! When I was starting out, I remember the revelation of flicking through back copies of old climbing magazines and realising there is an endless world of climbing to explore and not just the triangle of Peak, Lakes, North Wales.
The photography is taken from all over the world, including David’s native Ireland and shows great sensitivity in selecting which problems to showcase. Rather than just showing super-hard stuff at the cutting edge, that in reality few of us will come close to, it shows a range of problems at a range of grades to tempt the aspirant boulderer and show what is available to them as they work through the grades.
Perhaps a fairly regular climber isn’t the best person to review this book though, which is why I have passed it onto my girlfriend who over the past few months has been taking her first few steps into the world of bouldering. Will she see the use and find it helpful? It’s probably preferable to me shouting at her from the mats and poorly describing what a gaston is anyway!

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