Book Review: The 9th Grade (150 years of free climbing)
By on Amazon here.
Starting off in the late 19th century with the early pioneers of what could now be called 'rock-climbing', this beautiful book (an aside, published by Catherine Destivelle's publishing group) introduces to the our forefathers of the sport that is now entering the mainstream. Early visionaries, one such example is London professor, Owen Glynne Jones, who succeeded on Kern Knotts Crack, graded MVS (French grade 5) - 1897! Early concepts on ethical issues also cropped up - Glynn Jones practising the route on a top-rope prior to his successful ascent.
Comprehensively filled with detailed photos for the early routes and characters, along with detailed, magnetic, writing, the book weaves a wonderful story of many of the early clips from mainland Europe, the UK, and the USA. Paul Preuss, Emilio Comici (photographed taking practising lead falls - on hemp ropes), Royal Robbins, Claudio Barbier, Reinhold Messner, and many more all receive detailed bios just whetting the appetite, and most likely increasing your book reading list for the forthcoming year to find out more on there visionaries!
The book tactically acknowledges climbing becoming a 'sport' in the mid-1940's with the early era of Yosemite where increased ethical awareness for free climbing started to come to the fore, and from here on, many names will also be familiar to modern, passionate, rock-climbers - many of the climbers who are still climbing, or attached to climbing.
John Gill, and his seminal one-arm front lever (below), who essentially pioneered bouldering in its current form (and climbed to the standard of V11/font8a in the 70's) is just one of the 'heroes'.
Can you tell I like the book? If you have even a passing interest in rock-climbing, you'll enjoy at least some part of this wonderful compilation of our-quickly evolving sport. Of course, as standards increased, grades have started to progressively escalate quickly as more and more impressive feats of strength now become normal, however don't forget early 'strong men' such as Aleister Crowley who was doing one-arm pull-ups in 1902......
If the book loses its way in any particular section, I feel it is near the end as it arrives into what can better be described as the modern times, not modern history. All the major names get a mention so those who have only recently joined climbing will find some names to relate to. A fleeting suspicion that some items that are called out for their significance would appear to be major, but in the longer era of time, may not hold up their lustre. However, time will only judge this so perhaps I'm wrong the and author will be vindicated.
I can't recommend enough, if you've any interest in rock climbing, add this to the collection.