Review: Hard Rock – Compiled by Ian Parnell £39.95, Published by Vertebrate Publishing.

WHILST this is the fourth edition of this particular book it is 18 years since it was last updated and 46 years since its first publication by Ken Wilson, editor at the time of Mountain magazine.

The book is quite a weighty tome. Comprising over 200 pages and featuring over 50 crags and 69 routes in England, Scotland and Wales. It epitomises all that is great about traditional climbing in Great Britain.

There are 17 routes in Scotland, 11 in the Lake District, 15 in North Wales, 3 in South Wales, 10 in the Pennines and Peak District and 7 in South West England. A number of routes in the book are well known to me from my time climbing in the 70s and 80s whilst undertaking my Mountain Leadership training, particularly those in North Wales and the Lake District and more locally at Almscliffe. The routes range from Very Severe to E4 (the 4th hardest in the Extremely Severe category).

Each of the chapters contains a photograph showing the route up the crag and are punctuated with several full page photographs showing climbers on the route itself. There is also a two-page written description of the climb in each chapter. Some of the routes are very well known; the Old Man of Hoy in the Orkney Islands, the Central Buttress on Scafell in the Lake District, Vector at Tremadoc in Wales and The Right Unconquerable at Stanage Edge in the Peak District.

There is an opening 8-page chapter relating to the development of hard rock climbing in Britain from Victorian times right up to the present day. There is also a 2020 postscript by Ian Parnell, the current compiler. This covers climbing ethics, the growth of climbing walls the first of which was at Leeds Polytechnic in 1964 but which have grown exponentially in the last two decades. Also since the millennium, bouldering has increased in popularity and this is also covered in the postscript section.

At the end of the book are two appendixes, the first about people who have “ticked off” all of the routes in the book. The second concerns two routes that have been removed since the last edition and the reason for this. These are The Scoop at Stone Ulldale on Harris in the Outer Hebrides and more locally the main overhang at Kilnsey Crag.

For anyone who has experienced the thrill of climbing or even those who have watched and marvelled at the “Crag Rats” on any of these climbs, this coffee table book will fill many evenings of enjoyable pleasure reading about these classic climbs.

by John Burland