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HANGING BY A THREAD: THE SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND CULTURE OF ROCK CLIMBING AND MOUNTAINEERING Mark Reeves. 2013 1st ed
By Reeves, Mark
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Detailed Product Description
USA, 2013, 1st edition. 250 pp. An anthology of climbing history, but viewed from the previously unexplored perspective of science and technology. A curiosity shop of factoids and stories that is hoped will entertain and educate. Along the way we examine several questions you probably never knew existed.
 
So if you want to know how in proving Newton both right and wrong led to the development of contour lines on a land maps; who really invented the key technological breakthroughs in classic mountaineering equipment; what it is exactly that happens to the human body when we go to altitude or how it was decided that conquering Everest was possible then this book will appeal.
 
Possibly the most stand out chapter explores risk taking and attempts to answer the question of why we climb. Rather than using philosophical debate, we instead turn to research in psychology, genetics and neuroscience to try to unearth what makes a climber tick.
 
This is Mark reeves’ second major book the first was a ‘How to Climb Harder’ by pesda press. This is an attempt to go outside his comfort zone of instructional manuals and instead turn to only words to tell a story. He hopes you agree that it is an interesting read. New paperback, no hardcover issued.
 
 
Hanging By A Thread: The History, Science, Technology and Culture of Rock Climbing and Mountaineering, takes a new look at climbing from the perspective of technological breakthroughs and at times why and how they occurred.

The book started as a question, what are the ten most important innovations in rock climbing equipment and quickly blossomed into a book that linked science, technology and climbing culture together. Whilst many of the stories are well known, as this is veritable anthology of climbing tales and would appeal to any climber who'd like an accelerated introduction to the history of climbing. It also caters for the seasoned enthusiast by offering a new outlook onto those same stories.

Through the book we examine why humans may have started climbing, how altitude research has help modern medicine, how a scientist proved Sir Isaac Newton right and wrong by using a mountain to weigh the earth and what effect the space race had on climbing. In the penultimate chapter we make an exploration of risk taking and debunk the 'because it's there' idea and instead turn to psychology for answers as to why some of us choose to take risks. So if you finally want to know the real reason of why you climb then this chapter alone is worth a read, although you may not like the answer as there is a dark side to risk taking.
 
    
Review on Mark Reeves Talk

We were very pleased to be able to host Mark Reeves. He is so involved in the climbing community with his work as a guide, writing articles for UKC and climber, checking the safety of bolts in North Wales and the many books he has written on training such as 'How to climb Harder". This talk however was based on his new book 'Hanging by a thread.' 

The talk was about the History and Technology of Rock climbing. Almost all climbing talks are by famous climbers about there adventures, near misses, the journey that has taken them to the top of their game and the fun stories on the way. Perhaps the impossible project against all the odds thrown in too. 

This already proved to be something different. Perhaps even intellectual. We knew it was not a title that was going to attract the beginner climber or the occasional weekender but the obsessed or hardcore, the ones who wanted to know more. Perhaps the ones keen for a bit of geeky crag talk. 

Not sure what to expect ourselves we excitedly waited for his arrival on the day. After meeting him we had some interesting (slightly controversial) chat on bolting, the BMC, ethics of climbing etc and he showed us part of a music video that was 'his inspiration for everything he does'. His knowledge and love for climbing (as well as his eccentricity) wetted our appetite for what was to come.

He started as most talks do. About himself, his climbing and a few of his favourite routes. His passion and excitement really came through but I did start to wonder about the relevancy to what we were expecting to hear about. 

Then he dived straight in. The lecture was true to the title but nothing like what I was expecting. Every time he started a new topic I was at a complete loss and intrigued about what he was going to talk about or introduce. When he got to the meat of it - it all made perfect sense.

His talk was unexplored, Questions that only he has seemed to have asked. Why? It is certainly not because it isn't interesting or important. I think climbers of today are too focussed on the here and now. The amazing new lines being put up and the gear revolution making climbing more and more accessible. History is a point sorely missed a lot of the time. Most sports have a very proud history but climbing being a niche sport has too many participants who are not aware of it's history at all. Take running for example - everyone knows the feats of Jesse Owens and who ran the first 4 minute mile even if you don't run.

We do remember our climbing heroes (like Eric Jones who we hosted not to long ago) but what about the people behind the scenes. The people who developed the climbing shoe by buying Woolies plimsoles, or leader placed protection. The people who did amazing climbs with equipment made in their bedroom. Such a niche sport has humble and almost primal beginnings but also a proud heritage. 

Mark Reeves is someone who clearly thinks about things very carefully. He has a very particular type of mind, very inquisitive. In another life he may have made a fantastic scientist. This has lead him to delve into the origins of the cam, the development of climbing rope, who was the first climber and perhaps most interestingly why people climb and why people take that risk. 

His approach is all research based, factual and linking together many facets from many sources. It was exciting and learning from the past I think will inspire the future. Seeing how far we have come is sometimes the best way to see how far we still have to go. 

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