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WILD COUNTRY: THE MAN WHO MADE FRIENDS [Camming Gear] Mark Vallance Multiple copies available
By Vallance, Mark
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UK, 2016, 1st UK edition. 224 pp, 68 photos, mostly color. To Americans, Friends are American. To the Brits, they are British. Actually, they are both; this is their story. New trade paperback, no hardcover was issued.

SIGNED by Mark Vallance.


We take modern camming devices for granted blindly stuffing them into cracks and trusting them, literally, with our lives. But these modern moving miracles nearly didn't come to be. It took someone with aerospace engineering skills, personal motivation and a passion for climbing to design them; and a chance meeting with a visionary entrepreneur to launch them.

The Friend was invented by Ray Jardine, an aerospace engineer from Colorado contracted to NASA. By 1970, he'd decided to give up the space race to concentrate on Yosemite climbing. As climbing standards rocketed so did his need to protect soaring crack lines.



Prototype Friend

Ray began to work on his first prototype Friend in 1971 During the following five years both his climbing career and Friend development accelerated. He started with a sliding wedge design but, after continually straining his mind, came up with the concept of a double set of opposing and independently spring-loaded cams. Each of these cams would be able to adjust to widely varying surface irregularities, held together with a high-tensile steel bolt.

The very first Friend (that Ray always carried around in secret) had a 15-degree constant camming angle. This constant-angle spiral is ubiquitous in nature, from seashells to spiral nebulas; it's an expression of uniform growth.

Ray's original device was just four cams on an axle without a trigger. The trigger was the patentable bit.

British Entrepreneur Mark Vallance met Ray Jardine in Yosemite in 1975. Vallance started a company called Wild Country in the UK to make friends. Besides becoming a very successful climbing gear company, the Friends helped usher in the great increase in extreme climbing ability which is still growing. And kept the sport safe.

Friends and it not only made the sport safer, it helped push the limits of the possible. Within six months, Vallance was selling Friends in sixteen countries. Wild Country would go on to develop much of the gear that transformed climbing in the 1980s. 

Mark Vallance's influence on the outdoor world extends far beyond the company he founded. He  was part of the team that built The Foundry, the first modern climbing gym in Britain.  He even found time to climb Shishpangma and the Nose on El Capitan.

In Wild Country, Vallance traces his story, from childhood influences like Robin Hodgkin and Sir Jack Longland, to two years in Antarctica, where he was base commander of the UK's largest and most southerly scientific station at Halley Bay, before his fateful meeting with Ray Jardine, the man who invented Friends, in Yosemite. 

Trenchant, provocative and challenging, Wild Country is a remarkable personal story and a fresh perspective on the role of the outdoors in British life and the development of climbing in its most revolutionary phase. New trade paperback, no hardcover was issued. 

SIGNED by Mark Vallance.


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