Mountain Journeys

Hard Rock – 4th Edition


Kipling Groove on Gimmer - Hard Rock in Langdale
First published in 1974 (I would have been just 1 year old) this soon became the go-to classic, getting climbers inspired for a particular route or visiting a new climbing area. It is part guidebook / part coffee table showcase, which is a tricky feat to pull off. Thankfully Ken Wilson who first put this book together all that time ago, got it right.
Original editions fetch high prices, hundreds of pounds in fact.
Due to Hard Rock being out of print for some time, this is my first copy, although I have briefly glanced through the older versions. All I can say is, it is living up it the legendary reputation that surrounds it.

Covering the whole of mainland UK with 69 routes on over 50 crags, there’s a decent choice and plenty to inspire most, if not all climbers. Many of the original essays are still here, but they are now joined by 13 more recent works to reflect the new eras of climbing and new areas of development. All photos are new, and there are some absolute stunners.
Take the front cover for starters. A composed Mary Jenner on Central Buttress with mist swirling below, simply magnificent.

Oh how I want oh go climbing right now!!

My attention then turned north, to Scotland. I’ve never been to Pabbay, to be honest, it isn’t on my radar and does sound like quite a faff to reach.

But having been drawn in by the photos and further won over by the flowing words of Eleanor Fuller, I’m sold on it. This particular piece flows so well, I felt like I was in Pabbay for a few minutes, teleported to a remote Scottish Isle, happy with that. Whether or not I’m up to leading E2 5c sea cliffs on remote Scottish islands is another matter, so the route described ‘Prophecy of Drowning’ may have to wait whilst a few slightly easier offerings are discovered. But the book is titled ‘Hard Rock’ so fair enough the routes should pack a punch.

Another Scottish route included is probably the most famous sea stack in the world, The Old Man of Hoy. There is currently a video showing on the UK Climbing website UKC of French climber Catherine Destivelle soloing up this with a big pack on. It’s back in the 1980’s I think, and like the book, it transports us to these wild places in such a wonderful fashion. With text by Sir Chris Bonington and and some very cool photography, this route is now a bit higher up on my to-do list.
As I am treating this as an inspiring guide book, it will take years to read through it all properly. That feels like the right way to treat it, don’t rush, there’s years of adventure contained within, go play.

For those interested in a copy, either for some lockdown reading or summer planning, get over to the Vertebrae website here - there's even 25% off just now 🙂

Thanks for reading


Front cover of Hard Rock - ooh it's Scafell!


The Crack, Gimmer crag - More Hard Rock in Langdale


Not quite a Hard Rock route, but it does show Scafell rather well! It's Moss Ghyll Grooves VS - Hard Rock



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