Top critical review
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Broad overview rather than practical guide
on 11 December 2012
While a book can never replace actual learning-by-doing an activity, one would expect a headline containing "Essential Skills & Techniques" to reflect a more thorough coverage than what I found in Libby Peter's work.
I bought the book after skimming through the many pages with great photos and apparently detailed descriptions. Also the many great testimonials, sponsorship/support by the BMC gave it some kind of greater credibility than all the other books on the market.
However, when I read it, I found the following quite frequently:
"...rock climbers do so and so, see picture 2.1, for more information please read another book..."
"...bouldering has fascinated many people, if interested check out the following website..."
"...this is such a great topic, but it is covered by another book of the series..."
In essence, a very broad summary with numerous references to external content. A kind of introductory index where one can start, but definitely not a comprehensive guide.
To be fair, I must say that some chapters like those covering different rope techniques contained more detail than others, but the majority of sections - e.g. getting ready, warming up, training, bouldering, indoor climbing, etc. - were completely superficial.
I found it almost sarcastic that the chapter on safety and hazards asks the reader to check an online database on mountaineering incidents, then simply explained how to organize a rescue, but said nothing about how to behave at the emergency itself, how to prevent dangers, how to actually move safely. A section with details on "Mountain First Aid" would have been useful.
While everyone may not be interested in the history of climbing, calling a trite list of first ascents "the history" is a little bit ridiculous.
I found better information on all of those subjects searching Google and Wikipedia. Period.
It is a good and easy read, but I was looking for more.
I guess that since this book constitutes part of the official syllabus of mountaineering training (mountain leader, SPA, etc.), the majority of those who read this will find it more easy and obvious to use it as an index to accessible external content. However, as a novice to the field who would like to learn as much as possible about rock climbing and mountaineering, I was disappointed and felt I had not spent my money well.
To conclude on a positive note:
the pictures are really good, they also "tell more than words can do" (since the book literally doesn't have many...), and I also appreciated the fact that there was a nice chapter on rock climbing for disabled people. That was something very interesting, even though it was unrelated to my original intention.
If I could give a suggestion to the author: please add more content rather than telling people to buy other books.
As a next step, I guess I need to buy at least the other two books in the series.