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The Field Book of Mountaineering and Rock Climbing

The Field Book of Mountaineering and Rock Climbing, by Tom Lyman and Bill Riviere. New York: Winchester Press, 1975. 208 pages, with photos and illustrations. Price: $8.95.

Tom Lyman, an active experienced mountaineer, collaborated with outdoor writer Bill Riviere to produce The Field Book of Mountaineering and Rock Climbing. Alas, this is just another instructional manual on mountain travel, equipment, clothing, techniques, and hazards, with appendices on maps and aerial photographs, and a mountain medicine bibliography.

I am sceptical when an author refers to his work as The field book to techniques and equipment. And in this case the book is not complete. It is always hard to move from illustration and description to execution; a beginner will find gaps in the description which make this doubly difficult. Illustrations such as the one on page 109 showing a belayer with a single nut for protection are misleading and dangerous. Lyman describes the placement of ice screws in one way and illustrates it in another: in the text he tells us the eye of the screw is turned uphill so that the downward force is exerted directly on the shaft of the screw, the illustration on page 110 shows the eye turned downhill.

One welcome addition to the tried-and-true format is the chapter on conservation in the mountains. Minimum impact wilderness use is an idea whose time has come. The use of stoves instead of campfires in alpine areas and other heavily traveled mountain areas has become even more critically important than clean climbing. People must be taught not to mass produce campfire pits and erect megolithic shelters. Many climbing instruction books have been written. Undoubtedly, more will follow. And while the ultimate degree of this proliferation is uncertain, it will probably continue until each publishing house has issued at least one book.

Final recommendation: If you want a general climbers instruction book, save your $8.95 and stick with the “classics”.

Robert Schneider