In this series, we will be reviewing books across a wide range of genres, all related in some form to championing women.
‘Climbing Free’ chooses not to start at the beginning of her journey but in the middle when Lynn is at the top of her game. The first chapter entitled ‘The Perfect Fall’ draws you in within the first few pages and doesn’t let you go, and you start to prepare yourself for things to take a turn for the worst. The worst being her recounting the chilling story of her 72 ft fall in Southern France after forgetting to tie a rope.
Throughout the book I discovered lines and concepts that resonated with me and I felt as if they could be applied to life in general, not just rock climbing. Lines like this:
“The beauty of rock climbing is no 2 moves are ever the same, the rock holds infinite opportunities and possibilities.”
One concept, ‘chunking’, is a powerful tool for getting the body to follow whatever the mind has imagined, which can be used before a climb. As a strong believer myself in mind over matter and the ability for humans to achieve anything they put their mind to, I was inspired throughout this book.
This is one of those classic examples that we should never judge a book by its cover. Do not underestimate the variety within its pages from stories of peril, drug-riddled plane crashes, hot air ballon climbs, confrontations with friends, and deep sadness. Expect some technical word usage about the sport (now I know what a ‘belay station’ is!) and be prepared for plenty of rock names (which you most likely will forget…)
Lynn is the perfect example of a woman shattering the gender barrier, in one of the most incredible stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading. She excelled in a sport dominated by men and despite her size (thought of as a disadvantage) she was ranked no. 1, far ahead of her male competitors. Her determination to be at the top of her game has left me in awe. She has to be one of the strongest women I have ever or will ever read about. She is an inspiration not only to climbers but to all women.
Time it took to read it: 7 hours, 7 minutes
Why I picked up the book in the first place: This book was lent to me by a male friend who is a rock climbing enthusiast.
Don’t judge a book by its cover: I have zero interest or passion for rock climbing as a sport or leisure activity, but I still loved this book! Lynn has a wonderful story to tell, one of courage and determination. It is emotional in parts, terrifying and extraordinary all in one.
Rating out of 5: 4
Where to get it cheapest: £9.36 at abebooks.
The woman behind the book
Lynn Hill made history, period.
In 1994 she succeeded on a climb that no person —man or woman—has been able to repeat: the first “free ascent” of the Nose on Yosemite’s El Capitan. Throughout the 80s and 90s she was quite possibly the best female athlete in the world. Social circles that lie outside of athletics or rock climbing will most likely miss Lynn’s story (unless they actively seek it), and it is certainly one worth telling. The foreword was written by Lynn’s friend John Long and is one of the most emotional and beautiful I have ever read. One of my favourite lines is:
“Lynn shattered the gender barrier so throughly that no one could put the pieces back together”.
Whether it was Lynn speaking out at the Survival of the Fittest competition when the male prize was $15,000 and the female prize just $5,000, or the ability to hold her own in a male dominated sport; I came to love her for her “naked boldness” (as John Long says) and the undisputed likeability that she came to earn a reputation for.
Written by Rebecca Gache-Ford, Founder of Fanny Pack
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