- Paperback: 221 pages
- Publisher: Pink Moment Press; First edition (September 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0982500017
- ISBN-13: 978-0982500019
- Package Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #747,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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To Be Brave Paperback – September 1, 2009
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Gore Vidal described memoir writing as a first-person record of how one remembers one s life. Royal Robbins must remember his life like a savannah elephant because My Life, Volume One: To Be Brave, is only the first of a planned seven volumes spanning the life of America s seminal rock climber. I blazed through the 212 pages of To Be Brave in one evening. Though I respected Robbins enormously, he always felt about as human as a cigar store Indian. How mistaken I was. In To Be Brave, we see how poverty, drunken step-fathers and grade school failures dump the young, Los Angeles-based Robbins onto no-man s land. I was on a downward spiral and beginning to toy with the idea of putting a bullet through my brain, he writes. Looking to the future, all I could see was the gray fog of nothingness. I became desperate to fill that void with a picture I could be proud of. Robbins found that picture on the soaring rock walls of the world. Robbins devotes much of the book to the first (1964) solo ascent of a Yosemite big wall, the Leaning Tower, interlarding this adventure with flashbacks to his thorny childhood. Throughout, he writes like a man on truth serum. For those with tough beginnings and who came into being through climbing, Robbins drift will feel especially poignant and liberating. If there s a finer memoir, written by an American climber, I haven t seen it. Sustaining such high octane over seven volumes will be the greatest challenge of Royal Robbins life. He would have it no other way. --John Long, Rock and Ice Magazine, 2009
Royal Robbins legendary climber, retired businessman, memoirist of Proustian ambition is quiet again. He's pausing to gather his thoughts into another precise sentence. In his new memoir, To Be Brave (Pink Moment Press), Mr. Robbins recalls his early years as a seriously troubled time. I was on a downward spiral and beginning to toy with the idea of putting a bullet through my brain, he writes. Dimly aware that I needed something bigger than my miserable self to which to devote my miserable self, I began asking what I might become. What he became was one of the greatest rock climbers America ever produced. With his bold vision of what it was possible to climb and his stern moral insistence that the style of the ascent mattered as much as the summit, Mr. Robbins was one of the leading figures in the Golden Age of Yosemite Valley climbing, the period in the late 1950s and '60s that revolutionized the sport. When I started climbing, only the lunatic fringe climbed, he says. Today it's widely accepted as an outlet for energy. . . . There's nothing harder than climbing and yet it's become popular. I wish I could have seen it coming. I would have invented climbing walls. Growing up in Los Angeles, Mr. Robbins was deeply unhappy in school. He hopped boxcars for thrills, then graduated to jumping from one moving train to another. He drifted into housebreaking, which ended when the police arrested him in 1947 and he spent several days in jail. After his release, Mr. Robbins found a more positive outlet for his energy: Joining the Boy Scouts was the smartest thing I ever did, he says. Mr. Robbins quickly fell in love with the Sierra Nevada high country. And it was there, in 1949, that he climbed his first rock, a granite tower called Fin Dome. When I touched the rock, he writes, it had in turn touched my spirit, awakening an ineffable longing, as if I had stirred a hidden memory of a previous existence, a happier one. While I was climbing, it was glorious to be alive. Within a few years of taking up the sport Mr. Robbins free climbed a route called Open Book in Tahquitz, in the mountains near Palm Springs. It was the hardest climb anyone had ever done in the U.S. (Trust me: It's still not an easy romp.) Mr. Robbins and his partner Don Wilson came up with a new system to rate the technical difficulty of c -- --Peter Beal
It is interesting to know the background of our climbing legends, and in this powerful memoir, Robbins provides that and more. Robbins obviously had a tricky childhood, brought up in relative poverty by a single mom unlucky with two waster husbands. A poor student and sorry school athlete, he was a juvenile delinquent until he discovered climbing, which opened up a world of possibility and achievement. Robbins tells his story straight, simply, and with great honestly, while providing a window into the world of Yosemite in the late 1950s and early 1960s where every first ascent pushed climbing into uncharted territory and was fraught with meaning. Robbins provides fascinating and historical details about aid climbing in the Eisenhower era and also his much publicized rivalry with Warren Harding. The book starts and ends with his bold, landmark 1963 solo ascent of the West Face of the Leaning Tower. To his long list of achievements, Robbins can now add skilled memoirist along with climbing legend and clothing manufacturer. This is only volume one of a planned series of a seven-volume autobiography, and Robbins leads off on a high note, inspiring us to look forward to number two. --Susan EB Schwartz
To Be Brave is one of the most interesting and important forays in the genre of climbing autobiography that I have seen in a long time. It is an important book for two reasons. The first is that it marks the emergence from relative silence of one of the sport s most innovative and eloquent practitioners. The second is that Robbins has produced perhaps the most profound exploration that I have read of the ways in which climbing can impact a young person s life. I suspect many climbers have followed this road, finding in the sport of climbing a kind of escape from the flawed and distorted stereotypes prescribed for young men and women. Perhaps the crucial ingredient for both sexes has always been the elemental presence of nature and natural forms. Robbins describes it as follows: When I touched the rock, it had in turn touched my spirit, awakening an ineffable longing, as if I had stirred a hidden memory of a previous existence, a happier one. To me there is no question that Robbins has touched upon the core of the meaning of climbing in this passage, perhaps the most important in the book, and among the most cogent descriptions of this feeling that I have ever read. Robbins voice is clear, powerful and articulate, and free from ego or selfishness, a much-needed quality in a book of this kind. I certainly look forward to more. --Peter Beal
About the Author
Royal Robbins' accomplishments as rock climber and adventurer are legendary. An early advocate of boltless, pitonless clean climbing, he did much to transform the climbing culture to minimize the human impact on the vertical wilderness and protect its natural features. As a rock-climbing pioneer, he broke through existing standards to create wholly new skill and difficulty levels. In the 50's, 60's and into the 70's, Robbins established one daring new climb after another, among them many revered classics on Yosemite's Half Dome and El Capitan. Robbins' adventurous life story stands as a beacon of inspiration to those who ever pondered how to reach higher by reaching within. Robbins shares his extraordinary adventures in his new autobiographical series, My Life: Royal Robbins. In To Be Brave, the first volume of the series released in September 2009, Robbins details his historic solo ascent of the overhanging face of Yosemite's Leaning Tower, and chronicles his introduction to climbing while growing up in Los Angeles. For Royal Robbins, the real adventure is the inner one. By focusing upon the minds, emotions and spirits of those involved, he relates climbing escapades in terms everyone can understand. In addition to his new autobiographical My Life series, Robbins has written two seminal books on rock-climbing, Basic Rockcraft and Advanced Rockcraft, which showcased his skill and climbing ethic and inspired a whole new generation of climbers.
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Also I strongly recommend Beyond The Vertical by Layton Kor- also an amazing book!
Three Stars. A good read, but not soul stirring or particularly memorable.