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Rock Climbing: Mastering Basic Skills (Mountaineers Outdoor Expert) Paperback – May 12, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


A comprehensive guide for getting started in rock climbing or improving intermediate skills. -- Tacoma News Tribune

If you're not a rocket scientist but love to climb, this 2004 National Outdoor Book Award winner makes climbing...simple. -- Fort Collins Coloradoan

The book's photos and graphics are easy to understand and master, even for the most ground-bound among us. --Idaho Falls Post Register

From the Author

We were sitting at the base of the Nautilus, a rock formation known for prickly off-width cracks in Wyoming's Vedauwoo, when Sylvia Luebben asked me if I would consider writing a new edition of her late husband Craig Luebben's Rock Climbing: Mastering Basic Skills.

A kaleidoscope of thoughts went through my mind as I considered her offer. I was honored that she would ask me. I was sad to think that Craig wasn't alive to do it himself. I was intimidated by the undertaking of trying to update an award-winning book.

As I sat there below the Nautilus, one of Craig's favorite rocks, his daughter Giulia was climbing a tricky 5.9, and my kids were playing around on the rock slabs at the base. Climbing is very much alive in our families, and while I've mostly stepped away from the big alpine due to the time away from the family, I go rock climbing a few times each week. Some people go to the gym, ride a bike, or do yoga. I climb.

I pondered the accident that killed Craig, an ice wall collapse in the North Cascades; the kind of accident that could happen while walking under an icy roof or driving a car across an avalanche zone. There is one big difference: our culture accepts the risk of walking under icy roofs and driving on wintery roads.

A couple of weeks later I told Sylvia I'd be honored to take on the new edition. My inspiration was partly his family's steadfast belief in the beauty of climbing, partly his and my friendship that took us up the first one-day winter ascent of the Diamond, up numerous first ascents in the Utah desert, and to China and Canada on ice climbing adventures, and partly a shared passion for showing others how fun it is to climb safe and strong.

I've been asked numerous times how I could continue climbing after losing a friend to the sport, and I'm sure people wonder how Craig's wife and daughter continue to climb after losing Craig. It's a good question, one I don't entirely know how to answer, but the best I can do to explain is that life is risky. Some people avoid nearly all risk. Some of them have high blood pressure. Some have strained relationships with their naturally risk-taking children. Some look back from old age with regrets about the things they didn't do when they were young.

To people like Craig and I, risk is part of life; it's how you manage the risk that matters. Rock climbing is the safest of the different genres of mountaineering, and modern climbing equipment and attentive technique make it quite reasonable to climb a hundred days a year for an entire lifetime and never have a serious accident.

In the end, that's what inspired me to pour my heart and soul into this new edition: Craig and I dedicated our lives to sharing the valuable methodology of calculated risk-taking. For much of our society, voluntary risk is a contradiction. For us, being bold while staying safe, teaching while learning, and taking risks while avoiding danger all make perfect sense - and those who have tied into a rope and discovered the beauty of climbing tend to agree.

I've climbed with many partners, including partners who were paraplegic, strong, weak, blind, obese, old, young, athletic, timid or fearless - and nearly every one of them found climbing to be one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives.

Perhaps my mountain guide father, Mike Donahue, put it best: "Life is not found by avoiding the doing; life is a mountain to be climbed." --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Mountaineers Outdoor Expert
  • Paperback: 301 pages
  • Publisher: Mountaineers Books; 1 edition (May 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898867436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898867435
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #589,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Craig Luebben's new book represents a huge leap forward in climbing skills manuals. Though many excellent skills manuals exist (including Luebben's past works and the vaunted but unweildy Freedom of the Hills which goes beyond rock climbing into aplinism and mountaineering) this manual really sepetrates itself with its patient explanations and particularly with its photo instructions with added graphics for clarity. Many books of this genre have struggled with the clarity involved with diagramming knots and sysytems and Craig obviously went to great lengths to rectify this issue. The book is organized well and is easy to follow. It is nice to have these smaller manuals which focus on a specific discipline in the sport. As a climbing guide and instructor I am frequently asked to suggest learning manuals. This one will now be at the top of the list.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Guide, author and climbing gear inventor Craig Luebben's book won a National Outdoor Book award and it's well deserved. For anyone taking up rock climbing, or wanting to bring their knowledge up-to-date this is the book to start with.

It's well organized and well-illustrated. Luebben starts the basics of pure climbing - footwork, holds and jams along with special climbing challenges like chimneys and off-widths (he's the Yoda of off-width climbing). Then he covers the gear you'll need like shoes, harness and ropes. He describes basic climber knots and working with ropes and slings. Then he talks about protection, natural and man-made.

He tells you how to build anchors and keep your partner safe with proper belaying technique. He covers top-roping, sport climbing and the basics of traditional climbing including the approach, route-finding, setting pro and the physics and psychology of leading.. Later chapters introduce multi-pitch free climbing, descending and rappelling, bouldering and training for climbing. The concluding chapter explains how to avoid turning your climb into an epic by learning basic self-rescue techniques.

This is by far the best, most up-to-date book on basic rock climbing. After you've read it (more than once) and practiced the skills he describes, get Luebben's book on building climbing anchors.

Bill Becher
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Format: Paperback
Buy it, read it, use it! Mastering Basic Skills should be purchased at the same time as one's first pair of rock shoes. This book is as comprehensive as Freedom of the Hills but written for the rock climbing niche. It delivers a full spectrum of skills and knowledge every climber should develop. From placing protection to footwork to knots and anchors to self-rescue techniques, it's in there. The way information is parceled makes the entire book easy to comprehend, and to consult topic by topic. It's illustrated throughout with crisp photos. Receiving the benefit of the author's guide experience is a bonus; he's added advanced tips and exercises, as well as his own insights. This makes the material less dry, more practical and personal.

If you've mastered everything in Mastering Basic Skills, you truly are an advanced climber. Chances are good, though, that plenty of climbers who've been at it for while could learn something from this book, too.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am happy with the information of this book. I have been climbing on and off for over 9 years and can truly appreciate having this on hand to remind of what I forget (time to time) and some very worthwhile info that even experienced climbers have not offered me. I am not sure about the actual book, but the only weakness of the kindle edition is that the explanation for tying a knot and the corresponding pictures are not together and even seem to be out of order. One of the knots is described but not shown. I am not super upset as I intend to get a dedicated book for knots... but still frustrating. Overall... I cannot express how much I believe that this is a book that every beginner and intermediate climber will find useful and should include in their library. Happy climbing
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm new to the whole idea of rock climbing and I wanted to know more about the basics and fundamentals. From what I can tell, this is a good starting point, talking not only about methods and safety and terminology, but also how to respect the areas and fellow climbers etc, its about the lifestyle too. It can be exciting and dangerous, but thats all part of it, if you're smart and be careful, you shouldn't have a problem. Even if you are just vaguely interested in climbing, this book is a good resource in my opinion. Lot's of good information in these pages.
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I began climbing in 1985. In 1992 and 1993, I had the fortune to become friends with Craig when he and Lizz Grenard opened the climbing wall at Health Works in Fort Collins, Colorado and brought me on as an on-staff belayer and then as route setter. Craig and Lizz taught me so much and took me from climbing 5.9s to redpointing a 5.13b. Craig used to lend me his ice gear when I was too broke to afford my own. We lost touch over the years and I was heartbroken to hear of his death a couple years ago. I am now introducing the sport to my girlfriend, and was thrilled when this book was listed first among my search results. I bought it in a heartbeat, knowing it would not disappoint. Craig was one of the foremost mountaineering guides around and will be missed. Those new to the sport are lucky he has passed on some of his knowledge in this book! Highly recommended to anyone just discovering the sport (of course - I am a bit biased ;-) )!
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