Jerry Moffatt"s book Revelations


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Trad climber
San Diego,CA
Topic Author's Original Post - May 26, 2012 - 08:53pm PT
Just finished Jerry Moffatt"s Revelations and I really liked it. If you haven't read it pick up a copy. If you have what did you think? Here's the Prologue so you can get a taste. I'm looking for a new climbing book so Post up any book suggestions.


Itís the summer of 1983. Iím twenty years old, standing alone by the side of the road. The sun is blazing over the beautiful mountains of Snowdonia in North Wales. The Llanberis Pass snakes down from the slopes of Snowdon itself, flanked on both sides by some of the greatest and most historic cliffs in the country: Dinas Mot, Carreg Wastad, Clogwyn y Grochan, Cyrn Las and above me, the greatest of them all. A towering pyramid of stone dominates the skyline, a quarter of a mile up the steep rocky hillside ‐ Dinas Cromlech. Two huge black walls, almost a hundred and fifty
feet high, dominate centre of the crag, forming an open book. This is where the best climbers of the last hundred years have added the greatest climbs. I look up. Itís midweek and the crag is practically deserted. I see only two climbers just starting up a long, easy route on the more broken rock on the left‐hand side. I pick up my rucksack, heavy with ropes, climbing hardware, rock boots, chalk bag and harness, and begin the hot slog up to the cliff above. I know whatís coming, but Iím keeping it a secret from myself.
I promised myself I wouldnít do this again. I had decided to take a step back for a bit. Only yesterday Iíd fought my way up one of the most famous unclimbed sheets of rock in the country, Masterís Wall on Clogwyn Duír Arddu. I came so close to death
that I told myself I wasnít going to do anything dangerous again for a long time. And today, thatís why I need to pretend. I just want to lead a few routes, I tell myself. Iíll get up there and find someone hanging around who doesnít have a partner and who fancies a climb. Weíll team up and climb together for the day, taking turns to lead and second the climbs. Itíll be a nice day out.
Almost believing this, I soon arrive hot and sweaty at the base of the corner. Itís deserted. Of course it is, but Iím here now and Iím ready. Standing in the centre of the great black comer, I look at the familiar climbs that I have worked my way
through so far in my climbing life. These climbs, with their increasing difficulty, are markers Iíve passed while growing stronger and more experienced. I see the line of Cemetery Gates, Joe Brown and Don Whillansí exposed El crack climb up the very edge of the right‐hand wall. I put on my worn rock shoes and chalk bag, leaving all the heavy ropes and hardware behind, and, dressed only a pair of shorts, climb the
long, vertical pitch. It takes less than five minutes. It feels incredible to be climbing in total solitude with such a vast feeling of space and the freedom of having only the climbing to think about. Any thoughts of danger or safety are left a long way below. Near the top, I hang out from the rock on two good holds, look down at the space beneath my feet, then to the road a long way beyond and let myself take it all in. What a place to be. At the top of the crag, I down‐climb Ivy Sepulchre. Three years ago, this had been my first ever HVS lead and as I solo down through the crux, memories of my struggle that day flood into my mind. Soon I arrive again at the base of the big corner. On the wall opposite Cemetery Gates, a thin crack climb splits the otherwise featureless face. This is Left Wall. Graded E2,1 had led it two years before, fighting metal wedges into the thin cracks, clipping in ropes to catch me in the event of a fall.
Today, with only fingertips inside the crack and the ends of my toes smearing on the rock, I cruise to the top with ease. I run down again and on the way, look up to see the other two climbers still about their business on their V Diff. I imagine they are enjoying themselves in the sunshine. On the ground again, I solo Cenotaph Corner, one of Brownís greatest routes, blasting straight up the central corner. I have never
done it before and its relatively low grade hides the fact it is a desperate solo. At a hundred feet I have to fight with slippery crux moves, palming my weight against the greasy walls, without any real holds to hang on to. Momentum carries me through.
I am on fire. I am having one of those unforgettable days when everything comes together: the place, the situation, the weather, the climbs, my fitness, my desire and my state of mind. Without a rope or protection to save me if I make a single error, one miscalculation means death. But nothing I do, no matter how hard, feels like a battle today. It feels like destiny. Memory Lane, the left edge of the left wall, goes by in a blur. Foil, to its left, is harder and steeper than the other climbs. I did it a couple of years before, when it was a good breakthrough into a new grade, my first E3. It has desperate climbing, strenuous and pumpy, but it follows the safety of a good crack that swallows protection. Today, without the protection, it is just as strenuous. At the top of the
crack section, a hundred feet above the rocky ground, I reach the crux. It involves a long powerful move off a flake of rock to a good hold high above. I grab the flake, but it is loose. It rattles in my hand. The rock is steep and I must trust all my weight on this one hold to gain the height I need. The force Iím using must surely snap the hold off. I know what will happen if it does.
I canít reverse the moves I have made to get here. I am fully committed. I feel lactic acid pumping through my forearms, the first sign of tiring muscles. I need to do something. I decide to try to knock the loose hold off, and if I canít, then Iíll assume itís solid enough. I bang it with the fist of my right hand several times. The smacking
makes it budge a little further, but still it doesnít come free. There are no other options. I switch into survival mode, calm and detached. Holding the flake, I run my feet up the steep wall, getting my body as high as possible. I suck in a lungful of air and crank all my weight onto the loose flake. It stays put and I grab the good holds
above. Relief and joy fill me as I race up easy climbing to the top of the cliff.
At the top of the crag I decide Iíve had enough, but once again I find myself in the corner. The hardest route here is Ron Fawcettís recent climb, Lord of the Flies. I led it last year, but it is too close to my physical limit to climb without the assurance of a rope and protection. To its right is Right Wall, Pete Liveseyís all‐time classic E5, the
hardest route in the country in 1974. Right Wall is steep, with long, hard sections on very small holds. I climb past these sections without the slightest doubt. High on the wall, I reach for a very small,
brittle‐looking flake of rock, like an ice‐cream wafer stuck onto the rock. Perhaps after my experience on Foil, I think it moves as I pull on it. Should I trust my weight to this tiny flake? Did it really move? I decide it hasnít. I curl the fingertips of both hands onto this tiny brittle blade of rock, all my weight hanging on it, a hundred and
twenty feet up, all alone in the middle of the week on a mountain in Wales.
Then, a feeling comes over me, a feeling of the most incredible euphoria. Nothing else in the world matters except where I am and what Iím doing at that instant. I feel totally in control, happy and fully relaxed. Everything is perfect. Of course the rock will hold, because this really is my destiny. I shall never forget that moment. I confidently pull through on the wafer, get to better, more solid holds above and cruise to the top of the crag. Even though I am only twenty years old, I know this is one of my special days. Twenty‐five years later I can still remember every detail, every feeling I experienced. It seemed like I was on a path.
My early childhood was great. I grew up in the country and was very close to my parents and two brothers.
At school, I may have struggled academically, but I enjoyed sport and did well at that. I lived a perfectly normal life. Then, aged fifteen, someone took me rock climbing and nothing was ever the same again.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
May 26, 2012 - 09:05pm PT
I absolutely love that last para.

I'm at the "edge" o' me seat, Lad. Dinna stop there, och aye!

Found a link to a review at Planet Fear. It's gonna be tough to find a copy used on the net in the US. Most are in the UK.

The book's not listed in the San Joaquin Library system. Just some book by a lady named Moffatt with the same tittling title---Revelations: Diaries of Women.

Boulder climber
Auburn, ca
May 26, 2012 - 10:02pm PT
Wow. Enticing....that is......must read.
Spike Flavis

Trad climber
Truckee California
May 27, 2012 - 12:28am PT
One of the best climbing books I've read.

Jerry's total dedication is inspiring!

Enjoy it.

Trad climber
May 27, 2012 - 02:58am PT
I loved it as of the better reads I've had from a hero.

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
May 27, 2012 - 03:03am PT
I found Steph Davis's High Infatuation a great, and quick read. Currently in the middle of Lynn Hill's book Climbing Free, and it's also a gem that most climbers should read.

All time favorite was probably Early Days in the Range of Light.

Social climber
May 27, 2012 - 03:16am PT
I read it last year. The first 50 pages are quite interesting, but then it gets really really boring..........
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
May 27, 2012 - 09:44am PT
Thanks, Johnny. Yeah I agree, great book. Moffatt really bears down on the actual experience of very hard solo climbing and allows himself to go ahead and tell us about its freakish personal transcendental aspects. Really important. Good Good Good.

Trad climber
San Diego,CA
Topic Author's Reply - May 27, 2012 - 01:37pm PT
Well put peter. I really took to Jerry's writing. I had read RON FAWCETT's book Rock Athlete just prior to Jerry's and it was good as well but I think I enjoyed the latter more but both were good.
Here's the prolog to Ron's. Enjoy

Rock Athlete


A Century of Extremes

DOWN IN THE VALLEY, lights were coming on as dusk deepened
into night. I reached into my chalk bag for the cigar I'd stashed
there before leaving the house, got it lit and lay back on the flat
gritstone summit, exhaling. The smoke rose straight as a pencil
into the air. There wasn't a breath of wind. My eyes closed and my
tired muscles began to relax. Just across the dale was the little
cottage where I lived. I could use a bath and needed a pint.
The air was beginning to cool. But for now I was happy not
moving for a few minutes and enjoying the warmth of the rock
against my back. Finally, I was at peace.
It had been a long day. I'd parked that morning under Froggatt
Edge, the partly quarried gritstone crag that fringes Big Moor,
overlooking Derbyshire to the west and with the city of Sheffield
at its back. It was a clear, autumn day and the beaches and oaks
below Froggatt were golden. In the sun the air was warming fast,
it would be a hot one, but the crag faces west and so for the time
being was still in the shade. There was nobody about. I put my
hands on the rock and felt at once that the friction would still be
good after a cold night.
I sat down and changed my shoes, lacing up my rock boots
and trying not to think of what I was proposing to do. The scale
of it was vast - one hundred Extreme grade routes in a day.
I hadn't made a list, and I hadn't thought too clearly about where
to find the most routes for the least amount of effort. I really just
wanted a reason, some kind of target, to keep me out all day,
to test my body, to find out what I was capable of doing.
There was no ulterior motive. I wasn't there for sponsors.
I didn't care whether what I was doing would be reported in
climbing magazines. I just wanted to find that edge I felt I'd lost.
For almost twenty years I'd spent every waking moment either
climbing or thinking about it. My body was honed by a relentless
training regime that I had started to resent: hundreds of press-ups
each day and seemingly endless top-rope sessions where I would
do laps on routes I had once found hard. I'd given pretty much
everything I had to the sport. What did I have left?
I started as I meant to go on, soloing up Downhill Racer, the flawed
masterpiece of my old friend Pete Livesey, crimping on its
chipped hold and then moving on, a gem of a route. I climbed
down Long John's Slab, the easier Extreme to its left. Two down,
ninety-eight to go. Moving leftwards along the crag, I continued,
climbing routes I'd done so often that I knew each hold before I
reached it. I could feel the momentum building and shut off my
mind from everything but moving up rock.
Back at the slab, I collected my gear and moved right to the
blanker, neighbouring slab where the routes were even more
committing. I've always been a bit of a thug, more comfortable on
steeper routes where strength comes into play. But I would save
myself a lot of energy for later in the day by climbing these slab
routes, even if they were dangerous. I squeaked my boots,
rubbing my palms across the soles to clean off any loose dirt and
padded upwards, adding five to my tally. Further right the crag
got steeper and I felt a small twinge of apprehension. The last
time I'd been here I'd suffered a bad fall while soloing and broken
my leg. Today there must be no mistakes.
So casually had I taken my plan, I'd brought nothing to eat.
Now I was hungry. I should have continued along the edge of the
moor to Curbar Edge and another batch of routes to solo, but
instead I dropped back down the hill to my car and raced down
to Hathersage. I sat in a cafe half-watching two pretty waitresses
move among the tables. I wanted to stay and maybe start a
conversation. How could a compulsion to climb push me around
like this? And yet, there I was, back on the street, getting into the
car and taking the road up to Stanage.
I'd never enjoyed the texture of the rock at Stanage all that
much. It didn't compare favourably with the gritstone I'd grown
up with in Yorkshire. I found it lichenous and insecure, and as a
consequence I didn't know the routes I was planning to climb
nearly so well. Starting at the right-hand end of the crag, I tried out
an idea to speed my progress. I'd brought my oldest pair of sticky
rock boots, now stretched and consequently loose on my feet.
I could walk comfortably in them between routes, and by
wrapping carpet tape around the uppers, I hoped they would stay
solidly in place for when I was climbing.
Starting around The Dangler, I moved left, cursing whichever
guidebook writer had decided to describe the crag from left to
right. Where was I? My boot idea wasn't working either and
I soon changed into my regular pair, putting up with pinched feet
to save time. I was fed up. An old boy in breeches and floppy big
boots latched on to me as I moved along the crag, trying to engage
me in conversation about the good old days, the time of Joe
Brown and Don Whillans. I didn't want to be rude, but I was busy
and getting frustrated. Things weren't coming easily anymore.
I had the motivation to step up a gear when climbing the
harder grades, but that left me vulnerable on under-graded
routes where I thought I wouldn't need to struggle. On an
innocuous-looking climb called Fern Groove I found my feet and
fingers greasing off the holds, my eyes scanning the rock ahead,
flummoxed at what to do next. It was only El, the easiest grade
that qualified as Extreme, but I found myself backing off it. I felt
shaken. I was losing momentum.
A little further along, I came across two climbers I recognised,
Johnny Dawes and Martin Veale, practising desperate unclimbed
routes with the safety of a top-rope. Here was the next generation
hard at play. I might have abandoned my plan right there, and
joined them for the rest of the afternoon. It looked like fun. But I
felt shy with them, and the burden of my target was settled on my
shoulders. I pressed on. But the kind of Extremes I was searching
for were now becoming thinner on the ground.
I soloed a slab called Wall End Slab Direct, and then the gorgeous,
unprotected arete of Archangel, pushing to the back of my mind
the thought that I might be in any kind of danger.
I'd more or less forgotten I wasn't roped. But I still felt under
pressure. Ploughing through the waist-high bracken, turning
bronze with the season, I began to fret about the time. I'd probably
get more routes done at another crag. The sections of cliff on
Stanage were becoming more isolated and further apart. After
soloing Count's Buttress, I decided to run back along the top of the
crag and down to the car park, now half a mile back up the road.
My tally was up to fifty-six.
Reaching the car, I slotted in a Lou Reed album and sped off
up the hill, then down past Higgar Tor and around to the small
car park below Burbage. The climbs here were shorter and the
friction much more to my liking. The crag doesn't catch the sun
until evening and so the rock was still cool. I moved up a gear
climbing short but awkward problems several grades harder than
Fern Groove, but I felt secure and strong, full of confidence again,
the momentum back with me. There were lots of hard routes close
together and I felt strangely inspired by the route names: Above
and Beyond the Kinaesthetic Barrier, Pebble Mill.
It must have seemed crazy to those climbers I met that day.
Jogging from one route to the next in some kind of frenzy. They
weren't to know that I'd been doing things like this for most of
my climbing life. When I was young, and often on my own,
I taught myself to climb this way, soloing on the crags around my
childhood home in Embsay, a small, tight-knit village outside
Skipton. In those days, my appetite seemed insatiable. I would
run back from school to go climbing. I felt most at ease moving
on rock. It was where I was meant to be. Later on, I would stay at
the crag to climb a bit more when everyone else had gone to the
pub. I was utterly driven by my passion for climbing.
The day was wearing on and although I'd pushed my total up
to the mid seventies at Burbage, I didn't have much more than a
couple of hours of daylight left. I might have been older and wiser
now I was in my early thirties, but I hadn't changed my habits.
It was, however, getting harder to find the spark that once had come
so easily. My life felt less secure than when I was a lad, driving
my parents up the wall with all the scrapes I found myself in.
My first marriage had ended a few months before and I wasn't
sure where I was going. Everything seemed uncertain. Maybe
that's what I was doing up here, trying to make sense of things in
the places I knew best.
Back in the car, I had a choice. Nip down the road to Millstone
Edge, a gritstone quarry that I knew well and was close at hand,
or drive a few miles back to Curbar, where I'd been that morning.
Millstone might have been nearer but it was taller than Curbar,
meaning I'd need to do more climbing. With twenty-odd routes
still to do, I didn't think I'd have either sufficient time or energy.
So I headed south.
Crags have their own character, and Curbar is no exception.
It's a tough place, often steep and intimidating, more so than its
neighbour Froggatt. The first big wall is tall and slightly leaning.
I started on a famous Joe Brown route called Right Eliminate,
an awkward, off-width crack. When I was a young climber, with
a hemp-line round my waist tying into a hawser-laid rope, a route
like this was about the hardest thing in the country. Brown had
been one of the heroes of my youth, a legend to my generation of
climbers, coming of age in the late 1960s. What's more, he was
a working-class hero, from a background like mine. I hadn't come
from a wealthy family who could indulge my eccentric passion
for climbing. My dad drove a wagon for a living and my mother
worked in the local mill.
Moving along the crag, I ran into John Allen leading a friend
up his neat little slab route Kayak. John was a gritstone master
who had amazed the climbing world as a teenager in the mid
1970s, a genuine wunderkind. A little younger than me, he seemed
more relaxed these days, just out for fun and not bothered about
where it was going. I stopped for a chat but I still had almost
twenty routes to go. I needed to keep moving. The evening was
wearing on and the midges were out, chasing me along the crag.
My brain ached with the tension of so much soloing.
I looked at my village across the valley and yearned for home.
But I wasn't finished yet. By the time I reached Apollo the lights
were on in the valley. I stripped off my shirt, stashed my gear and
jogged down to the Deadbay Crack area, half-climbing, half-falling
down the crack itself and then back up the groove.
After sprinting back up to the Apollo area, the last few problems
I needed to do there were all favourites. I felt the finishing line
was close. The sun was long gone, but I knew now that I was
going to come through. When I added them all up, my one
hundred routes totalled 3,957ft of climbing. I'd also walked and
run more than twelve miles moving between crags. My legs
ached a little from it. The skin on my hands, after decades of
climbing, was unbroken.
When I was climbing hard, people often used to ask me what
I would do next. It's a question many athletes must sooner or later
come to dread. And it's a question people stop asking after
a while, when they begin to think that for you, there is no next
thing. I didn't mind. I had plenty of other things to do when
I stepped aside. Looking back now, it seems like another world,
especially when I was just a kid, growing up in Embsay. But I can
still remember the excitement I felt, daydreaming at school,
desperate to be outside, up on the moors again, climbing.

Social climber
May 31, 2012 - 07:34pm PT
I really liked Revelations.

The chapter on competition climbing, I almost skipped--how interesting could it be?--but it turned out to be gripping.

Reason being that the regular climbing had become so easy, instinctive, but when competing directly he found that just being a better climber than anyone else (which he pretty much was at the time) was not enough. He found this infuriating! To win, he had to unlearn old habits, figure out what he he was doing wrong, then train in a whole new way. Not an easy process for him, but along the way he is forced to examine and better understand his motivations and drive.

In the course of reading his incisive analysis of all this you get a real feel for the level of determination and drive--hunger, really--that he brought to all aspects of his climbing.

The ending is great, too; he pretty much stopped climbing but directed his energies into other things that could give the same satisfaction.
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