need advice on new how to climb big walls book


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Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Original Post - Oct 3, 2008 - 09:52pm PT
so i have been working on a How to Climb Big Walls book for about... 10 years or so.

Finally starting to get it done thanks to encouragement/editing from my dad... maybe 65% there.

To get over the final motivation hurdle, i was thinking of posting the chapters here and getting feedback, encouragement, slander, etc That way, my thinking goes, i can get out of the isolation that has been part of why this has been taking so long to finish.

also, by putting the chapters on the site now it would make the project feel "new" as opposed to the same old way i usually make books. it might be a fun experiment.

so, my question, do you think i should:

A) polish up the chapters before i post em up here? do some copyediting, try to get the text in "good rough draft shape"


B) just post the stuff as i go. lots of holes. tons of errors etc but the advantage is more stuff gets posted faster


PS: Directory of all Forum posts related to How To Big Walls book:
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Oct 3, 2008 - 10:02pm PT
how do you work? you're posting this stuff for us to help you, how can we help?

Trad climber
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Oct 3, 2008 - 10:22pm PT
I am writing the first in a series of math books and I sure move faster and get more done when people pop in and offer opinions. If I just sit down and try to get it done before lifting the kimono I am sure I would get far less done.

So, in my opinion, shows us what ya got and let the online crew motivate you to keep writing!

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
Oct 3, 2008 - 10:27pm PT
Polish up 1st, or else you'll get a bunch of comments on stuff you already know needs cleaned up.
John Moosie

Beautiful California
Oct 3, 2008 - 10:35pm PT
Just start. Make no commitments. If you don't like the way it is progressing, then change what you are doing. If you post raw stuff and are overwhelmed by too many basic corrections on this site, then edit the next chapter before you post it.

Boulder climber
Oct 3, 2008 - 10:38pm PT

You want Chongo's cell#?

Trad climber
Oct 3, 2008 - 10:40pm PT
I'm several hundred pages into a dissertation on Somalia's telecoms industry as an instance of 'development without state' so can feel your pain in terms of isolation and motivation. I've tried a few different paths, but what seems to be working for me ultimately is fairly polished draft chapters before receiving comments from those whose opinions I truly value.

The primary reason has less to do with earlier comments not being good or valuable, but that this allows me through work through my own thinking fairly exhaustively before asking others to open my eyes to new things. I've also found that busy folks put most effort into the first read of a draft chapter and less into subsequent re-reads such that you'll ultimately gain the most value when they are commenting on a well articulated version of your argument (or description as the case may be) rather than a version in which poor articulation clouds their understanding of what your argument/description is.

Just 2 cents from a guy sitting in a coffee shop on a friday night reading supertopo to avoid working on his dissertation!
Stanley Hassinger

Eastern US
Oct 3, 2008 - 10:45pm PT
If it's an experiment, then experiment. If it's not giving you what you want, then change tactics.

If it were me, I'd post stuff that at least has very minimal grammar errors. The comments you want are those that suggest stylistic changes or content changes, and you don't need to hear that such and such needs to be changed when you already know it's not the way you want it. You need to present to people what you think is the best you've got, and let them offer a new take that will make it even better. Giving critics less than your best will not be nearly as helpful to you.

That's just my opinion. It's not going to hurt you to throw any old thing up there.

Looking forward to reading it!


Gym climber
Fannie's Crack, AZ
Oct 3, 2008 - 11:54pm PT
You could post it as something like CLASH OF WRITER'S BLOCK XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXIIIIIIIIIIIII......every day. Hey if anybody's got a right to pi$$ us off it's you, huh? Saw you at the lift sorry I didn't get to met yer. P.E.

Chalkless climber
the Gunks end of the country
Oct 3, 2008 - 11:56pm PT
If you've been working on it that long, maybe hook up with Pass The Pitons Pete.
goatboy smellz

स्कन्ध, co
Oct 4, 2008 - 12:26am PT
Climbing is all about collaboration.
Post a rough draft and then watch what happens.
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
Oct 4, 2008 - 12:32am PT
Chris - if anyone deserves the right to use this forum as a personal diary - or a venue for excising demons, it is you.

Spew forth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111

Boulder, CO
Oct 4, 2008 - 12:35am PT
But if you post it here, who's gonna buy it?
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
Oct 4, 2008 - 12:37am PT
There's nothing like a hard copy in hand...
goatboy smellz

स्कन्ध, co
Oct 4, 2008 - 12:38am PT
Aww busted...we are a cheap lot with cash but rich in nowledge.

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Oct 4, 2008 - 12:44am PT
rapid fire post...

hard copy? is that what the kids are calling it these days.

"instance of 'development without state'" - preposterous notion or misleading title at least. post up abstract or invalid.

let's see your drawers chris. flash us some fiber or digital paper at least.


Trad climber
Oct 4, 2008 - 01:19am PT
Munge - the entire Somali telecoms project I'm working on is predicated on it being a paradoxical instance of development 'without state'. So yes, utterly preposterous according to conventional wisdom (making you conventionally wise).


Oct 4, 2008 - 01:23am PT
"need advice on new how to climb big walls book"

How does one climb a big wall?

No one ever seems to reach the top, otherwise we would move on to greater things?
T Moses

Trad climber
Paso Robles
Oct 4, 2008 - 01:45am PT
WB, you know it's the journey that counts not just the end. Yer just stirrin' the pot as usual!

Post up! Experiment a little. If it isn't exactly what you want modify it. We would be glad to help and enjoy the creative process.

Oct 4, 2008 - 02:04am PT
Does that mean you just wander aimlessly forever?

Where does this journey go?

Oct 4, 2008 - 02:36am PT
"It doesn't go anywhere" sounds impersonal, and still you're wandering aimlessly using such a statement.

Then why are there destinations to somewhere.

Journey to where? An "Aimless" journey?
T Moses

Trad climber
Paso Robles
Oct 4, 2008 - 03:44am PT
WB, you know it's the journey that counts NOT JUST the end.

Caps locked for ya.

The Journey is where you go and what you want to do on the path of life. Some take the beaten path. Others take the cross country. Others still choose to climb big walls.

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Oct 4, 2008 - 09:12am PT
The comedic aspect is a chapter on,

Gumby's Guide To Big Wall Bailing

The real information in this section is, how to descend from the Big Wall.

Very important.

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Oct 4, 2008 - 10:28am PT
Morning Chris,

I would post a section that you think is close to finished in your mind and gauge the input. If it works, then keep posting in order of how close to finished it is.

I cannot offer advice on any issues, but I am more than happy to work on the wordsmithing for clarity.

Best, Roger
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 4, 2008 - 11:31am PT
thanks everyone for the great response. So, i think i am leaning toward posting one semi-polished chapter at a time as i get them done. will start posting soon...

Oct 4, 2008 - 11:32am PT
yup, what they say.

A comedic chapter on bailing co-written by all these yahoos would be hilarious, and perhaps a new thing in books.

In either case Chris, why polish it first? Just slap it on here. Some of these guys spend more time on keyboards yammering endlessly, than they ever have climbing: this at least would give them a direction and some drive - and you the boost you'd like to see.

Social climber
Flatland, Ca
Oct 4, 2008 - 11:41am PT
Chris McNamara - Real dilemma here.

On the one hand if you post many unpolished chapters you run the risk of having us all bicker about the little things instead of (option b) posting polished, semi-completed works...

I say:
Plan B

I've shown patience with learning to climb, I can do it again.
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
Oct 4, 2008 - 12:28pm PT
Mungeclimber - I don't know what the kids are calling things theses days, but "hard copy"
has a nice ring to it. Anyway, there's nothing like holding a book in hand as opposed to
reading one as a PDF on a computer screen. The same is true for reading a newspaper;
the layout is much, much better than what can be done online. Some things never change...
Double D

Oct 4, 2008 - 12:55pm PT
Join the teamsters union and haul a lot of cargo.
lars johansen

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Oct 4, 2008 - 01:16pm PT
In the words of Ray Bradbury, "Throw up, then clean up".
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Oct 4, 2008 - 01:18pm PT
Perhaps post one "typical" draft chapter, and see what happens. Given that to some extent the various chapters are intertwined, it will help if you note where subjects are covered elsewhere, to minimize the "what about X" comments.

Alternatively, go on a vertical camping trip with PTPP, a laptop, and solar panels. Tolstoy could have written War and Peace in the time available, plus Pete would undoubtedly have lots to say.

Social climber
wuz real!
Oct 4, 2008 - 01:20pm PT
How Does one climb a big wall book.

This looks like an interesting semi-colabrative effort.

Oct 4, 2008 - 01:29pm PT
Chris I spoke to Largo and Vogel. I thank you for ST,
hope your profiting and doing well, however my help rate
is defined under CA Labor Code 515.5 noting that our type
usually always works via 1099 and there is no overtime
so the quoted hourly rate applies.

Trad climber
Boulder Colorado
Oct 4, 2008 - 01:58pm PT

editing text is hard work...

an editor once gave me a tip;

said never, ever proof-read off the screen

always print it, read it, edit your

hardcopy OR your "saved as" version on the screen,

your choice - but the point is, and I think it's valid;

never edit something that counts, w/out reading

from hardcopy - this is for books and stuff...

one more thing...the eye is the common denominator
in recieving of visual input, peoples eyes
behave in a remarkably similar manner; there is
for certin a "visual" element to constructing effective

how your eye hits a line of text
and how easily it is to retreive what it "seeks"

make sense?

have fun, good luck.
writing B hard.

Trad climber
Oct 4, 2008 - 04:20pm PT
"Lest not we forget how the likes of Batso, Royal, Werner, Charlie and the many other incredible and rebelious pioneers of this discipline, learned to climb a "Big Wall"... "

On Wine and Mescaline?

That could be a good chapter.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Oct 4, 2008 - 05:04pm PT
What? The walls aren't crowded enough these days already?

(however, if anybody calls Locker gay I'm referring them to the first page of this thread)

Hobart, Australia
Oct 4, 2008 - 05:07pm PT
Hi Chris-

Treat it like a big wall: one chapter at a time. Begin with the basics. Imagine you are telling a good friend, who has never climbed before, what he will have to do to get his ass up the the big stone.

Writing the original "Big Walls Tech Manual" was extremely challenging for me, as nothing substantial had been written about big wall tools and techniques since Advanced Rockcraft by Robbins. But after helping lots of friends prepare and climb big stones, the main challenge was to transfer my knowledge onto paper. It definitely helps to "place" yourself in the action as you work the text.

For the CHockstone book, I was lucky, I had John Long as my "editor". He hammered me weekly about my progress, and would send back entire chapters for revision because it needed more "flow" from the basic to advanced topics. Perhaps you will come up with your own "theme" on the book's intrinsic structure.

Whatever you do, I am sure it will be great and creative. Good luck, it is definitely time for a new comprehensive big walls book.
Double D

Oct 4, 2008 - 05:22pm PT
Chris...I'd love to see some serious consideration given to the techniques employed on the big wall speed ascents. Some of the times that walls are being done in astound an old-schooler like me.

Oct 4, 2008 - 05:35pm PT
Put a bunch of crazy stories in it. Ammon taking enormous whippers, Honnold soloing a few wall routes, and funny anecdotes about Model Paul or Singer or Ben Who Likes Men.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 4, 2008 - 06:51pm PT
thanks for all the suggestions. definitely getting me motivated to work on the book and get er done

A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
Oct 5, 2008 - 11:34am PT
bump, because its better than politics.

Either way you do it, I hope you post it so we can read it.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Oct 5, 2008 - 12:00pm PT
If you like any of the material that I wrote for Strassman's How to Climb Big Walls, I would love to help out or long as you don't poke out my third eye! LOL

Social climber
wuz real!
Oct 5, 2008 - 12:16pm PT
Put a hat on it...

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Oct 5, 2008 - 02:10pm PT
Chris, if you want feedback on the really important stuff, then don't post a half-baked preliminary version, which will waste your readers' efforts on stuff you could easily have fixed yourself.

Post a fairly advanced draft once, take comments, and then move on---don't post the corrected version. The good folks at SuperT can, and will, argue their positions forever. You, presumably, have somewhat less than that amount of time.

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Oct 5, 2008 - 05:21pm PT
Rgold is right: post one version, use or ignore the comments, and move on. Things can be iterated to death here. But deuce4 is not: walls are not a good place to start, for those who have never climbed before. Don't need that kind of chapter. Anyone that should be in the readership of such a book ought to be competent with multipitch climbing. What's useful is highlighting what's different from Grade III-IV climbing that the reader is already good at. Plus aid of course. Don't shy away from expressing gear preferences; too many instructionals say it's all good, use whatever you prefer. Most climbers don't have that kind of budget. True, you need a variety of hooks and such, but not so for other gear categories. A useful wall book would tell you, are hybrids really that much better than C3s (or the opposite, as some say), big wall ladders much better or just different than old school etriers, and so on. Also, for wall maneuvers more than any other realm of climbing, really good graphics are critical. I'd get your illustrator in the mix early. My 2c.

Trad climber
Lake Placid NY and Scranton PA
Oct 5, 2008 - 08:29pm PT
Mr. McNamara,

I can't wait for you to be finished, I will definitely buy a copy. About time someone with (some) sanity puts out a big wall book that I actually stand a chance of understanding.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Oct 5, 2008 - 08:32pm PT
I think it would be excellent content for the site and you'll get food for thought. Good for everybody. You might lose out on a few sales from folks who read it online.



Oct 6, 2008 - 03:19pm PT
Motivation for CM...

Go, Chris!

Big Wall climber
somewhere without avatars.........
Oct 6, 2008 - 03:49pm PT
How about something informative and well written about aid soloing. I see this brought up frequently - people wanting information about soloing and being told the same thing all the time - Currently, there's really nothing out there. I remember finding vague information before my first solo and really learned trial-by-fire, which was fine for me.

Just a thought...
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Oct 6, 2008 - 04:14pm PT
Some good suggestions.

Personally, I think you need to refine it a bit before sharing because, as someone noted earlier, you may get a ton of responses to content you've already committed to changing.

Still, having said that, some of the comments you receive may help direct or change the course of the book.

Good luck.

Oct 6, 2008 - 04:38pm PT
Chris, If ya wanna reduce the chafe/noise, you might consider putting an editorial group together and doing it offline.
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Oct 6, 2008 - 05:11pm PT
"aid climbing is neither"

Boo. Hiss.

Oct 6, 2008 - 05:47pm PT
Maybe start your own Wiki site as it will be easier to track edits?

Link to hosted Wiki's
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Oct 6, 2008 - 07:44pm PT
I suppose weakwrist climbs sans shoes, rope and clothing, but I would rather not see for myself.

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Oct 9, 2008 - 11:18pm PT
"Munge - the entire Somali telecoms project I'm working on is predicated on it being a paradoxical instance of development 'without state'. So yes, utterly preposterous according to conventional wisdom (making you conventionally wise)."

Kupa, not for nothing and this won't sound sexy at all but wouldn't we rather say "A treatise on non-conventional development"

Abstract me bro. Hook a forum up.

Trad climber
A hole
Apr 15, 2013 - 03:39pm PT
If you don't think it would be giving away too much, how about making a pdf for just the "Master Checklist" available for people who buy the hard copy to print instead of photocopying from the book?

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