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A dozen years ago, when old-timers first heard rumors of a teenage phenom from California destroying all testpieces, they mostly wrote them off.
Today, Chris Sharma, now iconic, stars in King Lines bigupproductions.com —Dan Dewell
Deep-water soloing (DWS, aka psicobloc) sounds simple enough: find a cliff above water, and then climb it.
Woman on the Rocks
Women climbers should thank Ruth Dyar Mendenhall (1912-1989) for paving the way, and now we can thank her for Woman on the Rocks: The Mountaineering Letters of Ruth Dyar Mendenhall ($18.95, spotteddogpress.com), a compilation of missives home from her adventures between 1936 and 1969. In this 352-page offering, compiled by Valerie Mendenhall Cohen (Mendenhall’s daughter), Menden- hall offers unique insights into the sport and its early (1940s, ’50s, and ’60s) icons. Mendenhall herself was a smart, fearless, positive woman with journalistic aspira- tions. She accomplished such climbs as the Third Needle of Mount Whitney (1939), and Yosemite’s Lower Cathedral Spire (1948), in an era when women climbers weren’t just a minority — they were absent. Mendenhall also edited the American Alpine Club’s American Alpine News, and her prose is honest — simple but evocative — as she opens up about her rise to the top of climbing and how these challenges changed her identity. But the main thing I took away from Mendehnall was this: all climbers enjoy the same hobby. It’s a good lesson, and one worth remembering. —Whitney Levine
Limestone and the SeaThere’s ain’t much to dislike about the Maltese archipelago, a chain of small, stony Mediterranean islands beetling with limestone bluffs, boulders, and mini-spires, as well as an impressive array of deep-water soloing opportunities. No, you’d have to be a stone-cold foolio not to drool over the mostly trad and mixed (with a few sport crag) possibilities on the stonker limestone — 1,200-plus routes, all told, between the main island of Malta and a neighbor, Gozo — of this island chain south of Sicily. And with Malta Rock Climbing (€28.50, climbmalta.com), the authors John Codling, Andrew Warrington, and Richard Abela have, for the first time since the 1970s, compiled a comprehensive guide to this little-known destination. A visually rich, full-color guidebook with photo topos and well-delineated road maps, the book points you in the right direction for an offbeat stone-and-sea vacation: this isn’t Kalymnos or Thailand, where hundreds of clip-ups and holiday grades attract the masses, but rather a traddy bastion favored by sun-hungry Brits (note the E grades) and a vacation lure for those who like a little spice. (As the book says, some of the climbs have only seen one or two ascents; many have an emphasis on limestone-threading skills and creative protection). Crag names like the Xagga Chimney, Ras Ir-Raheb, and Ghajn Zejtuna given an idea of just what an exotic — and splendid — trip it will be, and tasty action shots round out the mix. The climbs take white and grey, slabby to vertical to overhanging limestone, and the open sea beyond stretches to a deep-blue horizon. —Matt Samet
Rescue 911Christoper Van Tilburg’s catchy, if not a tad clichéd, Rescue Doctor ($17, amazon.com) is for those who dream about combining two passions into one career. From orchestrating cliff rescues to sniffing out decomposed hikers, Van Tilburg breaks it down in this jargon-free, sometimes gripping account.
Kiss of the Spider Woman Need a wall calendar with artistic flair and a climbing flourish? Try Fernando Ferreira’s 2008 “Spider Woman roc(k) lessons ” ($20 or so, stores.lulu.com/fernandoferreira) — 12 months of bouldering and buildering from an anonymous sexy model in a Spiderman mask.