Wild Country by Mark Vallance

Wild country, the Man who made friends (Vertebrate publishing) is the superb autobiography of a climber, arctic science base commander, businessman, latter president of the BMC and I would say visionary (he wouldn’t)- as much though its an autobiography of one of the most recognized of Climbing gear – the cam.

The book charts in a witty, honest and at times deeply open and vulnerable style, enlightens us to the early days of peak district climbing, through  the 70’s and a chance meeting in Yosemite, the 80’s and the early days of Wild Country , the tough business times of the 90’s , the changes he encouraged and drove in organisations like the British Mountaineering Council and through to today when suffering from Parkinson’s he could probably still  out-climb me!

Yes, at its core is the story of how the Friend came about and how camming devices came to change climbing and with it tales of patent issues, deals gone sour and a view into the deep and (I’d say), rare value with which Mark held his workers and the quality of their product. Not a businessman to trade, certainly not an mechanical engineer the story of how in ’78 the Friend finally came to market is both fascinating and funny.

Mark has some amazing tales to tell as well as some amazing climbing names to count among his friends and I was fascinated to learn about subjects as diverse as how the British Geological Survey base in the arctic functions, how friends are engineered (in good detail) and how business even in the seemingly benign , often spiritual world of the outdoors remains both complex and a very risky enterprise. (Insert Friend related joke at will 🙂 )!

Mark is certainly not afraid to speak his mind and  Wild Country gives a great insight into how personal decisions, crusades and vision at times led to friendships being challenged, partnerships being broken and the road ahead taking some serious blind corners but its told in such a way as to be a relief from what can be at times an unrealistic view of our well cerebrated community of mountaineers and climbers.

1 part climbing history, 1 part business chronicle and a dash of humour, personal views, feelings and insight and you have for me the perfect night time literary cocktail.

Grab it now and enjoy every page!



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