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Unjustifiable Risk? The Story of British climbing - a Cicerone guidebook

Cover of Unjustifiable Risk?
21 Feb 2012
19.8 x 12.9 x 3.1cm
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Unjustifiable Risk?

The Story of British Climbing

by Simon Thompson
Book published by Cicerone Press

A social, economic and cultural history of British rock climbing and mountaineering charting the conditions that gave rise to the sport, and the achievements and motives of those who have shaped its development over 200 years. Today’s climbers share a desire to escape from urban society but what makes them take that unjustifiable risk?

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Size: 19.8 x 12.9 x 3.1cm
Weight: 460g

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To an impartial observer, Britain does not appear to have any mountains. Yet the British invented the sport of mountain climbing and for two periods in history British climbers led the world in the pursuit of this beautiful and dangerous obsession. Unjustifiable Risk? is the story of the social, economic and cultural conditions that gave rise to the sport, and the achievements and motives of the scientists and poets, parsons and anarchists, villains and judges, ascetics and drunks that have shaped its development over the past two hundred years.

Climbing has both reflected and influenced changing social attitudes to nature and beauty, heroism and death. Over the years, increasing wealth, leisure and mobility have gradually transformed the sport from an activity undertaken by an eccentric and privileged minority into a popular part of the leisure and tourist industry. But while much has changed, even more has remained the same. Today’s climbers would be instantly recognisable to their Victorian predecessors, with their desire to escape from the crowded complexity of urban life, and willingness to take potentially unjustifiable risks in pursuit of beauty, adventure and self-fulfilment.

Unjustifiable Risk was shortlisted for the Boardman Tasker prize in 2011.

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Chapter 1  Introduction   

Chapter 2 Before 1854: In Search of the Sublime   

From gloom to glory   
Aesthetes and heroes   

Chapter 3 1854–65: A Conscious Divinity   

Chapter 4 1865–1914: Gentlemen and Gymnasts   

The Alps   
The Lake District   
North Wales   
The Greater Ranges   

Chapter 5 1914–39: Organised Cowardice   

The Lake District   
North Wales   
The Alps   
The Greater Ranges   

Chapter 6 1939–70: Hard Men in an Affluent Society   

North Wales  
The Lake District   
The Alps   
The Greater Ranges   

Chapter 7 After 1970: Reinventing the Impossible   

Rock climbing   

Chapter 8 Because it’s there?   

List of Photographs   

Appendix I A Note on Grades   

Appendix II Glossary of Climbing Terms   

Selected Bibliography  


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