I distinctly remember the day I first placed a friend. My mate Alan had been given one for his birthday and we went to Stanage to test it out. I can visualise the moment he pulled this gleaming metal cramming contraption from his rucksack and the assembled group gawped at it as if he was holding some precious stone or historical relic. A solid alloy stem was finished at one end with sewn tape loop and was topped at the other by 4 sprung loaded lobes that could be contracted via a cabled trigger bar. It seemed a work of genius to us then, and, of course, it was!
Friends, or Spring Loaded Camming Devices, changed climbing as we knew it and many of the grade boundaries that have been crossed since their introduction surely wouldn’t have happened without these parallel crack protectors.
‘Wild Country: The man who made Friends’ charts the story of Peak District climber and businessman Mark Valance as he created a business empire founded on these legendary camming devices and, later, Rocks (protective wedging devices), shops, climbing walls and other related business ventures.
I found it a fascinating read. Valance weaves an engrossing story that intertwines climbing, design, manufacture, his personal journey with Parkinson’s Disease and a host of related snippets and anecdotes. It’s a great read and becomes Peak Mountaineering’s Top Read #13.
Posted by Paul