Wild Country: The Man Who Made Friends


Camming devices revolutionised climbing protection and Wild Country: The Man Who Made Friends tells the story of their creation. It is a great book and worthy of our Top Read status. Please read on to find out more.

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. 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 Vallance. He created a business empire founded on these legendary camming devices. This also led to to the creation of Wild Country Rocks (protective wedging devices) and other equipment innovations. He also invested in shops and climbing walls.

I found it a fascinating read.  Valance weaves an engrossing story that intertwines climbing, design, manufacture, his personal journey with Parkinson’s Disease. There’s also a host of related snippets and anecdotes. It will be of interest to any climber.

The Gripped story here tells the story of Friends creation in more detail. We also have some related articles on Black Diamond cams here and cam care here.