‘On the Line’ Kickstarter image

‘On the Line’ Kickstarter

November 1, 2023

Reading Time: 1098 minutes.
I've launched a Kickstarter on my latest book, this one on top rope soloing. Link here.



The book no one asked for, but that climbing needs


How did my fourth Kickstarter book come about? Perhaps it was the birth of my third child at the age of 50 (I was 50, not my child), or the fact I was coming down from having spent three years writing a book called 'Down' (my last Kickstarter project, bestseller and Banff short lister), or because I was only procrastinating from writing its sequel, 'Up' (Down was about going down, while Up would be about going up). But in 2021, I created a file on my laptop called 'On the Line', the idea to write a little stop-gap manual on the tiny and niche, maybe even cultish, subject of top rope soloing or TRS if you're in the know. It wasn't meant to be a big project, more a mental palette cleanser, something to tap away at between bouts of non-sleep and pram pushing.

The problem was I'd already forgotten that there are no such things as a 'little project', that the more you dig, the more you'll find to write about and draw pictures off, and, well, I just seem to like to dig and don't know when to stop.



I'd also not given any real thought on the subject of "Does anyone want a book on TRS?" but then my USP does seem to be writing books about subjects that would appear to be a non or marginal subject, bits of other books, maybe just a paragraph, not books in themselves. But if I have a superpower, it's the ability to turn what could be a one-page description, such as on the subject of rappelling, and turning it into a 420-page book.




If I had an idea, it was the idea to try and expand on what could be gleamed on YouTube and climbing forums on the subject of top rope soloing, some of which was good, some pretty bad, some downright terminal. There had also been an increase in mainstream media covering the subject in 'How-To' style articles due to a need for guidance from trusted sources, but these pieces generally just covered the bare bones of the subject. It was enough to stop people from killing themselves, but seeing as the climbing media could produce hundreds of thousands of words on the subject of a 'pull up', maybe this subject could do with more depth.



I also thought that perhaps the subject of top rope soloing - which for decades was passed on from word to mouth, perhaps because it was always on the wrong side of safe - now merited a full and deep study, and seeing as I seemed to have cornered the market in technical books bordering on OCD levels of detail, as demonstrated in 'Down' and 'Higher Education', I was probably the man to try and write it.

Apart from being a stop-gap project and new/old dad end-life crisis, I'd also seen an increase in reported TRS accidents and seen for myself, out on the crag, how this branch of technique was poorly understood or practised by both novice climbers and experts alike.




This uptick in near-death accidents (even if many didn't even realise they'd been playing dodgeball with Death) was stimulated by both an increasing popularity in climbing and the fact we live in an increasingly self-check-out world, with non-conventional work patterns and hours. At one end, there are more and more climbers who want to get better at climbing and want to get more mileage on the rock but have no partners, while at the other end, top-end climbers have anti-social projects that no one wants to belay them on for hours, days or months. Roberts Putman's book Bowling Alone might provide another answer to why things are the way they are, but whatever the reason, more and more climbers are climbing alone. For these climbers, top rope soloing is the answer.

And so I thought if I could write a book on TRS, even though it's not a book anyone might read, but more as an exercise, to put all that is known and understood on paper, and then to try and establish some solid and safe ways to do it. Even if it's not a book anyone would want, at least we'd have a better foundation for this niche, even cult-like, climbing technique.

Also, in this self-check-out world, it would be nice to have fewer climbers check, or near check, themselves out doing it.



But there's no such thing as a small project, but three years later, and with another child born (I'm a glutton for punishment, but now have two full sets of kids), 'On the Line', my TRS manual is 99% done. What started as a mini project, like all my mini projects, has turned into an almost ready-to-print 250-page 6x9 book.

One reason the book took me so long, apart from the babies, was like all my other books, I wanted to illustrate the book myself. (before you email me, I used Adobe Illustrator). Although I could have just taken a week to snap a bunch of photos, instead, I took a year to draw 282 line drawings (I'm as fast at drawing as I am at writing, it appears). One reason for this is I find that just as the illustrations inform the text, it's by working on both helps shape better content.



What does 'On the Line' cover?



'On the Line' covers all aspects of top rope soloing, and I mean ALL aspects and was written to educate both the novice and the experienced climber, especially the experienced climber who's a practising novice when it comes to top rope soloing. I'd place myself in the latter category, as even though I'd ascended tens of thousands of metres of rope on ascenders and hundreds of top rope solos, in writing the book, I discovered I didn't understand how it all worked either.



The book's content and structure are designed less for spoon-feeding the reader on what to do but rather to educate the reader on how things work or don't work and how you can integrate things that work into a system that will allow you to climb hassle-free, and safe. Rather than tell you what to do, the book gives you the information to work it all out for yourself.

Subjects covered include:

Safety
Device mechanics.
Device selection.
Device attachment
Back-ups
Rope systems (one rope, two ropes, pseudo leading, top rope TRS).
Rigging.
Escape.
Re-anchors and redirects.
Lots and lots of micro details on hardware and software.



Why support a project that's 99% complete?



The last three projects I funded on Kickstarter (Me, Myself & I, Higher Education, Down) all took an age to complete and were generally a year or so late. So I thought, why not do a project that is pretty much done and can be delivered by this Xmas, not Xmas 2026, or 27. How great would that be!

I also thought that crowdfunding a project in which I've invested three years of effort, might be a good way to support my next project, which could take another three years, without (a) me running out of money to buy food for my kids, and (b), my patrons running out of patience with me.

What is that next project? A book on belays? An expedition cookbook? The Bear Pit? Another baby? Who knows, but whatever, it'll be a small project delivered promptly. Honest.

Although at first glance, "On the Line' is a book about TRS, once you read it, you'll find it's actually a deep dive into the mechanics of rope climbing, and anyone who wants to expand their knowledge of how rope devices work, or fail, would get a great deal out of this book.

Plus, like all my books, this is a very dull subject rendered in a way that's less boring than it might appear.

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