Friday, 18 September 2009

Tony Barley

Tony Barley's Wild Bouldering In Yorkshire is a slim volume which makes little impact on the guidebook shelf lineup alongside the likes of fat, shouty Yorkshire Gritstone. It doesn't have many pictures, it's not very shiny and I haven't even been to that many of the crags featured in it. But it's still one of my most treasured guides.

It's not just a guide, it's more than that: it's a declaration of love for the little outcrops which escaped the notice of most others. It illustrates his secretive, exploratory nature beautifully, and records years of local adventuring.

Tony Barley died in August after a long running battle with heart disease. Reading his obituary in Climber magazine, the author refers to Barley's bid to get on the transplant list. His age and underlying complications made him an unlikely candidate for a transplant. With his life literally hanging in the balance, he presented the doctors with two things to tip the balance in his favour: a series of technical engineering papers and a copy of Wild Bouldering in Yorkshire - with plans for the second edition. It was probably the practical importance of Barley to civil engineering that sealed the deal and a spot on the waiting list, but I like to think that it just might have been the slim, stapled guidebook that swung the needle in his favour.

Volume II will probably never be made, but despite this, with the first volume he left the Yorkshire climber with an inspiring guide to what the grit holds in the wooded valleys and remote moors, far from the exoteric.

I never met Tony Barley, but I wish I had.

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