The wonderful John D. Burns reads an extract from Wild Country - The man who made Friends.
In early 1978, an extraordinary new invention for rock climbers was featured on the BBC television science show Tomorrow's World. It was called the 'Friend', and it not only made the sport safer, it helped push the limits of the possible. The company that made them was called Wild Country, the brainchild of Mark Vallance. Within six months, Vallance was selling Friends in sixteen countries. Wild Country would go on to develop much of the gear that transformed climbing in the 1980s.
Mark Vallance's influence on the outdoor world extends far beyond the company he founded. He owned and opened the influential retailer Outside in the Peak District and was part of the team that built The Foundry, Sheffield's premier climbing wall - the first modern climbing gym in Britain. He worked for the Peak District National Park and served on its board. He even found time to climb eight-thousand-metre peaks and the Nose on El Capitan. Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in his mid fifties and robbed of his plans for retirement, Vallance found a new sense of purpose as a reforming president of the British Mountaineering Council.
In Wild Country, Vallance traces his story, from childhood influences like Robin Hodgkin and Sir Jack Longland, to two years in Antarctica, where he was base commander of the UK's largest and most southerly scientific station at Halley Bay, before his fateful meeting with Ray Jardine, the man who invented Friends, in Yosemite.
Trenchant, provocative and challenging, Wild Country is a remarkable personal story and a fresh perspective on the role of the outdoors in British life and the development of climbing in its most revolutionary phase.
Mark Vallance (1945–2018), the man who made Friends.
John D. Burns is a bestselling and award-winning mountain writer who has spent over forty years exploring Britain’s mountains. Originally from Merseyside, he moved to Inverness over thirty years ago to follow his passion for the hills. He is a past member of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team and has walked and climbed in the American and Canadian Rockies, Kenya, the Alps and the Pyrenees. John began writing more than fifteen years ago, and at first found an outlet for his creativity as a performance poet. He has taken one-man plays to the Edinburgh Fringe and toured them widely around theatres and mountain festivals in the UK. It is the combination of John’s love of the outdoors with his passion for writing and performance that makes him a uniquely powerful storyteller. His first two books, The Last Hillwalker and Bothy Tales, were both shortlisted for TGO Magazine’s Outdoor Book of the Year. His third book, Sky Dance, is published in 2019. He continues to develop his career as a writer, blogger and outdoor storyteller while exploring the wild places he loves.