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High Drama
High Drama

High Drama

The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of American Competition Climbing


400 Pages, 5.5 x 8.5

Formats: Trade Paper, Mobipocket, PDF, EPUB

Trade Paper, $19.95 (US $19.95) (CA $26.95)

Publication Date: March 2020

ISBN 9781629377759

Rights: WOR

Triumph Books (Mar 2020)


eBook Editions Available

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Price: $19.95


A celebration of climbing and the pivotal figures who made its growth possible, from the rock faces of Yosemite to urban bouldering gyms and beyond

One afternoon in 1987, two renegade climbers in Berkeley, California, hatched an ambitious plan: under the cover of darkness, they would rappel down from a carefully scouted highway on-ramp, gluing artificial handholds onto the load-bearing concrete pillars underneath. Equipped with ingenuity, strong adhesive, and an urban guerilla attitude, Jim Thornburg and Scott Frye created a serviceable climbing wall. But what they were part of was a greater development: the expansion and reimagining of a sport now slated for a highly anticipated Olympic debut in 2020.High Drama explores rock climbing's transformation from a pursuit of select anti-establishment vagabonds to a sport embraced by competitors of all ages, social classes, and backgrounds. Climbing magazine's John Burgman weaves a multi-layered story of traditionalists and opportunists, grassroots organizers and business-minded developers, free-spirited rebels and rigorously coached athletes.


"A regular contributor to Climbing and Climbing Business Journal, Burgman details the growth of the niche sport of competitive climbing from the early years as an outdoor challenge that appealed to antiestablishment rock climbers to the growth of climbing clubs and the booming business of indoor climbing gyms. His easy-to-read historical account highlights the numerous men and women who led the way in competitions as well as the grassroots movement to grow the sport. Coverage includes the first International Federation of Sport Climbing Championship at Snowbird, Utah, in 1991, the rise of sponsorship deals to fund the sport, courting mainstream media like ESPN, and the evolution of national and international governing organizations. Sport climbing has come a long way from the days when a couple of guys created a climbing wall on a California highway on-ramp. Climbing will make its debut in the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics with a format that will judge sport climbing (based on difficulty), speed climbing, and bouldering. This timely volume is sure to appeal to climbing fans interested in the history of the sport." —Booklist

Author Biography

John Burgman has been reporting on competition climbing for the better part of a decade. He writes regularly for Climbing and Climbing Business Journal. He is a Fulbright grant recipient and the author of two previous books, Why We Climb: A Dirtbag's Quest for Vertical Reason and Island Solitaire.  Kynan Waggoner is the former CEO of USA Climbing, the national governing body of the sport of competition climbing in the United States.