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Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 17, 2012 - 12:20pm PT
From time to time a discussion comes up here on the STForum which is perhaps too pertinent to really be treated seriously, for instance: what are the elements of a good guide book?

There are shockingly few topics of any merit on this forum... here are some of the threads with "guide book" in their titles which discuss the issue:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=858643

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=111373

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=11942

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=717

But for various reasons, it is a contemporary issue for me... while we all want a variety of information from a guide book, the presentation of the information varies... and this calls on a deconstruction of the various guide books we've enjoyed using in our pursuit of climbing.

The descriptive guide books, think Roper's guides, for me the Boles, Kruszyna & Putnam guides to the Canadian Rockies, are examples that get you to the start of the climbs, provide some idea of the difficulties and perhaps suggestions on how to get off the climbs... these guides provide the reader with all the information to have a really great adventure.

Here "great adventure" means an increased risk of not succeeding at a variety of levels: blowing the approach, missing the route, underestimating the climbing, getting nailed by weather and other objective challenges, blowing the descent... all the elements of great climbing stories.

The Williams' 'Gunks guide is a great example of a written description, very brief, and a picture guide, easy to find the climb, good information on the difficulty, not much more. This guide format provides a more precise means of finding the climbs, but doesn't intrude on the actual climbing, you're left to do that yourself...

The advent of the topo guide, for me the Meyers and later the Meyers Reid and even later the Reid guide to Yosemite provide more information on the route, and interestingly less information on the approach and descent... one has the impression that if you could actually find the start of the route you would be golden... it seems to take some time hiking about to get a sense of how Yosemite Valley is "laid out" before the use of the guide book becomes efficient.

But the topo guides have a tremendous amount of information in illustrative form. The art is to reduce to a bare minimum the graphical depiction of the route and the features so that just enough remains to be recognizable. Of course, recognizing is also something that is learned.

No matter what my personal views are on the topic, maybe we could get a 20 or 30 response thread started on what current people think about guide books,

but specifically, how do you deconstruct your favorite guides, why do they appeal to you, what do you really need, what do you want, what do you get from all the guide books that sit, gathering dust on your book shelves, and the ones that are reduced to nearly rags from all the time they spend traveling with you to the crags.

Ranting is ok as long as there is an element of analysis that goes along with the rant...



Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Nov 17, 2012 - 12:33pm PT
I prefer selective guidebooks over the exhaustive. No disrespect to the encyclopedia writers out there, I love you too. My favorite guidebooks have little stories and what have you, about the FA, or some follow on climb, or maybe some history or something about the area or route. Some cool tidbit. A few photos to really get you obsessing over the place or a route, some iconic shots, they don't even have to be that good. Simple over technical, whimsy before utilitarian. I don't even care if the beta is bad. I have a couple of books some folks love to hate and they're at the top of the stack of my favorites.

All that said? Sitting at a pullout on the loop road in the Valley, thumbing the guide, flipping pages like its some enormous menu with far too many good looking things to eat on it, like one of those asian menus with 200 items and a photo of each one, its too much! And yet?

The Great Days of the Valley - what shall we do... flipping those pages, noting the rabbit years of the favorite places... then the guide book is more inspiration than anything else. And I was sure inspired by those valley guidebooks. All of them. Never did imagine I could do that sh#t.

But these days I hardly crack open any guidebook. Mostly doing uncharted or new stuff, or just repeating old friends where no book is required.

DMT
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 17, 2012 - 02:01pm PT
Ed,

Go buy a copy of Steve Levin's Eldorado guidebook.

It is the GOLD STANDARD for guidebooks.

Check it out and we can talk further.
Melissa

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Nov 17, 2012 - 02:09pm PT
Hi, Ed.

I think that the things that make a crag guide like the Bloom guide to IC lovely (photos and taco-style topos, extreme rack beta) don't work for something like the Reid guide whose biggest value is comprehensively covering a zillion routes, many of great length and little info. Since the beta is scant and the topos approximate for many of the routes, going too Taco-style on some, might set people up for trouble if they think the drawing is super accurate in a literal way.

I don't know what the best way to deal with info overload is. The multivolume Josh guide is great if you live there, but I've never expanded beyond the old, single volume Vogel guide.

I like the combo of description, topo, and photo in the Handren guide to red rocks. The heavy paper stock of some new guides is nice, but won't work for a mega volume like Yos. either.

I like it when I'm visiting an area from elsewhere and the guidebook gives me some sun exposure beta.

If a guide is going to share histories and profiles, I'd rather read about the people developing the area than those who just climb really hard there. Partly it tells more about the style of the routes, and partly it's just that there isn't much in a one paragraph blurb about Lynn Hill or Tommy Caldwell, as impressive as their climbing is, that we haven't read a zillion times. When it gets dark at 5:00 I like to read the cool histories that most have never heard...I love this aspect of the Bloom guide (some of the stories). Learning about the history and evolution of the dominant styles of an area helps me understand it better. Some guides have interesting bonus material about the geology and other anthropology of the area which adds to my appreciation.

As for topo quality...my biggest pet peeve are topos that show the line without large orienting features high on the rock.

I appreciate a heads up if I'm going to need a second rope to get off a climb.
Salamanizer

Trad climber
The land of Fruits & Nuts!
Nov 17, 2012 - 02:14pm PT
Good question. My personal opinion has flip flopped back and forth from the beta intensive to the minimalistic approach. I see real value in both, although, even though I like the old Roper descriptive guides, their usefulness when it comes to highly committing, dangerous and difficult routes is almost zero. On the other hand, guides with too much info, though sometimes annoyingly insightful tend to really not matter much when you actually put rubber to rock, because all that beta is going to be different for everyone anyway. We all know more often than not of the descriptive topo you call bullshit on at almost every turn right?

I like a big history section. I like to be inspired before I get there by how the place developed over time. Gives you a real sense of the places "feel".

Next, I like photos of the major features with the more obvious routes marked so I can orient myself. Color helps. Some grainy black and white only adds confusion and is hardly inspiring.

Then, I like every single route included, even the shitty ones with rusted out broken studs for bolts. Even if it's just a dotted line with a grade. That shits important, I like to climb every single route in an area. I don't need diagrams and charts plotting their course, I just need to know it's there and it's been done.
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Nov 17, 2012 - 02:19pm PT
Some of the new guides are really well done. There is an art to organizing information in a logical and useful way and some do this way better than others.

I was planning a trip to England a few years ago and was very impressed with some of the guides there.

The Fell and Rock Club has a guide to the Lake District that is compact and really well done. It uses color coded tabs and other clever methods of making it easy to use.

http://www.frcc.co.uk/publications.asp

I do not like a guide that leaves out the first ascent information and the history of the development of the area. It's a richer experience to climb in a new area when the guidebook provides this sort of background.

Ed and I lost again, despite the guidebook.

Photo: BrassNuts
Photo: BrassNuts
Credit: Rick A
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Nov 17, 2012 - 02:20pm PT
I think that the Secor guidebook to the High Sierra is the standard to which all other guidebooks should be measured. Secor got it right. I am not aware of any other guidebooks that are even close to being in the same class as Secor's book.

I haven't seen Steve Levin's Eldorado guidebook. But every other guidebook that I've seen of the Sierra, California, Colorado, Tetons, Pacific Northwest (yes, even Becky's) and the Adirondacks are simply terrible.

A good guidebook should have all of the following:

Easy-to-find overview maps of the region
Map of topographical map coverage
Organization of peaks by region
Approach beta (roads and trails)
Cross country beta (passes and routes)
Some info on geology
Some info on flora and fauna if important to climbers
First ascent data
Route beta

I think a pure roock-climbing guidebook is going to be vastly different from a mountain guidebook. The Meyers Yosemite topo guide was great.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Social climber
moving thru
Nov 17, 2012 - 02:34pm PT
I feel like a kindergartner participating in a college discussion....but there are newish climbers out there, myself being one, that would like/need detailed pertinent information for a variety of reasons. One that comes to mind immediately is just getting me to the climb.

Example: I work at an outdoors store. I participate in a variety of outdoor activities, but I don't recognize the name of every climbing area in the US and foreign countries.

When I go to our guidebook section and peruse them in an attempt to learn more, I have to laugh because many authors often don't even include anywhere, at least in an obvious place in the book, just what state or country the climbing area is in. One has to waste time checking out much of the book just to see if the area is in the same state you live in. (Maybe I'm exaggerating, but not much.)

Tomorrow I'm going to Big Rock at Perris Lake, Riverside County. Haven't been there for 30 years. Looking on line and in the So Cal Sport Climbing Guidebook and it says, "go about 7 miles and turn on an unmarked dirt road."
Surely one could be more specific. I usually drive alone and meet people at the climbing area.

My point is I don't want to waste time getting up too early in case I can't find the place or at worst making people wait for me. And what if it's dark?

I've tried to find specific climbing/ areas using guide books only to find myself wandering around and again wasting time because the words did not match up with the terrain.

I guess it's like putting together a toy for Christmas. The directions can either be very user friendly, or suck. Dingus and Many of you have been at this for years. Experience has taught you much. But I don't think I have enough years left to learn simply from experience. hehehe, lynne
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Nov 17, 2012 - 02:50pm PT
Ed Webster's guide to new hampshire is a good one, for each climb he gives a paragraph describing some details of the first ascent, and general explanation of where to go. About every 20 pages is a tiny picture of the crag with lines drawn on it. Topos may have more embedded beta but this is the kind of book that helps you explore on your own. Plus reading the stories gets you excited about the routes before you go there.
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Nov 17, 2012 - 03:52pm PT
I'm with Dingus on this. After many decades of climbing, I really don't care what the guidebook says. I'd rather just go climb whatever looks good.

Guidebooks once had their place for me. They are certainly good for organizing a day into getting in as many quality routes as possible. Topo guides are best for "high milage" days.

I am fortunate in that I rarely get lost and can often find route on very faint information. I sympathize with others that don't have this talent as they stand at the base of Manure Pile with their topo guide trying to figure out which one is "After Six" and "After Seven."

I would prefer to read a descriptive guide the night before, look at map, and set off the next day with the info downloaded into my mind.

I also have this sick enjoyment of being off-route and bushwhacking.
John M

climber
Nov 17, 2012 - 03:53pm PT
I like what you posted Lynne/LL. Seems like you either have to know someone who knows, or be a mystic and that seems to stem from the conflicting desires of climbers. Wanting to have a guide, but not wanting too many people to find an area so as to overwhelm the area.
Borut

climber
french, spider
Nov 17, 2012 - 04:37pm PT
I'd always consult everything possible. and nearly know everything by heart, as well as asking as many people as possible. Further, I fell into the FA trip, so that solved part of the problem. The guidebooks I have at home are not dusty - more like greasy in fact. Oh yes, and I'd like the ones that easily fall apart.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 17, 2012 - 07:36pm PT
interesting points all,
love that picture Ricky!
you did find the route though...
The user formerly known as stzzo

climber
Sneaking up behind you
Nov 17, 2012 - 07:50pm PT
It's interesting that in my mind "good" is not necessarily what I like in a guidebook.

I like books that are full of routes, like the Reid Valley guide and the Falcon JTree guides. But I wouldn't necessarily call them good -- sometimes a good way to get lost. But I don't like the limited selection in the books that pick and choose the "best" routes.

IMO, good guide books are accurate and have area maps, photos & whatnot that help find routes.

Availability in PDF form is something I value as well. It's so much nicer than squashing the book down on the copier trying to get a decent copy.
ms55401

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
Nov 17, 2012 - 07:52pm PT
cf. Croft, Peter. The Good, The Great, and The Awesome

like a classy hooker, THAT is the gold standard. Don't show too much, just enough to get sprung.
Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
Nov 17, 2012 - 08:21pm PT
but specifically, how do you deconstruct your favorite guides, why do they appeal to you, what do you really need, what do you want, what do you get from all the guide books that sit, gathering dust on your book shelves, and the ones that are reduced to nearly rags from all the time they spend traveling with you to the crags.

My favorite guide/s had to be the ones to Yosemite, like the yellow Meyers guide. It may fall down with the second part of this tale, but at the time it was like looking into an oracle. The more you stared at the El Cap topos, the more you thought you knew, until at some point it was just like already having done the route. I never went for that Xerox routine at the Lodge Desk, I always redrew the lines myself before going up on the wall. Deep intimacy with every wrinkle on the wall before the upcoming task ensured better results.

Now, as for the bad or the pisser or what I like with guide books... Get me to the base of the route like I'm Helen Keller. I was using a Supertopo book and could not find the start or which way to go on the trail to the Regular Route on Fairview! True story!
A guidebook author should assume nothing. Obvious to you may not be obvious to me. Use good photos and make sure the lines are actually on the route.
I like when the description gives some idea of the rack needed, in inches, not esoteric color coding of gear I will never own. Give me the straight poop in INCHES, like "a few med nuts and a handful of cams to 3"" Telling me I need a blue/orange Trango or magenta Metolius does me no f*#king good at all.
I also like putting the pitch rating where the crux is, or where I might find the difficultly as labeled.
I like XX for bolts and P for pins. I like the listed feet of a route to be accurate. You can tell most guidebook authors are men and all think they have 60ft dicks with the way they measure crags. If it is that hard to figure out, hang a rope down the thing. I've been to dozens of 80ft crags that were 40ft high. This really comes into play when you trying to run pitches together. Accuracy counts.
Tell me how to get down once I top out. Use terms like "climbers left" instead of "head to the big tree" when I'm standing in the middle of a f*#king summit forest.
Have someone get fresh eyes on your work. By the time a guide book goes to print the author is so familiar with the info that everything seems obvious. Get the thing test-driven by someone who does not know the area.
History is good and FA info is even better. I got on a route in Vegas a while back that was like 5.10b or something. Almost f*#king stroked out and had the sh#t scared out of me. Even though it was within what I should be doing, it was a bit much. I find out later it was a Bachar/Lechlinski route. Had I known this I would have never gone up on the thing.
Use a durable binding. Loose pages are lost pages. Now that we are all modern, I suppose GPS info is good for those things way back in the woods. Google Earth type stuff is cool too and gives a great overview that I can keep in my mind while wandering around lost.
Sun and shade info is nice.

Nutshell: get me to the base and give me some idea of the rack, how long it is, how hard it is, and where the crux is. Then get me off the pile and back to the car for beers before dark.

Edit to add: The Sherman bouldering guide to Hueco is up there on the fave list too.
bhilden

Trad climber
Mountain View, CA
Nov 17, 2012 - 08:49pm PT
The best guide book would be two volumes. The first volume is just the basics such as approach info, route beta and topos. The second volume would include all the interesting history related to the routes and the area.

Volume one goes with you to the crags. You read volume two in your easy chair in front of a fire. Trying to combine both books into one is a poor compromise. The book can be too bulky and heavy to lug around or the history section is edited down to such a few pages that it really doesn't do a very credible job of chronicling the development of the area.

Another bad compromise it to break an area up into sub areas and then come out with one guide book with both volumes for each sub area. Yuck!
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
Nov 17, 2012 - 08:56pm PT
+1 "...my biggest pet peeve are topos that show the line without large orienting features high on the rock. " Photos with lines usually solve this.

+1 "Get me to the base of the route like I'm Helen Keller." Amen to that. I hate flailing around en route to some huge thing I don't even know if I can get up in the daylight.

" Get the thing test-driven by someone who does not know the area." excellent! plenty of tourists around for this.

History is great. My books are all well-thumbed, you'd think I actually climbed a lot by looking at 'em. Give me some cool inspiring stories from when things were fresh. Not so much the latest kid to crank V13d.

Seasonality is important: sun, aspect, wind, etc. The locals all know this stuff, but visitors should know that having their heart set on climbing Ten Years After in June will only lead to disappointment. What's comfy when is real beta.

Don't get a cheapo binding: get examples first.

Maybe break it up so it doesn't weigh 5 lbs. and you can actually carry it around.

Indicate whether you actually know anything about a particular route beyond the topo some obscurista just handed you. It's OK to say 'not much info on this one'.

Maybe the cover photo could be reflective of what really goes on there, not just some local's hot imported GF clipping bolts for the camera. Ahem.


Leave some things out. Maybe indicate what's been climbed, but you don't need a topo for every damn thing. And saving a few retreats for the lokes in a tourist haven like Yosemite is a nice gesture.

"old bolts" etc: nice to know!

Good luck with it...kind of a giant undertaking.

Rob


SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Nov 17, 2012 - 10:52pm PT

The new South Platte guide is another gold standard like
the Eldorado Canyon book. . .

just sayin'
justthemaid

climber
Jim Henson's Basement
Nov 17, 2012 - 10:52pm PT
Deconstructing?

I quite literally deconstruct a lot of them and bind them into mini-guides.

Santa Monica guide.. I just cut it in half and I've got Malibu and Echo and I can leave the dead weight at home.

Roxanna's Red Rock Guide... I ain't haulin' around that 10lb encyclopedia.. it's now is 9 mini-guides.

My biggest pet peeve.. hand drawn topos with no way to orient yourself. There needs to be at least one damn photograph of the crag with a clearly marked route so you at least know if you are standing at the right cliff.

Everyone hates bad approach beta. I'm usually there to climb.. not wander around lost all day or epic on some death route I thought was a 5.8.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
the crowd MUST BE MOCKED...Mocked I tell you.
Nov 18, 2012 - 01:22am PT
Solid construction
Good overview maps
History and tidbits peppered throughout
Don't care for gps much, unless its really forested approach.
Accuracy in topos.
FA info numbered to climbs in the book.
An ethics section.
Route and formation index showing page numbers for climbs alpha'd.
Photo topos for complex formations, showing key lines.

Less important but nice to have,

Routes by rating index
The Chief

climber
Climber from the Land Mongols under the Whites
Nov 18, 2012 - 01:42am PT
Here's two that are the "Gold Standard" IMO.

Simple. Easy to read topos with area overview photo and map. Got me to the aspect which the route I chose to do was on, got my ass up the route and back down safely.

Kudos Alan and Errett.



Kudos Sally, Greg and Dave

Eric Beck

Sport climber
Bishop, California
Nov 18, 2012 - 01:00pm PT
Here's a plug for the Skaha guide, Howie Richardson. This is a great crag in the Okanagan Valley of BC. Lori and I spent three very enjoyable days there in September. A little less than 1000 routes, about 60% sport routes. Some features that are innovative:
1. Extensive use of color codes, both in route names, i.e. red for sport and also trails, and quality ratings.
2. Denoting the correspondence between the text and a line on a photo, not by a number, but rather by a short acronym derived from the route name. Thus, Hair on a G String, is HG on the photo.

Also helpful were some suggestions on drinking...Barley Mill, superb beer and Tickleberrys for ice cream.

Howies affection for Skaha and all its creatures, including the rattlers, pervades the entire guide.

We thought that if Skaha were in California it would be the most popular spot.
Studly

Trad climber
WA
Nov 18, 2012 - 01:04pm PT
I think Handren's Red Rocks guide is the best rock climbing guidebook I have ever owned. Durable, full color, great beta on all aspects including approach, routes, descent, gear, etc. Which is nice if you don't live there and just want to get on the climbs and send.

Beckey's Cascade Alpine Guides are the definitive guide to climbing in the mountains, who can compare?

I do like Supertopo's guides as usually they include history and stories about the climbs, something I really enjoy, and that adds allot to historic climbs when you do them. Supertopo's Yosemite guides seem to be the go to guide, but I got to whip out the Reid guide when going to a more obscure crag there.
Chiloe

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Nov 18, 2012 - 03:03pm PT
Steve Levin's Eldo guide, and Jerry Handren's books on Red Rock and the Mt Washington Valley (NH), set high graphical and writing standards. With sharp color pictures, old-timer stories, and information about lots of routes, those are three of my favorites to just browse through.

Looking way back, Roper's red Yosemite guide and Pat Ament's blue Boulder book have a mystical place in my memory that later books could never surpass.

Larry DeAngelo's Red Rock Odyssey deserves mention as a unique effort, equal parts guidebook, history and storytelling.

QITNL

climber
Nov 18, 2012 - 03:53pm PT
A little humor is nice. Secor, even CMac drop the occasional joke; Roper cracks me up.
Chinchen

climber
Way out there....
Nov 18, 2012 - 04:30pm PT
This one is pretty good.
http://kdanielspublishing.pinnaclecart.com/guide-books/classic-joshua-tree-routes-bouldering/
ontheedgeandscaredtodeath

Trad climber
SLO, Ca
Nov 18, 2012 - 08:39pm PT
Solid construction and good binding.

I think history sections are great where area appropriate, i.e., where no other historical record exists. Places like Yosemite have too much history to document in a guidebook and it's widely available elsewhere. To be honest, I've heard enough self congratulatory yosemite history- most historical climbing events have had nothing to do with yos or its climbing styles. At least beyond heavy handed siege tactics on walls and runout 5.9 slabs.

But I digress. Good index, good approach beta and better descent info. I've never understood guidebooks that try to hide the ball or leave some adventure- it's a friggen guidebook! Good topos are better than pictures in my opinion- again area dependent. A cliff with eight straight up single pitch cracks is different than a couple of routes up a major formation. A photo for the former might be helpful and some line drawn on the latter doesn't add much.

Some info re something that is unusually dangerous or spicy for the grade would be appreciated. FA info where it matters, probably not at the local rap bolted crag. Camping, seasons, sun/shade info is very helpful. Some local hangout info is also nice, though probably just as available on the internet these days. Iconic photos are awesome.



Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
Nov 18, 2012 - 11:28pm PT
I would actually like to put in a plug against the sort of cartoony, color-coded, international-icon find-a-crag-for-dummies kind of graphic style that one can find in some guides lately (none spring to mind right now, sorry).

One of the pleasures of using, say, the Reid guide is that certain kinds of gems reveal themselves only to a dedicated perusal. With not very much determination, it's easy enough to figure out the basics: a topo map shows you the aspect and elevation; an index tells you who put it up; there's a topo. The cartoony stuff detracts from this- it's a style better suited to places with lots of little crags, and lots of people just passing through. Yosemite climbers have time to dig a little, people come for weeks.

The quality rating system offers a lot of choices. On the one hand you have the no-star approach, the opposite of which is perhaps a select guide with a 5-star scale-like supertopo. Somewhere in between, and one I kind of like, is the one-star scale: there's recommended, and not. Verbal descriptions clue you in on the classics. The Rossiter Eldo guide works this way. You can always park a list of must-do megaclassics in the back.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 19, 2012 - 01:00am PT
Handren guide to Red Rocks is great. Any such like inspires me to want to climb.

Concur with what's been said above, specifically Russ and Melissa.

Rockfax format has been good to me. I like a guidebook that covers a large area, broken into individual crags, that gives a grade range and count to especially the single pitch stuff. And, a realtive quality rating for not just routes, but, the crag itselt. Aspect and if I can climb when its raining really help too.

The gold standard around here has been the Ruckman guide to the Wasatch. Having the little quips about the routes from authors intimate with an area is great. Some of us quote from it frequently..."bold elegance on a sea of white granite". Route topos are great. Layout nice. Fairly easy to navigate with.

Most great guides these days seem to be in color, with route overlays. I like a great hand drawn topo, but, that's rare and hard to do.

Action shots can keep the psyche up. Quality paper, quality binding. Nothing worse than opening a guidebook, feeling that binding crack and split and knowing you'll soon have a mess of loose pages.

I like having the FA info. Some folks just have an eye for great lines, and, some don't.

Knowing the git off is super and/or if a route can be rap'd with a single or double rope, and, the length. If a 70m rope is preferred for a crag due to route lengths, good to know.

That said, low budget "crack shack" guides can be super too. Folded 8.5 by 11 works just fine.

Yeah...I have a gob of guidebooks...
Fletcher

Trad climber
Fumbling towards stone
Nov 19, 2012 - 02:54am PT
Thanks for a good topic Ed. Some thoughtful and interesting contributions here. Funny, I saw the photo of a "lost" Rick and Ed and immediately thought of Secor's book... and the next post by Sierra Lodge Rat mentioned just that tome!

I like Secor too. A lot of info, but it's not all telegraphed. There's some mystery there, and where there's mystery, you get a bit more chance for romance. And, of course, adventure. It may take a few tries to find a route, but part of the pleasure can be the journey.

The reason I thought of Secor and being lost is this: years ago, I went to climb the West Ridge of Conness by backpacking in via Tuolumne. I had a xerox of the route description and a photo of it. Me and my partner, who was fairly well experienced in Sierra travel, both stood there the morning after packing in, looking up at Conness and the photo to determine where to start.

"Yup," we agreed, "It's definitely way over there to the left!" We set out to have a great time. We climbed something and at first it seemed like the route. But then we go up on another ridge. WTF??? Wasn't there supposed to be only one ridge? And then we traversed under these towers and where the heck did that glacier come from??!!!!! Somewhere amidst all this comedy, we realized we had started way, way off route and end up on the North Ridge of Conness! A bit of an epic getting down ensued, but that's another tale of hilarity, tears, and redemption.

The thing is, that we still had fun. It got a bit testy at points, but if that doesn't happen, it probably isn't mountaineering! Heh heh!

I really like books with route and area history and assorted other trivia.

At the end of the day, I appreciate them all, regardless of the details (or lack thereof). They tell us a lot about their authors too.

I also really like Croft's The Good, The Great and The Awesome. The only guidebook that makes me laugh out loud whenever I pick it up and flip to a random page. And I appreciate Secor's humor too, Those you have to look for a bit more, but are worth it. One comes to mind regarding a couple of routes on Mt. Tom. The notes on the first route (long and strenuous) end with "Ug!". The second route, apparently even longer and more strenuous, ends with "Ug, Ug!"

Eric
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Nov 19, 2012 - 03:20am PT
99% of guidebooks tell you what you can figure out for yourself about routes and little to none about what you can't. Most particularly, the story of the FA. Information about the area is cool, but information about lines other than their location seems like all it does is create a culture of addiction similar to that of chalk and most folks never develop an eye for what they can climb because of it. All that's the reason Scary Larry's is one of the few guidebooks I care much for.

And as we all age the first ascent stories are quickly being lost. What we need is the ability for the FA parties to go online and add the story of an FA to the route descriptions.
Jay Hack

Trad climber
Detroit, Michigan
Nov 19, 2012 - 10:04am PT
One of the most useful things a guidebook can do, imho, is a photo of the 1st pitch of a climb. I seem to get the most lost just trying to find routes.
mtnyoung

Trad climber
Twain Harte, California
Nov 19, 2012 - 10:39am PT
Things that make guidebook users idiots, from the perspective of a guidebook author (not worth starting its own thread):

1. Conversations that go like this (these are verbatum discussions):

CB: "Brad, your guidebook is just a bunch of toilet paper!!"

Brad: "Really, CB, why's that?"

CB: I was out there today and there's two routes that aren't even in your book."

Brad: "Oh, where are they?"

CB: "You know, over between XYZ Route and ZYX Route."

Brad: "Oh, those. Yeah, CB, both of those were put in two years after the book came out..."

CB: "Oh..."


2. Or, comments like this:

DF: "Brad, you fu#ked up the name of my route."

Brad: "Sorry, DF, what'd I get wrong?"

DF: "It's not X Route, it's XYZ Route."

Brad: "Oh, I thought it was X. It's been listed as X for more than ten years. It was called X Route in the last guidebook. DF, you knew I was working on a book for more than four years, why didn't you call me and give me the right name?"

DF: "Well, I thought you knew...."
Mike Friedrichs

Sport climber
City of Salt
Nov 19, 2012 - 10:57am PT
Ed,

I assume your question is in general and not specific to Yosemite. I concur with what Melissa and Russ said.

The best guidebook I've ever seen is the newest book to Kalymnos. It has really good directions to a lot of different areas. There's a summary table at the beginning that gives information for each sector about approximately how long the approach is, what the aspect is (sun/shade, time of shade), and the distribution of route grades. This is really helpful. It allows one to choose an area where there are plenty of options around a given grade. Then if you want the details you can go to that section of the route and see the pictures, get the descriptions, etc.

I really enjoyed the history in the original Desert Rock but it did make for a tome. Not sure if that is better in a guide book or a companion book on an area's history.

Not sure I agree with the comments on having a super minimalist guidebook. If you desire the ultimate adventure, don't buy the book at all. Wander around until you find something that grabs you. Guidebooks are supposed to be a guide to an area and should at the very least get you to the route. That said, Dingus McGee's Devils Tower guide had everything I ever needed in about 10 pages. Sort of depends on the area.

I've thought about writing a guide myself so this is a topic I am also interested in.
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Nov 19, 2012 - 11:56am PT
I think that what constitutes a good and appropriate guidebook depends a lot on the area being covered. I agree with the comments upthread to the point that having a comprehensive history chapter in a Yosemite guide might be redundant, and make for a fat book. On the other hand interesting historical tidbits here and there about a specific route or incident could enrich such a book greatly.

On the other hand I’m finishing up a book right now about an area where the written historical information is either incomplete or incorrect. What little information is online is mostly a rehash of previous errors. Therefore I want my book to have good historical content. Fortunately the area is not huge and this can be done in about four or five pages.

I had an English teacher once who, when asked how long an essay should be, answered “Make it like a young lady’s skirt, long enough to cover the subject and short enough to be interesting…”

Russ’s point about gear size is spot on. Of course there might be a route which has some bizarre gear requirement which would be good to mention, but for the most part “gear to 3 inches” or whatever should do it. An example of a route which I would put in the first category is Laeger’s “Top Secret” on Trapper Dome at Courtright. It is pretty much impossible to do this climb safely without double rope technique. On the other hand pretty much everything at the Needles that follows a crack is going to be situational to the individual climber. If one likes a lot of pro, take a lot. Of course there are a few exceptions there too.

Generally speaking the best guidebooks are by people who have actually done a lot of the climbs in the area about which they are writing.

And the easiest way to have a book full of mistakes is to try to present too much very detailed information. For traditional cragging areas I like a guidebook which respects my own decision making abilities. Too much beta is too much beta, whether it is coming from some loudmouth at the bottom or an over written book.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 19, 2012 - 12:11pm PT
great recommendations on ideas for new guidebooks, already have a bunch of concrete recommendations to try out...

...the OP title is about deconstruction of guides that exist, the ones you like the most... and there is a lot of that in this thread. I thought this approach was a good one because there are bits in most guides that we like, and looking at them helps in thinking about the elements of a good guide.

When I actually "guide" someone in an area the thing I'm doing the most seems to be providing information on:
1) which routes would be good for the time of year and the ability of the climbing team,
2) where to go to start,
3) how to walk to the approach,
4) what to take (rack, ropes, water, food, additional clothing) and
5) how to get off.

The art of guidebook writing would seem to be getting this information in as natural a way possible for the area.

Thinking about the "audience" for the guidebook is also important... a hardcore group of locals? a set of one-time international visitors? the climbers of the future venturing out from their plastic venues? the grizzled weekend warriors tired of doing the same 30 routes?

When first getting to the Valley we used every day for something, if it was raining in the winter, we'd take a liter of water, some snacks, the guidebook and a rain shell and walk approaches to work out areas we hadn't been to... eventually a place like the Valley becomes familiar and even small, if only because we'd actually touched most of the rock on most of the cliffs...

...but if you're there for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, you don't have the time to do that... you hire a guide, or buy a guidebook.

I also liked JTM's response about actually deconstructing guide books into physical parts...
...there's a nub of an idea there for sure!
Melissa

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Nov 19, 2012 - 12:25pm PT
The Supertopo serves the market of people with one week of their life to spend in the Valley exceptionally well, IMO. Had it existed when I started, I wonder if I would have waited a year or two to buy Reid?
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Nov 19, 2012 - 12:41pm PT
I also liked JTM's response about actually deconstructing guide books into physical parts...
...there's a nub of an idea there for sure!

Al Bartlett figured that out years ago when he published separate complete mini guides for each area in Josh. The result was a set of simple guides which were small and concise. Some thought they were lacking in sufficient details regarding gear, descents, etc. I have them all and still refer to them frequently.

Of course they lack the gloss and beautiful photos of the newer style of guides.
BirdDog44

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 19, 2012 - 12:56pm PT
For me the right guide book depends on where I climbing. Since I live in Seattle, most of my climbing is in the cascades. The Cascades are covered by Beckey's CAG's. A typical route description is "follow obvious left trending line to ridge, and accent good rock to summit. 5.9". That type of beta is fine for me, because I know most of the area and can figure out Fred's obscure directions.

Now, throw me in The Sierra's, the SuperTopo style guides are great for me. I don't know the area/conditions/unforseens, etc...; so pitch by pitch beta is great along with detailed idiot info (permits, stores, regs., weather, etc,,). I love the time on routes listings, detailed approach beat, and other misc. such as sun exposure etc... A guide like allows me much more climb time and to be be better prepared than a Fred style book.

I'll be making a trip to J-Tree this spring, I will be looking for a guide book that gets me on the type/style/grade of routes I want quickly; without having to spend a ton time reading through a guide book.

FA info and that is not all that important to me in a guide; although I do enjoy reading that stuff when hanging in camp.

The ulitmate guide book - well it depends.
nutjob

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Nov 19, 2012 - 01:08pm PT
+1 on most of what Russ said (gear labeling, crux location, FA party, getting onto/off of the climb, pitch length and rope-getting-stuck possibilities for potential linking). And consider inches/centimeters for our international friends who can't think in inches.

For OW climbs, maybe some special consideration on gear beta: I know it's going to be an adventure when the Yosemite Reid guide says "pro to 3 inches" because that could be anything from cupped hands to 80 feet of pro-less chimney. Maybe say something like "pro to 3 inches = 40 feet runouts, pro to 6 inches = 10 feet runouts"

I think one guidebook can't be all things to all climbers for all routes at their level. Sometimes I want the full beta spraydown, sometimes I like "trend up and left for several pitches of moderate fifth class until you see a faint ridge."

So maybe do a merging in one guide, where a reader's desires can be segregated not just by climbing type and difficulty and pro, but also by level of experience and tolerance for uncertainty. Do some routes or areas with overview photos and route lines overlaid, some with the supertopo style topos and full gear placement beta, and some more like the old Meyers/Reid guide with a sparse topo, and some more cryptic like the Roper guides. You can even add more climbs with vague whispers of names and/or FA parties and which general area of the valley, but leave the mystery fully alive for rumors to run rampant and dreams to feverishly boil over.

This approach would feed the dreams of the most people I think, and when it's time to head out to a route, I'll bet most people copy the info onto a single piece of paper anyways. But for folks who like to go cragging, bringing the full rack to the base with a guidebook and figure out what to do after they get there, the book should not be too huge and too pretty where messing it up would make the owner sad.

So maybe there's a fundamental choice: is this a "field" guidebook or a "sitting in the lodge cafeteria on a cold winter morning" guidebook?
The Chief

climber
Climber from the Land Mongols under the Whites
Nov 19, 2012 - 01:20pm PT
Generally speaking the best guidebooks are by people who have actually done a lot of the climbs in the area about which they are writing.

Not only that Kris, but in fact put up the routes included in the GB. Thus having first hand knowledge of gear and the rest of the goodies required.

Al Bartlett has a great reputation for putting out good GB's that are simple and to the point. Yet still leaving room for adventure.
Melissa

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Nov 19, 2012 - 01:24pm PT
Here's something I've never seen in a guide, but it would be cool: an indicator as to the source of the info. Pro to 3 in a Reid guide obscurity from 1978 means something different to me than pro to 3 in the Indian Creek guide with rack beta to the mm. It's nice to know whether the guidebook author who just did the route or Chuck Pratt himself made the recommendation.

If a comprehensive guide becomes a hybrid of old and new ratings for old routes, I'd like to see an indication of that change. (i.e. Arrowhead Arete: Originally rated 5.7!) Plenty of people benefit from the Taco upgrades of old school ratings, but get in trouble when they get on an old-school-graded route at their new-school-graded limit. It's good to develop a sense of just how hard 5.7 can be before committing to situations where you have to climb it w/o a lot of gear, etc.

Melissa

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Nov 19, 2012 - 01:25pm PT
So maybe there's a fundamental choice: is this a "field" guidebook or a "sitting in the lodge cafeteria on a cold winter morning" guidebook?

The best ones are both!
Nate D

climber
San Francisco
Nov 19, 2012 - 02:15pm PT
Or maybe they are two volumes, as Bruce suggested. Or much of the history resides in an obvious database online. It's an interesting idea. That said, I love tidbits of history sprinkled throughout a guide, ideally within short route descriptions.

I agree with many comments here that good guides need to be different for different areas. Phototopos only don't work so well for complex multi-pitch climbs, but suffice for sport crags. Showing bolts for a pure sport crag topo isn't likely necessary, but a must for traditional routes.

Seems a significant challenge for any guidebook author is satisfying two distinct audiences:
1. Those new to the area visiting for just a few days.
2. Those who know the area intimately, including FAists.

For the visitors, just the right amount of info needs to be shared for them to be efficient with their time and have a fine adventure. For the locals, getting the info and history accurate and best representing the spirit of the area is key. Extensive feedback/collaboration are a must. No way can a GB author satisfy every single user, but focusing too much on just one of these user groups will undoubtedly bring criticism.
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
Nov 19, 2012 - 02:29pm PT
I think one guidebook can't be all things to all climbers

This is true when the subject is a physical guide that you hold in your hands. But these days, hardbound guides are only one half (if that) of the resource. They're the static half, the essential skeleton, and should include static and concise info.

The other, dynamic half(+) is online, that glowing screen we're all staring into right now. And here is where each climber can use the available information to build their own experience. In effect, what Nutjob says above no longer has to be true - one guidebook can't be all things to all climbers, but one guidebook + one Google search can often deliver a complete universe of info.

Consider the Wombat species of TR, and more specifically Mark's recent, killer Yosemite Point Buttress TR.

Starting the approach to YPB in the pre-dawn with only info gleaned from Reid and maybe some inquiry around Camp 4 is a different prospect altogether from starting that approach with the wealth of description, imagery, and overlay that Mark has given to the community. Each of us is free to start our YPD day following either mold: one has more uncertainty and you could argue higher potential for "adventure" over the course of the climb; the other, more certainty and higher potential for "not getting your ass handed to you" over the course of the climb. Different types of climbers are looking for different types of satisfaction out on the granite.

Every guidebook ever published, for most climbers, is now a hybrid guidebook. Printed info from 1938 can be parlayed with a paragraph typed 20 seconds ago. For those who want it, the info is often there.

The advantage that new guidebook authors have is that - before publishing - they can strategize which medium is best for which vessel. Static, dynamic - there's a place for both, and we climbers can (not always, but often) choose how much info we want of each.
Darwin

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 19, 2012 - 11:03pm PT
I know some of you on this thread started with the Red Roper guide to the Valley. The skill in writing purely verbal descriptions of the approaches and routes, and the mind set required to interpret them still fills me with awe and nostalgia. It really was a different aesthetic and I sometimes miss it.

I guess the flipside was Tony and my late this summer trip to Sonora highway area. OMG!, did I wish I had a photo of pretty much anything especially as Buddy from Michigan said the first pitch of some climbs. And I'm talking about the best know "sacrificial" areas. I suppose having friends/people serving as local guides as I sort of did when I was first starting to climb in the Valley makes the purely verbal descriptions easier to use. Where were you Scuffy!?


oh, and Ed, good topic.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Nov 20, 2012 - 12:28am PT
No, it's a great topic, one which involves us all to some extent, and that seems to me to be the best possible quality to be found in any topic.

The old Green and Red Ropers were very adequate for their time. There were no other US guidebooks that came anywhere close; and the Green could only be compared to the Red. Roper is an excellent writer, editor, a ballsy 4th classer, and a member of several early first, second, or third ascents, which lends a helluva lot of authority to what can only be written, not drawn. He knows the history, since he and his friends were involved in a great deal of it.

As the YV topo guide is obviously not a literary venture in any of its iterations, and contains enough of the history and other fillips which are needed, like some basic info about approaches, it's main benefit is that the climbs can be shown next to one another, so the reader has that going for him. Once he's done one route, things really clear up, since he can view the neighboring lines from a much better vantage (different, not necessarily better).

For a place like Sespe, a small local crag in a non-urban area, a guide isn't really required. If you can't just get out of the car and see where you want to go, you got no soul, go back to the gym, fer gosh sakes. In urban areas, seems to me, routes get crowded into one another subway-style, so of course you would need a guide. The simpler, the better. Who wants history for a place only climbers care about as an outdoor gym, as in Indian Rock. There's usually always most of the time someone hangin' about who can give you some info, if not most.

And on the Captain, the number of routes is mind-blowing, the technical beta is so abstruse, topos are essential, a must, and required. Think of the tale Sibylle H. just told about her and Bev's journey up the 3-D on the Captain, their getting lost. Well, there wasn't a guidebook entry for it then, apparently, and so they had to rely on gosh knows what for beta after the first third.

Gud guide, God. Prayer helps when you're lost and in the dark and your partner's way the hell down there...

This is me, an older-generation climber, from the days before headlamps, and I know way it's different now, it's all faster. It's all in a day's work if you are doing the pre-dawn start with headlamps, so you'd best have the route wired before you begin! And that's the beauty of the internet, QED.

Photos are more trouble to print and overlay with colored dots, lines, or dashes, and I question their worth except that it is plainly seen where the route goes, but there's not enough beta there for the more complicated routes to be negotiated easily enough.

A place like YV or Zion, where the routes are quite spread out and distant from one another presents the problem of grouping climbs, much like the HS Guide by Roper, for example, based on Voge's work, which sectionalizes the Sierra and gives plenty of beta on what's there. As the years went by, this style again is insufficient because of the increased number of technical routes that have been done since its debut in 1976, which may seem like ancient history to some, but sh#t, he's still alive, so let's have some respect. I love the history, and that can ONLY be presented verbally.

It's a big challenge, Wide-Wise Ed. Buena suerte, senor.

Todd Eastman

climber
Bellingham, WA
Nov 20, 2012 - 12:33am PT
When you're young and getting better every climb you don't need tons of info, but on the slow decline years later info seems to become more important...

... hmmm, wonder why?
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Nov 20, 2012 - 12:37am PT
Experience is the best teacher, Grasshopper.
Salamanizer

Trad climber
The land of Fruits & Nuts!
Nov 20, 2012 - 01:39am PT
I like le_bruces idea of a Static, concise, factual and complete hard copy half of a guide, and a Dynamic, online library for personal opinions, photos and experiences.

The future of information is obviously heavily reliant of online media. It only makes sense to have some sort of website companion to a guide. I never really even thought about it, but to make your own companion website to compliment your guide or team up with an existing website like Mountain Project is an interesting and somewhat visionary idea.
nutjob

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Nov 20, 2012 - 06:05pm PT
le_bruce, you sold me on the idea of a very concise field book with line drawing topos and verbal descriptions for longer routes where needed, then the online database with more photos from different perspectives and trip reports and yadda yadda. But do keep a little history or interesting stories sprinkled in here and there in the print book. One thing that was fun for me when I first started climbing was to read hellish FA accounts that made me feel more cool about being able to do the thing. Come to think of it, maybe that is still in the mix somewhere.

That's essentially what supertopo has got going, but I think the main failure is to not make the route database expandable. And if the new route data can remain structured and extensible, you can add stuff like "slab crux rating", "OW crux rating," "hand crack crux rating", "finger crack crux rating" and then do cool queries to dial in the experience you want during your limited vacation time:

e.g., show me routes that meet the following criteria:
between 5.8 and 5.10
south facing
OW crux is 5.8 or greater
First Ascent before 1960
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Nov 20, 2012 - 06:16pm PT
Open source online guidebook services are a pox on the house of climbing.

Sorry. Applying open 'management' concepts to a data source that by its very nature should REMAIN LIMITED DISTRIBUTION is a stupid idea.

I hope Mountain Project and Summitpost and this place too if such a design is in mind... I hope they fail, utterly, in their core mission to document all routes.

F*#k that.

Its a very, very bad idea.

TANSTAAFL

DMT
ec

climber
ca
Nov 20, 2012 - 06:49pm PT
Success is not as sweet, unless you've had "your ass handed to you" a few times.

Brad, tell me about it...many unsatisfied with the effort and plenty to complain about, but would they had got it done? And no, I did not plan to have 'lead you by the hand' description/topos either. Thank you.

Russ' take is about right on the content. I noticed as the years went by and more GBs were published there seemed to be those 'new' to climbing who desired/required a staggering amount of info on a route (birth of the pre-CMac Supertopo) in order for them to even consider doing it. I admit to 'doing my homework,' however having too much info can take away from the experience. 'Talking like, premature ejaculation...and you still have to finish the night out with yer date.

 ec
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
Nov 20, 2012 - 06:51pm PT
From one of my favorite guide books:

Credit: k-man

Credit: k-man

Credit: k-man


Check on the fun stories about the routes...

Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 20, 2012 - 07:48pm PT
Open source online guidebook services are a pox on the house of climbing.

Disagree. It's a great resource. Bigger campfire.

Today, for example, I'd emailed a feller who'd posted up about a route in the middle of nowhere that he had the FA of. Now I know more of that routes history. I think that's pretty neat and the likelyhood I'd have run into him at random, pretty slim.

Consensus grades, consensus quality ratings...all good.

And, if you want your climbing to be off the radar...then...fine.

But, open source or user built route beta ain't no pox on climbing, not in my world. Not in your's either if you don't contribute or use the resource. I guess the risk is, someone will find your precious places and beta spray to the world about them. That might be a pox on YOUR world, but, not the gen. pop of the climbing hoards, soon to overpopulate your favorite off-the-radar crags...(ha ha).

But, I'm curious...why is it a "very very bad idea"?

-Brian in SLC (point rank #30 on the 'proj, ha ha. Where's Blitzo? #2, baby, I guess he tries harder, yuck yuck...)
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Nov 20, 2012 - 08:04pm PT
Hi BrianSLC, how's it dude?

Thinking about it tried to write some blah blah blah but really thinking it comes down to this:

The unknown is a valuable commodity. Don't be so quick to give it away for free, once its gone its GONE.

I would submit - MOST new climbing areas are best not discussed, much less detailed, via the internet. The longer the locals can resist the call of list-making? The better.

Fight the urge. I feel it too. I am a consumer of guidebooks too. So don't get me wrong. But some things are best left unsaid.

The nature of open source internet databases? NOTHING is left unsaid. They are the very antithesis of the thing is it I value MOST in climbing - the unknown.

DMT
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 20, 2012 - 08:08pm PT
Fair enough!

Even with gobs of beta, climbing a route for the first time for me is enough of that unknown some days...I tells ya!

We all have our little secrets...ha ha...
ec

climber
ca
Nov 20, 2012 - 08:41pm PT
DMT, If I told you, I'd have to kill you.

 ec
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Nov 20, 2012 - 09:10pm PT
I know, ec! That's the way it ought to be.

DMT
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
Nov 20, 2012 - 10:33pm PT
I used to have this fantasy of destroying the AAC library, just to preserve awhile longer those few remaining blanks spots on the map. There's precious little mystery left in the world.


Take your time, Ed.
Greg Barnes

climber
Nov 21, 2012 - 12:34am PT
Lots of us have these sorts of mixed feelings on reporting routes. One measure would be just how many of your FAs have remained secret, and for how long. By "secret" I mean known only to you and a partner or three. Go check your notes and give us some numbers - a percentage if nothing else.

Of course this may tell us more about who climbs in ultra remote areas than it does about who keeps their routes secret!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 21, 2012 - 12:53am PT
of the 31 routes I've participated in putting up, 10 are known,
nearly all of them are in Yosemite Valley, some in Tuolumne

one in Vedauwoo was reported as an FA probably after we did it

all these routes are in accessible areas, some right next to well known routes, others a short hike to the cliff, but there are those that take an hour or more to get to

of course the list of climbs to do is longer still, and that is usually where the "secret" comes in, somehow we have the misguided belief that someone else will snake an FA we could do... well it has happened, but usually because no one knew...
nutjob

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Nov 21, 2012 - 05:23am PT
This idea of "killing the unknown" is an important one to explore I think.

I can advocate for both sides of it. I love being lost on a good mystery, but some information creates a bond. Knowing who put it up, knowing someone who epic'd on it, or even asking around and getting a hint of recognition but no beta or knowledge of anyone who's done it... these things add a dimension to the experience for me. In addition to my own experience, I get to share in the experience of those who came before me, excitedly tell my stories to those who might care, gobble up the stories that come out of the woodwork in the wake of my sharing, and so it goes. I am enriched by the sharing. And I enrich others, or at least enjoy the illusion of doing so!

Maybe these are all the informal parts of sharing, the romance that somehow gets lost when a route is reduced to properties in a database object? It turns a spark of life, a deeply personal experience, a thread of human connectedness, to a sterile piece of information? Maybe that's a worst case scenario. The fear is based on some bit of something real, and it needs to be protected against.

So I can go that far to agree with Dingus.

But it doesn't have to be that sterile. Maybe a database entry with fields of numbers to represent all the properties is over the top killing it. But trip reports addressed to anyone who reads them is not? It is a cry in the dark, declaring our presence, seeking like-minded individuals with whom to share this grand adventure of life? There is using the power of technology to bind us together, to find our social needles in haystacks or ropes in the talus fields.

And the world doesn't stand still. Frontiers shift and move, and we have to move our crusty asses to the new wild places as the old frontiers become settled establishments. The process is fast in the big picture, but we have time to enjoy our solitude.

As I write that, it rings dangerously hollow. I fear the end of being able to go to a place and really find solitude. Unexpected encounters and friendships in the mountains are great, but there is also magic in being in an open expanse with no sign of other humans. Sometimes our spirits are like snails that need to be left undisturbed for a while before the feelers pop out. There is a real risk of losing that as more people seek the same happiness that we seek. I am part of the problem, you are part of the problem, we all are part of it.

I don't know the answer. Just late night rambling when I was too tired to get up and go to bed! I'll dream on it and see if anything new pops up for me.
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
Nov 21, 2012 - 08:41am PT
Greg, most of my routes fall into the 'partner or three' category. But that's partly because I live in a total backwater. I could spray all day about some crumbly 60' cliff with an hour approach at 11K' and not too many people would trudge up there to check it out. I also pay for my own gear and am under no obligation to subject others to my hot flashes.

More to the point, I like the 'sharing among' friends model of route dissemination. But let's face it, Yosemite is a very public place and an update is long overdue.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Nov 21, 2012 - 09:36am PT
nutjob I like your words.

I think there is great value 'in the story.' The story however, doesn't have to include approach directions, bolt counts; route names and little maps.

I'm not saying everyone should be just like me either. There are other unknowns to discover in climbing and not everyone is motivated the same way. I get that.

But I suggest keeping yer traps shut about location location location. Don't tell anyone how to get to your prized area and be stingy with location photos. Tease and tempt to be sure... just don't give away the approach. Don't give away the data to some faceless online server.

DMT
GDavis

Social climber
SOL CAL
Nov 21, 2012 - 09:48am PT



This is the gold standard for guides. Randy's climbed almost all of the routes, or knows a bunch of people that have, they are routes worth doing and its a beautiful book to get you excited. Just enough info to keep you safe and preserve the right kinds of adventures.

I've been obsessing over this guide the last 2 seasons and have been plucking off classics like i'm ordering hor-douvres at a fancy restaurant (I haven't the slightest idea how to spell that word).


A great guide is like a freind showing you around, telling you the convenient routes, the classic routes, the beautiful routes and history - LOTS and LOTS of history.

That's what makes these areas so special to me - the climbs not only have character, but are characters themselves. Sidewinder, Solid Gold, Left ski track, north overhang, catch a falling star... more like a group of friends you haven't met yet but are sure to love.
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Nov 21, 2012 - 10:07am PT
Less was more for us. Something that is light and small. (Guess that goes with the first requirement.) I found we had to rummage around in an area to get a feel for the climbing wherever we were. I think we had to do the same thing with the guides. Different minds = different guide styles = different perspectives. We had to get in synch with both before we felt comfortable heading up something we had never done. I guess that's a reasonable description with any author and story.
The Chief

climber
Climber from the Land Mongols under the Whites
Nov 21, 2012 - 10:22am PT
Guide Books....


REMEMBER: They are just a "Guide" based on one or two persons opinion. Hopefully they actually did the routes that they put together into a book and describe.

We all know what that is like when we encounter a route discription that is complete bullshet!


"5.10 my ASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS......Where the fk is the ANCHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOR?????"
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
Nov 21, 2012 - 10:30am PT
"... just don't give away the approach"

This is just plain weird. WTF is a guidebook for, exactly, if not to get you through a certain physical space? Folks who want to go shwacking around trying to find a cliff don't need a guidebook. The ones who buy the guide can reasonably expect a modicum of approach beta.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Nov 21, 2012 - 10:45am PT
WTF??? WTF??? WTF???

Well I wasn't talking about a guidebook when I wrote that.

I was talking about writing TRs. Nutjob was discussion the merit of trip reports. I happen to agree with him, reading trip reports about a big route or peak I have my eye on can, does, and has... enriched my experiences. He wondered how to strike a balance and I suggested (paraphrased) - just don't give away the approach. ie Don't tell people where it is or how to get there. Let them find it themselves.

The other big problem I have with open source online routes databases is many submissions are created by people who have little or no standing with a given route or area - in some or even many cases these people have not climbed the route or peak in question. I won't name names but I know one site that is notorious for this. That's a bunch of crap.

If you didn't do the FA then you, personally, who ever you are, have NO BUSINESS reporting that route to some giveaway site. None.

DMT
Salamanizer

Trad climber
The land of Fruits & Nuts!
Nov 21, 2012 - 10:55am PT
^^^^
I believe he was referring more to the online aspect, rather than a guidebook itself.


Edit: oops, post rendered moot by posting too late.
Lone Quail

Trad climber
Littleton, Colorado
Nov 21, 2012 - 11:06am PT
The art of imaginative writing is rare in modern guides, which are based mainly on topos and photos rather than written descriptions. The gold standard has to be Jim Erickson’s “Rocky Heights” (1980). Consider his descriptions:

The Upm Slot, 5.10:

“A breath-taking climb. One’s bust and buttock size will determine the grade, 5.7 for beanpoles, 5.11 for the bulbous.”

Scotch ‘N’ Soda, 5.11:

“Straight up or on the rocks? The first few feet present a veritable quagmire of cruxes.”

Throughout the book there is enough information to find and do the climbs, but always an uncertainty (often with the moves or protection) which adds to the adventure. Also, the historical notes on early ascents give great insight into the people and the era.

Sure – Modern guides are easier to use, but I appreciate the old ones too.

GDavis

Social climber
SOL CAL
Nov 21, 2012 - 11:48am PT
If you didn't do the FA then you, personally, who ever you are, have NO BUSINESS reporting that route to some giveaway site. None.

If you don't want information spread about your route, don't tell anyone about it. Gossip just spreads faster on-line.

Hold on to your topo, Smeagol, and hold it close.
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
Nov 21, 2012 - 11:49am PT
OK, that makes more sense.

But...nobody is allowed to post online about how to climb, say, Cathedral Peak? Because the FA never got around to it? What, exactly, is the difference between looking in a guidebook and looking online here?
chill

climber
between the flat part and the blue wobbly thing
Nov 21, 2012 - 11:53am PT
Bloom's Indian Creek guide is so nice I hate to pull it out of the pack and get it dirty. Fortunately for the book I don't get to IC very often.

I think Chris overdoes the detail in his topos. There shouldn't be description of how to do specific moves.
mrtropy

Trad climber
Nor Cal
Nov 21, 2012 - 12:05pm PT
Greg
Most of my routes are know only to a few, I have about 50 routes and 30 have been climbed by less than 5 people most likely. Most are 20-30 min walk from the road and easy-.6-.10 and less than 50ft, trad and sport. They are almost all of good quality. You can scope then out on line if you search a while, but because they are in a backwater, up HWY 4 in CA no one ever bothers, rarely to never do I see anyone climbing.

I have my favorites ones for different reasons:

Pinnacles by Brad young, the little red one for Lovers Leap and that Thai shown up thread. For some reason these all hit the spot.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Nov 21, 2012 - 12:29pm PT
What, exactly, is the difference between looking in a guidebook and looking online here?

Plagiarism, for the most part, accounts for the difference.

DMT
Melissa

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Nov 21, 2012 - 12:39pm PT
If someone copies the guidebook info, I see the plagiarism, but if you do an FA and then I go have my own experience on that route, I'm free to write about. I can't distribute your description of your creation, but I'm free to make my own. Just like I can write about a meal you cook in restaurant or book that you wrote.

I've seen a couple of my routes get retrobolted because folks didn't realize they'd been climbed (a downside of leaving no trace). I've also seen a route go from a mungey obscurity to one of the most popular 5.9's in the Valley and I know that it's in part because I sprayed about it here and it ended up in the Taco guide. A comprehensive guide with a gazillion routes (including Mountain Project) will only draw traffic to an area if a route is highlighted and endorsed in a big way (i.e. NEB of higher is possibly the finest 5.9 IV in the Valley) or has a lot of lore.

The good news is that 99+% of the people end up on the routes in the select. Most of the time, you can't spray enough about a route to make the chances of running into someone at the base real. Maybe if you discover the only crag in an area with no crags, but if people have options, they want 5 stars.

Hawkman's Escape, The Tower of the Cosmic Winds, Commissioner Buttress, Via Aqua...these are all well-known, full-value routes/areas where your chance of seeing someone is next to nill. Is there a more magnificent looking line in the Valley than the Cobra? I only know of three parties including the FA to have done it. If a climb doesn't have some special significance (RNWFHD, Steck-Salathe), people won't schlep to do it. And they certainly won't tolerate much in the way of dirt, diorite, or back gobies.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 21, 2012 - 01:06pm PT
Yeah, M, my tolerance for back gobies would be kinda low...ha ha!

The power of the 'net. Birdland in Red Rock is an example. Until the Handren guide, and, since it was established relatively recently, the only source for beta was online. And, it got HUGELY popular. Great route. Deserves it popularity, which, was primarily fueled by online beta, at least initially.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Nov 21, 2012 - 01:12pm PT
If someone copies the guidebook info, I see the plagiarism, but if you do an FA and then I go have my own experience on that route, I'm free to write about. I can't distribute your description of your creation, but I'm free to make my own. Just like I can write about a meal you cook in restaurant or book that you wrote.

Yes I agree. To a point.

There is book theory... and then there's the internet. The different is in accountability as well as ease and speed of distribution.

We don't need a million guide book authors. Its a bad thing. If folks who feel the urge to document (myself included, of course), to make lists and publish them... if they would adopt a more stringent set of requirements or raise the bar in terms of their personal involvement with a route... that would be a good thing.

One way to do that is as I suggested - if you didn't do the FA then don't create an online route for that climb. Yes, please include Cathedral Peak in that.

Sure write trip reports, they're not the same thing (or mine aren't, anyway). But does the world need another route description of the SE Face of Cathedral Peak? No, I think the world doesn't need that at all.

If you didn't do the FA don't do the online route entry either. Its not your route and shouldn't be your decision. Its not a rule I want to impose. It is a personal ethic I suggest most climbers should adopt.

DMT
ontheedgeandscaredtodeath

Trad climber
SLO, Ca
Nov 21, 2012 - 01:19pm PT
The internet will do what it will. There will be no standards.
GDavis

Social climber
SOL CAL
Nov 21, 2012 - 01:22pm PT
Dingus, I didn't mean to sound like a tosser :) hope it didn't come off that way brother.

I agree also, to your point, that guidebook authors have responsabilities above and beyond pamphlet making. Enviro impact being the big obvious one, but even more so is preserving the style and ethics of the area and keeping wilderness wild.

Peace.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Nov 21, 2012 - 01:26pm PT
The internet will do what it will. There will be no standards.

Yes, exactly right.

Back to the FA... don't tell, don't tell.

DMT
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Nov 21, 2012 - 01:35pm PT
A new guidebook is about to come to press for an area near and dear to my heart. The author is a long time acquaintance of mine, a friend. He authored the previous edition of the area guidebook and I have used that guidebook extensively.

I have a few FAs to my credit in the area and knowledge of many more for which I did not do the FA but perhaps was there when it happened, or I was instrumental in finding the area and potential route, blah blah blah.

Some of my info I shared gladly, in the spirit of all the good things in a climbing community, in an area like ours, with the guidebook author who is very good at what he does and DOES try to do all or most of the routes, etc. There is a 'give back that which I have been given' element to this, outside the normal ego gratification.

But at the same time? Its like pulling teeth to get me to divulge, lol. I really have a hard time doing it - like trying to push a cat into a mud puddle. There are areas I know of vast potential - not gonna talk about those with a guidebook author, sorry. There are other areas we found and then partially climbed out... still don't want to divulge. Go find it yourself, like I did. Its up there, you can see it from the road in fact....

So you can see I'm conflicted by this subject. I LOVE guidebooks and own a few dozen of them. I've willingly divulged FA info to guidebook authors, as well. But I've also withheld and increasingly that is my default position: do not divulge. Then I have to be talked into it. Then I have to actually remember the details.

Some folk will say... "I want it written down before I forget."

Don't do it! FORGET THE DETAILS. The devil herself is in those details.

DMT
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Nov 21, 2012 - 01:44pm PT
A good guide will sandbag you into something that's at a level that you think you couldn't do, and then give you just enough info to actually have a chance of doing it.

Edit: I'm thinking the older versions of "High over Boulder" (handy size of that one always helped).
GDavis

Social climber
SOL CAL
Nov 21, 2012 - 02:30pm PT
Rock lasts forever, Dingus, and nothing wrong with only sharing your routes with those near and dear til you've had your fill.

Finders keepers.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Nov 21, 2012 - 02:39pm PT
I personally think there is a pretty strong linkage between the evolution of the use of guidebooks with the various topics brought up on the threads related to how relevant Trad FAs are anymore.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 21, 2012 - 02:40pm PT
Dude sprayed about the FA of Cathedral Peak a few years back...

The body of the Cathedral is nearly square, and the roof slopes are wonderfully regular and symmetrical, the ridge trending northeast and southwest. This direction has apparently been determined by structure joints in the granite. The gable on the northeast end is magnificent in size and simplicity, and at its base there is a big snow-bank protected by the shadow of the building. The front is adorned with many pinnacles and a tall spire of curious workmanship. Here too the joints in the rock are seen to have played an important part in determining their forms and size and general arrangement. The Cathedral is said to be about eleven thousand feet above the sea, but the height of the building itself above the level of the ridge it stands on is about fifteen hundred feet. A mile or so to the westward there is a handsome lake, and the glacier-polished granite about it is shining so brightly it is not easy in some places to trace Front of Cathedral Peak the line between the rock and water, both shining alike.
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Nov 21, 2012 - 03:15pm PT
While I understand Dingus' point of view, the on-line, open source data-base approach to reporting routes has a lot of advantages to climbers (and guide-book writers):

Ideally, when describing a route in a guide, you would want to have: (1) climbed it, (2) talked to the FA team, and (3) talked to others who have climbed it. This way, you get a better consensus of the subjective experiences you are trying to convey [difficulty, quality, gear, where the route goes, etc.] to people who will be using the guide.

On-line resources expand the pool of opinions. Sure, there are opinions expressed that deviate significantly from the norm, but you can chose to ignore those -- and in fact that is the role of the person putting the guide together -- to make decisions about what to include or exclude. To an extent, if most people think a route is harder, more difficult to protect, or better approached or descended than I did, it makes me reconsider my opinion. This is a big plus.

[Edited to Add] Limiting posting of a route on-line to the FA party seems to be an unrealistic expansion of the FA prerogative (how much fixed gear, name, etc.) I don't see the logic for distinguishing the posting a route on-line from reporting a route in a print copy of a guide. And, why would these be subject to different rules?

Like it or not, most climbers today who buy guidebooks desire more information than what guidebooks traditionally provided. Also, it is important to remember your target audience -- climbers who are more often than not unfamiliar with the area, route, approach, descent, etc.

Balancing the desire to provide this information, while leaving the climber to experience the climb with some level of adventure isn't easy and is in need of constant re-examination.
Nate D

climber
San Francisco
Nov 21, 2012 - 03:21pm PT
I have a few FAs to my credit in the area and knowledge of many more for which I did not do the FA but perhaps was there when it happened, or I was instrumental in finding the area and potential route, blah blah blah.

Some of my info I shared gladly, in the spirit of all the good things in a climbing community, in an area like ours, with the guidebook author who is very good at what he does and DOES try to do all or most of the routes, etc. There is a 'give back that which I have been given' element to this, outside the normal ego gratification.

But at the same time? Its like pulling teeth to get me to divulge, lol. I really have a hard time doing it - like trying to push a cat into a mud puddle. There are areas I know of vast potential - not gonna talk about those with a guidebook author, sorry. There are other areas we found and then partially climbed out... still don't want to divulge. Go find it yourself, like I did. Its up there, you can see it from the road in fact....

So you can see I'm conflicted by this subject. I LOVE guidebooks and own a few dozen of them. I've willingly divulged FA info to guidebook authors, as well. But I've also withheld and increasingly that is my default position: do not divulge. Then I have to be talked into it. Then I have to actually remember the details.

Some folk will say... "I want it written down before I forget."

Don't do it! FORGET THE DETAILS. The devil herself is in those details.

DMT

Ditto on this. Echoes my experience and much of how I feel... except the part about the details. I simply cannot forget so easily.

Sure, share some, but leave some unpublished and off the radar to preserve the adventure for others. Exploring beyond the pages of a guide is great fun, even if frustrating at times. And even if you come across evidence of others having climbed there instead of pure virgin terrain, it's still quite rewarding.

Maybe this has strayed a bit from the OP, but still relevant perhaps.

Any opinions out there about fully produced guidebooks that are only available word of mouth, essentially underground rather than distributed widely? Made available only to the truly interested and inquisitive? Does this achieve a balance between the desire to document for history and to preserve a quiet and more adventurous experience?
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Nov 21, 2012 - 03:24pm PT
Like it or not, most climbers today who buy guidebooks desire more information than what guidebooks traditionally provided.

A most excellent reason for not providing it if ever I heard one. I mean, doesn't the fact that the oxymoron 'adventure climbing' exists at all in and of itself mean that 'adventureless climbing' now exists to a greater or lesser degree and you have to ask yourself what role guidebooks have and do play in that.
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Nov 21, 2012 - 03:32pm PT
Like it or not, most climbers today who buy guidebooks desire more information than what guidebooks traditionally provided.

A most excellent reason for not providing it if ever I heard one. I mean, doesn't the fact that the oxymoron 'adventure climbing' exists at all in and of itself mean that 'adventureless climbing' now exists to a greater or lesser degree and you have to ask yourself what role guidebooks have and do play in that.

This is really an argument for not having a guide book at all. At what point do you eschew any beta (e.g., refuse to talk to others that have done the route)? Any guidebook reduces adventure, the question is one of balance.

Obviously, for a popular cragging area like Yosemite, Tuolumne, Josh, Red Rocks, etc, what is a realistic approach?
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Nov 21, 2012 - 03:33pm PT
I agree healyje its yet another flavor of the same trends you talk about.

Tragedy of the Commons. The internet is built on the notion of trampling the grass... ALL of the grass, everywhere, all the time.

My generation will not wrap its arms around the Information Age. It will fall to subsequent generations, them that grew up with it, to fix all the havoc we visited upon them.

Don't tell!

DMT
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 21, 2012 - 03:39pm PT
When will google climb appear? Real time downloadable streaming information on whatever route you're doing. In other words, paint by numbers climbing.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Nov 21, 2012 - 03:40pm PT
Too funny. But, none-the-less a denialistic approach that doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Don't 'deny.' Don't denigrate, don't make it a black or white situation, that is SO politard and so unrealistic. Lets not make a win/loss equation.

Rather, encourage and explain why withholding data should be considered, individually. That's what I'm trying to do in my small way...

DMT

healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Nov 21, 2012 - 03:46pm PT
When will google climb appear? Real time downloadable streaming information on whatever route you're doing. In other words, paint by numbers climbing.

'Google climb - Google Earth Edition Pro' in combination with xRez 3D mapping technology and 'Google Eyes' eliminates the need for route finding on climbs and descents. Add the nightvision option for $99 more and late start problems become a thing of the past!



[ Note: This climbing navigation system will also drive advances in fabric photo-voltaic charging systems sprayed on the backs of shirts and jackets after Werner reports numerous rescues and deaths due to failure to charge the glasses and forgetting the spare batteries. ]
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Nov 22, 2012 - 03:28pm PT
The "deconstruction" of guidebooks suggested by the original post has taken an interesting turn and raises the age-old -- and often conflated -- questions of:

Whether guide books contribute or detract.

And inexorably, whether they should exist at all (and if so, under what circumstances, to what type of climbing areas, and how much information should be conveyed).

When climbing was a fringe activity, practiced by few, or where a climbing area was/is visited by few who generally know each other, information is easily is transmitted informally. The need for a guidebook is questionable.

As the population of climbers increases and climbers become more mobile, there is an increasing demand for information that can not be easily transmitted or shared via traditional word of mouth. Historically, most written guidebooks came into existence in response to such demands and changing demographics.

Resistance to guidebooks has always existed. This resistance is perhaps most prevalent and adamant at the transition from the no-guide to first guide. In such circumstances, locals often ask themselves whether a guide will do more harm than good, particularly when an climbing area has already attained a certain level of popularity/notoriety.

Will a guide help ameliorate impacts and undesirable behavior? Will it unacceptably increase visitation such that resource and other impacts will become unacceptable? Will access issues arise through increasing popularity?

In today's climbing environment, a large percentage of people are now introduced to climbing through a indoor climbing gym. The first outdoor experience is probably at a bolted sport crag or bouldering area. This stands in sharp contrast to the "traditional" introduction of prior generations -- one where climbing was a part (or extension) of an outdoor experience.

The barriers to becoming a climber where significantly higher in the past and the typical profile of yesterday's climber and today's stand in sharp contrast. This has resulted in a continuing shift in the expectations of climbers in what they their experience should be -- as well as the amount of information that should be at their disposal. As the term "Self Reliance" has migrated so has the interpretation of "Rock Climbing" experience.

Guidebooks today reflect this shift. Guidebooks also are beginning to reflect (and incorporate) the intertwining of technology and social media into almost every aspect of people's lives. Change may be inevitable, but it can -- at least in small arenas such as climbing -- be approached intelligently.






mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Nov 23, 2012 - 01:11am PT
"doesn't the fact that the oxymoron 'adventure climbing' exists at all in and of itself mean that 'adventureless climbing' now exists to a greater or lesser degree...?"

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305748804000684
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Nov 23, 2012 - 02:19pm PT
When Chris Fracchia and I were making up those route cards for Millbrook, we were very sensitive to preserving the adventure-climbing environment that Millbrook represents. We showed where the routes went with lines drawn on photos, and we gave a grade, and that was it.

What we didn't put in was protection ratings, location of belays, fixed gear positions (there almost no fixed gear at Millbrook and none on the climbs we documented, but if there was any we wouldn't have mentioned it), rack recommendations and comments about the need for specialized gear, or any kind of verbal description of how to climb or protect sections of the route or how to recognize belays or traverses or other features of the climb.

It was understood that the cards documented exceptional climbs, but other than that we showed, on a photograph, how to find the route and where it went, and left everything else up to the climber.

We worried that these routes would be progressively degraded by Mountain Project posts supplying ever more detailed beta, but realized there was nothing we could do about it (other than not revealing any information), and we trusted that the climbers attracted to the Millbrook experience would not, in general, be likely to undermine the essential aspects of that experience.

I think many guidebook authors are loving their areas to death. I understand the inclination to improve on previous work, to be precise, and to give directions that a clear and unambiguous. I certainly enjoy getting highly detailed information about routes. It makes the whole experience much easier, reduces anxiety, diminishes failures and retreats and, say, the need to come back with the right gear. I get the motivations for the guidebook writer and the appeal for the climber. But the price we pay is the overcrowding of climbs, a degradation of the climbs themselves to mere performance objectives, and, a growing cadre of climbers that thinks climbing is nothing but performance objectives.

I think what we'll end up with is the sacrifice of some areas to mass-consumption climbing, ultimately as the best way to preserve other areas for those who are looking for a different type of experience. By and large, the ones looking for that different type of experience are the ones discovering new areas and doing new routes, so it is up to them, I think, to keep the game going by restricting, if not entirely eliminating, the flow of information about their exploits.
Borut

climber
french, spider, cheater
Nov 23, 2012 - 02:53pm PT
There are really a lot of good things shared here. Thanks to everyone.

Maybe deconstructing guide books is like deconstructing life. Maybe there can not only be the up sides of guide books - in guide books. Sometimes it's even a caracteristic type of mistake in a particular guide book that makes all it's charm.
drljefe

climber
El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Nov 23, 2012 - 03:21pm PT
The OP asked
"what are the elements of a good guide book?"

To me, and something that has seemed to go by the wayside in recent years, is DURABILITY.

A rock climbing guidebook is going to get shoved in a pack, sat on for warmth, tossed around, loaned out, exposed to all kinds of weather- generally suffering mega abuse. What other kind of book on your shelf gets treated like that? Therefore, construction needs to be not just good, but BOMBER.

Many of my older guides were bound well, had "rubberized" covers, and rounded corners.
They were TOUGH and are still perfectly usable today.

Most modern guides lack all three of those key elements.

As far as content and details go-
well, that is the real debate, I guess.
Sometimes I wish I had more, sometimes less.

For me the standards for durability and content are early 90's Vogel JTree and Reid Yos Free Climbs.






Roughster

Sport climber
Vacaville, CA
Nov 23, 2012 - 03:59pm PT
I have re-wrote my reply to this thread no less than five times. In the end I'll just say "To each their own". I have routes/BPs in topo and online and some that only my family and I know about. A good guidebook gets you to the route of interst with the assumption the reader is slightly retarded. It is already a "known" commodity. Any purposeful ambiguity to attempt to perserve some amount of "mystery" is contrived and unnecessary.

Within the last two weeks I have found 3 new cliffs within 50 miles of Vacaville that would take routes all on confirmed public land. Adventure is as close or far as you want it.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Nov 23, 2012 - 05:46pm PT
Any purposeful ambiguity to attempt to preserve some amount of "mystery" is contrived and unnecessary.

"Purposeful ambiguity" suggests the the guidebook writer is purposely trying to be confusing. I don't think anyone came anywhere near suggesting that. The information given ought to be accurate, but it is perfectly reasonable to discuss the level of detail supplied.

For example, many of us have seen the guides to the Mont Blanc range that include diagrams of the crux pitch with the holds delineated, and the sequence of hand and foot placements specified. Omitting such critical information would purposely add ambiguity in an attempt to preserve some amount of "mystery," and so is contrived and unnecessary.

I'm being facetious of course, but if one agrees that at some point, there can be too much detail, then the question about where to draw the line is perfectly reasonable, not at all contrived, and, I would argue, most definitely necessary.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Nov 23, 2012 - 06:17pm PT
1) Guidebooks should be well researched and not overly depend on 2nd and 3rd hand info.

2) They should be consistent and always:
provide sun/shade info.
give the length of pitches
provide accurate approach and descent info.
provide accurate topos for mult pitch climbs and of location of climbs on a crag
provide camping options
.
3) They should be well constructed with good paper and bindings.

4) They should be concise and have very abbreviated historical sections.

5) They should NEVER have the poorly written sketches from local climbers so prominent in today's books.
Lone Quail

Trad climber
Littleton, Colorado
Nov 23, 2012 - 08:01pm PT

Portable!

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 24, 2012 - 12:24am PT
got Levin's guide to Eldo today...
very posh...

a color "photo-guide" with written route descriptions

roughly 1500 climbs covered in 444 pages
longest routes around 6-7 pitches (?)

many sponsor advertisements

tiny font size (can't read it without glasses by room lights, I'll try in the bright Sun tomorrow)

heavy

I'm not sure why photo-guides don't make the route lines and belay spots semi-transparent so that you can see the features "under" the lines...


now that I have the guide, I'll have to road test it...
anyone in CO interested in climbing in Eldo next year? (Guide says June to August)
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Nov 24, 2012 - 01:59am PT
I get the motivations for the guidebook writer and the appeal for the climber. But the price we pay is the overcrowding of climbs, a degradation of the climbs themselves to mere performance objectives, and, a growing cadre of climbers that thinks climbing is nothing but performance objectives.--Rgold

My take on overcrowding--guidebooks are somewhat to fault, certainly--but it's the whole merchandising of the sport which includes the hyping, and the gyms, and the Robert Kennedy effect, which means it's cool because celebs do it. Gyms are not responsible for the numeric fixations new climbers have (and keep, in many instances), and it is hard to believe that mere performance objectives come first at the expense of real adventure.

Be there a climber with soul so dead,
Who never to his pals has said,
This indoor guff gets into my head,
Let's blow this joint,let's adventure, instead.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Nov 24, 2012 - 09:32am PT
Be there a climber with soul so dead,
Who never to his pals has said,
This indoor guff gets into my head,
Let's blow this joint,let's adventure, instead.

They come out of the gym, and take up the sharp end


Send the line and put the rap on a good route


All workwoman-like, as if she knew what she was doing??? The Gymborn these days... dah noive adoze goils!


Sure puts a smile on my face though.


East End Boy.

DMT
ec

climber
ca
Nov 24, 2012 - 11:06am PT
Dingus,
Was that Gemini Cracks? Was that chain on a Metolius Rap Hanger? Ron Felton and I replaced a bunch of anchors there, but not that BS.

- ec
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Nov 24, 2012 - 11:38am PT
Yes but quick link attachment. The anchors are intact and looking good.

DMT
mrtropy

Trad climber
Nor Cal
Nov 24, 2012 - 12:40pm PT
e.c.,
Did you help Ron rebolt the Sea of Holes years ago, if so I was with you guys on that one.

Jeff
Nate D

climber
San Francisco
Nov 24, 2012 - 06:32pm PT
I'm not sure why photo-guides don't make the route lines and belay spots semi-transparent so that you can see the features "under" the lines...

Can also partially be solved by dotted lines, but it is true this is one of the big drawbacks of photo topos, IMO.
ec

climber
ca
Nov 25, 2012 - 03:13am PT
Jeff, I wasn't on the Sea of Holes redo; just Gemini and War of the Walls (Wall of the Worlds) belay anchors.

 ec
gf

climber
Nov 25, 2012 - 08:53am PT
KMAN! not many folks around who got to sample "its a boy" -one of the best imho -i had the pleasure of cragging with mosieurs potand and burnier bitd -a different time and place from what it has become to be sure
Degaine

climber
Nov 25, 2012 - 09:27am PT
Hi rgold,

Might have misunderstood your post, but I know of no guidebooks for the Mont Blanc range that fit your description, at least not those in French in any case.

Cheers.
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Nov 25, 2012 - 02:16pm PT
I think many guidebook authors are loving their areas to death. I understand the inclination to improve on previous work, to be precise, and to give directions that a clear and unambiguous. I certainly enjoy getting highly detailed information about routes. It makes the whole experience much easier, reduces anxiety, diminishes failures and retreats and, say, the need to come back with the right gear. I get the motivations for the guidebook writer and the appeal for the climber. But the price we pay is the overcrowding of climbs, a degradation of the climbs themselves to mere performance objectives, and, a growing cadre of climbers that thinks climbing is nothing but performance objectives.

While guidebooks undoubtedly can have the effect of shifting use patterns or possibly worse, I'd like to address some of the logical inconsistencies and factual inaccuracies set out by RGold above:

1. Is Quality Really the Problem?

Striving to have "precise", "clear and unambiguous" content should be the goal of any guidebook author. Who buys a guide with the expectation (or dare I say: hope) that it will provide vague, confusing and/or erroneous information about the area or the climbs?

Yes, one can sincerely argue that too much information may detract from the climbing experience. And, if one believes in a "less is more" approach in a guidebook, isn't axiomatic that the resulting more limited information should be even more precise, clear and unambiguous?

2. Does Better Information Inexorably (or Even) Lead to Overcrowding, Degradation and Debasement?

The contention that better information in a guidebook will result to significantly more visitation ("overcrowding") of previously obscure or less traveled climbs certainly seems a reasonable proposition. But is it really true? And, if so, how significant is the effect?

There has been paucity of empirical study of what causes certain climbs to become popular. However, studies conducted at Joshua Tree National Park found that distance from the road, ease of the approach, and difficulty were, by far, the most significant factors in determining the popularity of a climb/area than perceived quality (e.g., a star rating) or presence/description in a guidebook.

This is not to say that guidebooks do not have the power to redirect use patterns. This phenomena is readily apparent in areas such as Yosemite, Tuolumne and the Sierra where Selected and Classic guides predominate. As a natural result of their more limited scope, Select/Classic guides tend to concentrate more climbers in fewer places.

Even so, there is a natural tendency for climbers who may not climb at a particular area often to congregate at certain crags and climbs, regardless of whether the guidebook is comprehensive in nature. Most climbers are just not that adventurous. This is borne out by Erik Murdock's study of wilderness rock climbing in Joshua Tree. That study determined that approximately 95% of climbers tended to only climb the same 5% of documented climbs.

If anything is clear, guidebooks are not the only -- or in many cases even the principal -- driver of climbers to particular climb or area. The reality is simply much more complex. It is simplistic and erroneous to declare that guidebooks (particularly qualitatively better guidebooks) are the cause of degradation of climbs.

3. Has Climbing Become a Performance Orient Activity and are Guidebooks a Cause?

Certainly it is true that climbing has become a performance oriented sport. And, with the advent of gyms, more climbers, more specialized and thoughtful training, performance standards have soared. However, I do not believe that the focus on performance in climbing is at all a new phenomena. In fact, it has existed from the very beginnings of rock climbing and bouldering as pursuits separate from mountaineering.

Rock climbing and Bouldering have always been about performance. Yes, the pursuit of difficulty has intensified more rapidly in recent times, but it has always been there.

Are we really seeing a "degradation of climbs themselves to mere performance objectives?" Or is it that as standards have risen, climbs that were once considerable, lofty and even serious climbing objectives, have become trade routes and/or classics that see the brunt of visitation?

Regardless, I have a difficult time finding guidebooks at the root of this. Admittedly, guidebooks do document difficulty, but they did not create the focus on it, nor the drive in pursuit of it.


I think what we'll end up with is the sacrifice of some areas to mass-consumption climbing, ultimately as the best way to preserve other areas for those who are looking for a different type of experience. By and large, the ones looking for that different type of experience are the ones discovering new areas and doing new routes, so it is up to them, I think, to keep the game going by restricting, if not entirely eliminating, the flow of information about their exploits.

Actually, cutting edge climbing will always be self limiting. New climbs that are moderate in difficulty and not too far afield, will likely attract visitation. The lack of guidebook coverage will certainly slow visitation, but perhaps little more. A route that requires considerable route-finding, protection, commitment, and climbing skills and/or which may be remote will be in little danger of debasement no matter how widely published.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Nov 25, 2012 - 04:28pm PT
This response certainly has more clear thinking in it than the original I tossed off.

I would protest that I didn't indulge in logical inconsistencies and sketchy didn't identify any. On the other hand, if "factual inaccuracies" means overblown assertions with questionable factual support, then I'm afraid I'll have to plead guilty as charged.

Also, on the first point, sketchy appears to have misunderstood me. I did not say and did not intend that being less clear and more ambiguous is either good or desirable. I merely suggested that the understandable desire for clarity can drive guidebook authors in the direction of detail I think is sometimes excessive.
Reeotch

Trad climber
4 Corners Area
Nov 25, 2012 - 05:15pm PT
That study determined that approximately 95% of climbers tended to only climb the same 5% of documented climbs.

If that is an effect of guidebooks, so be it. I'll be one of the 5%ers ;)

Seriously though, that's the reality and that seems ok to me. It is like what is taught in Leave No Trace courses - It is better to use already impacted areas than to trash pristine areas.

I wonder what the effect of star ratings is on this concentration of use. I have found in areas, such as Josh, that the star ratings (or the lack of them) are often unfounded, arbitrary, or an attempt at sandbagging.

I also think you are seriously limiting your climbing experience if you only climb what you can find in a guidebook.
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Latitute 33
Nov 25, 2012 - 05:23pm PT
RGold rightly challenges my assertion that his post is logically inconsistent. What I should have said (in hindsight what I meant to say) was his post was premised on a logical fallacy. In particular, it falls prey to the fallacy that correlation is equal to causation.

And, perhaps he will forgive my mis-apprehension that he was proposing that precise and clear information had the natural effect of degrading climbs and the climbing experience -- if for no other reason than apparently I wasn't the only reader similarly "confused" (and honestly it seemed that what was being stated.)

Edited to add: Notwithstanding the above, I very much appreciate RGold's (and other's) insights and opinions -- which has made this thread an interesting and thoughtful read.
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Nov 25, 2012 - 11:04pm PT
That study determined that approximately 95% of climbers tended to only climb the same 5% of documented climbs.

Actually certain climbing areas can benefit in this regard by having a current comprehensive guide. This situation of everyone doing the same relatively small group of classics in an area which is full of neglected classics happens when the printed guides become obsolete, or unavailable and info on the web pretty much mimics these books.

In this situation the publication of a new comprehensive book will help to spread people out among climbs they would have otherwise not searched out.

Then of course there are those who dig deeper and find the obscure and the un-climbed. One thing I've seen in a guide which I dislike is "There are plenty of FA opportunities one this face" or the like. That crosses the line for me.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 18, 2014 - 11:52am PT
so, any more of you have an opinion about this?

just checking in...
rick sumner

Trad climber
reno, nevada/ wasilla alaska
Feb 18, 2014 - 12:19pm PT
Yeah, guidebooks are stupid unless you can make a healthy profit from them like the innkeeper of this establishment. By and large they take the adventure out of climbing and invite the hoards that most old school climbers try to avoid. I say this from the perspective of being a guidebook author and publisher from yesterday.

For example, if you Ed were to publish a guide to your beloved, yet close in, obscurities you just might find yourself having to range farther afield for your untrodden obscurity fix, perhaps deep into the void climbing classic but rotten granite and volcanic towers with the likes of people like me.
WBraun

climber
Feb 18, 2014 - 12:25pm PT
My opinion? :-)

The best guide book takes you to where you've always wanted to go .......
Elcapinyoazz

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Feb 18, 2014 - 01:29pm PT
Crowd sourcing is where it's at. I know checking MtnProj entries has saved me a lot of bs hassles, where routes have altered (broken holds, now the route is significatly harder..makes a difference when you are climbing at your limit); where descent anchors or bolts have been chopped or fixed pins have fallen out; or where the in-situ hardware is sketchier than I trust. Also you get consensus ratings, and avoid ego driven sandbag artists (which has gotten plenty of people hurt over the years). You learn if a route is oddly morpho to go at the rating.

Consulting a guidebook written a decade ago doesn't provide that. Splitter cracks and moderates don't tend to change much. Hard face routes, reliant on very small holds do. There are countless examples in JT.

Another example, first time I did Maple Jam, arrived at the belay to find...no belay. Tree was dead and gone, rotten rock mud and decaying tree remnants in the only crack system, and given I'd basically soloed the pitch (wide crack), was not happy. I promptly put the info on Mtn Proj, hoping tp prevent someone at their limit from getting hurt on it. Came back a couple weeks later, did a massive cleaning job on it that then allowed a safe belay on gear, and posted the new info.

If you want adventure, leave the book at home, walk up to an attractive line and have a go. Nobody forces you the read the books or websites.

I want to see detailed approach beta, that has been proofed by people who were first timers to the area. Photos of the crags with route line overlays. And sun/shade info, which becomes absolutely critical on harder routes.

An indication of where the crux is on the pitch is nice, but not vital. Relevant gear info, "pro to 3", when the route has 50' of 4" crack isn't helping me.

And finally, Individual pitch ratings. I remember a route in my old stomping grounds, Tallulah Gorge in GA. Probably the hardest route there at the time, Heaven and Hell, which climbed a sweet crack through a roof on the second pitch. I really, really wanted to try the roof. Guidebook (original single vol Dixie Cragger's Atlas) had no individual pitch ratings, and noted that the first pitch was runnout off the ground. Well, WTF?! Runnout at what rating? The thing is rated 12a, is the 12a the p2 roof, the first pitch before pro, or first pitch after you get pro? I like some adventure, but soloing at my limit is not adventure, it's stupid.

I tried to get beta for 4 years. Finally, about 10 years later, long after leaving the area for good, got accurate info. Same guidebook, errors/ommissions. Tried a route that was 5.xx, seemed insanely hard and I flat couldn't do the moves. Happened to be looking in the appendix one day and see it is rated 5.xx A1 where the main text had omitted the "A1" part. Thanks for wasting my time. Get someone to proof your stuff.

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