Deconstructing guide books -

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Borut

climber
french, spider, cheater
Nov 23, 2012 - 11:53am 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 - 12:21pm 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 - 12:59pm 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 - 02:46pm 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 - 03:17pm 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 - 05:01pm PT

Portable!

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 23, 2012 - 09:24pm 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 23, 2012 - 10:59pm 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 - 06:32am 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 - 08:06am 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 - 08:38am PT
Yes but quick link attachment. The anchors are intact and looking good.

DMT
mrtropy

Trad climber
Nor Cal
Nov 24, 2012 - 09:40am 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 - 03:32pm 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 - 12:13am 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 - 05:53am 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 - 06:27am 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 - 11:16am 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 - 01:28pm 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 - 02:15pm 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 - 02:23pm 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.
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