Deconstructing guide books -


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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.

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

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

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 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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