Deconstructing guide books -

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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
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