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Home >> Frequently asked questions Thursday, March 30, 2023 
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SuperTopo Guidebooks

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Snake Dike, 5.7R
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High Sierra, 5.10
Red Rocks, 5.10a
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a SuperTopo?

The SuperTopo is an attempt to create the ultimate in rock climbing and mountaineering route information. Each SuperTopo combines a new level of detailed route information to help assure your enjoyment of the climb, along with first-ascent histories so that you can experience the soul of the climb. SuperTopos are available in both printed guidebook format and in web-downloadable eBook format.


How is a SuperTopo different than a traditional topo?

Traditional climbing topos usually cover many, many routes in a climbing area, but offer very limited depth of information on any individual route. In contrast, a SuperTopo, whether in downloadable-format off this website (eBook) or in our printed SuperTopo guidebooks, offers a depth of detailed information on a select list of the very best climbs in an area. It takes us more time to create a SuperTopo, and we offer fewer routes than a traditional guidebook, but we are committed to assuring that the SuperTopo will be the very best, most detailed, and most accurate topo available for each route we cover. The chart below highlights some of the major differences between a SuperTopo and a traditional guidebook topo. We encourage you to take a SuperTopo for a free test drive by downloading one off our site for freel

Pitch Lengths
Retreat beta
Pitch gear sizes
Traditional Guidebook

= Available on all SuperTopos

How do I get a SuperTopo?

SuperTopos are available in downloadable PDF format (eBook) as well as in printed guidebook format. A limited number of SuperTopos are available for free while a more extensive list of topos is available for purchase in the Topo Store. SuperTopo printed guidebooks can also be found at better climbing retail stores around the world including REI and the Yosemite Mountain Shop.


How do you decide which routes to create a SuperTopo for?

We select the most classic routes in climbing destination for detailed SuperTopo guidebooks. Our criteria is that routes must have great climbing, an interesting history and ideally offer multi-pitch rock climbing. We will also include a selection of top-rope climbs and selected sport-climbing routes for each destination. While our guidebooks and the site are currently limited to climbing areas in the Western United States, our certified SuperTopo authors are currently working to increase our selection of SuperTopos to include classic climbing areas throughout the North America and the world. We'd love to hear from you about what routes you think are the very best climbs in your area: email us.


Where did the SuperTopo idea come from?

In 1997, Dougald MacDonald, editor of Rock and Ice Magazine, approached Chris McNamara to draw six detailed topos for an issue of Rock and Ice magazine. The article, titled “Yosemite SuperTopos” generated a flood of email to Chris that said, “You need to create this kind of super-detailed topo for more and more routes!” The SuperTopo idea was born and Chris worked with designer Mike Ousley for the next year and half to refine the SuperTopo format into the first SuperTopo book “Yosemite Big Walls: SuperTopos.”

Then Chris met RJ Spurrier on a climbing trip in the Wind Rivers in 1999. What was originally planned to be just one-time self-publishing experiment took a sharp turn in the direction of the internet.

RJ, a software developer and former VP of Marketing for Adobe, had spent a few years kicking around the idea of internet climbing guides on his own. When they met, RJ and Chris realized that the SuperTopo format, which received such a great response in print, would have an even better response on the web. In printed guidebooks, authors are limited in the amount of detail they can include on any individual route by the size, weight and cost of books. On the web these limitations vanish and a new world of possibilities for innovative and detailed color climbing topos is opened.

In July 2000, SuperTopo released both its first print guidebook, Yosemite Big Walls: SuperTopos as well as its web site supertopo.com. Since then, we've released SuperTopo guidebooks in eBook and printed formats for an increasingly wide range of climbing destinations.

We hope you have a chance to take a look at one of our free downloadable SuperTopos to get a sense of our new climbing route information format. If you do, please tell us what you think—we'd love to hear your thoughts!


What other websites are you involved with?

The founder of SuperTopo, Chris McNamara, has been an active supporter of the climbing world and outdoor activities for more than 15 years. Chris is the founder of the American Safe Climbing Association (ASCA), a non-profit which has replaced more than 5,000 dangerous climbing anchors and bolts. He's also the founder of OutdoorGearLab, which was originally the climbing gear review section of SuperTopo, and the consumer electronics review website, TechGearLab.

Got baby? You might also enjoy visiting BabyGearLab, the sister site of OutdoorGearlab, which was uses a similar side-by-side comparison process and technology (by RJ, the same web developer who keeps SuperTopo running 24x7 and wrote the software behind OutdoorGearLab).


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