/ Descriptive guidebooks spoil it for me
Picture, grade, and my opinion looking up at it suffice for me :)
It is stated clearly in any guidebook that unstarred routes can be good. You can also have a throughly good time on a route that isn't good.
I'm more in favour of a simple star/no star system than the three or four stars system - the best lines generally speak for themselves. I'm not a big fan of having no quality rating at all, because if you're visiting an area for the first time it takes a lot of browsing to decide where to go.
I also don't like excessive descriptions unless they're really necessary - not because they spoil the onsight or whatever, but because more often than not they aren't very helpful - sometimes you're asking what the guidebook says instead of just following the natural line.
How about just looking at the pictures, at least until you have done the route?
this kinda thing keeps coming up, and it's a very simple and obvious answer.
For those who don't get out much or are visiting somewhere different from normal, you've got one day to climb in the area. You want to climb the best lines. So you pick the stars.
If you know the crag and climb regularly of course you do others. And as a one off visitor you still climb something that just looks good to you (we all have different tastes after all) but the stars are very useful to get the most out of your day.
The route descriptions these days are pretty paltry from some of the pre war gems that have about a page of description per route.
In truth I'm not sure whether the guidebook description of a route has ever spoilt my enjoyment of it (unless its actually sent me the wrong way that is).
often including detailed descriptions of each hold and where to put your hands and feet and in what order.
It does have stars, but you will be doing well if you can find the right crag first time.
We actually get lots of different feedback on this topic (descriptions, not stars) from Rockfax users. They tend to split on nationality basis. Many continental Europeans would prefer no description that gives away anything about the route apart from its location, and they certainly object to the crux move being pointed out. UK climbers occasionally object to cruxes being pointed out but often ask for more description of route character and climbing style.
I remember in 1994 Pete Oxley's Dorset Rockfax had a key symbol pointing out exactly where the crux move was which people didn't like at all. Curiously though, you can almost always figure out where the crux is from an old-style pre-2000 written guidebook description so it was more about the way the information was presented than the actual fact of knowing where the crux was it appears.
I have been thinking about this a lot since getting involved in guidebook production and have come to the conclusion that a good topo showing where, at the very least, the route starts and a minimal description with not too much information on any particular moves, holds or gear is best. I am aware of many descriptions that tell you about every specific hard move, holds and gear!
Good action shots are nice to have.
I think I agree with your assessment. I find that the CC guides to Avon and Wye (not seen the latest Yat guide, so I'm not criticising that) tend to be quite melodramatic and make things sound scarier or more dangerous than they are. I quite often do 'loose' or 'dangerous' routes which are absolutely fine. The latest one to stick in my mind is Angel's Eye at Wintour's. The guide makes the starting crack with absolutely solid protection sound like death on a stick!
I so also find that some of the descriptions in the Lower Wye guide are longer and more involved than they really need to be.
Having said all that, they are still good guides.
For what it's worth Alan, I think RockFax hits just the right balance. A line on a photo with sometimes a symbol - which as Chris says, you don't have to look at - suggesting the type of climbing to be expected. What could be more simple than that.
I believe that climbers can largely be divided into two main groups:
1. Those who say they don't need or want guide books, or who require the absolute MINIMUM information. Who prefer to be scared shitless most of the time that they are climbing... as they venture into the unknown. Who largely 'enjoy' their climbing in retrospect...
2. Those who like the MAXIMUM of information so they can actually enjoy climbing whilst they are doing it. Who enjoy the movement of climbing.
I land fairly and squarely in the second group. I've just printed out an email from Neil Foster Esq. that is three pages long. It describes in great detail just about every move of a route at St Léger. Sadly, even this may not be enough for me as Neil won't be on hand to preplace the quickdraws for me, mark the holds with a dab of chalk or shout 'DON'T YOU DARE FALL OFF NOW...' on my attempt (when all this crap weather comes to an end).
And 3. those who like to keep some sense of advernture but wouldn't mind knowing if the top half of the route is unexpectedly unprotected because the promising looking crack is actually too shallow to take any gear, or if the impossible looking middle section actually has a load of hidden jugs (although the fun of trying to figure out where they are is left up to you).
I think this covers quite a lot of UK climbers, and the Rockfax guides (and a lot of other modern guidebooks) seem to get it about right.
You mean it isn't? My palms sweat just thinking of that description...maybe we'll give that route a go after all.
> The latest one to stick in my mind is Angel's Eye at Wintour's. The guide makes the starting crack with absolutely solid protection sound like death on a stick!
> You mean it isn't? My palms sweat just thinking of that description...maybe we'll give that route a go after all.
I didn't think so. Get in a perfect high runner with a short extender, make sure your belayer hasn't got too much slack out, then go for it. The moves are powerful and pumpy, so don't hang around too long, but the angle soon eases. It's a lovely route.
The one caveat I have is that I cut my teeth on grit, and the start to Angel's eye is very similar in style.
And I still remember the words 'or flounder miserably' from a Froggatt guidebook. Excellent stuff.
I suspect that climbers can largely be divided into one main group: those roughly midway between your two groups. ;-)
Or conversely have a right mare on a route that is good. Can think of occasions when I've bitten off more than I can chew or climbed when hungover when this has been the case.
Sometimes I've ben aware of how sharply my experience of a route contrasts with my partner's - I loved getting soaked by waves on Right Angle, brilliant adventure - my partner (probably sensibly) wasn't so enthused!
"...a thought provoking final few metres" is one that sticks in my mind (without even having done the route in question).
> not seen the latest Yat guide
The standard by which all other guides should be judged IMHO.
Because it manages to make the Yat look good?
I was commenting in the quality of the guide book not the climbing! Don't mind the Yat at all though, just wish someone would Tarmac the bottom and be done with it!
> a good topo showing where, at the very least, the route starts and a minimal description with not too much information on any particular moves, holds or gear is best.
I broadly agree, but I think there are exceptions. I can think of examples of topos from which it's difficult, for various reasons, either to locate the start or the line of the routes; in these cases the written description is more useful.
There are many line mistakes in photo diagrams. Quite often a bit of text can help to make the error noticeable even if your not a local.
> There are many line mistakes in photo diagrams. Quite often a bit of text can help to make the error noticeable even if your not a local.
There are many text mistakes. Quite often a topo can help to make the error noticeable even if your not a local.
In my experience text mistakes are much rarer, maybe as its much easier for climbers to spot text mistakes in the editorial process. Also photo topos for big crags are only useful as a general guide as once on the crag the rock scenery looks completely different (I think old school line drawn topos like they use in Yosemite etc are better for big crags). In the end route finding nous isnt going to die until we have climbing sat-navs nagging us like a monkey on our shoulder.
> In the end route finding nous isnt going to die until we have climbing sat-navs nagging us like a monkey on our shoulder.
"At the horizontal break, traverse left to easier ground..."
"regain contact with the rock as soon as possible..."
Text is open to interpretation and hence it only needs to be close to correct. A route line his either where you climbed or it isn't - no ambiguity there as far as the individual is concerned.
However, Chris and I have had many discussions where one of us has said, "you don't climb it there", referring to the other's route line. The answer then comes back, "oh yes I did".
The bigger and clearer the topo, the more likely these personal variations are to show up, but they aren't mistakes or inaccuracies, they are just alternatives and the topos would get very confusing if we marked them all.
I'd acknowledge that but then there are actual mistakes and then there are grey areas where the arguments stray a bit beyond alternatives...a good example of the later in Rockfax is the topo line for the severe RPT which is climbed (and is a lot easier for the tall) but most would find it a very gruelling rounded VS/HVS crux finish. I'd be amazed if a big guidebook using topos exists without at least one genuine error.
Take the crux pitch of Diocese at Chair Ladder, moving left under the overhang; do you go high and have things for your hands but not much for your feet, or low and have the opposite - or if you're six foot something like me, use both? A written description might say this; those looking for a definite line on a topo might quibble about the line that's been drawn not plumping for one or the other.
Or is all this discussion one of the effects of wall-bred climbers moving outside? You might not be able to use the purple-spotted holds on a particular route indoors that only uses the orange ones, but outside where you have to find your own way up the rock with only a picture or a description to tell you where to go, you have to substitute nous and cunning for a hold-by-hold prescription. Just a thought...
We climbed the 11 pitch Solar Slab in Red Rocks with only a vague picture and reading the rock (as I'd left the topo at the bottom of Solar Gully and Moff was pretty miffed that I'd done that, given the effort to get the base of the route.... all worked perfectly to the top of the climb (except we missed a good 5.6 bit with a friable 5.4x variation) then it bit us at the top as I'd forgotten the guide said move UP to the descent gully. Descending the wrong gully was harder, scarier, pricklier and left us benighted with one head torch. Luckily a final bit of nous did kick in: we'd parked outside the park just in case, so no fine!
There are lots of good routes I might never have done if it wasn't for the description particularly if you cannot easily get a good look at the route. Gogarth comes to mind...
Many years ago, I can remember being off route in the Verdon on a long multi-pitch route with no bolts in sight and no obvious way on. A couple of hundred feet above me were large seemingly unclimbable overhangs. A bit of description would have helped. Another time I had abseiled 200 feet lower down than the start of the route I intended to do (the abseil stations had been redone and made much further apart) and then wasted a long time trying to find the route including nearly taking a monster lob when I pulled a flake off and I was sixty feet out from my belayer with no gear in!
On a traverse, does the line show where the hands go, or the feet, or the centre of the body?
Easily said but in practice often not obvious. I did Autumn Flakes at Bosigran last year following my nose (for the sort of style favoured by climbers at the time it was done) more than the description as things seemed wrong and then found the traverse easy severe standard foot shuffling. Others were worried by the warning of not going too high and hand traversed the foot ledge...a couple of grades harder and much less well protected.
> On a traverse, does the line show where the hands go, or the feet, or the centre of the body?
Getting this simple matter wrong is what quite often leads to one climber finding the grade harder than another climber.
I agree. So Alan's statement that a topo has no ambiguity is clearly wrong :-)
> I agree. So Alan's statement that a topo has no ambiguity is clearly wrong :-)
I think some traverses (and more vertical pitches for that matter) allow for some minor variation, in which case the ambiguity is in the route itself rather than the topo.
I think it's also worth bearing in mind that topo lines are quite often placed slightly off the actual line followed, in order not to cover up features in the rock. A traverse that follows a crack, break, or overlap is quite likely to be represented by a topo line placed just above or below the feature.
BTW I think expecting a topo line to show the path traced by a particular part of the anatomy is getting a little unrealistic!
This is definitely the case - we try not to cover cracks and other features where they are vital.
Re. traverse: the line will probably follow the biggest line of holds. So a hand-traverse along a crack - it will go just below the crack. For a foot-traverse the line would go just above the line of foot holds or ledge. Where there are few features it is probably roughly centre of body but, as Paul points out, all these are usually pretty obvious.
Topos and descriptions should give a basic idea of where the route goes and shouldn't need to be absolutely precise. If people need to 'climb by numbers' and don't have any route finding ability then they should stick to the indoor walls.
IMHO of course.
> I think it's also worth bearing in mind that topo lines are quite often placed slightly off the actual line followed, in order not to cover up features in the rock. A traverse that follows a crack, break, or overlap is quite likely to be represented by a topo line placed just above or below the feature.
> BTW I think expecting a topo line to show the path traced by a particular part of the anatomy is getting a little unrealistic!
We could solve these problems if the first ascentionist was to paint a line on the rock. Nobody would have to engage the creative part of the brain then. That might look a bit ugly though, maybe better to just paint the holds they used.
> We could solve these problems if the first ascentionist was to paint a line on the rock. Nobody would have to engage the creative part of the brain then. That might look a bit ugly though, maybe better to just paint the holds they used.
Like this maybe? http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=187249
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