A new version of Steve Ashton's 100 Classic Climbs on Yorkshire and Peak District Gritstone in now available. In its original 1990 format, this was a small plastic backed book covering (despite the title) around 350 lower grade classics (up to HVS though with the occasional E1 in there for good measure) from the best cliffs Peak and Pennine gritstone has to offer. This has now been transformed into a 21st century electronic version; it comes in a PDF format on a CD (which contains Adobe Acrobat Reader application as well) so that you can stick it in your computer, select the objectives for the day, print out the relevant pages and take them to the crag. Alternatively you can pay £6.50 and download the whole thing from the RockFax site directly onto your computer.
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The new version of the guide has had a basic set of full-coloured maps added (one per area) to enable you to locate the cliffs and the routes and these work adequately, the rest of the book remains pretty much in the original format which is not necessarily a bad thing.
When the guide initially arrived on the scene, I had already been climbing regularly on 'God's own rock' for the previous 20 years and I considered myself a bit of a grit guru. Despite already having had this broad-based apprenticeship there were enough venues in the new guide that I had never quite got round to visiting. It managed to produce that little thrill of excitement that comes with a new guide, and all the potential adventures it offers up. As mentioned above the title was a con of course (of the nicest possible kind) as there were in fact 350 routes squeezed in between the flexible plastic covers. It was obvious that the whole book was a labour of love with massively detailed descriptions of every climb and individually hand-drawn (and very accurate) pen and ink sketches of each buttress. With the guide stretching from Brimham Rocks in the far north-east, down to the Roaches in the south-west, and covering a host of classics in between, it was a bible for climbers operating up to HVS (a zone where many of grits great classics lurk) and even had a selection of E1s scattered through its pages.
Steve Ashton obviously knew his grit, and despite the odd anomaly (like describing Stanage's Black Slab as “having no worthwhile protection”) much of the text remains as appropriate today as it was when the book was first written. At RockFax we occasionally get criticised for giving too much 'beta' away - well these descriptions are superbly detailed - certainly not a book for those irksome 'purists' who don't want to know any details about routes before attempting them (well apart from; name, grade, style, where's the crux, what's the gear like, etc. etc. etc.).
The illustrations are all black and white but non the worse for that, though the action shots loose a lot of their potential impact - generally making the cliffs look dingy and dreary. Navigating through the document is a bit clunky, with the need to scroll to find individual pages linked to an odd indexing system - straightforward page numbering would have suited me better.
Despite the odd minor gripe I think the re-issue of this guide should offer something of interest to anyone who climbs regularly on God's own rock. At £6.50 for 350 detailed descriptions of the vast majority of the great classics from Peak and Pennine Grit - it's a snip.
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Chris Craggs: