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This book has been...
It comes highly recommended.
I remember an anecdote about G.T. Ewen going to Laddow Rocks in about 1903. He was astonished to find a Swiss gentleman half way up a route clutching the Manchester Guardian. Anton Stoop (for it was he) was reading an article which contained the description of “A Climb at Laddow Rocks”. The piece was clearly excellent as it had got him to the crag and then to the route with accuracy. Fast forward a century and I'm at the foot of a well known Pembrokeshire crag trying to climb. Starting “to the left of the obvious corner” should, in principle, have been straightforward. It was not, because there were several corners, which all merited various degrees of obviousness. The problem was magnified some years later, on a large and terrifying face in the Dolomites. The description featured “obvious niches” linked by “obvious corners”. On a twenty pitch route up a face covered in niches and corners, this produced two massive falls, and a harried retreat to the ground.
Guidebooks must be inspirational. Once they have achieved that difficult task they should then guide the climber to the crag, then the route with ease. When written down, these are strikingly obvious (that word again) statements. However, I own several guides which fail at least one of these simple tests. Flashy pictures and dozens of symbols (can you say “Jingo Wobbly”?) are all very well, but may obscure a lack of substance and practicality.
This guide is a testament to Paul Harrison and Simon Cardy's hard work, commitment and integrity. Neil Dickson's well researched chronology and Dave Pickford's deep water soloing section add outstanding flourishes to this work. They have toiled incredibly hard for what some may have believed uncertain rewards. The unspoken fear was that the guide would be a hotchpotch of weird design, dodgy topos, substandard photography, old fashioned content, fold-out weirdness and a stark unhelpfulness (“start ten feet right of the obvious crack”) Climbers' Club guides have come in for criticism in recent years, some of which has been bang on the money. The recent “loss” of Gogarth to Ground Up Publishing was a knee in the crotch that many saw coming a mile away. The BMC got a similar boot up the arse when Rockfax moved into gritstone guidebooks. The result of that wake-up call benefitted everyone, and I have a feeling that the Gogarth business fired a shot across the CC's bows which made people sit up and take notice. Perhaps Simon Panton should be given honorary CC membership. This guide, then, is not just a climbers' tool, it may also be a herald of things to come from the venerable CC. As it turns out, they have published a definitive guide that they should be very proud of.
This book has been produced with love, and that is how it should be. Its preparation was a mammoth task which involved thousands of miles, thousands of photographs and many months of proof reading. If you add into this dark mix weeks spent checking grim routes in the back of dank zawns you'll have some idea of the epic story behind the guide. Of course, the bounty is plentiful and the team has been rewarded with awesome lines that stand alongside any three star British sea cliff route. The personal costs to Paul and Simon are impossible to quantify, but the task is now done. They should sit back in the knowledge of a professional job very well done.
As much as it's a record of the rock climbs on Lundy, it's also a brief history of the lives of those involved in its production. After buying it (and you should, whether you intend to go to Lundy or not) your only task is to find as much meaning and inspiration within its covers as Paul Harrison, Simon Cardy and all their friends and acquaintances have over the last ten years. If you get even halfway there, you will be more than happy with what you find.
• Lundy by Paul Harrison (2008)
• 432 pages of text, maps, pictures and drawings
• ISBN 978-0-901601-82-7
Martin Kocsis will be familiar to anyone who has been to Rollick Stones recently. He owns a campervan from which he dispenses sausage butties to anyone who asks, and flying killer huskies to anyone who doesn't.
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