George Smith takes a look at the new guidebook from the Climbers' Club - Llanberis. The Llanberis Pass in North Wales is one of the most important climbing destinations in the UK and the guidebook should match the climbing, inspiring visitors to sample the huge depth of classic climbs (and esoterica) with clear and up to date information.
So how does the book measure up?
.........Sorry I'll have to send this review in by phone as I'm lost on a ledge, on an ill defined route on some vague cliff; no really, it's not going to be like that any more.
This book is a bit of a triumph, of pictures over text. The impatient will be pleasantly surprised, along with newcomers and regular visitors alike.
The mighty Iwan Arfon Jones and his team have produced a very clear, usable and inspiring guide book. Those new to the valley will definitely appreciate the modern format. As a Beris regular I was ashamed to discover just how much stuff has been done on the more remote and obscure buttresses, most of it impossible to decipher from the previous guides or new route info.
The clarity of the crag photos enables newcomers the opportunity to readily identify the complex but accessible areas of small cliffs which have long been the preserve of obsessed locals (not least the guide's author).So you can now have a very novel day visiting half a dozen minor outcrops and unlocking the wonders of a huge number of predominantly single pitch routes of all grades. Most are on perfect rock and you won't be queuing.
Now, about the photos. The cover is, appropriately one of our new breed of Beris heroes (and also a guide book checker) Pete Robins, in extremis on the top bit of Trauma.(How he did the hard section below is anyone's guess?) Then there is a wonderful view down the Cromlech on page 134-as Ioan Doyle lunges through the crux of Resurrection and Andrew Porter competes for attention by subtly loosing contact with Cenotaph Corner. Generally the climbing photos will serve to inspire everyone. Don Sargeant has captured some of the lower grade routes from a very dramatic angle-the camera never lies-that really is how Ribstone Crack looks when you are up there!
George Smith 2009
However if I might have a winge, close-ups of people (unless it's me!) are never as inspiring as shots which show the route, and there are quite a few here that show virtually no route at all. Also, without wishing to start a debate, I do wonder what kind of messages are sent out by photos of soloing feats. I'd guess that the image included of Dave Thomas soloing Lord of the Flies just puts the wind up most of us, and one might be moved to say- Wow what amazing things people have psyched themselves up for, in this crazy game. Okay, but what about the guy soloing Reade's Route on page 196? (I have to keep opening the book to see if he's fallen off yet!) Now, the interpretation there might be: Here's an easy route so why bother with a rope? Hey, it might not be the intended message, but it's not always about the picture you take, it's the one the viewer sees.
The bigger cliffs are pretty clearly photographed and annotated, a generally more effective idea than crag diagrams. We are even treated to some photos of flora to remind us that there are some delicate wee plants trying to make a living hereabouts.
Yes,they have used stars to indicate quality, so you have got a chance of climbing good stuff rather than spending your time at the bottom of the crag asking people which ones are the “good ones." Imagine doing that at the bottom of Clogwyn y Ddysgl! The point is made however that unstarred routes are perfectly good unless otherwise described.
The new bouldering sections slotted into each area work very well, serving as a good basic guide. They are accompanied by some clear inset photos too.
The introduction includes a table of decomposition times. I was relieved to discover that this only refers to deposited litter! It is a thought provoking way of putting over what would normally be a “don't do” message. Access and descents and all the bits and pieces you need to know are all in there, (another personal winge coming up) however it could perhaps be more strongly stated that abseiling back down to the base of Cenotaph Corner is not only a bit dangerous for everyone, but also a real pisser for people enjoying the Corner itself.
All in all, what you need to know is that this is a really good piece of work from Iwan and the CC. I think it will spark off and sustain a whole new wave of activity and pleasure for generations of midges to come!
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All of these secret projects involve huge, arduous walk ins. Some of them even exist.
George recently starred in a film called Upside Down Wales, taking the unsuspecting public on a tour of his topsy-turvy world.
He lives in Fachwen with his family.
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