But it's here finally, though the timing of it hitting the shelves as we enter what can only be predicted as one of the hottest summers on record does feel slightly misjudged - gritstone aficionados preferring to experience the friction-dependent stone during the cooler months, of course. The editors, Steve Clark and Lynn Robinson, and series editor, Niall Grimes needed to have produced something really special to justify their tardiness. Well, they have.
'The Definitive Guide' sounds a bit 'Ronseal'. In fact the guidebook does a lot more than it says on the tin. Yes, it gives new meaning to the word 'thorough', but this is a guidebook that will reawaken the enthusiasm of all but the most worn out of gritstone lifers. They have taken the esoteric and sexed it up.
Let's face it, for the vast majority of climbers, there was no desperate need for new route descriptions for Froggatt (perhaps they were curious about the definitive grade of 'Blind Vision' or weren't quite sure of the precise line of 'Lonely Heart'?) But Turning Stone Edge was a different matter. Did anyone actually dare try and find the mythical Turning Stone Edge? Well now you can. With its spread of routes across the grades, as well as the odd 'neo classic' boulder problem, this is just one of the many 1 star crags that the guidebook contains.
'Froggatt to Black Rocks' is ideal for locals, for those who sit around their mates' house having a cup of tea trying to decide which crag they can be bothered to visit for the upteenth time.
"Nah, done everything... well apart from Elder Statesman of course."
"Was there last week."
"Excuse me? Cocking what?"
The care and attention given to these esoteric jewels is what makes Froggatt to Black Rocks so special. I will now walk beyond the Walnut Whip and go and have a look at 'Poppers' as I now know a) what it looks like and b) that it can be highballed!
As one would expect from a BMC Definitive Guidebook, 'Froggatt to Black Rocks' is ram-packed with historical ditties, 'best ofs', bouldering circuits, favourite route lists and such like. Indeed, one could easily miss out the climbing altogether and spend a happy afternoon sat on the loo musing over Chris FitzHugh's 'Pieces of Eight. A Proprioceptive Octette in the Innards of Birchen'.
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It's as if someone has taken that big piece of paper from a brainstorming session about 'how can we make this guidebook better than the last one' and somehow managed to squeeze all of the best ideas in, in a format and layout that works. You too can become a geek. Just read this guidebook cover to cover, then apply to Mastermind. Yes, that's correct: The Screaming Dream is 7m long, was climbed in 1986, took Mark Leach 25 days, has only had 3 ascents and is reputedly in the V11/12 grade range. Never before have so many numbers been provided for such short sections of rock.
Only over a long period of consideration will inaccuracies in this guidebook be spotted (I doubt there are many omissions). Grades on the whole look to be spot on, with quite a few of the harder routes coming down in grade, or now acknowledged to be a different proposition, given the popularity of bouldering pads these days.
There's a decent mix of photographs from the usual suspects, though the bias does seem to be with the upper end of the E Grade and of bouldering (four photos of Eastwood Rocks might be a little over the top). There aren't that many stand out shots of easier routes, sadly. It's excellent, however, to see historical ascents such as Pete Robins' on-sight of 'End of the Affair', held back for the guidebook, as well as some of the iconic images from the Golden period of the mid-80's.
In summary, we've waited a long, long time for this guidebook. Some of us had almost given up climbing and taken up mountain biking instead. But it's here at last and once the leaves begin to fall from the trees, we will roam, paper brick in hand, like hunters once again. I for one am already licking my lips in anticipation.
"I am a climber, originally from the Lake District, who participates in most aspects of the sport. I've always loved bouldering and the technicality and accessibility of gritstone climbing, but I have also travelled extensively to rock and ice climb and have been on a number of expeditions to the Himalayas, Greenland and Alaska. I am married to Rachel and live in Sheffield where I co-run Climb Trek Ski Ltd (Jagged Globe) with Simon Lowe. I am what you might call an "obsessive climber type".
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