FRCC Gable & Pillar Guidebook by Phil Rigby & Stephen Reid£16.00, added Nov/2007
Reviewed by Bill Birkett
Photodiagrams by Phil Rigby
Maps by Al Phizacklea
Edited by Stephen Reid
Published by the Fell and Rock Climbing Club , www.frcc.co.uk.
Available from: www.cordee.co.uk, www.cicerone.co.uk and climbing shops.
A guide to the traditional home of Lake District climbing, in close proximity to the Wastwater Hotel. It describes many fine high mountain crags in superb locations.
Major crags include Kern Knotts, The Napes including Napes Needle, Tophet Wall, Gable Crag, Boat How and Pillar Rock, plus other esoteric Ennerdale Crags.
A wide range of routes and grades to suit all. Fantastic colour photo-topos and action shots throughout together with many fascinting historical photos from the FRCC archives
402 pages, plastic cover, guidebook ribbon.
It feels like the first FRCC photo topo guide as been a long time coming – now it's out they have entered a new era. This is a landmark guide – quite superb. It's bang up to date and suddenly all those fine climbs which took you a day to find, if you managed at all, are readily identifiable. Firstly you have Al Phizacklea's tremendous sketches which pinpoint all the crags with a kind of three dimensional bird's eye view. How does he do that? At last I can see where Haskett Buttress is at a glance. Then, for the bigger crags, there is an overall photograph with the main areas named, followed by detailed photographs to all the individual areas with the lines of the routes clearly marked. Simple to use and brilliantly effective. (continued below)
Modern day action pics are mixed with historical pics and this is both inspirational and interesting without detracting from the overall clarity of the guide. Naturally enough the historical sections are a real strong point of the guidebook. The chronological listing of the first ascents is enhanced by pics of the pioneers involved and by lovely bits of cameo information.
Remarkably all this information comes in the usual carryable size FRCC guidebook size and it's got a plastic cover making it thoroughly practical to use on the hill.
I suppose I've also got to talk about some niggles, though in fairness these are few and very minor. I would like to see the inclusion of a graded list - difficult to do, never agreed by any individual, but a strong point of FRCC guidebooks in the past! Photo route numbers and the routes on the page could have been uniquely referenced. I don't like the front cover image. Technically there is nothing wrong with it and it features a worthy local expert, Craig Matheson, in a spectacular position. I guess it just contradicts the image of what Napes Needle represents in my mind's eye. There is no reliable evidence that the secret hut above Gable Crag had anything to do with either whisky or wad smugglers (the graphite found there was planted by my mischievous friend John Hargreaves). Steve Clegg's 'The Crysalid' deserves three stars, and Colin Downer's great route 'Snicker Snack' is definitely 6a and not 5c.
Now I can see where the lines go I can't wait for a bit of sunshine to get on the Napes and have a bash at the routes I've still to climb.
Bill Birkett was born and bred in Langdale and first started exploring the fells with his father and mother. His dad, Jim Birkett, was a local quarryman, climbing legend and acknowledged expert on the flora and fauna of the mountains. Bill has been a lakeland climbing activist since he could walk and he is the author of thirty books including the acclaimed 'Complete Lakeland Fells' and 'Exploring The Lakes and Low Fells.' Recently his photographic essays, published by Frances Lincoln, include 'A Year In The Life of The Langdale Valleys' (winner of the Outdoor Writers Guild Book of the Year) and 'A Year In The Life of Borrowdale' and 'A Year In The Life of Glencoe', have all been greeted with much acclaim. Bill is also the uncle of the other Birkett, Dave.
Bill is an outdoor presenter, mountain writer and photographer and you can find out more about him at www.billbirkett.co.uk
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