Rockfax have recently published their selective guide to rock climbing in Northern England. Focusing squarely on 'God's own rock', if you are to believe Yorkshire Gritstone climbers, as well as the delightful sandstone venues of the North York Moors and Northumberland (although a small bit of basalt is also featured in the guide).
With its simple and easy-to-use layout, it was easy to get engrossed in this guide. The usual Rockfax Area Introductions, Crag Summary Tables and clear maps are all there - I'm particularly impressed with the map to guide you around the pinnacles and buttresses of Brimham Rocks. The usual range of action photos are there, but to me they just don't seem to be as exciting or as varied in style as they were in Eastern Grit.
So what is different to previous Rockfax guidebooks?
A useful addition is the small table that now appears on the opening page for each crag, giving details of the number of routes within the usual Rockfax coloured grade boundaries, as well as the usual star quality rating system.
The moving of the now customary Top 50 climbs to the inside flap of the rear back cover makes it even easier for those climbers who enjoy nothing more than cross referencing their personal climbing achievements and completing tick lists.
The usual environmental considerations section in the introduction has been expanded. Additional local information on 'Soft Rock and Top-roping' has been included in both the introductions for the North York Moors and Northumberland. Hopefully climbers will have no excuses having read this information, but the inclusion of a small photo of an appropriately set up top-rope would help to remove any possible misinterpretations. There are also 'crag business' symbols which are designed to give the reader an idea of how busy the crag is likely to be. This is a useful tool for those people exploring new venues, who don't especially like to queue for routes or conversely, who enjoy watching or being watched by other climbers.
The trademark of early Rockfax guides - the crag line diagram - seems to have completely disappeared. Now we only have crag photo diagrams, some of which would have been particularly awkward to take, certainly at venues such as Brimham and Caley. Alan James has openly stated that many of these crag diagrams are made of up to 4 images, and with a lot of work are carefully 'Photo-shopped' together. With different skies added, and the exposures played around with to give the best possible images. I feel that this does work in the majority of the cases, but one or two of the crag diagrams do appear to be a little bit too manipulated and hence un-life like.
I was disappointing not to find any of the interesting facts or quotes of a similar nature to those that appeared in Eastern Grit, hopefully that will be sorted out in the next edition. But if that was the only thing that I was disappointed with I must be getting picky now that I have passed thirty!
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Is it worth buying?
With out a doubt I would have to say, yes! The Rockfax Northern England guide is a particularly useful resource for those climbers that frequently, and not so frequently, travel to different climbing regions around this country and just need a guide to give them more than a good taste of what rock climbing is on offer in these three areas of Northern England.
Paul Smith holds the Mountaineering Instructor Award and is an Aspirant Level 5 Kayak Coach and a Teacher, who is based in Dursley, Gloucestershire. As well as organising and delivering bespoke climbing, mountaineering and kayaking courses and experiences, he is also a provider for the MLTE's Single Pitch Award and Climbing Wall Award schemes.
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