It's 1995. Rockfax guidebooks have published five guidebooks to mainly sport climbing areas: Yorkshire, Peak, The Lakes (limestone and slate), North Wales Limestone, and Portland. At the time sport climbing wasn't as popular as it is now and these guides, featuring topos and route descriptions on the same page, had not encroached on the traditional climbing areas covered by the existing guidebook publishers in the UK. Rockfax were not seen as a threat to the established order of guidebook publishing in the UK.
But Rockfax were early adopters of modern desktop publishing technology, and later digital cameras, which enabled them to produce the first colour guidebooks in the UK, but it was their first guidebook to the traditional area of Pembroke that really set the cat amongst the pigeons.
Rockfax's Alan James loved Pembroke and using his knowledge gathered from many years climbing on these fine limestone cliffs he authored and published a guidebook that for many showed what Pembroke had to offer by his use of drawn and photo topos, and detailed maps. The graphic nature of Rockfax's 1995 Pembroke guidebook was a big departure from the traditional text based guidebooks.
On publication many people sat up and took notice, some not favourably, letters and emails flew in all directions, there was even a debate on the internet at the UK climbing newsnet group (uk.rec.climbing), but the most cutting came from Ken Wilson who in an editorial in High magazine called Alan James a 'vampire' who was sucking the blood out of British climbing. Alan responded, humorously of course, in one of his Pokketz cartoons seen here.
But we move on, it took a while longer (and a little more controversy), but most of the guidebook publishers in the UK now produce excellent guidebooks and are on good terms with each other, even going so far as collaborating with each other and promoting each others guidebooks.
In this second edition, for the first time, there is a set of stunning Pembroke cliff photographs taken by Mike Robertson from a boat. This enables you to view your route from home or at the top of cliff before you abseil in and importantly to get a feel for the topography of the cliff.
This is an important guidebook, not only for those who already love Pembroke, but for the many younger climbers who have never visited before and perhaps do not realise the wealth of great climbing adventures and experiences that Pembroke has to offer.
The 1995 Pembroke featured several of Alan's Pokketz cartoons including the infamous Larry the Limpet. In Pembroke 2009, Larry returns after having made a successful ascent of The Great White, an E6 6c on The White Tower at Mother Carey's. In 2009, he takes on a different challenge altogether!
More details about the Pembroke 2009 at www.rockfax.com
Access at Pembroke has significantly improved. Not only are the bird restrictions lifted in August at crags like including Mowing Word and Stackpole, but also importantly this year the MOD have lifted restrictions to Range East. For the first two weeks of August (up to 14th - that's today) climbers have been able to access all the crags from St Govan's Car Park all the way to Bullslaughter Bay at all times. After today the whole of Range East will be open for the next two weeks up to and including the Bank Holiday on August 31. More details at UKC News
Access to Range West is also significantly improved this year, with climbers being allowed in to the area at weekends and now during evenings when there is no firing. All climbers entering Range West have to attend a briefing at the military base first and it is best to check at the base to confirm that the area is open, as occasionally it may be closed for special exercises.
A full routes list for Range West is available on the Climbers' Club Website from the forth coming Climbers' Club definitive guidebook. The CC New guide series comprises five volumes; Pembroke North, Range West, Range East, Stackpole & Lydstep and a Selected Climbs guide featuring the cream of the other four volumes.
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