Guidebooks: What They Say vs. What They Mean Article

Paul Sagar shares some common guidebook descriptions and attempts to parse their words...

'Thin' – Teeny tiny holds and crappy crappy feet. Probably a trick sequence. You're going to fall off.

'Sustained interest' – It's bloody hard, and it's fucking scary too.

'A bit of a stopper move' – Kiss goodbye to your on-sight. If there isn't a local around to give you the beta, then you're lowering off in shame.

'A hard pull' – Prepare to dislocate your shoulder as you navigate this particular sandbag.

'Committing moves' – Quest off into god knows where, on bad holds, above shit gear. Reversing is now harder than carrying on.

'An exciting finish' – You better be wearing your brown trousers. See also 'a thrilling finale'.

'Use the good hold' – But now you're wondering, is this the good hold? It doesn't feel very good. But you claimed you wanted the on-sight, so the beta can't all be right can it?

'A hidden jug' – You'll never be quite sure if you've found it or not, right up until you fall off.

'Positive crimps' – Positive to the author, who climbs 6 grades harder than you. Enjoy!

'Good pockets' – if you don't have 3 grades in hand expect to rupture an A2 pulley.

'Traditional' – All those hours in the gym now mean nothing; try things like shoving your face in sideways, and accepting that skin grows back so who cares if it looks like you put your forearm in a blender.

'High in the grade' – This is severely under-graded. We know it is. But if we tell the truth about this classic, old men will hunt us down and kill us.

'Low in the grade' – Your disappointment will taste all the sweeter to us when we downgrade your greatest climbing achievement in the next edition.

'FA Joe Brown' – lol, you thought you could climb HVS.

'FA Johnny Dawes' – lol, you thought you had good footwork.

'A scene of much frustration' – lol, you thought you could hand jam.

'A much attempted climb' – Also known as a sandbag.

'Climb past a peg, wise to back this up' – just in case you are stupid enough to think that this rusty twig would save you, we don't want to get sued when it doesn't.

'Arrange good gear before pulling in to the crux' – like we said, we don't want to get sued.

'Take care when lowering off' – seriously, these guides barely make any money as it is, and we can't afford the legal fees.

'Popular' – polished to buggery.

'Showing its age' – soon to be polished to buggery.

'Pull into the obvious groove' – lol, grooves are never obvious, not least as they usually come in threes. Good luck, because if you get this wrong you'll be stuck up a trouser-browning E4.

'Take care when passing the flake' – you're gonna have to use it kid, but it may kill your belayer.

'A certain love of wide cracks is required' – if you climb this without at least a Dragon 7 you'll die if you fall off.

'The striking groove/crack' – It looks like a slab from the ground, doesn't it? Ha. It's so overhung your arms will explode.

'Big gear is helpful' – and by helpful, we mean 'essential if you don't like soloing'.

'Small wires to protect' – I hope you like big run outs.

'Sees more ascents at A1 than E1' – If your fingers aren't already mangled up like wrong sausages from years of abuse, that thin little crack is going to get the better of you.

'A classic Peak HVS' – E2

'A classic Peak VS' – E1

'Not to be underestimated' – Do you have the Coastguard number saved in your phone?

'An equally matched party is required' – Enjoy seconding the death traverse; a massive pendulum will be on the cards because all the wires are going to fall out when the rope gets pulled through.

'Leads to an awkward belay' – On the plus side, if you only have one piece of gear then you don't need to worry about equalising the anchor!

'Possible belay' – Always remember that 'possible' and 'desirable' are not the same thing!

'Protection is sparse in the second pitch' – Placing slings around bushes probably won't save you, but it can make you feel better.

'Bird restrictions may be in place' – Should have read this bit before the 3-hour drive, shouldn't you?

'A crag that has fallen into neglect' – It's shit, what are you even doing here?

'Local interest only' – either it's really, really bad, or it's really, really good (and we don't want you lot coming here and ruining it).

'Some loose rock at the top' – welcome to Swanage!

'A great introduction to the slate quarries' – I hope you like 20 metre solos to a 30 year old bolt.

'Follow the track to where it curves around before heading past a tree' – well it wouldn't be a proper day out if you didn't get lost and waste an hour on the approach, would it?

'Cairns mark the descent' – Once upon a time they did. You need the exercise anyway, and this will teach you to always remember your headtorch.

'Access rights are subject to ongoing agreements' – Stop acting like total dickheads.

'Now owned by the BMC' – You just couldn't help it, could you? At least now it's only other climbers that have to put up with your crap. Sometimes literally.

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10 Oct, 2019

Genuine laugh out loud moments there Paul, particularly "traditional"

10 Oct, 2019

Surprised "Scottish VS" isn't on the list.

I usually read it as: "some fool aparently once climbed up there, tchuh" shake head, walk on.

10 Oct, 2019

"easy for a man of your calibre" (with emphasis on the 'I') - often said by an ex-Embsay resident in the 70s

Meaning "you've got no f*cking chance!"

10 Oct, 2019

Aside from learning what is meant by interesting, my favourite line in a guide book is for South Ridge Direct on Cir Mhor - "the most obvious way is not the best way". Read that and magically nothing is the obvious way.

Another guide we saw afterwards said "use the right-hand crack".

Need to go back for a clean ascent...

10 Oct, 2019

'One for the well-rounded VS leader' - whatever scares you, it's lurking up there...

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