/ Rockfax Dolomites Guidebook - Problems

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badgerjockey 13 Jun 2019

Maybe a topic for the Rockfax board but I just want to see whether I am alone in feeling like this book is often incorrect to the point of being dangerous?

I'm about to book a third trip to the Dolomites and am not really looking forward to using the book for much other than the nice photos. It seemed from previous visits that the route lines/pitch lengths/descent descriptions were very often way off. I'm used to books being a little light on info or slightly misleading or showing obscure photos but it felt like this book took the piss for how often it was plain wrong (east in stead of west, completely wrong lines, abseil anchors nowhere near where described etc etc).

OK, I have climbed a tiny fraction of all the routes in the guide but those which I have done are all *** classics and there were big issues which nearly each of them. I also know at least three other teams who agree, but wasn't sure if we were in the minority. Every time I look at a classic route on UKC logbooks the rate of other people moaning about the book is pretty high!

Are the an plans for a revised edition? Perhaps it would be a good idea for Rockfax to look at this...

Post edited at 14:13
Deadeye 13 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

Well, I've used it a fair bit with no worries.  Which routes were you unhappy with?

badgerjockey 13 Jun 2019
In reply to Deadeye:

From memory:

Via Maria/Mariakante (IV+)

Via Steger (IV+)

Myriam (V+)

Chernobil (6b)

South Arête (IV+)

Egger (VI+)

But there are many others I am aware of other people have trouble with

beardy mike 13 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

To be honest, I'm not sure how you could get off route on some of those routes - I mean Maria Kante usually has a long insitu line of climbers to follow and the line is utterly obvious, the Steger likewise, Myriam, I can see how you couled go wrong maybe? South Arete, againwhere could you go off route? Maybe the step left around the arete is hard to believe but you're not going anywhere else at IV+...

LakesWinter 13 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

I did half the routes you mentioned last summer and the rockfax was bang on with the descriptions. Similarly on the classicAdang/Old South Face (V) which is a little complex, the rockfax was spot on

In reply to badgerjockey:


We are doing a new edition/reprint of the Dolomites book this autumn so this is good timing. We would dearly love to get your detailed feedback on these routes. We are aware of a few errors and changes through the book, which we will be amending, but nothing like the extent that you are suggesting.

I notice from your logbook that you have given your feedback there for some of the routes you list above which is great - thanks. I  will point James Rushforth at this thread since he will be better placed to comment and is also the one working on the tweaked update. If you have any more comments then let us know.


ian caton 13 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

Totally agree. Completely wrong format for big routes. Photos for 15 pitch routes, means top pitch is about 5 mm of picture. Lol. It's not completely useless, the pics are inspiring and it does show you where to park. Also for some reason it is better at the via ferata than the climbs.

Much better are the guides byMauro Bernadi published by Athesia. Some in English. The topos are super accurate.

However when we were there all the locals seemed to be carrying free downloads from the Internet and they were very accurate. Never, found the name of the site though. 

badgerjockey 13 Jun 2019
In reply to beardy mike:


I disagree about Mariakante, many pitches are obvious, several are not, or have big vague sections where you could take a few alternative lines, especially with the descriptions given. In fact, on this one we bumped into another team (no in-situ queue...) who were just as baffled by the book descriptions as we were...

I was not claiming that the other routes were unobvious lines - moreover that some/many of the details in the book about pitch lengths, belay places, pitch numbers, descent routes were wrong, sometimes spectacularly so - look at the logbook comments.

In fact, everyone I have met who has used the book has had at least one time which was at best frustrating and at worst dangerous thanks to the guide. I will try to get more info out of people as it seems like Rockfax want to sort it, which is really great.

Compiling the book must have been a mammoth undertaking. And yes, guides/topos are not meant to be infallible - I have used some utter turds over the years. But I expected better from Rockfax especially on the highly starred routes...

Other routes to checkup on:

Via Lusy Pompanin (IV-)

Alan-I'll be heading out next month if you want me to scrutinise anything..!

Post edited at 20:46
andrew roach 13 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

I've used this guide on a couple of trips and agree there are issues. However to be fair to Rockfax if you research a "classic" climb from several different sources you will find many different route descriptions, pitch lengths, even number of pitches, plus different lines shown on picture or drawn topo's.  Plus it is not uncommon to find possibly several "variations" to the original route.  This is reflected on the climbs themselves of course, it is often common to find a whole host of different belay and intermediate belay points, so it can be hard to judge whose description is right and whose is wrong.

Like anywhere some lines are easier to follow than others, but there can only be a certain amount of descriptive text in a guidebook for sometimes very long and intricate climbs

The main issue I find with Rockfax  is the picture topo's. Quite often the number of pitches shown on the topo doesn't add up to the number of pitches in the text, plus line and pitch lengths often don't correspond as well.

Post edited at 22:13
Dave Cundy 13 Jun 2019
In reply to ian caton:

I have a copy of 'Arrampicare in Val Gardena' by Mauro Bernardi and i found it excellent.  That's the standard Rockfax needs to aim for.

badgerjockey 13 Jun 2019
In reply to andrew roach:

You make a very good point Andrew about how well established routes have evolved.

And I agree that even despite this, Rockfax’s own advice can be inconsistent. 

Alex Riley 13 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

We definitely noticed a few discrepancies between routes and the book, which is a shame as the history section and photos are fantastic. The majority was fine but esp on longer routes (like Don Quixote) some of the pitch lengths were spectacularly out.

In reply to badgerjockey:

This route sort of illustrates the problem though with big routes in the Dolomites. Reading the feedback it isn't obvious whether the route described in our guide is inaccurate or just slightly different to the one climbed by some people. 

> Alan-I'll be heading out next month if you want me to scrutinise anything..!

Thanks, that would be useful. Please use the new Feedback comments for this if you add stuff to routes. Also, it is a big help if you do give useful feedback on routes if you can switch the old 'personal comments' to feeback using the red 'Public feedback' link displayed next to your personal ascent comments. This makes it so much easier for us to find stuff.


mikecollins 14 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

I have to agree and disagree with what has been said. 

I disagree with some of the routes mentioned - some are obvious and I guess you have to take the descriptions, in some cases, with a pinch of salt.  There is always an element of 'working it out' for yourself on bigger, 'alpine' routes.  Having said that, some of the information in the Rockfax is woefully vague. 

On the surface, the guide is excellent - it got me out there, detailed the layout of the Dollies, and got me on routes.  However, for a lot of the longer routes, the pictorial topo and descriptions just are not sufficient, and in many cases are incorrect.  In some cases it feels like they have taken the local guide, taken the first line out of the description and settled with that (not saying they have mind you).

I have done two sessions in the Dollies now (6 weeks first, 5 weeks second) and am going back again this summer with bigger plans.  However, this time I have bought all of the local guides.  These guides are spot on in terms of topo's and route descriptions (when used together) but are terrible in terms of getting you to the climb and navigating around the Dollies in general.  In fact, two of them are almost unusable without the Rockfax to work out where the climbs actually are.  These guides usually designate 2-3 pages for the longer routes, unlike the Rockfax that might bundle 6 routes onto two pages.

In terms of reprints and updates, I would suggest reading peoples comments, in their log books, here on UKC.  I found that one of the most useful resources prior to embarking on some of the bigger routes.

The Rockfax is, overall, an excellent resources and James should be commended for producing an amazing overview of the Dolomites.  Amazing layout, amazing photos, excellent combination of rock routes and and via farrata.  However, this might also be its downfall.  It makes the Dollies appear very accessible and it can appear that the 18 pitch monsters are as accessible as the roadside 6 pitch'ers.  I say this having learned it the hard way, get crag-bound numerous times in thunderstorms.  The Dollies is steeped in climbing history and there are many, many exceptional routes put up by many exceptional climbers.  But they all had to 'cut their teeth' out there first of all.

Will Hunt 14 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

The alternative guidebooks with the good topos - can anyone link to those? Are they in English? I had a google for the Bernardi one but couldn't find any info about the routes or mountains that it covers.

I remember when we visited we used the blue Classic Dolomites Climbs book which was OK but wrong in a few areas. We flicked through a guide in a shop (maybe it was a German guide?) which had incredibly detailed topos - to the point where it generally told you where the fixed kit was on route! Can anyone think which one this might be?

My next trip to the Dollies is probably a while away yet, but I can imagine it being a bit like Font where you need the Rockfax to get you psyched and to the base of the routes and a different guide to actually get you up the routes!

Rob Morgan 14 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

I don't have the greatest depth of alpine rock experience beyond one Dolomites trip and one to Slovenia, but I've found the drawn topo diagrams you sometimes see to be far more valuable for very long multipitch routes than photo topos.

With photos of very long routes, there just isn't enough detail to see what features the text is describing (especially worse if the pitches in the photo don't match the text as is sometimes the case).

If you spend some time reading and absorbing a drawn topo alongside the text, it can make so much more sense when on the route. If a few very long routes in the Rockfax guides had this, I think it would help a lot. Appreciate its not the norm for Rockfax.

BruceM 14 Jun 2019
In reply to Will Hunt:

>  We flicked through a guide in a shop (maybe it was a German guide?) which had incredibly detailed topos - to the point where it generally told you where the fixed kit was on route! Can anyone think which one this might be?


That will probably be one of the (many) Bernardi ones. Italian.  But basically drawn topos beside photo topos.  Learn a few icons and you're off!  We first visited in 2003 with the old AC guide and after getting lost on a few "basic" classics picked up our first Bernardi guide to Val Gardena.  Brilliant.  Had a ball after that, and have picked up others since.  Have just packed our guides into the van this morning and will be there in about a month -- after France.

Just found some sample pages on this site at bottom. https://www.tonidemetz.it/scalate_eng.html

Somerville 14 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

I think recodnition of the area youre in comes apparent here. The dolomites are a varied and complex beast at times and to be flexible with decent/approaches/pitch description is quite important. Having an overall knowledge of the geographic area combined with mountain awareness will see you through the gaps of most GUIDEbook errors. In my experience in the dollies te books fine, especially with the area it covers.

The local guides may offer you a more comprehensive, step by step outloom of routes etc. 

James Rushforth Global Crag Moderator14 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

Hi badgerjockey, 

Apologies for my slow response and thanks very much for your feedback. As Alan said higher up we’re working hard on tightening up the book. Much like the writing of the initial guide however it’s a huge undertaking and any high quality feedback is hugely appreciated. This can be submitted by the ‘feedback comments’ option. 

With regards topographical diagrams we’re currently just about at the page limit with so many routes and such a large area covered. It may be something we could look at in the future with digital content or by splitting the climbing and Via Ferrata coverage.

I can be contacted directly at JamesRushforth@Outlook.com if anyone wishes to get in touch. 

All the best and many thanks to everyone for the comments. 

We had no problem with the Via Lusy description.

beardy mike 14 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

Well I guess I know what came before - the AC guide was shockingly bad and before that I was relying on the 100 best Kohler, and some god awful guide from the 80's. I've always regarded guidebooks in the alps as exactly that, a guide to be interpreted. There are so many variations on routes that it's an important skill to be able to know when to just keep cruising. Sure, I know it's not ideal, but honestly, I'm not sure how as a guidebook writer you would get things absolutely perfectly, unless like Mauro Bernardi you are a guide and are doing these routes on a regular basis and know it inside out and back to front, rather than living out of the back of a van and doing your best...

tjekel 15 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

It is not that the Bernardi guide don't have some scary different interpretation of for example difficulty in some places (see for example via proietili on falzarego, V- in his guide, up to VI+ in others... But the lines are very correct in my experience. However in my group there was a common joke about the old Langes' Dolomites fairytale books we used in early times: route descriptions read like "move right for 1,5m, then straight up for 300m to find a tiny hourglass feature. Follow the mossy chimney to the summit".

The new guidebooks are all better, but the mountains and their size stayed the same. And in featured rock where you can climb close to everywhere, its quite usual to get lost. It"s part of the game and the fun of climbing there. 

dan gibson 17 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

I agree with your assessment, I have also found a large number of mistakes in the guide.

I feel that perhaps RF have bitten off a bit more than they can chew here. It's such a huge area and James has probably done so few of the climbs, mistakes and inaccuracies are inevitable.

The guide is visually impressive, and it showcases James's excellent photography very well, but it is weak on the details.

badgerjockey 24 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

For James and Alan,

This chap might have some useful tweaks to suggest too:


Also, I don't think I'll be back out there until late Aug/early Sept so perhaps this is too late to make the print deadline?

Post edited at 23:23
Mike-W-99 24 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

If its the IV Grado book I'm thinking of then its the one that was responsible for the biggest epic I've ever had. The Kohler book was forgiven after that(actually it had one more epic to throw at us).

Post edited at 23:22
cathsullivan 25 Jun 2019
In reply to Will Hunt:

> The alternative guidebooks with the good topos - can anyone link to those?


I've used an earlier version of this and found it to be good.  It is in English and has good topos.  The one I have has line drawings rather than photos (like the ones you get in the Plaisir guides) but for long routes I find them better than photographs.

Post edited at 10:31
In reply to badgerjockey:

> This chap might have some useful tweaks to suggest too:

I doubt it. In my experience, people who rant like that are seldom (never) able to give actual helpful feedback.

> Also, I don't think I'll be back out there until late Aug/early Sept so perhaps this is too late to make the print deadline?

Might be late for the print book (although I can't be 100% sure yet since we will print based on summer sales) but it will be welcome for the app whenever.


kenr 25 Jun 2019
In reply to cathsullivan:

> www.needlesports.com/2464/products/classic-dolomite-climbs.aspx


No. That's the (translation) of the way old Kohler book. Which a previous poster already identified as source for an epic.

I tried following it for a classic multi-pitch by Passo Falzarego, and it was way wrong about the location of the anchor-belays.

Then another climbing party allowed us to look at topo from the modern multi-volume Italian / German set, and it was obviously superior (and correct).

When a new edition of the Kohler book appeared, I wasted my money purchasing a copy, and it's topo for that route still had the same mistakes.


Post edited at 13:06
GrahamD 25 Jun 2019
In reply to kenr:

I never had a problem using the Kohler book, but maybe I was lucky with route choice.  What I thought was exceptional in that book was the combination of long shop photo guide as well as the stylised drawn topos (in the style of the old Ashton N.Wales guide, or even the earlier Rockfax Pembroke guide) 

Stopsy 26 Jun 2019
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Piz da Cir V/Tcheirspitze V (VF) (VF2A)

Out here at the moment, using the guide. Generally finding it very good. Left a few bits of feedback for the above route. 

More generally the alternation between left right and compass directions can be misleading. Perhaps just using compass points would be more foolproof? in the above route the descent is to the right whilst ascending contrary to the impression I got from the description in the guide.

Regarding topo maps, not all paths in the map frame are shown all the time, which can make locating yourself relative to other trails if trying to link routes or VF's with peaks/refuges.

Hope that is of some use and feel free to message or email for any other questions / clarifications. 



David Myatt 26 Jun 2019
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:


If, as you say, you are aware of a few errors in the current book, could you please publish a list of errata for those of us that already have it.

Thanks, David

In reply to David Myatt:

> If, as you say, you are aware of a few errors in the current book, could you please publish a list of errata for those of us that already have it.

We will put together some crucial updates when we work on the new edition. That is likely to be later in the year after we have finished work on the Lakes Rockfax.


David Myatt 26 Jun 2019
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Thanks Alan. I’m going out in September, so can certainly wait until then.

Cheers, David

The Grist 26 Jun 2019
In reply to badgerjockey:

I used the Rockfax for a month in the dolomites and found it great. I did however get massively lost on the top 5 pitches of the Messner direct on the Marmolada. Ended up giving up and doing a big traverse left to follow some bolts to the top. I can hardly blame the book for this incompetence though......although at the time I was cursing it. 

I think it is going to be hard to put such long routes in a guide. It is compounded by not having all the routes in the guide. It is a select guide so by its nature if you get off route it is hard to know exactly where you are. The Verdon rockfax has similar issues to an extent. 

The description for the descent of the Comici could be improved though. More detail required. But I accept you almost need a full page to describe it. Maybe just say ‘be prepared to get lost and have an epic’. 

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