Article: The Tale that Wags the Log

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 Andy Moles 13 May 2022

I started writing this when Duncan Campbell posted a thread about his addictive relationship with UKC Logbooks a couple of years ago, but have only now got around to finishing it: my own take on logbooks, style and honesty.

I'm a little apprehensive about submitting to the inevitable forum treatment, but I guess this is the most appropriate place to share it.

In reply to Andy Moles:

Wise. Thanks. 

Although I'll note that the logbooks are impoverished with you and f going private.

You'd often done routes in obscure trad spots such as Bohuslan, and comments about what had been done gave a good idea about what was worth trying.

I keep my logbook public to help this information flow. 

 james1978 13 May 2022
In reply to Andy Moles:

I hadn't ever heard of the para-sight before Andy! A great term. 🤣

In reply to Andy Moles:

I really like your writing Andy. I used to be an obsessive logger but since I made my logbook private I often don't bother to log my climbs. That tells me all I need to know about my previous motivation - it came from my logs being public.

In reply to Theo Moore:

> I really like your writing Andy. 

Me too, and the art work is very clever.

In reply to Andy Moles:

Nice piece - today's society (in the west), with the explosion of social media, has led to a lot of "tail wagging the dog", not just in climbing. It is important to remember with social media that generally, people only post about the good bits and not about all the rubbish in their lives, leading to misleading perceptions of lots of "perfect lives".

I never fell into the "public" logbook trap - I keep a complete log (in Word) but I only put my "new" extremely severe leads & solos in the UKC logbook. Since the last one of those was many, many years ago - nothing's changed - although I still have a naive hope that future redemption is still possible.

Knowing my geeky tendency for recording stuff on spreadsheets, if the UKC logbook had been around when I started climbing, then I suspect all my climbing would have ended up on it, but the thought of putting thousands of routes on it stopped me ever transferring from my own records.

 Brown 13 May 2022
In reply to Andy Moles:

I've had a UKC logbook from day 1 and it used to be one of the larger ones, mostly as I was a student attempting to avoid working when it started, so I procrastinated by adding my entire previous record to UKC.

I did used to compare myself to others but only in the busiest climbers list! I lost interest in this when I got overtaken by people who logged the same route more than once. I thought this was cheating!

My use of it was massively enhanced when I stopped using the style record. Now I just log led, or led with falls/failed. If I want to add anything more I use text.

In reply to Andy Moles:

I thought your (very good) article would prompt an afternoon of hand wringing by me over my sometimes dysfunctional use of log books but I've been totally distracted by the brilliant best of ukc twitter account.

Wait, God I hope none of my entries are on there.

Better go back and check every comment I have ever written to check I sound suitably rad.... 

Nooooo what have you done?

 deacondeacon 13 May 2022
In reply to Andy Moles:

I really feel that the UKC database in conjunction with the logbooks is a brilliant resource, and we're really lucky to have it. I spend a lot of time scouring over it, deciding which crag to climb at and which routes to try. It's brilliant for working out which venues are in condition. I also have a very, very bad memory and the logbooks let me know which routes I have & haven't climbed. I only log my clean leads and quite often I'll think that I'm onsighting a route, only for a mate to tell me that I'd seconded it a few years ago 🙂

I honestly don't think I've ever been jealous, or compared myself with friends or others on here, but I do always check out what pals have been up to (I definitely look at the logbooks at least once a day lol), although a few good .ates have changed their logbooks to 'private'.

My old comments will jog my memory of a great day too. The 'Comes The Dervish' thread made me check my logbook and the comments brought back lots of memories.

I've given myself a challenge of climbing 1000 routes/boulder problems this year and I'd have no chance of doing it without the logbooks🙂

...sorry, I'm waffling. Great article 👍

OP Andy Moles 14 May 2022
In reply to Dan Arkle:

> Although I'll note that the logbooks are impoverished with you and f going private.

I think any useful comments I'd once have left I now put in the feedback section - though you're right, I'm not going to go back and transfer all the old ones!

 Wft 14 May 2022
In reply to Andy Moles:

I liked it, Andy. 

Off topic, I read that book to my class. Full of wisdom. 

OP Andy Moles 14 May 2022
In reply to Brown:

> My use of it was massively enhanced when I stopped using the style record. 

It's interesting isn't it, I wouldn't have expected that tweak to make such a difference. 

It takes the emphasis off the small print and back on the more important fact of having had an experience of the route. 

OP Andy Moles 14 May 2022
In reply to Wft:

> Off topic, I read that book to my class. Full of wisdom. 

It's a bit sentimental, but I was won over by the star turn of the Mole. And the pictures.

 john arran 14 May 2022
In reply to Andy Moles:

Nice article. I don't use logbooks at all, ever. Never ticked a guide in my life. Though I can see the attraction of dredging half-forgotten memories for renewed pleasure, the other side of the coin is that I have fewer expectations to live up to if I don't know whether or how well I've climbed a route before. I too have 'onsighted' a route in the past (Get Some In (E5 6a), only to be informed by a mate in the pub that evening that I'd fallen off it just 3 years before!

Anyway, I really just came here to share something I read earlier today that I was reminded of by your title. It's to do with the Wagatha Christie trial, and some wag (see what I did there?) commented that it was "the tale that dogs the wags". 🙂

 GDes 14 May 2022

Nice article. It really resonated with me. I've definitely een guilty of cherry picking what I log to make it look good. I have the same issue with strava too. It makes me do long slow runs too fast. I've since made it private, and now rarely bother using it. 

 Misha 15 May 2022
In reply to Andy Moles:

It’s interesting what you say about public logbooks involving performance. There’s certainly an element of that sometimes, perhaps writing things in a way other people might enjoy reading. At other times (most of the time in fact) it’s purely factual or personal. That’s the impression I get from skimming other people’s logs and indeed from writing my own ones.

Clearly public vs private is a personal choice and I can see why some people go private. I just think it’s interesting to see what people I know are up to, partly out of idle interest and partly for ideas and inspiration (thankfully I don’t suffer from FOMO). It’s also interesting to see how others have found a route you’ve done or are considering trying.

I think style matters but what matters most is being honest about what style you’ve employed. We all make compromises at times, which is fine as long as we’re honest about them - firstly with ourselves and secondly with others if we’ve logged it publicly.

OP Andy Moles 15 May 2022
In reply to Misha:

I fully acknowledge that people's relationships with these things differ. You're right that a lot of comments are factual, but choice of which facts matter is in itself an editorial decision. As various comments above show (and those are just the ones who are saying it) there is sometimes more going on than meets the eye.

Your own use of the logbooks Misha is of course one of a kind and legendary, and should not be discouraged in any way. 

Post edited at 07:55
In reply to ebdon:

> but I've been totally distracted by the brilliant best of ukc twitter account.

> Wait, God I hope none of my entries are on there.

I read out a comment yesterday at Harpur about one of the routes we were looking at, and Lou suggested - something I have also been thinking - that she reckons people are starting to write their comments with getting on to Best of UKC in mind. All a bit meta, and probably post-modern...

But shrill or funny comments in the last year or so? Written with a very specific Insta audience I reckon.

OP Andy Moles 15 May 2022
In reply to TobyA:

I think you're right, some of the comments are trying too hard to be weird or funny.

 remus Global Crag Moderator 15 May 2022
In reply to Andy Moles:

A great piece of writing Andy, beautifully niche.

I find the 'logbooks as a performance' idea resonates more than I'd like. On the one hand I really enjoy reading people's write ups, but I catch myself composing my own write ups with a (likely imagined!) audience in mind which doesn't feel very authentic, and I guess it's the authenticity of the experience Im after.

Interestingly my partner had a similar experience. She used to write long entries about here experiences on routes, but after bumping in to a few people at the crag who worked out who she was from her logbooks entries she lost motivation. Everyone she spoke to was extremely complimentary but I think it is the realisation that it's very much not just a personal record, and the fact you're opening yourself up for inspection.

As Theo mentioned, I would be interested in how making my logbook fully private would affect my usage. I would like to think I would keep using it as is, but maybe "I enjoy reading other people's logbooks" is just an excuse for being vain.

 George_Surf 22 May 2022
In reply to Andy Moles:

Interesting article Andy. Not as morose as Nicks one I’m fully guilty of the para-sight, I’ve not no qualms doing a route if it’s been done recently, although I’d normally say it if it’s e5> Or leave it if I wanted a chalk free experience like RW. 

it’s a shame so many peoples log books have gone private. You could argue (wrongly so no doubt) that it was a selfish act and not a selfless one! When I decide on a route to climb it mainly comes from 5 things; looking at it, Reading the guidebook, inspiration from media (social or otherwise), recommendations from friends, and last but not least the ukc log. If someone’s just cleaned and chalked something obscure (and hard?) and said it’s good I’m way more Likely to go and do it. I’ll normally jump at the chance to enjoy it moss free with some chalk to guide the way! A gift in my eyes.  I also love seeing what people are up to, any grade. For example a pair of brothers I don’t really know I follow on Instagram and although I don’t bother with social media all that much I noticed they climbed an awesome looking crack on the mot yesterday, GBH has been resurrected and moved back up the list!

its really helpful if people either log routes or write feedback. I trust that if someone I know / respect has written something good/bad about a route then it’s probably solid info. Guidebooks often don’t paint the whole picture. I personally don’t compare myself to others (or at least 95% of the time) although i fully understand it’s easy to do. I remember being very shy to climb indoors in front of people at first but I quickly learnt that no one cares what you’re doing and this basically applies right throughout the climbing spectrum / world. If you’re deceiving yourself / others then fair enough but honestly I don’t see loads of that going on. Why would people make up ukc logs or say online they onsighted something when really they had looked on a rope. It doesn’t really matter that much anyway they’re only kidding themselves. It’s just climbing after all. Honesty and transparency is key but I’m not going to get worked up about anyone else I’ve got other things to worry about! If your log is public and you write useful stuff about crags and routes keep it up, I and I’m sure others really appreciate it. We all learn from each others mistakes! 

I liked your article on climbing 8a as well Andy it made me laugh and it totally resonated with me. There’s nothing at all wrong with chasing the grade. It’s an arbitrary number and a milestone. It means nothing and many 7c+ are harder than some 8a but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t want to climb it for that sake. I wanted to get a few 8a ticks this winter basically for the number and to make myself feel good. I didn’t try them for more than 2 maybe 3 days (the ones I did) but I was happy to get a few. Rachel did loads maybe 20 odd. Either way I enjoy climbing lots of different routes so for me 7c+ was a better challenge because I could flash or get some of them second go / in a day or two days. I’m not one to sit under something and grind it in to oblivion but if that’s what you enjoy then by all means the good thing about climbing is you can get out and do what you like keep up the writing, sometimes it’s interesting to hear what people think about things. I’ve obviously got a positive outlook on this topic which seems to be at odds with others? Maybe I’m stuck in the machine and I can’t see it. I don’t think so though, I just love going climbing and seeing everyone else do the same! 

OP Andy Moles 22 May 2022
In reply to George_Surf:

Hi George. I think if your relationship with logbooks and social media is nothing but positive, you should consider yourself lucky!

> it’s a shame so many peoples log books have gone private. You could argue (wrongly so no doubt) that it was a selfish act and not a selfless one!

It's 100% selfish, but that's OK. What's the alternative? Keeping your logbook public as a service to others, even though you'd be happier having it private? That would be a strange thing to do. It's not like it's solving world hunger. I'd rather spare my reserves of altruism for something more worthy than furnishing climbers with beta!

Personally, I usually (not always) prefer not to read logbooks before doing a route these days, because I prefer not to have other people's post hoc perspectives affect my own experience. For similar reasons, I don't like when guidebooks are too prescriptive of the type of experience you're going to have - I like the feeling of discovering for myself. But each to their own.

I use the term para-sight with humour. I often have a better time on routes that are chalked, because I'm more decisive and move better. The truth is that on some routes, chalk is more valuable than verbal beta. Which is absolutely fine, except that it often goes unrecognised that the difference between a 'pure' on-sight and a chalked on-sight can be greater than the difference between two styles. Which serves to demonstrate both why getting hung up on these things is daft, and why it's easy to game the styles to make an ascent look better.

I never wrote the follow-up to 'Not Climbing 8a', which I suppose would be titled 'Climbing 8a', but the gist is: Great, done that now. Don't have to do another one for any reason other than feeling like it!

In reply to Andy Moles:

This is a fantastic article and so eloquently written. I’m sure it resonates with many people; it certainly does with me. 

I generally don’t find myself obsessing over logging things or grade/volume -chasing, and it certainly doesn’t affect my climbing too much. But I’d add to your list: being put off a route based on people’s logged experiences of said route is another downside of logbooks. I’ve found that UKC logs for a climb I want to do almost always fall on the side of ‘it’s really hard’ or ‘it’s really scary’, making me second guess my choice of route or build the route up in my head, only to find it much easier / less scary than anticipated. I think this can put a lot of people off perfectly good routes. Even well  intentioned feedback such as ‘loose block at x location’ or ‘belay is in a state’ can be enough to change people’s minds, and miss out on a potentially adventurous but rewarding and memorable experience, or even a bad but useful experience - we wouldn’t learn much if we always climbed super safe, super predictable routes. Similarly, the lack of feedback or logs, the dearth of information on a climb can have the same effect.   

Does anyone else find this aspect of logbooks affecting their climbing choices? I generally really like using a logbook as I too have poor memory of what’s been done or not, but I’m trying to make a habit of not looking at logs prior to a climb so they don’t put me off a good (or bad, but useful) experience.

* I’m mostly referring to trad here but I’m sure it applies to all disciplines to a certain extent *

 kwoods 22 May 2022
In reply to Andy Moles:

I always thought UKC should have the option to keep the logbook itself private, while letting individual route logs be public.

OP Andy Moles 22 May 2022
In reply to Andy Moles:

> It's 100% selfish

I need to self-correct here: going private obviously may not be 100% selfish. Part of the reason for myself and others is coming to see the logbook more as a kind of social media: a system that is designed to be addictive, and which can have adverse effects on other people. What I should have said was: even supposing it is purely selfish, that is OK.

Post edited at 12:39
OP Andy Moles 22 May 2022
In reply to kwoods:

Agree that would be a good middle-ground option for those who wanted it.

OP Andy Moles 22 May 2022
In reply to dig26:

> Does anyone else find this aspect of logbooks affecting their climbing choices?

For sure - another reason I often prefer not to look.

 George_Surf 22 May 2022
In reply to dig26:

it might do to a point although i often find guidebooks hype the scaryness etc half the time! things can sometimes sound like real endevours (or the opposite, they make it sound ok when maybe it wont be the case).

Andy > i never said my experience with social media was nothing but positive, but on balance i think things like seeing photos of friends doing routes, logs on ukc etc give more than they take away! nothings black and white, i guess things in moderation isnt a bad thing to try and remember (except climbing... )

 Misha 23 May 2022
In reply to George_Surf:

GBH isn’t that obscure and you shouldn’t need to see that others have done it recently, it’s not exactly E6   I know what you mean though. Interestingly, I remember almost nothing about it. My log brings back vague memories but even then I don’t remember much, which is rare for me.

In reply to Misha:

Probably not helped by the fact that GBH (E2 5c) only describes the crack pitch (although your logbook entry does also describe the slab pitch).

Post edited at 06:44
In reply to john arran:

>”the tale that dogs the wags". 🙂

Love that!

In reply to Andy Moles:

Thanks for the article it's made me think about my relationship with the logbook system.

When I started my logbook (years ago now) I had a great time obsessively going through my old paper diaries and my guidebooks putting as much info in as I could - it brought back many memories. I now find it very useful to remind me if I climbed that route 30+ years ago or not. I've never been that interested in style, so I record everything as led, 2nd or solo. If there were a "retro-flash" style, I think I could apply it to many of the routes i'm re-climbing now!

Writing the Culm guide, the logbooks were very useful, the comments and grade voting were helpful and if anyone had added a new climb I could contact them for more information if neccessary. As I moderate most of the cliffs in the area, I've continued to do so since the guide came out so when a new guide or supplement is needed I should have most of the information to hand.

Over the years I've replied to a number of "climbing partner wanted" posts on here, a quick check of the poster's logbook before responding was important.

I think it's a pity that folks are making their logbooks private as it reduces the usefulness of the system.

edit for spelling...

Post edited at 10:16
 Matt Clifton 23 May 2022
In reply to Andy Moles:

Really enjoyed your article and the points you made.  We all seem to use them differently - as many say, seeing info on climbs in areas we don’t climb in is inspiring.  
Ultimately it’s a more convenient way of logging routes than ticking a guide (which I stopped doing out of the hassle of annotating a new edition of a guide - although I do like going over my notes in my old guides occasionally). The public benefit of sharing is a personal choice and only a benefit if you’re happy doing so.

Agree with Ged that I found Strava was stress-making esp when I was reducing my cycling.  So many extension I think I’d have found a public log stressful when I was younger.

Love the Para-sight!  Reminded me of a Bristol route from the late 80s that a local told me was ballpointed as no one saw the first ascent. Perish the thought that that was a style option on ukc 😉

 George_Surf 25 May 2022
In reply to Misha:

I didn’t mean gbh was obscure just that it looked good and next time I’m over on the mot (I don’t like it over there in the cold on that compact slippery rock!!) I’ll do it. If I hadn’t have seen the photo it wouldn’t be on my radar. 

as for logs for me they are mainly a personal log. My logbook was private for a few years it’s only when I went on an assessment that I made it public (so they could read it). There was always more beta in my early logs and info that would be useful to me if I ever went back to do it like where the route goes, gear etc. Often I would include things like weather and the day, first and foremost it’s a diary. A personal one to remind of what I’ve done, how i found it, when and with whom. I love looking back and as soon as I read it it all comes back. Without it routes would start to slip away, I have vague ideas of what I’ve done but some of it you end up forgetting (especially sport!), not once it’s logged. So many people said they found my logs helpful I never went back to having it private. I’m not really bothered what people think that much. It’s a bit personal and often embarrassing but oh well. If it inspires people to get on routes or do things they otherwise expected to be dirty/obscure/loose/bold etc then all then better. I ought to back up my logbook because if it ever got wiped I’d be sad to lose all those memories!

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