/ Wrong route lines in guidebooks
I was climbing the first pitch of Monolith Crack (HVS 4c) at Shepherds Crag feeling tired at the end of a fantastic long weekend only to find myself several metres above two rubbish microwires on what turned out to be a necky E1 and not the amenable HVS 4c I was expecting. For me, this route was was at best trouser-filling and at worst potentially disabling...
After Elvis-legging to the top I checked the route again in the Wired Guides Lake District Rock but it was definitely the right line, even the description matched, telling me to take a slanting break to a stunted oak. Only when I checked a passing climber's Borrowdale definitive guide did I discover I hadn't just completely lost my bottle but the line and description were both wrong. 'Spose that's one way to climb harder...
This got me thinking - I've seen plenty of dodgy topos in books, some slightly misleading but perfectly followable while others just dangerous. Certainly nothing restricted to this one guide. In my experience it happens mostly with sport guides but I could be wrong. Proof reading and proof climbing new guides must be a painstaking process what with having to compile thousands of routes using pretty indistinct photos.
Is there any sense in an online repository of guidebook errors and their revisions with new topos which could be searchable and freely accessible? I know some publishers put out printed supplements, updates and addenda etc but these are inconsistently done and sometimes hard to track down. The UKC logbooks help and are the closest to a live-updated feedback system but still inconsistent. With an online database you can make your own notes in the guides reflecting the changes and not have to rely on hearsay or publisher's spotting them.
I'm guessing some publishers wouldn't be too happy in having their labours picked over for faults but surely their first interest should be for climber's safety (yes I know there are disclaimers at the front of every book...). It might even serve to improve the quality of guidebooks overall in the long run, encouraging even more attention to detail or collating updates for subsequent print runs.
Anyway, just a thought.
The repository for incorrect lines already exists...UKC logbooks.
HVS 4c does not strike me as an amenable grade; in fact, alarm bells would have been ringing somewhere in my head. Similar to E1 5a.
That's irrespective of whether the description was right or wrong.
It seems odd that there's a route in the selected that's not in the definitive. I wonder why/how? If I were you I'd contact the FRCC (although you may have done that by posting here).
Edit: sorry just looked at the definitive and can see that Hippos Might Fly is in; it just isn't shown on the topo you scanned.
> Is there any sense in an online repository of guidebook errors and their revisions with new topos which could be searchable and freely accessible
Would you really check the "errors database" before every climb you do?
(The UKC logbook does have an entry last year that clearly states "The Topo in the Lakes guide is wrong. Shows the line for an E3".)
A guidebook editor might though, so its corrected for next time. I always found UKC route comments very handy for detailed issues, partly as they were attributed. Although I found the old vote system almost useless for grade information, the new floating systen is starting to indicate problem grades, when too many just vote with confirmation bias. As an example Land End Long Climb is the biggest dangerous sandbag I'm aware of in popular lower grade classics in the UK, being solid and bold HS 4a in my view as an experienced guidebook worker, compared even to the local quite tough grading. In the past you couldn't vote for that grade but the comments from people I trusted agreed with my concerns. If I was the guidebook editor I'd be getting it checked properly and probably raise it to HS for that nasty finishing wall (its still tough Severe to that point with the corner and the jump)
Yeah but the UKC logbook is route specific only and not guide specific. And assumes you have internet when you are at the crag and about to go up your chosen line... With a book specific one you can get the book, check the errors, correct them in your book and go about your merry day knowing your whole book is up to date whenever you need it....
In reply to Tom V:
Amenability is in the eye of the beholder. So for me it was. Because the line in the book was wrong it doesn't matter what the proper line's grade is, it wasn't that climb anyway...
In reply to Ron Rees Davis:
I didn't suggest checking it before every climb. You buy the book, check the database, correct the lines/grades/descriptions yourself at home so your entire book is brought up to date then go climbing!! There can't be that many errors that it would take very long to do. If more errors come to light then check the database once in a while. The database would be datestamped with the changes....
Plus, the UKC logbook entry you quote is wrong anyway! It's not the E3, that's another line altogether! This compounds the problem.... QED.
In reply to Offwidth:
True, but it's difficult and costly for publishers to do extra print runs with updated guides, so they tend to be years apart and only for the popular ones. With an errors database it would be free and done in real time.
It's allowed to write book specific comments.
Do go on....
> With an errors database it would be free and done in real time.
It wouldn't be reliable information unless someone experienced edited it carefully .... essentially the same job as preparing data for a guidebook.
True. Either a feedback/rating system could be used, including an option for endorsement by the guide author/publisher.
Currently, the UKC logbook database isn't reliable on its own anyway but still is the best we have.
In reply to Andy Nisbet:
Thanks, didn't know about that. Just used it. Still doesn't make it public, though...
The wrong line in the Guidebook is all part of the fun!....
There's a route in my old Skye Guide which says carry on the same general line for several hundred feet.
There was a route at Brimham in the old Yourkshire Grit guide which was really graded VS but printed as VD.
Saw a beginner from a Uni group attempt the offwidth chimney. The huge chockstone could have protected him with a sling but he'd only been given some small wires. It was a wobbly ascent but he made it!
You don't want to be spoon-fed when taking on a challenge , do you?
That's why I said "irrespective".
In spite of what you think about the eye of the beholder etc., the grading system that I climbed under for years implies that the two grades I mentioned indicate a route more serious or demanding than is normal for the grade, unless I am mistaken.
So, for instance, I would not suggest a route graded E1 5a for someone wanting to lead his first E route.
Haha. If being spoon-fed is hoping to go up the same line as what's depicted in a climbing guidebook, then yep!
In reply to Tom V:
I climb under the same system, Tom. The line was wrong and being prepared for something else didn't prepare me for what I actually climbed! I'm personally happy with HVS 4c, it's amenable to me. Being well sandbagged by the guidebook into a harder and scarier climb isn't!
Anyway, I might set something up. But what would be best is if UKC could incorporate an option for users to post errors they've noticed under the listing for each book.
For example, here's the Lake District Rock listing - https://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/book.php?id=1643 - no way of making comments specific to this guide.
But here's the listing for Shepherd's Crag and it's comments page - Shepherds Crag#feedback - useful for general crag comments, but something like this could be added to the guide book pages, surely?
Surely one man's HVS 4c is another's E1 5a? Particularly if the grade is borderline.
I once informed a guidebook writer of a number of errors in their draft guide but they still went and published it unchanged because they were fed up of the writing process. You can take a horse to water....
Not unless E2 5b is probably a fairer grade...
Sorry you had a scary experience - I'm afraid even with all the best efforts to accuracy these occasional silly mistakes creep into most guides. The current guidebook editor is now aware of the error and says he will make sure it is corrected in future editions.
You can also record comments on any Lake District climb description here: https://www.frcc.co.uk/comment-on-a-route/
Whilst guidebooks aught to strive for the highest degree of accuracy, it is far from their responsibility if you wound up several metres above a couple of poor microwires. Trad climbing is about risk analysis and if you climbed blindly into a necky situation you've only got yourself to blame. It is extremely rare that the next few metres of climbing can't be read from below. My advice would be report the errors as you have done, but also, learn to downclimb. What would you do if you found yourself on a climb where a crucial piece of gear had blown? It is impossible for guidebooks to be perfectly correct in every instance, thus we must make the final decision on whether to continue ourselves.
Calm mature advice, Ben. Written like a married man
Are you the same Ben who started climbing in your early 20's, had a reputation for probably not lasting very long with your do or die attitude on Grit and Gogarth, was not thought a good idea amongst your mates to introduce you to Scottish winter and who's first alpine route was on the Droites NF?
I don't think the OP is saying that responsibility for his safety lies with guidebook writers. But to be fair, on a bold route climbers tend to look at the tech grade. 'Not something you would expect to fall off' is not necessarily the same as something you can always downclimb. Which is absolutely fine - the climber makes their own choice on what to go for - but once committed, a higher technicality than expected is likely to lead to some anxious moments!
> Not unless E2 5b is probably a fairer grade...
Fair enough. You did say 'necky E1', so I took that to mean you agreed with the E1 grade (even if the line showed an HVS).
That made me smile. I guess at some point I started reading the next couple of metres of rock, and started making decisions based on my ability to climb them, rather than my desire to, or what the guidebook told me I aught to be able to do. Thankfully, a young man who shares your surname was a very good influence, and due to him, I hope my reputation has changed at least a little bit!
Perhaps not, it read like that a little to me though. I can think of times when I have found myself in more danger and on harder moves than I expected to due to undergrading or guidebook error, and cursed a guide or first ascentionist for it. But ultimately it was me who got me there and not them. As a side note, I think it's a shame that sandbags aren't so common these days, personally. Forces people to be good climbers (by which I mean climbers who can make good decisions in difficult situations), rather than just blindly wandering up bits of rock. But I guess people are too keen on an easy tick these days.
I also think that a climbing wall mentality is not the best approach to some trad routes.
Assuming one is in the right place, a look around for a hidden runner or hold, a subtle body reposition or foot sequence can pay big dividends.
Alternatively sometimes its best to just go for it, but not always
Like an unexpected hex placement between two odd nubbins of rock you mean?
Suggested the idea to UKC, they're now on the case with adding the functionality to the guidebook listings, apparently.
The bodies that produce marine charts issue weekly notices to mariners, which contain instructions for amending their charts. Often these are to address changes in the situation on the ground (equivalent to changes to access for example), but also to correct mistakes.
The situation is different both because these are used by professionals and because inaccurate charts present a risk to life. Additionally if the number of corrections is low then users will not regularly check, making the exercise pointless.
An interesting innovation in chart publishing has been print-to-order charts (these are typically unbound sheets though), which are thus fully up-to-date at the point of purchase. I think we may see this roll out to low volume book publishing, especially in fields where there is value in the content being more up-to-date (debatable whether this applies to climbing guides).
Example of notices to mariners:
The Beal BE QUICK karabiner is particularly suited for frequent use as it is quick and easy to lock and unlock. It is very... Read more
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk has continued her current run of good form by ticking Neil Mawson's link-up 8c at . The line joins 8c into... Read more
Here it is; the film that everyone's been talking about. Kendal hosts the UK Premiere of Free Solo, the amazing story of Alex... Read more
Inspired by the popular Humans of New York Facebook series by Brandon Stanton, we thought that sharing short vignettes from a... Read more