Australian guidebook writer Gerry Narkowicz recently brought out his eighth climbing guide, and what a behemoth it is. Even though it's touted as a select guide to the best of Tasmania, this third edition of the book, published in 2021, describes nearly 1300 climbs in over 30 major areas scattered throughout the state. It's a fair reflection of the quantity and sheer quality of climbing to be found in the island state. No stone has been left unturned in Gerry's quest to inspire, inform and immortalise climbers past, present and future.
From the front cover to the back, there are literally hundreds of gobsmacking photos of Tasmania's wild land and seascapes, with climbers perched in impossible locations, just asking the reader to go and put themselves into those crazy places too.
A fine book, which inspires and informs like no other Australian guidebook
Many of the best photos have been taken by local climber Simon Bischoff, who over the last few years has established himself as a world class climbing photographer.
Along with a good smattering of historically important photos from a myriad of other climbers, Simon has taken great topo photos of many of the cliffs using his drone. As a result, there is none of the usual foreshortening of cliffs when photographed from underneath. Gerry has meticulously reworked the lines marking the climbs on these topos, often returning drafts to local experts, to ensure the greatest possible accuracy.
Gerry's earlier guides were largely his work alone. At that time in Tasmania a few driven climbers worked mostly in isolation to develop and publicise their local areas. There was little sense of community and collaboration among climbers and feedback and improvement of drafts was limited to climbing partners. Now there is a thriving scene with hundreds of climbers active in Tasmania, and Gerry has sought out feedback on his work towards this inclusive guidebook. Over fifty people have been directly involved in helping him to bring out a guidebook that could stand alongside any worldwide.
Tasmanian climbing is an eclectic mix of trad and bolted routes, and routes that mix the two. In Australia, especially in the upper grades, a largely traditionally protected climb might well have a bolt or two on the runout or dangerous sections, and as a result it is rarely necessary for this guidebook to detail the minutiae of crucial pieces, so it can concentrate on inspiration and location, without largely meaningless verbosity about headpointing. There are a few exceptions to this norm, largely confined to Gerry's own climbs on the southern side of Ben Lomond. This bastion of trad climbing has some real dangers and Gerry has been honest about his and others tactics in establishing these scarefests.
Criticisms of this guide are few, as it is really the culmination of over forty years of Gerry' obsessive documentation of all thing Tasmanian climbing. Gerry has tried his very best to include good climbs of all grades on all the major cliffs throughout the state, but Tasmania's lack of many climbs below 17 (HVS) has hampered this aim, and except for good easier climbs on the coastal granite crags and the dolerite cliffs of the Organ Pipes above Hobart, there are few others. This is shown in the bias of stars towards the highest grades. Almost all the climbs of 26/7 (7b+/E6) and above get three stars. I suspect that the effort that first ascensionists and subsequent suitors go to in climbing these route causes them to want to give all the harder climbs three stars. This is a minor criticism of a guidebook that delivers on all fronts.
Climb Tasmania is a fine book, which inspires and informs like no other Australian guidebook. It would be a welcome addition to any climber's bookshelf, emitting an impossible-to-ignore plea to one day visit the land down under Down Under in order to experience some of the most diverse rock climbing on Earth.
- For more on the book, and climbing in Tasmania, see climbtasmania.com.au