FRCC Gable & Pillar Guidebook by Phil Rigby & Stephen Reid

Gable & Pillar (2007) by Phil Rigby & Stephen Reid
Photodiagrams by Phil Rigby
Maps by Al Phizacklea
Edited by Stephen Reid
Published by the Fell and Rock Climbing Club ,
Available from:, and climbing shops.

A guide to the traditional home of Lake District climbing, in close proximity to the Wastwater Hotel. It describes many fine high mountain crags in superb locations.

Major crags include Kern Knotts, The Napes including Napes Needle, Tophet Wall, Gable Crag, Boat How and Pillar Rock, plus other esoteric Ennerdale Crags.

A wide range of routes and grades to suit all. Fantastic colour photo-topos and action shots throughout together with many fascinting historical photos from the FRCC archives

402 pages, plastic cover, guidebook ribbon.

It feels like the first FRCC photo topo guide as been a long time coming – now it's out they have entered a new era. This is a landmark guide – quite superb. It's bang up to date and suddenly all those fine climbs which took you a day to find, if you managed at all, are readily identifiable. Firstly you have Al Phizacklea's tremendous sketches which pinpoint all the crags with a kind of three dimensional bird's eye view. How does he do that? At last I can see where Haskett Buttress is at a glance. Then, for the bigger crags, there is an overall photograph with the main areas named, followed by detailed photographs to all the individual areas with the lines of the routes clearly marked. Simple to use and brilliantly effective. (continued below)

© FRCC and Phil Rigby

Modern day action pics are mixed with historical pics and this is both inspirational and interesting without detracting from the overall clarity of the guide. Naturally enough the historical sections are a real strong point of the guidebook. The chronological listing of the first ascents is enhanced by pics of the pioneers involved and by lovely bits of cameo information.

Remarkably all this information comes in the usual carryable size FRCC guidebook size and it's got a plastic cover making it thoroughly practical to use on the hill.

I suppose I've also got to talk about some niggles, though in fairness these are few and very minor. I would like to see the inclusion of a graded list - difficult to do, never agreed by any individual, but a strong point of FRCC guidebooks in the past! Photo route numbers and the routes on the page could have been uniquely referenced. I don't like the front cover image. Technically there is nothing wrong with it and it features a worthy local expert, Craig Matheson, in a spectacular position. I guess it just contradicts the image of what Napes Needle represents in my mind's eye. There is no reliable evidence that the secret hut above Gable Crag had anything to do with either whisky or wad smugglers (the graphite found there was planted by my mischievous friend John Hargreaves). Steve Clegg's 'The Crysalid' deserves three stars, and Colin Downer's great route 'Snicker Snack' is definitely 6a and not 5c.

Now I can see where the lines go I can't wait for a bit of sunshine to get on the Napes and have a bash at the routes I've still to climb.

© FRCC and Al Phizacklea

Bill Birkett Bill Birkett was born and bred in Langdale and first started exploring the fells with his father and mother. His dad, Jim Birkett, was a local quarryman, climbing legend and acknowledged expert on the flora and fauna of the mountains. Bill has been a lakeland climbing activist since he could walk and he is the author of thirty books including the acclaimed 'Complete Lakeland Fells' and 'Exploring The Lakes and Low Fells.' Recently his photographic essays, published by Frances Lincoln, include 'A Year In The Life of The Langdale Valleys' (winner of the Outdoor Writers Guild Book of the Year) and 'A Year In The Life of Borrowdale' and 'A Year In The Life of Glencoe', have all been greeted with much acclaim. Bill is also the uncle of the other Birkett, Dave.

Bill is an outdoor presenter, mountain writer and photographer and you can find out more about him at

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23 Nov, 2007
All guidebook writers were given a 'wake up call' with the FRCC 'Lakeland Rock' selected guide, which IMHO was as big a leap forward in presentation as the 'revolutionary' Rockfax format. From what I can tell, the new guide takes the game to a new level. And 'No', I'm not an FRCC member
23 Nov, 2007
looks good , apart from the 80's style, smart arse footless climber (although it is a good pic)
23 Nov, 2007
I got this recently and I like it but find it strangely old-fashioned in some respects, not helped by the colour and front cover pic. Funnily some people at my work saw it and asked if it was an old book! I think the contents are generally great though and one to read through over the coming winter months with a glass of something to hand.
25 Nov, 2007
UK guidebooks are in a very healthy state because of numerous developments in technology, design, competition between publishers and the expectations of climbers.
4 Dec, 2007
Stephen, I didn't really mean the contents of the guide. I love the FRCC guides in terms of useability and agree with the "if it ain't broke" principle. My Buttermere & East guide is probably my favourite ever guide and that's about as old fashioned as they come nowadays. I simply meant the cover itself, which is what I did say in my post. The colours and lay-out really do just look old fashioned, in a nice way.
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