Christmas Books - Our Recommendations
From inspiring new rock guides and big name autobiographies, through glossy photography books to some fascinating writing compilations, readers this Christmas will be spoilt for choice. Here are our favourites.
Even this far into my climbing life, guidebooks provide inspiration: photographs, route descriptions, pitch lengths and descent information are all digested to be used 'for real' at some point in the future.
This guidebook, put together by the Rockfax team, certainly provides inspiration and is, I feel, much needed. The pace of development since the last guide (2008) has opened many new crags, while existing crags have been looked at again and great new lines have been added.
I've been climbing and running climbing courses out in El Chorro for around seven years, visiting most of the crags numerous times. The details really matter to climbers and they are crucial for those new to the sport who may not yet realise the importance of pitch lengths and detailed (and accurate) descent information. It's great to see that kind of information clearly available in the guide and the all important accuracy is getting there too. A good example is the descent information for Three-Sixty, a multi pitch route on El Corral. It's quite likely to be a first multi pitch for many and the abseil anchors are not easy to find - a nice photo clears up that particular mystery. The guide advises a 30m abseil suggesting a minimum 60m rope - it will be a close one on a 60m rope!
The Rockfax format and symbols are pretty well known and for first time visitors all the key info is presented in a user friendly way with crag aspect, approach information, crag photos and descent information all easy to find. I've not tested all the GPS information or QR codes but it's great to have those details, especially for first time visitors.
This guidebook is littered with great photos: action shots, crag shots and a particularly useful main crag overview (page 44) showing the location of accommodation and many of the main crags. Drones do cause quite a few problems (!) and not everyone likes them in the outdoors (me included) but they do provide high quality information.
It's nice to see the 'climbers code ' in there to keep things working harmoniously with other users and also to reduce environmental impact in the area. Access and the upkeep of fixed equipment are hot topics in all climbing areas and El Chorro is no different, with major changes in access that are clearly described. Good to see the Rockfax team committing to the upkeep of fixed equipment in association with The Olive Branch and through the UKBoltfund.org.
There's a clear and very useful section on gear including pitch lengths and keeping things safe (when lowering off) which is well worth reading. Clear advice on the wearing of helmets is also in there - some of the crags on Frontales see regular rock fall caused either by climbers or more likely Ibex high on the crags above, way out of sight.
In summary, this is a solid guide with many new routes and crags included which should keep previous visitors interested and make it easy for first time visitors to choose and find the right crags. The format and information included is accurate as far as I can see and the photos are inspiring! Good job Rockfax.
Andy Swann is the main man behind Climb for Life and runs climbing, coaching and mountaineering courses in El Chorro and many UK areas. He has been climbing since the 1970s and does everything from bouldering to winter mountaineering. In El Chorro he is a regular on the scene and where he coaches sport climbing to those wanting to get started up to those after pushing their grade or getting some multi-pitch experience.
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