In the beginning there were only climbing guidebooks with line diagrams and lots of words that often left route finding to the imagination. You would see climbers walking around the bottom of an unfamiliar crag, with guidebook in hand trying to make the route descriptions fit the rock in front of them.
With the heavy use of photo diagrams, the publishing of 2001 Rockfax Peak Gritstone East changed guidebooks and guidebook production for ever. Although the use of photo diagrams was not a new thing, that advent of cheaper digital cameras and image software, allowed this new full colour climbing guides to be produced at a sensible cost.
Since the introduction of PGE, the climbing community has seen a whole range of photo diagram guidebooks introduced across all areas of the country as other producers tried to catch up with the new standards. So after a gap of 5 years, and the publishing of the new Rockfax Eastern Grit, would I part with my hard earned cash to replace my copy of PGE?
Well the simple answer to that question is yes, as I'm one of those strange rock climbing guidebook collecting types, and my copy of PGE looks like it has seen better days.
But should you get a copy?
Well if you were after your first guidebook to the Eastern Gritstone edges then without a doubt you should own a copy of this guidebook, although it is select guide, there are more than enough routes and different venues in it to keep even the most keen of grit climbers happy for years to come.
Each page is set out well, with more than enough information to allow you to find your chosen route easily. The use of simple symbols, gives you a quick idea of what the route is going to be like, and with the addition of the key for those symbols been on a fold-out leaf inside the front cover, checking what you are letting yourself in for has never been easier. The only problem that I can see, is when the front cover becomes detached after a period of time of hard use, there is no key inside the book, but by then should know what the symbols mean anyway.
Even though PGE was the first major photo diagram, it still contained around 36 drawn diagrams. With Eastern Grit, this has been reduced down to 1. I assume that this is due to increased knowledge and ability with Photoshop regarding the joining of multiple images.
The use of 'action' shots throughout the guide, give plenty of inspiration to the whole range of climbers, with most of the images been of middle grade routes. I do feel that the one or two of the photos are not as good as they should be for a guide of this quality. Most noticeably the double page images at the start of the Stanage and The Quarries sections.
It also looks like Chris Craggs and Alan James have learnt something from the new range of BMC guides. With the inclusion of the odd comment or statement from either climbers or photographers that just adds that little bit more interest to the guide, I found myself, searching the whole guide just to find these additional snippets of information.
The inclusion of a few extra venues like Baslow Edge and Black Rocks, may now mean that I will have to share those venues with more people. This can be a down side to other climbers only owning a select guide like Eastern Grit, but hopefully the better profile of these crags will mean that the routes are a little bit cleaner. Besides if you are keen to climb where there are less people then you could go and visit some of the limestone crags in the area. And that doesn't mean Horseshoe Quarry!
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All in all, if you don't own a copy of Peak Gritstone East, or like me, you copy is so battered that you need a new copy, then you wouldn't be going far wrong in getting a copy of Rockfax's Eastern Grit.
Paul Smith is Mountaineering Instructor, Kayak Coach and Teacher. Who has been involved in guidebook writing, as well as other things for the BMC as a volunteer. He has just moved to Dursley, Gloucestershire and is now enjoying the fact that Wintour's Leap is around 20 minutes away.