They say “never judge a book by its cover”, but in the case of Yorkshire Grit Volume 2 we have an exception to the rule – the guide both looks and feels quality as soon as you pick it up. It is a convenient size for using with a guidebook protector, although it is a little on the heavy side due to the sheer quantity of information contained within its glossy cover. The front page image of Adi Gill running it out on Shock Horror at Ilkley with a smile on his face, the ominous clouds massing in the background, epitomises the appeal of this guidebook for me. It is jam-packed full of excellent photographs and stories of real climbers enjoying adventures and pushing themselves in a diverse and exciting playground of rock.
Inside the guide, right where it ought to be on the first two pages, is a map of the county complete with appropriate page references for the sub-areas (it always annoys when this feature is only slotted in around page 14 or so....). Then follows a plethora of inspiring images interspersed with the introduction and acknowledgements, ethical notes, access and conservation, plus the obligatory “Useful Information”. All of this is meticulously researched and detailed without being boring, a feature of this guide which is carried over into the History and Interviews sections. Robin and his team have successfully balanced the coffee-table (toilet reading) nature of this book with the necessary route and crag information of a guide – you can browse through the rousing descriptions of remote venues you’ve never been to, and then flick over to a hilarious anecdote from a Yorkshire hero.
There is a good mix of both routes and boulder problems for each venue covered, colour-coded with red numbers and topo lines for boulder problems, blue for routes. The extensive coverage of both disciplines is mind-boggling. There are the obvious classics and also plenty of esoterica, all with detailed information on how to access the crags, where to park, GPS references and, in most cases, stunning photo topos.
Of special note is the use of aerial photographs in the crag descriptions - these were a highlight of volume 1 and I was glad to see them in use again this time around. The birds’ eye view gives an interesting new perspective of our favourite crags, and also a superior format for explaining approaches and crag layout for the new visitor.
The characters portrayed in the interviews and history sections paint a wonderful picture of this colourful county: hear the truth behind John Dunne’s controversial ascents, read about the rivalry between Fawcett and Livesey, chuckle at the antics of the “Burnley Boys” bucking the trend with a legendary outdoor competition. Now I must admit to a bit of bias in this department as many of the featured heroes were influential personally in my own climbing. I well remember the awe and pride I felt at being one of the only women to sneak into the butch world of the “Boulder Bashes” (sadly years after the Crookrise debacle), climbing alongside legends such as Mark Radtke, Jerry Peel and Dave Barton. I can tell you I learned a lot during those days, mainly in the pub afterwards!
I've found it hard to pick out any criticisms but, in the interests of an unbiased review, if I was forced to highlight anything it would be that a small number of the photo captions are hard to read and that there are lots of shots of the same few people (Sooty and Boggy in particular – kudos to them for dragging themselves out on so many photoshoots). Also, I believe one or two folk are a tad put out that some of the routes have been up- or down-graded in this guide. I can honestly say that I haven’t noticed (or cared) about this overly much, but for those that have, I think it’s a fair price to pay for the thousands of other routes that are spot-on and the massive amount of consensus taking that has been carried out.
I have only had a tiny window of insight into the graft that has gone into the production of this guide, but I know that Robin, Adi, Matt and Andy have all sacrificed almost every smidgen of spare time to research and produce this fantastic new guidebook over the last few years, and they deserve to put their feet up (and never look at a topo again) and revel in their success. Thankfully, it seems as though they really enjoyed their labour and even managed to smash out a fair few classic climbs in the process. These guys clearly love Yorkshire, and so will you once you’ve perused this guide!
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