A Rockfax App for Smartphones

For the last 2 years we have been working on creating an App version of our Rockfax guidebook data. I say 2 years, but in reality it is more like 14 years – ever since we created the first Rockfax Route Database for Dorset back in 2000, the aim has been to develop the information into a more portable digital format. In fact it started even earlier than that. I remember back in 1996 working with Adam Greenwood (the person who first registered the domain UKClimbing.com) and putting together a web page where you clicked on route lines on a topo of Malham to display a description. The problem then was that we realised pretty quickly that you couldn’t carry your computer to a crag.

Well now you can and I am pleased to say that we are in the finishing stages and the Rockfax App. It has been in testing for many months and we are completing the preparation of the data and should be ready to launch soon.

Our intention when creating this App was to build something that was as useable as a printed guidebook but also made use of the full capability of a modern smartphone to become something that was even better than a printed guidebook. We were also determined to get as much of our Rockfax data as possible into the system as soon as we launch.

The App

Using the App you will be able to view big crag photo-topos that make the most to the touch screens and zooming capabilities. Touch a route line and the description appears, touch a description and a route line appears. The photos are taken straight from our guidebooks so they have excellent resolution. You will be able to get a full crag photo then pinch-zoom right up to see small detail down to pitch or even move level.

The south face of the Marmolada. The yellow box is the zoom location on the screenshot below.
Zoomed in on the iPad to reveal full detail.

But a smartphone offers more than that. Using the GPS location capability, the phone will be able to link with a navigation app to guide you to a crag, it will show you crags, shops, walls and accommodation near by. It will also enable you to link with your UKC logbook. On set up you will be able to download your logbook ticks and synchronise with routes on the phone. As soon as you have done a route you can tick it on the App and add it direct to your UKC logbook. You can also access your Wishlist, upload a photo of the route, and even see photos of the route uploaded by others.

Approach maps to crags
Approach maps to crags

The Rockfax App will be available on Android and iOS (iPhone/iPad) platforms. The App itself will be a free download and many Rockfax crags will be available straight away, also for free.

The Crag Data – How Does it Work?

Once in the App you can buy full guides, or individual crag guides, via the in-App purchase system via the Apple Store or Google Play. The guide data – photo-topos, crag and route descriptions, maps and overview photos – will then be downloaded onto your device and stored there. This means that you will be able to access it at all times, even when there is no signal.
There will be a lot of data available and this could well take up storage space on your smartphone. To allow for those with limited storage space on their device, you will be able to delete crags/areas from the phone and then download them again when you need them.
Crags will be sold at four different price bands 69p, £1.49, £1.99 and £2.49 corresponding to their popularity and size. Full guides will correspond to an equivalent publication and be priced at around 60% to 70% of the price of the book – so around £20 for a £30 book.
One of the main advantages of an App is that it is easy to update everyone’s copy. So if there are access changes, rock falls and new routes, these can all be added and will update automatically on the phone.

Book to App links

Books and App guides will be sold separately although we will maintain a link between successive versions of the App guides, and new editions of a printed book. When a new edition of a book is published, there will be a corresponding new version of the App guide.
There will be scope for special offers and we hope to offer discounts on successive purchases on versions of App guides, and coupons for those who buy the book from the Rockfax web site for buying an App version.

We can’t be sure of precisely when the App will be available but we are working full steam ahead on getting it out during 2014. Keep an eye on this web site for more information.


13 thoughts on “A Rockfax App for Smartphones

    • Alan James - Rockfax

      Yes. The data will be downloaded to the phone. More on this in the section ‘Crag Data – How Does it Work?’ above.

  • Can we download crags of the guidebooks previously purchased?
    What Android version of the app will be released?
    I really want to have it installed on my phone!

    • Alan James - Rockfax

      We have had a slight delay caused by the new release of the Mac Yosemite OS which has set back our plans a bit. We are still aiming for Spring but a lot depends on how long it takes to re-do the Mac work that we need to extract the data from the guidebook documents.

    • Alan James - Rockfax

      Yes since it is the process by which we create the database of information that we have had to rework. Also, the Android version is likely to be released later than iOS anyway since we are copying the iOS version design rather than developing both independently.

  • This is brilliant news. I heard of what sounds like a similar app for Kalymnos but this – what with the GPS facility — seems more sophisticated. Presumably this would also mean that you could update the crag guide with new routes and further information such as bird bans? It will be interesting to see how this development affects other publications because it’s quite clear that recent publications such as the BMC Stanage guide owe a lot to Rockfax showing what is possible.
    Perhaps this will be the end of the traditional climbers’ occupation of wandering around the foot (or top if a sea cliff) of a crag wondering where the route is.

    • Alan James - Rockfax

      We are just working through the final pricing stages and are planning on releasing towards the end of August.

  • There’s two climbing things I’m waiting for – this and DMM’s The Grip.

    It might be good to have an option for an annual subscription as an alternative to guidebook at a time or per crag. In the real world I buy guidebooks very rarely, but I would certainly consider £15 a year for subscription good value.


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