Back in 2006 we introduced a new symbol to the star-rating system – the Top 50 symbol. This featured for the first time in Eastern Grit and has been included in most guidebooks since. It was never intended to be a forth star, but instead to be a set of routes that were high quality and iconic routes for the area. Some of them were only really 2-star routes but, especially in the easier grades, they were important routes that covered the full grade range of the area.
Since then the system has been applied reasonably consistently in our books although we have on many occasions gone way beyond 50 actual routes. What has become clear is that, whatever our intentions were with regard to it not being a forth star, climbers have very much been treating it as such.
Work we have done on El Chorro and most recently on Mallorca has indicated that the Top 50 symbol may well have become a bit of a curse for some routes. In the green and orange spot grade range, these routes get a lot of attention! UKC Logbooks are full of comments on these easier routes questioning their Top50 status often because of polish and over-climbing.
In 2020 we have redesigned the look of our Rockfax print guidebooks and this seemed like a good opportunity to drop the Top 50 symbol for the next few guidebooks to gauge the response. All the previous Top 50 routes will be given 3-star status which should increase the pool of target routes.