• Northern England now available!

    Northern England RockfaxAfter a frustrating delay of a couple of weeks we now have copies of Northern England. The books arrived at Rockfax HQ this afternoon – online orders will be getting processed early next week, Cordee will have their stock now also. Most shops who pre-ordered will get their stock by next weekend.

    The book looks great and the printers have done an excellent job as usual, despite the difficult circumstances with the binders.

    So we did make February after all, only they had to add a day on to the month for us to make it!

  • Northern England or Bust!

    Northern EnglandFor the first time in the last ten years we have encountered a slight hitch in the final printing process for one of our publications and by a curious twist of fate we have also been quite lucky.

    Printing often involves work with two independent contractors – the printers and the binders. Binders tend to be large operations that run round the clock and have very full order books, printers are more flexible. This means that the crucial stage when promising the delivery of a book is making sure that the binders slot is booked well in advance. If you do this then the publication date tends to be fairly predictable.

    Everything was on schedule for a publication date of around 18 February when we sent the finished book to the printers on 21 January. Then there was a delay in the paper delivery from Spain but this only slowed down the printing process, we were still on schedule for the binding slot. Then, on Monday 4 February, the binders we were booked into went bust (this seems to happen with binders more frequently than other businesses).

    The upshot of this is that we have had to find another binders which has delayed the publication of the book for a week or two since they are all booked up at this stage. Apologies to those who pre-ordered the book – you will still get your copies before anyone else.

    The lucky break was the fact that the paper didn’t arrive on time since, if it had, then our printed unbound copy would have been in the binders when they went bust. This would probably have meant that it would have been impounded until the receivers had finished doing their thing which could have delayed the book for a lot longer than a couple of weeks.

  • Typos

    Some hard proof reading

    Typos – don’t ya’ just hate ‘em!

    The little tinkers lurk menacingly around a text as you construct it trying to jump in when you are not looking. Lazy or slow ones may get spotted, but most sneak through, especially if you drop your guard, which tends to happen in long projects as you are overcome by fatigue, boredom or complacency. Even easier sport is the text with multiple editors which offers many opportunities for the creative and ambitious typo to bury itself while author and editor transfer the half-cooked text between them.

    Once in the text the shrewd typo will slip on its invisibility cloak and be gone. Only a really good wizard can find them then and only by painstaking application of effort which is also subject to the triple whammy of fatigue, boredom and complacency – there are no easy spells for this. For some reason invisibility cloaks work even better on the wizard who wrote the text in the first place. The really clever typo casts a reverse spell over the author so that it actually implants the correct text in their mind so that every time the author reads the grammatical nonsense they have created, it actually makes sense to them.

    And that is how the game goes, through all stages of proofing. There’s the initial text – loads of typos in that; next there is the first pass by the editor – some sloppy typos out but many slip through and a few new ones added for good measure. Then there is the proofer stage where the success depends entirely on the ability of the wizard doing the proofing. A good wizard will find loads, including some that aren’t even typos; a bad wizard will find a maximum of five typos in any text and these will all be in the first three pages. Assuming that you have gone with the good wizard then all you will be left with are the really stubborn little critters.

    This is all in the proofing stage of course. As soon as the press starts rolling you can almost see those invisibility cloaks being cast aside. No need for any wizardry skills to spot typos now, any half-wit can see them, dancing around screaming at each and every person who opens the book. It’s job done for the typo and as they attain immortality on the printed page!

    Typos cropped up with regard to the new Yorkshire Grit Bouldering book. I haven’t seen it yet but, based on experience, I strongly suspect that the finished book isn’t nearly as bad as some have declared. I have heard the same levelled at our books in the past – “the text is riddled with mistakes” – only to find after inquiry that ‘riddled’ actually means a handful of mistakes spread thinly over a few chapters.

    There are also plenty of commentators who suggest “how easy it is to get a couple of mates to proof text”. We produced a book to one area where we identified five influential and knowledgeable locals. They were all friendly and co-operative towards the project and were keen to help proof the guide. I packaged up five print-outs of the full guide text (no small job), sent them off with plenty of time, with an SAE and all five arrived back within a week or so. The grand total for a 250+ page guide was 25 corrections out of the five print-outs, and 50% of these were date corrections of the proofers’ own first ascents. Now at least this was 25 corrections but a good wizard will find 25 corrections on one double page spread, so these 25 hard-earned corrections just become more effort than they are worth.

    Over the years I have learnt that good proofing needs reliable and competent proofers, mostly likely ones who are being financially rewarded. Graham ‘hyphen’ Hoey and others like Carl ‘comma’ Dawson, Mike James and Dave Gregory have done a great job for Rockfax, especially in recent years now that we give them more time, however typos still slip through. I suspect that they always will since guidebooks in the UK just don’t have a big enough budget to fund 100% reliable proofing. Keep in mind the fact that proofing is independent of print run – a 350 page book, 2000 copy print run ‘technical’ book (tiny by publishing industry standards) requires significantly more proofing than a 600 page Harry Potter and I think Bloomsbury can probably afford perfect proofing without harming their book budget!

    If you do find a typo in a guidebook which annoys you then have a bit of patience, accept the fact that you have a great-looking book which by most reasonable business standards is far closer to a ‘labour of love’ rather than an ‘agent of profitability’. You will certainly make the publisher and author happier by noting it down and pointing it out to them rather then making sweeping generalisations about errors you claim to have found on public forums.

  • Rockfax in 2008

    2008 is set to be another big year for Rockfax. We have six books that may get published although it is quite likely that at least one of these gets nudged on into 2009.

    Northern England
    This fantastic new book is at the printers as of this week and will be available in mid-February. Pre-order now at a special offer price. It is a great looking book which fits beautifully into the Rockfax format and compliments the others in the series well. At 360 pages and nearly 2500 routes it is no lightweight either.
    The publication is really a hanger-on from 2007. We had originally intend on publishing it in the summer of last year but other projects, and the size of the book, caused it to be delayed for six months. It is actually the first one of our books since Northern Limestone in 2004 that has slipped more than a month.

    Download the free Wainstones sample chapter.

    Bare Blåbær in Djupfjord, LofotenLofoten
    The next book is to Lofoten in Norway. This is a very exciting project and, rather like Northern England, the culmination of several years of effort by Chris Craggs. We are working with local climber, mountain guide and businessman Thorbjørn Enevold who has supplied us with loads of information and generally helped with the text and descriptions for many of the more obscure routes. Chris has had four summer’s worth of great weather to get a stunning set photographs. I fully expect the book to be our best ever production from a photography point of view.
    We are starting now with the final stages of production and the book should be published by May in time for the season.

    El Chorro
    The other nailed-on publication for next year is a fully updated guide to El Chorro. Mark Glaister is putting together a full new guide to this great area, with new crag shots, new routes and updated route information. We aren’t adding many new areas but the areas that we have covered in the past will be getting the full treatment. This is due for publication just before Christmas.

    Winter Climbing +
    The third in the ‘Plus’ series this time focusing on Winter climbing. The book is being written by Neil Gresham and Ian Parnell and we are aiming for publication late in the year but, with such a full schedule, it may get nudged on into 2009.


    We are already thinking about 2009. Top priority will be a new edition of Western Grit, but we will also be working on several other exciting publications:

    North Wales Classics – Pokketz
    Following on from the well-received Pokketz books to the Peak last year, we are producing this ‘best of’ guide to the North Wales routes. This will be roughly the same size as the Peak Pokketz books at 192 pages, but will contain full descriptions and photo-topos for all the best routes in North Wales. Areas include Tremadog, Cwm Silyn, Llanberis Pass, Cloggy, Ogwen, Idwal and the Carneddau. продажа казино
    The book is being written by North Wales local Jack Geldard. We are aiming for publication early in 2009.

    This book is based on the original Pembroke Rockfax by Alan James and being added to, and brought up-to-date, by Mike Robertson (who won the Banff Award last year with his book Deep Water). We will be working hard on this project during the summer and intend to publish sometime in 2009. It will be a full A5 book with masses of colour.

  • Trad Climbing + has been published!

    A stack of Trad Climbing +Trad Climbing + is now available for next day delivery from our online ordering and it should reach most outdoor retailers by the weekend.

    The book looks really good with the colours as vibrant as we have come to expect. It is always a strange experience these days when a book returns from the printers. Ten years ago it used to be the first time that you had actually seen the book in all its glory. These days pre-press on the screen and proofs are so good that the book hardly even looks new when it lands in your hands. That said, it is always a great feeling that a long project has come to an end.

    Sadly it is not a great feeling that I can share with either of the two authors since they are both travelling and are currently both uncontactable. Hopefully they will be back soon and able to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

  • Espolón Central – Anyone climbed it?

    Espolón Central on the Puig Campana.

    One of the best known routes in the Blanca is the magnificent ridge of Espolón Central on the Puig. The fact that you can see it from the motorway as you drive up and down the coast means that virtually every climber who comes here has contemplated climbing this feature at some stage or another.

    I first included it in a guidebook in 1996 in the original Costa Blanca, Mallorca, El Chorro guide. Chris Craggs had already written it up in his Blanca guide from 1990. Since then I have put it in two further editions of the three-area guide, Chris included it in his second Costa Blanca guide from 1997 and finally we both included it in the joint 2005 dedicated Costa Blanca Rockfax. That’s 6 books in all.

    So it was a bit of a shock when in December last year I realised that neither Chris nor I had actually climbed this major route. Chris’s original description had been written up by Dave Gregory, my information had come from Rowland Edwards, and the 2005 description was written by Mark Glaister. The information in the 6 books was always good, although the 1996, 1998 and 2001 Rockfax guides tended to confuse the route by describing too many alternatives and extensions.

    February this year I was in the Blanca with Mick Ryan. We were staying at the Orange House and had a good weather forecast for the next day – the only decent day of our week trip as it turned out. Well the ascent went without real incident, we got up and down in plenty of time and were soon supping beers in a warm satisfied glow of the early evening sun – a magnificent route ticked in magnificent conditions – the stuff that great memories are made of!I decided to write up my own description for what is almost certainly the best version of the route. There are variations that try and tackle the full ridge from low on the left, and the full ridge in the centre of the face, but the direct start leads to a good and logical direct route up the pillar and adding harder variation pitches, or trying to mess with the line, seem to miss the point really.


  • Trad Climbing + Special Offer – LAST FEW DAYS!

    SantaOur printers have excelled themselves and produced Trad Climbing + a full 10 days earlier than expected. That means the book will be available for dispatch from Monday 26th November and in the shops for the weekend of 1 December.

    This is the fastest printing we have ever managed at just 18 days from submitting the disk to having the published books in our hand. Even more amazingly, we actually made some minor changes to the book last week, only 11 days before publication!

    These are the benefits we get from using UK printers. Cheaper printing is available elsewhere but I have yet to be convinced by its quality and it is much more difficult to make last minute changes. The turn around time is also, obviously, much longer if the books have to come from China.

    You still have a few days left to order a copy at the Special Offer Price of £17.45. (After Monday 26th November the book will be £19.95).

    If you desperately want the book for Christmas then you can recommend it as a Christmas present for someone else to buy for you using our Recommend Form.

  • Trad Climbing + Special Offer!

    Trad Climbing +Trad Climbing + is now at the printers and will be published in the first week in December. As usual we are offering a special offer for pre-orders at £17.45 (plus delivery). This will get the book on your door step a few days after it is published and will be quicker, and cheaper, than any other method.

    Pre-order it here

    Recommend it as a present (for yourself) here

    Download a sample chapter here

    For the authors Adrian and John, we are now in the final stages of what has been at least a year-long project for them (infact even longer for Adrian since he was busy getting images for this book last year when he produced Sport Climbing +). We will be going down to the printers in Nottingham on Thursday 15th to see the first sheets rolling off the press. It is always a fun experience but also a useful one where we often make very slight adjustments to the colour to make sure it looks absolutely spot on.

    The printing itself takes a couple of long sessions over two or three days before the ‘running sheets’ (large single sheets with 32 A5 pages on them) are cut and collated ready for thread sewing and binding. This is usually the only delay in the process since binders are in short supply in this country and we actually had to book them two months ahead. Once the books are sewn and bound they are then quickly boxed and sent off to the distributors in Leicester and Rock + Run in the Lakes for the online orders. Rock and Run generally turn round all the online pre-orders in a couple of days at most.

  • Reflections on the Guidebook Debate of 2001

    The launch of Peak Grit East in December 2001

    I was thinking back to 2001 the other day after hearing news of Mike Robertson’s Deep Water Rockfax winning of the Mountain Exposition Award at the Banff Book Festival.

    2001 was the year that Chris Craggs and I teamed up to publish Peak Gritstone East – just another guidebook for most people now, but for Rockfax and many other UK guidebook producers, PGE has become a significant watershed. For those who may not know, or remember, Peak Gritstone East was published amid a furore of debate and discussion and even threats of legal action (summarised below). Now so many guidebooks are in full-colour, using many of the layout and publishing ideas we had in PGE, it seems so strange to think that there were people at the time who tried very hard to prevent it from being published. The resulting stress gave me more sleepless nights than I care to remember; that combined with the birth of our third child Lydia (a happy event but not one that tends to lighten the stress load) plus 9/11 four days after her birth, make me think of late 2001 with mixed emotions.

    The photo shows the guidebook launch in Rock+ Run Sheffield, in December 2001.

    I have subsequently discovered that all the debate that had gone on across various BMC committees in the latter few months of 2001 had been very close to agreeing to the BMC taking legal action against Rockfax and only the sensible behaviour of some at the BMC prevented it.

    So what if they had taken legal action? Well, the point of law in question was so big and untested that it was never a case that tiny entities like the BMC and Rockfax were going to achieve anything with. The result of the legal action would have just been to cost the BMC a lot of money and me more money than I had. Hence, PGE would probably not have been published and Rockfax would probably not exist any more. There would have been no useful precedent established apart from scaring off competition from all new private guidebook producers for many years, probably on a nationwide basis – every time a new guidebook was proposed that was unwanted by the BMC and Club establishment, they would have been able to trot out this saga to prevent publication. At that time the BMC had already taken on Niall Grimes as full-time guidebook co-ordinator, so this positive development had nothing to do with the debate.

    The more I have thought about it the more I think what a pointless and expensive waste of time this whole episode was, something which is even more apparent now that both the BMC and Rockfax are winning World awards for their guidebooks. This is in contrast to the guidebook debate Rockfax caused in 1995, where Ken Wilson led the discussion against the Pembroke Rockfax. Whilst this 1995 debate also left unresolved issues, it was a good debate to have, and one that had a positive effect on both parties in the long run, and tended to steer clear of legal issues. I certainly was given food for thought and modified my behavior because of it. The same is not true of the 2001 saga which still leaves a very bitter taste.

    As it is, common sense prevailed, PGE was published and Rockfax guidebooks have gone from strength to strength. The BMC guidebooks are now superb publications which, although influenced by the style of PGE, are very much in their own mould. Other producers like Ground-Up are publishing great books, the traditional club producers like the FRCC in particular have updated their formats to make best use of the production techniques possible with modern dtp technology. The influence of British guidebooks is becoming apparent in almost every publication that appears around the World and we are even winning awards!

    As a footnote I would like to add that the BMC of 2007 is a very different organisation to the BMC of 2001 and none of the issues from the 2001 guidebook saga are applicable today. discussion thread

    From Stanage to Peak Gritstone East – the Saga

    The saga actually started in 2000 when Chris Craggs tried to publish a Stanage guide with his (then) publisher Cicerone. As someone who had spent years writing guidebooks for the BMC Guidebook Committee, this was something of a radical step. Chris says it was caused by his immense frustration at the lack of progress of the BMC Stanage guide he was producing. He basically left the BMC with a finished text, then went and re-wrote the text, photographed Stanage and approached Cicerone. They were going to publish the book but were eventually frightened off by warnings of legal action from the BMC ….. so Chris approached me on April 1st 2001 (and I nearly thought he was joking!)

    We started work on a completely new book. Using my new (3 megapixel) digital camera, Chris started photographing more of the Eastern Grit edges. We kept expanding our coverage as we realised what was possible to fit in the book. As the book progressed we started getting in the same discussions with the BMC and Roger Payne in particular. Roger put a rather curious legal argument up which relied heavily on a piece of completely untested law. I won’t go into it here but it was a very different argument to the one that he had approached Cicerone with. Anyway, there was a lot of too-ing and fro-ing and Chris and I just plugged away at the book. The thing is, we knew the book was good, really good, better than anything before it visually, so we knew that we had to get it published, which we did in December of 2001 but, as it transpired later, this was a close-run thing and it could have been very different had certain people got their way.