• Northern England – Delayed

    Northern EnglandFor most of the year Chris Craggs has been hard at work on our new Northern England guide and we had hoped to publish this before Christmas. Now that we have started the final stages of production it has become clear that, to acheive a pre-Christmas publication, we are going to have to rush the final layout stages. We don’t want to do this so we have decided to delay until early in the New Year – apologies to anyone who was hoping to have a copy for Christmas.

    This is the first publication date we have missed for the last two years and is just a blip rather than a trend. It is probably due to us trying to squeeze an extra two publications into the year’s schedule (and some moving house complications!) .

    Next year’s provisional plans include firstly Northern England, then we are aiming to get a comprehensive print guide to Lofoten. We also have Winter Climbing + by Neil Gresham and Ian Parnell, and two Pokketz guides – Welsh Mountain Classics by Jack Geldard, and Pembroke by Mike Robertson and Alan James. There may also be time to squeeze in a new El Chorro area guide by the end of the year if we are lucky but we don’t want to over-stretch ourselves.

  • Why Guidebooks Should Have Route Numbers

    There was an interesting thread on UKClimbing Forums last week about the Climbers’ Clubs guides. One of the main points to come out of the discussion was that the Climbers’ Club continue to produce guidebooks without route numbers. On the thread John Wilson states:

    “These (numbers) make sense in guides where all or nearly all routes are shown on topos and where the topos are on same spread. We are thus using numbers in Portland and (as previously) in Southern Sandstone. Where this (as here – Wye Valley Guide) is not the case, keys have to be superimposed on the diagrams and text numbers are then totally pointless; they are also visually unattractive, they disrupt the left alignment of route names, and they add yet another numeral statistic to the lengths, grades and dates of the route-title lines.”

    The discussion revolved around a sample download of the Wye Valley guide, available here from the Climbers’ Club site.

    I actually think that route numbers become even more important when routes and diagrams are not on the same spread and here is why: (some of this was posted on the thread but I have expanded on it here a bit).

    – Routes may appear on a map, may appear on a photo-topo, may appear on both, or neither.
    – When you are looking at the route text (the first port of call for most) you have no idea where, or if, there is a diagram or map.
    – So you start turning pages to look for one, and eventually come across a diagram.
    – That diagram has some route names (all of which need reading of course) but not yours. So now what do you do?
    – One thing you could do is turn more pages to look for another diagram, or you could turn back to you route to see if you recognise a route name near your route.
    – You will need to read all the route names in order to locate which block of routes is covered on the diagram, but this block may be further to the right so you won’t find them without extensive further searching.
    – If you do locate this block of routes you may know which way you should turn the pages to see if there is a diagram.
    – Eventually you may find a diagram, or a plan map, but you will almost certainly have flicked back and forth through the guide several times trying to identify the block of routes covered by the topo/map and spending ages reading route names and trying to remember if they were the ones on the diagram you had found.

    Now here’s how the same procedure works with consistent route numbers:

    – the route you are interested in is route number 12 so you try and find a diagram.
    – you turn pages and find one but it starts at route 20 so you know your route isn’t there straight away with one quick look, and you also know that, if there is a diagram, it is the other way in the book.
    – You find another diagram either with your route, or with routes numbered up to something less than 12 in which case you know that your route doesn’t have a diagram and you have only flicked through a few pages.

    As a practical example of a Climbers’ Club guide where the addition of numbers would have been a great help, consider the 2000 Tremadog guide. Tremadog is a notoriously difficult crag to locate the starts of routes owing to the trees, however you can usually spot the top sections from below on the road by Craig Bwlch y Moch. On page 94 95 of the Tremadog guide is the following photo-diagram:

    This diagram has 4 routes listed on it but it actually covers 21 routes between The Grasper and The Plum, and a few more to the right as well. The route the Plum is actually 6 pages away from the diagram. What this diagram in its current state tells us is the rough location of 4 routes. If you want to do a route in this area that isn’t marked on the diagram then you need to read and memorise the route names of the four routes that are featured and try and related them using the text to your route – that is 6 pages of text!

    With the simple addition of numbers – Grasper as route 1, and The Plum as route 21, you can easily tell what the spread of the diagram is without memorising any route names. The addition of a few annotations to say which routes started in which area would make the diagram even more useful and with route numbers you could do this very concisely. For example: the clean wall to the left of The Plum could be indicated as being the starting point for routes 17 to 20. At a crag like Tremadog this is useful information, particularly for the hundreds of people each year who want to do the route Christmas Curry.

    However you end up actually using them, I can see no way that the addition of numbers in any guide can be regarded as “totally pointless”. Numbers help to relate routes to each other and they help to relate routes to diagrams and topos. They do not add unnecessary clutter if you design the page correctly and to omit them on the grounds of page design is about as daft as omitting the technical grade of a route because you couldn’t find anywhere to write it in your current page layout.


  • Trad Climbing +

    Double page spread example from Trad Climbing +Adrian Berry and John Arran have been hard at work on the follow-up to the highly acclaimed Sport Climbing + which we published last December. SC+ was the first book in what will hopefully become a full series of Performance books from Rockfax and was an interesting departure from our normal guidebooks.

    The main aim of the ‘Plus’ series is not to produce straight instruction books – there are plenty of these around already – but to focus on all aspects of climbing performance to help climbers acheive their potential by refining their approach rather than indulging in intense training regimes. Here we are very proud to annouce a new place where you can find out how to buy Instagram followers to make your content judged better on social media.

    We are also working on Winter Climbing + and Alpine Climbing +.

    You can read a bit more about Trad Climbing + here.

    The image is an example double page spread from the new book.

  • Southern Softies

    Callerhues Crack - the soft touch at Callerhues

    I’ve had some strange experiences at slightly obscure crags over the years but I can’t recall anything quite like our day at Callerhues. We knew that there was something a bit odd going on at this crag; even the locals had admitted that the grades were, “a bit on the stiff side”, and anyone who has climbed in Northumberland will probably realise the full significance of that comment.

    It all started reasonably with a quick ascent of the classic Callerhues Crack – nowt wrong with that lad, a good HVS, possibly with a slight Curbar feel to it, but nothing that a seasoned grtistoner couldn’t cope with.

    That was about it though as the next four hours really began to take its toll. Callerhues Crack is the soft-touch of the crag and everything else weighs in at one, two or even three grades harder than you are expecting. We got battered initially by E2s masquerading as E1s, then by E2s masquerading as HVSs, then finally by an E3 masquerading as a MVS. Mild VS! My ego found the ‘mild’ particularly difficult to take. Subsequent investigation revealed that the MVS called Paving probably followed a line about 1m left of where we were trying it, however I had already climbed that line and thought it was about E1!

    Being a guidebook writer I know that grades are tricky; you are never going to get them right yet most of your readers expect that you have got them right. Not only that but they tend to be a bit upset when they think the book is wrong, especially if it went and ruined their day. All we can do is try and get them as accurate as we can, and if there are mistakes then we can try to correct them in the next edition, inevitably introducing a new set of grades that people can dispute.

    That is what is so strange about Callerhues. Those grades have not really changed in the last 30 years despite being in a few guidebooks. Actually that’s not strictly true, the initial grades for some routes were even harder than they are now, but they were first climbed when E-grades weren’t widely used and any route less than 10m was regarded as a virtual boulder problem. So after one revision to take account of E-grades, Callerhues has sat there, lurking, ready to take on all-comers, especially southern softies.

    The only reason I can think of for this is ‘historical significance’. The routes were put up by the revered Smith brothers and maybe no-one wants to annoy them by re-grading the routes. Whatever the reason, it is not a practice we intend to continue in the Northern England Rockfax

    All the routes have been given new grades which we think are more in line with what you would find elsewhere in the country, particularly on the similar-style gritstone crags. We will have got some of these grades wrong, but at least it is a start.


  • ROCKFAX Pokketz guidebooks


    July sees the publication of the latest two ROCKFAX guides – Peak NE Pokketz and Peak SE Pokketz. These two new books are in a new format for Rockfax – the Pokketz format. They are A6 in size, which is half the dimensions of our normal books, and also contain fewer pages making them incredibly light – around 120g – and easy to carry when climbing.

    The full benefit of the small size will probably be more apparent once we start producing books to sea cliffs and multi-pitch route on mountain crags; we have a couple in the pipeline for 2008 that should fully exploit the size. However, even for the smaller Peak crags these books will be useful for those wanting to keep there sacks down when getting a quick hit, or for those people who are on a tight budget and don’t want to pay for a whole bunch of hard routes they are never going to climb.

  • Costa Blanca (2005) – Easter Eggs

    There are 16 “Easter Eggs” hidden in the pictures in the book. Here are some clues, in the order that Easter Eggs appear in the book – that should be a little help. The first one appears on page 53.

    * = pretty easy – ** = quite tricky – *** = tough

    1. you’re bugging me **
    2. misplaced from the Peak’s finest quarry *
    3. arachnaphobia **
    4. a time-travelling guide *
    5. scary terrain ***
    6. in a pear tree? *
    7. fine face climbing ***
    8. monkeying about *
    9. what colour was that house? **
    10. get the feeling you are being watched? *
    11. These normally say “se vende” *
    12. a Wallace and Grommit classic ***
    13. art? It’s a load of bull **
    14. castles in the air **
    15. who needs friends?**
    16. Pavey Ark’s finest **

    We had a competition to find them all during January and February 2005. This was won by Duncan Martin who found 12 of them unaided by clues. He was the only person to find number 5. Only one person found numbers 7 and 14 (although this clue makes it easier) and no-one found number 12. Thanks to all those who entered.

    If you are getting so frustrated that you are pulling your own hair out then email me for the answers.