Sunday, 26 February 2017

A bit disappointing.

Warning: This post contains some criticism. If there's any issue with that, please take it as customer feedback, from a fairly dedicated customer.

New guidebooks are exciting - proper new guidebooks that is. Modern, locally researched, extensively updated, characterful definitive guides, rather than mundane honeypotting recycled select guides. New information, accurate coverage, the full spectrum of venues covered and their value overhauled and recently assessed. That always fills me with psyche.

The new Lancashire Rock guidebook is exciting - it manages to escape the archaic shackles of The Brick, going from one of the worst old guides to the best modern guides. All the classic quarries presented in exhilarating detail, along with many appealing minor and hidden gem venues that have me itching to kick off the trad season with some Lancs suntraps.

Given the general quality of the tome, it was surprising to go to the Egerton section and find two new (well, a decade new) routes missing, including one that's had several photos and an entry on the country's largest climbing website for 10 years , and one that fills a pretty obvious gap (yes a bit eliminate but not nearly as eliminate as a starred E1 we did at Lower Montcliffe, nor as odd a line as the spaghetti junction of link-ups at Summit Quarry).

Did no-one look at the gap to the right of the climber (larger than the gap that separates the two HVSes right again), and think "I wonder if something's been done up there?"

Corrected topo for Egerton's Wood Buttress. Feel free to print it off and stick it over the current page.

Obviously I'm only writing about this because I really care about the fame and the glory and want to see my climbing artworks immortalised in print. No, really. *Rolls eyes*. Actually it's more to do with this being an example of accurate research and information, or the lack thereof. The rest of the guide seems great but it gets me worried how much I can trust it when something fairly obvious (if minor) is missing....

I asked about this - very neutrally, just asking for information - on the Lancashire Rock Revival Facebook page, and the consensus answer I got was that many of the team didn't use UKC for information and had personal issues with the website. Hmmm. I'll try to avoid raising too many of my own personal issues with people who choose to ignore the UK's biggest online climbing resource while researching a national guidebook, but that is just bloody idiotic. I'm no fan of UKC per se, I've been banned twice, fallen out with a lot of people due to my chronic intolerance of morons, and have no love for the Rockfax parent company, but like it or not, it IS a resource, it DOES contain information, and it should NOT be ignored. Sure, due to the aforementioned morons the information and opinions should not be taken as gospel, but at the very least the information available should always be considered, factored in, or used to raise questions for further research.

Take this for example: - terrible photo, useless caption, distracting banter - 30 seconds to click on my profile - email user "I've seen this photo of you, is this actually a new route and can you supply full details of it?". Or this:"Can you confirm that Hot Rubber should be E3 and supply any more details?"

The latter comes from another recent release that was thrilling to me initially but has had plenty of frustrating moments: Bosigran And The North Coast. Again, by CC's standards, a refreshingly semi-modern update after the previous unprogressive reprint, lots of topos, clear design, well presented information....but not all of it is accurate enough due to some pretty simple lapses:

Thick Wall Special line is wrong on not one but both Bosigran topos, despite the clash between this line and Visions Of Johanna being fairly apparent. Not the most classic Bosi route but very worthwhile as a rare steep slab in it's own right.

Pedn Kei West is a great wee cliff despite the precarious belay slope above, and really could have done with a topo especially as Pete Saunders managed to get one on UKC.

This photo seems to show part of the cliff with a 3 star hidden gem on it....why not show it properly??

Carn Vellan is a great cliff that is far more than chopped bolts and controversy. The main slab warrants having it's low Extremes well described and shown.

Freedom Zawn, another great and grand killas arena. The main wall is pretty adventurous and not the sort of place you want to be totally off route. The topo is as wrong as wrong gets.

Pretty sure Aire Point wasn't thoroughly checked if the grades and stars of the adjacent E3s haven't been sorted out.

Photo captions are a minor deal but perhaps symptomatic.

Again at least two or three of these, if not more, could have been avoided by more online research. And like Lancashire, Cornwall is a classic and varied area that really deserves to have it's qualities fully highlighted in an reliable guide. Hopefully this issue will be rectified for the forthcoming Chair Ladder & Lizard, and especially the next North Devon & Cornwall guide, which will likely be the last definitive print guide to such a wild, complex, and adventurous area, and as such it would be really nice to see a supreme quality guide to match the climbing and last the years to come.

Obviously if I know of information that's not being used, I should try to help out. Equally obviously I didn't know it would be ignored for those guides, particularly since I'm currently very non-local to the areas. I will be more diligent in the future - for ND&C I've joined the Facebook group and emailed in feedback, as well as spending a good couple of hours sorting out the Carn Gowla UKC page after it was left in an unusable mess by the previous moderator who is apparently a local expert but doesn't think UKC has any useful information, and was quite blase about a dangerous sandbag like Demerara (VS going on E2) being left unchanged because "You don't really get people climbing those grades at Carn Gowla" - when a quick look at UKC shows Gowla VSes with 70 recorded ascents......

Last but not least at the opposite end of the country, the new Highland Outcrops. SMC guides are being dragged screaming and kicking into the year 2000, and will get to modern standards eventually especially when they show all the lines on topos, but they're certainly an improvement over previous ancient books. However the latest HO, while inspiring in many ways not least the astonishing breadth of coverage, does fall down in some very similar areas.

The Glen Shian slab was an obsession of mine for many years - an immaculate slab of lovely sheer schist with acclaimed video footage of E10 first ascents but no useful information available. Eventually I got there, had a great time and set about rectifying it's obscurity. Again my excitement for the new guidebook was slightly diminished to see a woefully inadequate entry for this crag. Now I know that Andy Nisbet as one of the dozen active trad climbers in the Highlands had a lot on his plate writing the guide, I know he probably didn't have a big team to check online resources.....except in this case he had seen my UKC entry (and for Dome Buttress which he rightly asked me to take down the topo of) and had even used my photo as the basis for the Glen Shian topo. So why not use, or at least question, the accompanying information??

Missing descriptions, unedited grades....
....sparse descriptions, mis-applied stars...

The end result is that one of the best accessible mid-high grade single pitch slabs in Scotland (not a common feature) might not be well described enough to tempt the mid-Extreme leader over to have as good a time as we did. Again, yes I wish I'd been involved, I didn't know it would end up like this - and receiving a "Fiend, you seem to like this crag, do you want to write it up properly for the guide" would have spurred me into action, 6 hour round trip and all.

TL,DR: Guidebook writers, regardless of your personal issues with online resources, they are still resources to be used, even only to raise questions for further research - please do so!!

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