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Guidebooks: To Be or Not To Be?

Posted on: July 23, 2008

Guidebooks hold the promises of many climbs. We rely on them to entice us, to provide us with the right beta for the chosen route, to give us a rough timeline for the ascent. In the author's word, we trust. Surely, it would be a much greater adventure to set out with no information, but people have spent the time to write a book on an area, and I like to reward their hard work and support the community by spending the money and buying the topo.

Most of the time, the money is well spent. As the climb unfolds, I am grateful for the author's words of guidance. Other times, there is so little information, that I wonder why I bothered getting the guidebook. I would have done as good of a job without the guidebook. Worse though, is when the content is misleading, to a point where you even wonder if the author actually did do the climb himself. Granted, I have not written a guidebook myself and I am sure that it can be difficult to engage in such a task. Yet, if the guidebook is repeatedly mistaken on the approach, the aspect, the length and the difficulty of the climb, then why am I carrying it around with me in the first place, not to mention, why did I buy it?


So, I wonder, why call a guidebook, a guidebook, if its content is not there to help guide you in the mountains or on a climb? I strongly believe that a guidebook should offer accurate information or not be at all. So please, authors, make sure you do the climb and take the right notes before publishing misleading information. Your credibility is on the line.

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Guidebooks used to contain little more then the approximate location of a route, length, grade/seriousness, and the name(s) and date of the FA. To be honest, it was more then enough information and allowed for discovery and adventure, which I always thought was a huge part of why people ventured into the mountains in the first place. Nowadays.. people have come to expect topo's showing every feature on every pitch, location of fixed gear and anchors, along with a list of what gear they should bring along. God forbid if any of this information is incorrect. As ridiculous as it sounds, the way things are heading, I can see the day where lawsuits emerge due to incorrect information on a topo.

As far as expecting a guidebook author to climb every route in order to confirm the information, is absolutely ridiculous. Guidebooks usually cover a specific area, many of my guidebook contain 500+ routes. The majority of guidebook authors, have jobs, and primarily climb on the weekends and holidays like the rest of us. To expect them to spend 10-20 years climbing every route in a given area, not to mention the number of new routes that appear each year, before publishing a guide.. I'm afraid there would be very few guidebooks around for anyone to bitch about.

2010-03-16 13:36:05

Ignore the very last line of my post. There's no edit feature on this site.


2008-08-01 01:07:00

There are two kinds of guidebooks. One is the niche book and the other is the comprehensive book. A niche book might be a selected climbs book or a sport climbing book, whereas a comprehensive book may cover thousands of climbs...

While I agree that an author should have first hand knowledge of routes in a niche book, it's ludicrous to ask anybody to have completed every route of every difficulty in every part of a mountain range in a comprehensive book. What if it's an ice book and not all of the climbs come in regularly? What about those routes that have only seen a few ascents? And what about areas with literally thousands of climbs? It is a massive task to write a guidebook and anybody who's used one to find their climb should be thankful.

In a comprehensive book it is the author's responsibility to get as much beta from people as possible. It is important that he have as many people as possible read the manuscript before it goes to print. And it is important to fix errors in later editions. But even with all of this, there will always be incomplete information.

If you had a good day and it was in part because of a guidebook, then you should buy the guidebook author a beer, not complain about a pitch that was sixty feet instead of seventy or about how the tree on the ledge isn't there anymore, and so on and so forth.

Jason It's common for climbers who have just had a great day on the rock or ice

2008-08-01 01:05:36
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