Reviews - Guidebook: Rockfax Eastern Grit - Heason Events

Guidebook: Rockfax Eastern Grit

10th Sep 2006

Back in December 2001 I reviewed the predecessor to this book: Peak Gritstone East. It was, at the time, the first all colour topo guide book I’d seen. I just went back to read my review to see what I’d found wrong with it with a view to comparing with the new version. Alas, my only gripe was with the front cover shot, a fairly underwhelming shot of the main author in a pair of socks on a not so well known route at Stanage. Other than that it was perfect! So why print a new one, and what’s different about it?

We may as well start with the front cover. The new one is of Lucy Creamer on The File, one of the best VS’s of all at Higgar Tor. A vast improvement. It has a different name: Eastern Grit, obviously bringing it into line with Western Grit and Northern Limestone, two of Rockfax’s other publications. The main and most important difference is the size. It has 100 extra pages (384 instead of 286)! These comprise 900 extra climbs, of which 100 are at Black Rocks and 80 are at Baslow, two crags previously absent from Peak Gritstone East. On that note, the crags covered are:

Black Rocks
Burbage North
Burbage South
Dovestone Tor
Higgar Tor

And what of the other crags in the area? Turn to page 376 and you’ll find a wee section called Eastern Secrets which gives rudimentary details on such places as Agden Rocher, Eastwood Rocks and Turning Stone Edge.

Unlike some Rockfax guides don’t expect this one to cover bouldering in addition to routes. There is a separate guide (Peak Bouldering) a second edition of which is well overdue, for that. Can you imagine the size of a single guide for both!

It has a whole new set of topo’s, well it has to really as there are additional routes that need to be shown! The topo’s are excellent quality as ever. In fact they look bigger and easier to read. Inside the two covers is a new feature for Rockfax guides, a fold out section which contains extra information (route symbols and keys on the front and a crag index on the back) and double as page holders.

It is a shame though that inside the two covers, and on the back of the actual book, we are greeted by adverts. I realise that advertising is a significant characteristic of Rockfax, and many other guides, and that they would no doubt be financially un-viable without it, but at the end of the day I think that it will always be a difficult balancing act. Whilst on the subject of commercialism I must point out page 24 which features a supposed useful list of local climbing walls. Like it or not Sheffield is the local city to most of the crags in this guide. As such the Sheffield walls should be listed most prominently, above those in Leeds, Nottingham and elsewhere. This may seem a petty observation, but ranking Creation Climbing Wall in Birmingham above The Foundry, and not even mentioning the Matrix, is most certainly not providing useful information in a logical manner, and smacks of sponsorship. I can just about cope with adverts for walls a long way from the guide area, but feel that it is very impotant to keep the information section free from business. May as well get all the negative stuff out of the way, but it’s a shame that Cratcliffe has been missed off the crag index on the rear cover as its my favourite crag!

OK, back to the guide it’s always inevitable that a climbing guide will get a few grades wrong, and may even draw a topo line in the wrong place (as in Nettle Wine at Cratcliffe in the previous guide – now corrected), but Rockfax have to be applauded for the fact that they have opened themselves up to criticism for such mistakes through their online routes database which, for the past 5 or 6 years has allowed the climbing public to give their opinions. As such it will come as no surprise to those who have done such routes, but will no doubt spark more fierce debate, to hear that Sentinel at Chatsworth has been upgraded to E3 5c, and Three Pebble Slab at Froggatt goes down to HVS 5a. And so the debate will continue…

Things I liked:
Clear and large photo topos
The comprehensive labelling of each action photo with climber, route, grade, crag, page number and photographer listed
The inclusion of a secondary page number in the main index for routes that are illustrated in the book with a photograph
The comprehensive graded lists with tick boxes for the geeks among us
The cover fold-outs
The map on the last page is easy to find quickly

Things I didn’t like:
The adverts
Perhaps a few more photographers could have been recruited for a wider range of shots (that’s pretty picky!)
On page 9 there are a series of comments about soloing. This is a very major aspect of climbing on gritstone and could have been explained and explored further.

Overall Impression:
At £20.95 this is just £2 more than its predecessor nearly 5 years ago, and includes a serious amount more for your money. I think that Rockfax have once again raised the bar, but could perhaps concentrate on weeding out some of the adverts or at least making them more subtle. A big thumbs up.