Guidebook: North Wales Rock
North Wales Rock
Selected Rock Climbs in North Wales
The power of the Internet is becoming increasingly evident in the world of guidebook production. Whilst many guides slip almost unnoticed into the shops (Nesscliffe, Lake District Winter Climbs, Northern Highlands Central all published within the last 6 months, and barely made a ripple) some are put on such a high pedestal they are in danger of falling off!
North Wales Rock is effectively the next edition of the essential Paul Williams guide 'Rock Climbing in Snowdonia', albeit produced by a brand new publisher. Ground Up Productions is headed by North Wales activist Si Panton, largely responsible for the delectable North Wales Bouldering (published by Northern-Soul in Feb 2004). The Paul Williams guide was first published in 1980's, at the time raising the bar on guidebook standards, so it is true to say that North Wales, one of the UK's most popular climbing areas has been in desperate need of a modern guide.
A long time in coming, and possibly the most historically rich climbing area on the planet, have lead to a lot of internet noise about the guide so it was with very high expectations that I received my review copy yesterday.
Never judge a book by its cover. Rubbish. The cover is one of the most important elements of a guidebook. NWR has a full page photo of a climber on Superdirect on Dinas Mot. The green hillsides of the Pass are complemented nicely by the green spine and green and black back cover. It's evident immediately that a designer has had some serious input (in fact Al Williams has spent the best part of a year working pretty da%&£ hard at his computer designing the tome!). Personally the cover shot is not my favourite. It does show a classic and amenable line in a mountain situation, but there's a bit too much rock. Never mind, I have a long term goal of climbing as many cover-routes as I can so I'm glad it's not a desperate E6! And there's a nice surprise too. As you open the front cover there's a fold out section which not only acts as a temporary book mark, but continues the cover photograph, yes you’ve guessed it, balancing out the amount of rock and backdrop - a much better shot.
Inside the front cover is a stunning two-page minimalist shot of the bastion of North Wales climbing - Cloggy. This too spills over onto the back side of the fold out section. Apparently there is a climber somewhere in the sea of sun and shadows. Probably the best frontispiece I've ever seen to a guidebook. So far so good.
I was a little disappointed to see an advert on page 3, effectively the very first thing that you see. The ad, for Llanberis Guides is a little mis-leading as I initially thought that I was entering the Llanberis section of the guide. Still, with only 8.3 pages of ads of a total 544 pages I guess we can’t complain too much.
Talking numbers, there are over 670 routes described, mostly trad of course, some sport, and a little bouldering. A shame they didn't leave it at 666 as it could then justifiably have been called 'A Devil Of Good Guide!'. Whereas the old Paul Williams guide gave the impression it covered just Snowdonia it did confusingly stray out of the park in most directions. The new guide has simply called itself 'North Wales Rock', avoiding upsetting the pedants like me.
Of the routes I have it straight from the horse’s mouth that a number of historically inaccurate descriptions have been corrected. For example Grooved Arête on Tryfan has been wrongly described since the original Ron James guide, detailing 2 pitches where there is only 1!. Graham Desroy, local climber and part of the guidebook team assured me that such inconsistencies have been weeded out. Time will tell to what extent. As for grades, well I'm not even going to go there. There is a debate raging over on UKClimbing as the inevitable changes have upset a few. I do ask myself whether Strawberries being downgraded to E6 (from E7) has been done in a deliberate attempt to persuade some of the top end climbers to stop saving it for the onsight and come and have a go.
A sample couple of pages showing Carreg Hyll Drem.
What more is there to say? Not a lot. The pictures and topos are top notch, inspiring and well laid out and pretty well reproduced. It looks and feels like a classic guide worthy of representing such a classic area. Go buy it so that Si, Al and the rest of the team can have a wee break before working on the next one...
Guidebook team: Si Panton, Al Leary, Rob Wilson, Graham Desroy, Simon March, Mark Reeves & Pete Robins.
Reviewed by Matt Heason on behalf of planetFear