BBC - Weather Centre - Forecast for Llandudno, United Kingdom

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Guide Is Here!! (part 1)

I never thought I'd see the day! 17 years after the last guide to the area we finally have a shiny new book packed full of all the developments and inspiring pictures to boot. Four years ago when I found out Rockfax were going to produce a new North Wales lime guide I was initially pretty chuffed. It was badly needed as the previous edition came out in 1997, a lifetime in climbing terms. I was less chuffed when I found out the guide wasn't going to be definitive. Like many people I believe the decline of definitive guidebooks would be a trend that would be detrimental to our historic areas. Not long after Rockfax announced their intentions to produce a new edition I heard about the bolt funds proposal to produce it's own guide to the area with all the proceeds going straight back into the fund that preserves many of our great crags. This seemed like a no brainer to me, the bolt fund guide would utilise the extensive knowledge of the many activists who'd been climbing in the area for many many years. It had the potential to galvanise the local scene and promote the continued work out there on the crags. New routing, re-equipping, bringing some old areas back to life and making the area a better place to play. Of course most the work in guidebook production is sat on a chair staring at a computer screen and to make a product that was on a par with some of the excellent guides that have come out of the UK in recent years was going to be some challenge. Mr Motivator himself, Pete Harrison was the man at the helm. Pete (with no previous design experience) was about to take a crash course guidebook production. He set about learning the basics of the various design software before fully immersing himself in the massive task. An optimistic 2 year release date had been pencilled in but it was soon apparent that this would be someway short of the reality. Pete had a full time job and his own climbing aspirations at the crag. The emails would come in at a regular pace, requests for re-equipping and route checking. Even getting people to pose for photos on specific routes wasn't easy. Pete had a vision for his guide, getting the exact shots to highlight lesser trod classics was important as was making the book as well researched as it could reasonably be. Andy Boorman was Pete's right hand man and invaluable to the whole process. He was out at the crags clipboard in hand and back home sending over text for Pete to process. As the years ticked by Pete's motivation ebbed and flowed and eventually the finish line started to come into view. It's crazy really, not many people would spend 4 years of their life and thousands and thousands of hours glued to a laptop (and out on the crags researching) without making a penny out of it. Well it has been 4 years and now the guide is in the shops, a true labour of love and a fitting tribute to this historic area.

Flicking through the guide it is immediately apparent that the fears we'd end up with an 'amateurish' product were unnecessary. The design and layout is what you would expect from a quality modern production and akin to it's contemporaries. When you get one in your hand it becomes a bit more apparent why it took so damn long! It's a real beast, 452 pages of sporty/trad goodness. This is bolstered by 26 pages of history and this is a real asset to the book in my opinion. Not only is it an interesting read but it's a important record of what our Orme hero's of yesteryear got up to. There are quotes and anecdotes from some of the big players in Orme history - Edwards, Pollitt, Moon, Moffatt and Carson and the more recent development is catalogued in more detail. Photography wise Pete had many specific shots in mind for the book. He could have easily have filled the book with photos from the honeypot crags but as with the rest of the guide doing justice to some of the adventurous classics was extremely important to him. The shot of Will Oates on Ocean of Emotion on Detritus Wall is a prime example. A classic but rarely climbed on immaculate wall that now is shown off in full glory. Surely these little tempters will entice the more curious consumer onto these superb but committing walls. Going the extra mile isn't essential from a commercial point of view but it what makes the best guides. The various historical shots are also a welcome addition and provide a nice contrast with the current crop of heroes (Pete Robins!). The graded list illustrates that there are many more hard routes to go at in the area (only starred routes make it in however). 8c+ is the grade for the bumpy boys, 8cs and 8b+s are still a bit thin on the ground. There are some notable but necessary upgrades. Finally Masterclass and Oyster get the offical upgrade to 8a (they're old skool nails) as does Central Pillar on the Gwynt. Liquid Ambar gets bumped to 8c+ making it the first 8c+ in the world (still needs more repeats to confirm). Pete has adopted a slightly harsher star system for the book, this means that some very good routes get 0 or 1 star and this has been a slight bone of contention with a couple of locals (on Upper Pen Trwyn in particular). The key though is that there is relative consistency and although some routes might appear to be undersold you really know your onto a winner when you get on a 2 or 3 star route. All in all it's a pretty amazing effort that really shows the area off in it's best light. I've got a mini interview with Pete that I'll add in a day or two. I didn't want to stick in on the end of this as it would make it a massive post.