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Northern Limestone

ISBN: 9-781-873341-92-6

Written by: Mark Glaister

Published by: Rockfax

Reviewed by: Karin Magog 3rd February 2015

The eagerly anticipated guidebook to Northern Limestone has arrived and it certainly doesn't disappoint. It’s a pretty weighty tome with an action packed 376 pages, providing comprehensive information on the popular limestone crags of Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire, and certainly meets the standard we have come to expect from Rockfax who are now producing up to four guidebooks a year.

Northern Limestone does an excellent job for sport routes of covering the major limestone crags of Malham, Kilnsey and Gordale (which between them offer some of the best sport climbing in the UK) as well as covering other well established venues such as Yew Cougar, Troller’s Gill, Giggleswick and Trow Gill. However, there are many newer or less well known venues in the guide, many offering more amenable sport routes, such as Robin Proctor’s Scar, Panorama Crag, Moughton Nab, Hull Pot (although this does have a very recent 8a as well) and Castleberg Crag to name a few. Over in Cumbria the guide covers the excellent Chapel Head Scar, as well as the other worthwhile venues of Scout Scar, Mill Side Scar and Humphrey Head, whilst down in Lancashire Trowbarrow Quarry, Barrow Scout Cove and WitchesQuarry are all included.


If it’s trad climbing you’re after then check out Blue Scar, Kilnsey and Gordale for the Extremes, or Twistleton Scar, Crummackdale, Giggleswick, Attermire Scar or Malham for a better spread of grades. All crags are covered with very clear photo diagrams (except parts of Chapel Head Scar which has sketch style topos due to the trees) and brief route descriptions as well as the expected intro on access, approach and conditions, plus the quick guide to number of routes per grade band at the crag. There are a good variety of action shots, some showing off the climbing, others the crag situation, but with an even spread across the various grades. However, I was disappointed that there weren't more stunning shots, although I did particularly like the one of Naomi Buys cutting loose on Green Lipped Mussles and Buster Martin putting some effort in on Bat Route. I find it useful when the photo caption has the route grade and associated guidebook page number, as this guide does. One minor error I noticed was the photo on page 3 is actually Groovy Baby and not The Groove as captioned.

The guide also includes plenty of useful subsidiary info, such as suggested pubs, cafes, campsites, climbing shops and local walls (although it seems a shame that City Bloc was missing when the other Leeds based walls of The Climbing Depot and Leeds Wall are included). It has a very detailed Destination Planner, a useful Route Index at the back (which also includes route grade, number of stars, page number of any action photo as well as the actual page the route can be found), and two selected graded lists, one for trad and one for sport. These are best argued over in the pub or cafe, however, I was disappointed Bullet didn't make the sport list as I think it’s a great route. I also must question the logic behind putting Renaissance higher up the 8a list than Breach of the Peace, given that to climb the latter correctly you need to successfully climb the former, which surely presents a bit more of a challenge. However, if Renaissance isn't your bag you can climb the roof section of Breach via Free ’n’ Easy as Uneasy Peace at 7c+ or via Climb of the Century as Cover to Cover at 8b. (See our controversial alternative Graded List)

Mark Glaister has put in an enormous amount of effort to produce this very comprehensive Northern Limestone guide and although not cheap at £29.95, I highly recommend it. I’m sure it will sell extremely well.




NYM Bouldering Guide: watch the short preview on vimeo http://vimeo.com/111147021


North York Moors and East Coast Bouldering

ISBN: 13: 9780993104206

Written by: Lee Robinson

Published by: betaguides

Reviewed by Steve Crowe 26th January 2015

This is the first dedicated bouldering guide to the whole of the North York Moors and its east coast. Over 2000 problems are clearly described within its 380 glossy pages. There is plenty of interest across to suit boulderers of all abilities. North York Moors and East Coast Bouldering is packed full of stunning action photos, detailed photo topos along with clear maps and diagrams. This is the first bouldering guide to showcase the stunning potential across the moors and coast of North Yorkshire. The guide is split into three areas, the popular western area enjoys easy access from Middlesborough, the central area details the potential found on and around Blakey Ridge, finally the eastern area includes The Bridestones, the twin boulders at Stoupe Brow and the east coast.

The history of bouldering on the North York Moors is a tangled web that wasn't written down until recent times. My mentor Chris Woodall has climbed extensively all across the area for over 50 years and was still snatching first ascents last year and still he doesn't record or lay claim to these lines. There would be no record and no guidebook if everyone followed Chris Woodall's approach. Thankfully Tony Marr has kept his ears to the ground and made a record of everything he knew about. Steven Phelps has written the historical section for this guidebook and an extract can be found here.

The A5 portrait layout of
North York Moors and East Coast Bouldering is very pleasing on the eye. Each crag is colour coded to help with finding your page quickly. Font grades have been used throughout and highball/solos also get an UK Trad grade too. The grades are split into four colour coded circuits and white is reserved for unclimbed lines although that will soon mean recently climbed lines! The final four pages are dedicated to providing a selection of classic problems for each coloured circuit; Orange, Blue, Red and Black.

Bouldering has always been very popular at Scugdale and The Wainstones however to get the most out of bouldering elsewhere across North York Moors requires some effort and usually will involve multiple venue days. Some venues can be difficult to locate and can be hidden under the bracken late in the season so careful planning and close attention to the text within the guidebook is essential to enjoy the best the area has to offer. Fantastic climbing on quiet crags within a stunning scenery often finishing at superb pubs could be the reward for your efforts. The section on Campsites, shops, pubs, heritage and tourist sites will be useful for those wishing to plan for an extended stay.

Venues included in the western area are: Low Water Stones, High Crag, Kay Nest, Tranmire Rocks, Earthworks Rocks, Wainstones and Garfit Quarry, Cold Moor, Thimbleby Crag, Scugdale, Ingleby Incline, Park Nab and NOS Boulder, Captain Cook’s and Roseberry Topping. Also brief mentions of other outcrops like Apple Tree Rocks, Tarn Hole, Todd Intake, Collar Ridge, Badger Stone and Highcliff Nab. Venues included in the central area are: Ravenswick Quarry, Duck and The Inbetweeners, Oak Crag, Petergate Quarry, Thorgill Crag, The Meadow, Middle Ridge Crag, Rosedale Head, Round Crag, Northdale, Dale Head, Clemitt’s, Camp Hill, The Finkelstones and Castleton Quarries, with a small mention of the edges in Farndale. Venues included in the eastern area are: The Bridestones, Levisham, Hunt House and Blawath Crag, Glaisdale Head, Arncliffe Woods and Limber Hill, Cloughton Wyke, Smuggler’s Terrace, Stoupe Brow and Boulby, with a mention of the tricky to access Rocky Point. Read more detailed information about North York Moors Bouldering on





SCOTTISH ROCK VOLUME 2   2nd edition

ISBN: 978-1-906095-46-8

Written by Gary Latter

Published by Pesda Press

Reviewed by Karin Magog 5th January 2015

Gary Latter has recently updated his Scottish Rock volume 2 and reprinted it as a second edition. For those of you who are unaware this volume covers the north of the country and includes the islands of Skye, Harris and Lewis, Orkney and the increasingly popular Pabbay and Mingulay, as well as the mainland areas of Torridon, Gairloch, Coigach & Assynt, Sutherland and Caithness. It offers a fantastic selection to some of the best climbing Scotland has to offer from big mountain crags to great roadside cragging and some of the best sea cliff climbing in the UK. Gary has done an excellent job of photographing the numerous crags, so the majority are accompanied with clear photo diagrams, plus a good selection of action photos. There are also plenty of detailed maps and good general info for each crag and area.

On first acquaintance this new edition doesn't look very different. It has the same number of pages and in fact the pages correspond exactly to the previous edition. However, upon closer inspection, the many useful amendments and additions can be seen. There are numerous grade changes, both up and down, as routes see more ascents and feedback can be passed on more easily. Typos and topo errors have been corrected and improvements in some route descriptions made. A photo-topo has also been added for the popular Pink Wall on Pabbay, a good addition and achieved by removing the lesser known Shag’s Geo. Several new routes have been added, especially around Reiff, where locals Ian Taylor and Tess Fryer continue to find high quality lines, mainly in the low to mid extremes. Gary has done an excellent job of fitting these in by tweaking the existing pages, or by removing the occasional action photo.

For those climbers wishing to visit Northern Scotland this guide is a must and has enough quality routes of all grades to keep most climbers happy for a lifetime. It also remains the guide of choice for the Barra Isles of Pabbay and Mingulay. The guide reflects Gary’s love and enthusiasm for Scottish climbing and the amount of work that has gone into producing the two volumes is very impressive. Priced a very reasonable £23 each, buying both volumes is extremely good value for money, however for a taster of what Scottish rock has to offer then you can’t go wrong with this 2nd edition of volume 2. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.


From the Foreword by Hamish MacInnes … “If you have an ambition to do all the climbs in these two Scottish Rock guides I think you’d better schedule time off in your next life. This labour of Gary’s has been of gargantuan proportions. Those of you who use the guides will benefit by his dedication and the sheer choice offered; if you divide the retail price of these by the number of good routes you’ll realise this is a bargain. Volume 1 covers a proliferation of Scottish crags up to the natural demarcation of the Great Glen. They are easier to access than most in Volume 2 and present infinite variety. I have been a long-time advocate of selected climbs and the use of photographs to illustrate both climbs and action. I’m glad that this principle has been used throughout these two volumes. It gives you a push to get up and do things. The list seems endless and if you succeed in doing half of them you’ll be a much better climber and know a lot more about Scotland – have a good decade!”




The Dolomites
By James Rushforth
Published by Rockfax  August 2014
ISBN: 978-1-873341-97-1
Reviewed by Steve Crowe

There are many lifetimes worth of adventures wrapped up within these 500 pages. The photographic imagery is stunning and a great credit to the many contributors. What struck me most about this new Rockfax guide to rock climbing and via ferrata in The Dolomites was not the intensity of the climbing action itself but the outstanding situations and awesome landscapes. James Rushforth with his partner Lynne Hempton have compiled the complete package including an interesting historical section, and a practical travel guide. Over 40 classic Via Ferrata are described clearly as are the fantastic selection of rock climbs right across the grade range. Mountain Biking and other rest day activities also get a mention. This is a selective guide but all the best climbs across all the major areas are included. The most famous routes Comici-Dimai, Hasse-Brandler, The Fish and Bellavista are described fully with full page and often two page photo topos. The extensive single pitch sports routes covering all grades are well described too. The mapping is clear with GPS coordinates for the car parking and the maps can usefully be used in conjunction with a smartphone by scanning its associated QR code. My only criticism is the size and weight of the book but the layout is such that it would be very easy to photocopy the relevant pages to avoid carried such a weighty tomb up a 17 pitch route! This excellent book is great value at £29.95 and the only guide you will need to The Dolomites for many years to come.





Review by Karin Magog 24 September 2014

New to the climbing world Powerfingers are an antagonistic tool which can help prevent elbow tendonitis as well as strengthening fingers. They are already used regularly by musicians such as guitarists to help develop greater strength, speed and dexterity in both the fingers and the hand.

Powerfingers are basically an elasticated ring with holes for your fingers and thumb. They come in 5 levels of resistance in a handy storage box. Endorsed by both top climber Gaz Parry and climbing coach Belinda Fuller you can see them in action at www.thepowerfingers.com

After being forced to take a month off this summer due to both elbow tendonitis (golfer’s elbow) and a couple of finger injuries I was keen to get my hands on these and check them out. I was already doing wrist extensor work with a light dumbbell which was helping but I started to supplement this with some powerfingers work. Initially I started on the lightest resistance, just doing a couple of sets of 20-30 reps a couple of times a day. It certainly seemed to help and now I am back climbing again. I am still using the powerfingers both before and after climbing, for warming up and antagonistic purposes. They are so handy to carry around in your pocket or rucksack that there’s no excuse for not using them. As well as helping my elbow they have also improved the stiffness in my finger joints.

With a retail price on their website of $24.99, this may seem a bit steep for what they are. However, given the cost of a trip to a physiotherapist and the frustration of taking time out from climbing they may well be worth considering, especially if you are prone to finger and elbow niggles.



Y&Y Belay Glasses

Review by Karin Magog

Belaying can be a right pain in the neck for keen sport climbers who can spend long periods attentively looking upwards. Over time this can lead to discomfort in the neck and some severe cases can lead to cervical spondylosis which is the ‘wear and tear’ that can affect bones and tissues in the neck.


I’ve been using the new belay glasses by Y&Y (www.yy-belayglasses.co.uk) out at the crag and down at the climbing wall and I am very impressed. They are comfortable to use and fit well and do feel more robust that other similar products on the market. The prism lenses give a very sharp, slightly magnified view of the climber and it is a welcome relief not to have to tilt your head back when belaying. For those not familiar with belay glasses they may take a couple of routes to get used to, as you can’t actually see the belay plate and rope immediately in front of you or the first few feet of the climb. It is worth sliding them down your nose or propping up on you head until the climber gets a few metres up the route and then using them from there. They really come into their own on long routes and are particularly useful when the climber is working a sports route or top-roping either at the wall or the crag.

The glasses come with a neat little kit, which also includes alternative nose fittings, although I found the original ones very comfortable. They also come with a reasonable case, making them easy to put away and fairly secure in the lid of your sack. The case has a handy little karabiner which I’ve found useful for clipping to my harness for carrying along the crag or to the back of my sack in-between routes. However making this a hard case would be even better still.

Y&Y glasses are made by a French company and at the moment only come with printed French instructions. However, the next batch into the UK will also include an English version but in the meanwhile these can be viewed on their UK website at www.yy-belayglasses.co.uk

The glasses can be bought direct online but are also available from several climbing walls in the UK (list on their website) where you should be able to try the glasses first before buying.

All in all a great product and at £49.99 a very reasonable price too. I highly recommend them. Other comments can be found here.





Peak Bouldering
By Adrian Berry and Alan James
Published by Rockfax May 2014
ISBN: 978-1-873341-72-8
Reviewed by Steve Crowe

Sixteen years have passed since Rockfax published their first guide to Peak Bouldering by Allen Williams and Alan James way back in 1998. The second edition of Peak Bouldering, is written by Adrian Berry and Alan James who again have an encyclopedic knowledge of the area and it is likely to become the most popular Rockfax to date.

At 544 pages this edition of Peak Bouldering is quite a weighty tomb. This impressive guide describes 3394 problems over 66 different crags which should be enough to last most people a life time! All the best Gritstone and Limestone venues have been included. I much prefer the more practical portrait layout used by Rockfax rather than the landscape layout of some other bouldering guides.


A gallery of the many fantastic photos from the guide can be seen here on rockfax.com.

Duncan Campbell on Air Bear (V1 5b) at Froggatt

The grading of boulder problems has been a contentious issue across the UK for a long time. In conversations Font grades are generally used for the hardest blocs certainly 7a and above, V grades are usually the choice at around V2-V6 whereas the english technical grades are most often quoted for the easier bouldering around 4a-5c. I also find that for the easiest climbs below Severe/4a descriptive route grades are usually used.

Peak Bouldering by Rockfax does a good job at reflecting this by using V grades throughout but combining them with English tech grades for the easier climbs and then adding Font grades to the harder problems. The relationship of the grades below V1 with technical grades has been tweaked in this edition and is more or less in line with other recent bouldering guides so I think that the grade tables used this 2014 guide could finally become the definitive grades for many of the easier boulder problems. Furthermore they have also put a huge effort into sorting out the naming of the easier problems and as far as possible brought the problem names into line with the other popular guides to the area. (Rockfax grade tables)

Following colour coded circuits has long been the de rigueur approach to bouldering at Fontainebleau. The Rockfax team has developed has 60 colour coded circuits for Peak Bouldering and they organised try out days with local volunteers prior to publication to check the accuracy and value of the various circuits. (See the circuits PDF here) These graded circuits will be particularly attractive as an introduction to the various areas.

Smart phone owners will be pleased to see that QR codes have been included on the mapping as it can make navigation much simpler. Just scan the code and a map will open on your smartphone to ease navigating from the parking to the climbing area.

Wimberry, Tintwistle Knarr, Hobson Moor Quarry, New Mills Torrs, The Grinah Stones, Derwent, The Wool Packs, Wharncliffe, Bell Hagg, Rivelin, Bamford, Stanage, Burbage, Higgar Tor, Millstone, Owler Tor, Froggatt, Curbar, Baslow, Gardoms, Birchen, Stoney, Rubicon, Raven Tor, The Roaches, Ramshaw, Newstones and Baldstones, Gibb Tor, Pleasley Vale, Matlock Area, Cratcliffe, Robin Hood's Stride, Rowter Rocks, Harborough Rocks, Black Rocks, Dove Dale and Churnet Valley are all covered in great detail. However the inclusion of The Woolpacks has ruffled a few feathers but hopefully climbers will be respect the delicate nature of the rock and the environment at this unique destination.

Both authors Adrian Berry and Alan James have extensive local knowledge of bouldering throughout The Peak District and their attention to detail shines throughout this comprehensively updated and extremely well illustrated edition. At £29.95 it is a small price to pay for a lifetimes worth of Peak Bouldering. For an alternative view read what Matt Heason says about Peak Bouldering here on UK Climbing.




Lleida Climbs 2nd Edition

By Pete O’Donovan & Dani Andrada


Published by POD Climbing November 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9567006-2-9

Reviewed by Steve Crowe



Lleida Climbs by Pete O’Donovan & Dani Andrada is an extremely popular and modern multilingual photo topo guide to all of the very best climbing areas surrounding the city of Lleida. Pete O’Donavan has lived and climbed in the region for over 20 years and he has teamed up with the ever enthusiastic Dani Andrda to produce a stunning and truly inspirational climbing guidebook for less than £30.


In recent years sport climbing in the Catalan province of Lleida, situated in northeast Spain, has become increasingly popular and Lleida Climbs by Pete O’Donovan & Dani Andrada is widely recognised as the best climbing guidebook covering twenty one different zones including: Camarasa, Sant Llorenç de Montgai, Cubells, Alòs de Balaguer, La Pauta, Santa Ana, Santa Linya, Àger, Terradets, Vilanova de Meià, Abella de la Conca, Perles, Coll de Nargó, Tres Ponts and Oliana.


Crammed within the 424 pages (88 more than the first edition) are almost 50% more routes, many of these are on newly developed sectors at places such as Camarasa, Terradets, Alòs de Balaguer and Abella de la Conca. Profits from the first edition of this guide have directly funded the development of these additional sectors and many more of the new routes included in this expanded and improved second edition. In total Llieda Climbs features close to 3,000 single and multi-pitch routes, from grade IV to 9b but note that half of these are below 7a so I can categorically say that Lleida is not just for hot-shots! For detailed recommendations for climbs below 7a read this short article: http://www.lleidaclimbs.com/p/recommendations-v-to-6c.html.


Lleida Climbs is full of crisp clear photodiagrams and packed with inspirational action photos. The time and effort taken to capture so many excellent, top down, climbing shots shows Pete’s passion for this area. Also included is a comprehensive route index in the back of the gudebook. There is also a very informative blog (www.lleidaclimbs.com) to accompany the LLEIDA CLIMBS guidebook, giving detailed information about all the sectors and updates for the existing guide which is written by Pete O'Donovan. For more information about the guide, and for updates if you already own it, visit www.lleidaclimbs.com





North Wales Climbs

Written by Mark Reeves, Jack Geldard and Mark Glaister

Published October 2013 by Rockfax

ISBN: 978-1-873341-82-7

Reviewed by Steve Crowe


North Wales is one of the most popular climbing areas in the United Kingdom with a long and colourful history at the cutting edge of climbing development. Multi pitch mountain routes on crags like Lliwedd were established well over 100 years ago. The new route development still continues to this day with the recent popularity for sports climbs along the A55 corridor. North Wales Climbs by Rockfax includes a very comprehensive coverage of all the best climbs across the wide spectrum of climbing that makes North Wales a very special climbing area.  


The North Coast Limestone routes are described in detail along with the very best Gogarth climbs. Snowdonia is well represented from the accessible Slate climbs with their many refurbished bolted climbs, to the classic multi pitch mountain routes across the area. The ever popular Tremadog outcrops are well covered and this section includes the very best routes routes at Cwm Silyn and Carreg Hyll Drem. A good selection of the quieter classics around Betws y Coed and The Moelwyns are described including my favourite hidden gem of Clogwyn yr Eryr in the secluded Crafnant Valley. Finally a selection of Mid Wales climbs are also included. The only obvious omission is the Lleyn Peninsula where perhaps the routes are considered a little too serious for popular consumption? Also I couldn’t find any reference to the many boulder problems, surely there was room for a few classics on the world famous Cromlech Boulders? However with over 1000 routes covering a wide grade range from Moderate to E7 and sport climbs from 4 to 9a there should be enough challenges within these 400 pages for the most enthusiastic of weekend warriors!  


The photodiagrams come up the standard that we now expect from Rockfax Guidebooks but lets not forget the huge effort involved in obtaining the crag photos for every single crag in this impressive guide.


Many of the action photos are practical and taken from the ground to really show off the routes from below, however the photo of Hazel Robson laybacking up Holy, Holy, Holy on page 48 really makes your fingers ache. Meanwhile the stunning photo on page 16 of Wes Hunter teetering up the sensational Poetry Pink on the Rainbow Slab makes you want to jump in the car and head straight to North Wales!


Another excellent innovation is the inclusion of QR codes on all the maps which means that you can use your smartphone to navigate to the chosen crag as well as check out the relevant tides for the next three days. For the more mountainous routes you can also consider photographing the topo and route description and then leave your heavy (750g) guide behind for the day.


For only £29.95 Rockfax have created another professionally produced guide describing over 1000 climbs, enough routes for a lifetime of climbing trips, all clearly described on stunning photodiagrams. This is an excellent climbing guidebook to a very popular area.


For more information about all Rockfax climbing guides visit Rockfax Publications (http://www.rockfax.com/climbing-guides/)





SPAIN: Costa Blanca

Written by Chris Craggs and Alan James

Published 11th February 2013 by Rockfax

Reviewed by Steve Crowe

Climbing on and around the Costa Blanca has been an extremely popular pastime since the availability of cheap holidays to Benidorm and beyond. Rockfax have be producing climbing guides to the Costa Blanca since 1996. The original triple destination guide covered all three areas Costa Blanca, Mallorca and  El Chorro within a mere 288 pages. This latest guide exclusively covers a wide selection of the very varied climbing on the Costa Blanca within 460 glossy pages making it the biggest and best Rockfax ever! Crags Included are:
Murcia - Leyva, Mula, La Panocha, Orihuela
Alicante - Marín, Salinas, Sax, Peña del Corb, Peña Rubia, Foradà, Reconco, Agujas Rojas, Cabezon de Oro
Benidorm - Sella, Castellets, Puig Campana, Ponoch, Vall de Guadar (Echo), Bolulla, Abdet, Guadalest
Calp Area - Bernia, Altea, Mascarat, Castellet de Calp, Sierra de Toix, Peñón de Ifach, Olta, Pinos
Xaló Valley - Peña Roja, Murla, Alcalalí, L’Ocaive, Font d’Axia, Pego
Gandía Area - Gandía, Salem, Bellús, Aventador, Montesa

Despite its size there was not room for everything so a small number of crags that were in the 2005 edition have been dropped from the current edition of Costa Blanca; Ibi, Sierra Magdelena and Alcoi amongst others were dropped due to them being either very outlying, or not very popular. However six additional crags are included in the Costa Blanca Xtra miniguide which is free from the Rockfax website. To make room for more routes the first ascent information has been omitted from the printed guide but that information is still available on the Rockfax Database. Some significant new crags have been added and the best of the bunch is probably the very accessible Mula which has almost 100 routes evenly spread across all the grades of interest to potential purchasers of this guide. It is great to see that the Wildside sector is right up to date, or at least it was! On my last trip the locals were try to put it out of date with more new lines! However seeing El camino de le flores 8c on the Top 50 list made me smile, I doubt that there will be too many "Costa Blanca Top 50" completers! All in all it is another professionally produced guide with over 3000 routes, enough routes for a lifetime of holiday trips, all clearly described on stunning photodiagrams. At £29.95 that is less than 1 penny per route! This is an excellent update to a very popular area. The section on Costa Blanca ridges can also be downloaded to your mobile phone to save you carrying this weighty tome all day! For more information about this Mobile Miniguide here.  If you want another opinion you can also read Justin Shiels detailed review on UKC.com, "This is a great guide which makes the last edition obsolete. It is well illustrated with inspiring photographs of varied crags, people and grades" Justin Shiels. 



A Canvas of Rock

by Mark Radtke

Available direct from here.

Reviewed by Steve Crowe

A Canvas of Rock by Mark Radtke is an engaging autobiography in which he describes his  personal experiences and friendships with some of the influential climbers from the 1970s to the present day. "The sheer amount of time spent living outdoors, touching rock and getting dirty with the elements has undoubtedly brought me closer to nature. I know that, I am a part of nature and not above it. Climbing has allowed me to explore my own fallibilities and shortcomings. Failure has occasionally resulted in one or two broken bones, but more often a bruised ego has been the more painful. It has provided the opportunity to satisfy creative urges as in my own minds eye I have painted new routes on canvases of rock." A Canvas of Rock is focused on the Yorkshire new routing scene but also explores Rad's trips to Europe, America and a year new routing in Australia. Read more about Rad and his autobiography here. It is a captivating read which has not avoided discussing and explaining the controversial "bolt wars"! Be careful when you pick it up that you have got plenty of free time because you will not be able to put it down! This is what John Sheard wrote in Climber Magazine "This is engaging writing which seamlessly moves between the humour of fun climbing and something altogether more serious. It extends from shared days spent on competitive bouldering to the personal intensity of hard traditional climbing in Gordale, where outcomes can be very different. A timely first book, it leaves me with the definite feeling that there is more to come from this author. I look forward to sharing his continuing adventure."  Reviewed by Steve Crowe 12th January 2013


FRANCE: Ariege

Written by Chris Craggs, John Arran, Anne Arran

Published December 2012 by Rockfax

Reviewed by Steve Crowe

The latest climbing guide from Rockfax covers the compact area of the French Pyrenées near to Andorra. There are many activities on offer in The Ariege from winter sports like skiing to cycling, caving, mountain walking and river rafting however this guide details the extensive rock climbing on offer, short boulder problems and single pitch sport through to multi pitch mountain routes. It is the huge variety of rock types within a compact area that is one of the great attractions of the Ariege limestone, granite and gneiss and close by. The layout of the Ariege Guide follows the usual template with extensively researched photo diagrams for all the crags supplemented by many inspirational action photographs. FRANCE: Ariege by Rockfax is the first comprehensive climbing guide to this superb area. There are over 25 crags and more than 1600 routes described within 312 pages. The crags covered include Alliat, Appy, Arabaux, Arbiech, Auzat, Ax-les-Thermes, Baychon, Calamès, Dent d'Orlu, Génat, Goulier, La Roche Ronde, Laramade Bouldering, Lavelanet, Le Carol, Le Saut de l'Ours, Les Toulousains, Orlu Bouldering, Pic Rouge de Belcaire, Quie d'Urs, Roc à Steph, Roc de Sédour, Roc des Abeilles, Roquefixade, Sabart, Sibada, Sinsat and Verdun. Another useful example of attention to detail is the inclusion of GPS co-ordinates for all the parking areas. Details of all by Rockfax Publications publications can be found by here. Reviewed by Steve Crowe 12th January 2013





The Bumper Book of Fun Climbing

Written by Dave Hume and Mike Blood


Reviewed by Karin Magog

The Bumper Fun Book of Climbing is an really entertaining mix of short stories, poems, problems pages and other bits and pieces all climbing related. There's even a photographic guide for aspirant bumblies, a year's training plan and a psychometric test to determine your climbing stereotype. I loved the new British Climbing Dictionary e.g. Areete: (Geordie Sl. ) climb when ready; Avoid: don't look down, and the Shortly Before The Incident quotes e.g.''Of course it'll pull down clear of that crack.'' The short stories were my favourite though and really made me laugh, they're a 'slightly' exaggerated version of a real-life climbing situation. My other favourites were The Rock Doctors problem pages which certainly provided some extremely useful advice for common climbing situations (what do you do with that second who is always leaving your gear behind in the crack? You'll have to buy the book to find out!) It's a great book for dipping in and out of or for taking away on holiday and had me sitting laughing away. The two authors have done a great job and I can't recommend it highly enough. You can buy The Bumper Fun Book of Climbing from www.cliperati.com or it is also available via Amazon Marketplace and from www.lulu.com , as an ebook on Amazon Kindle store, and now as an epub version to work on other non-Kindle readers from www.ivanovella.com/books. The basic price is £9.99 for paperback (+p&p), and the Kindle ebook is £3.44 (not the £3.99 on the poster). Reviewed by Karin Magog 10th January 2013



Tarragona Climbs by Pete O'Donovan & Dani Andrada.

Written by Pete O'Donovan and Dani Andrada

Published November 2012

Reviewed by Steve Crowe 

Tarragona Climbs is a superb selective guidebook to the most popular sport climbing venues in the Catalan province of Tarragona in Northwest Spain. It is filled with inspirational action photography and detailed photo diagrams. Written by renowned photographer Pete O'Donovan in conjunction with one of the world's leading rock climbers Dani Andrada, Pete and Dani enjoy an intimate local knowledge of Catalunya from climbing in the area for so many years. Tarragona Climbs features eleven different zones, including Siurana, Margalef, La Mussara, Montral, Montsant and Vilnova de Prades. It uses stunning detailed photo diagrams to describe over 2,500 routes from F4 to F9b. That's enough climbing for a lifetime! Available from climbing shops soon or direct from Cordee. I have booked my flight already!  Reported 20th October 2012




Over the Moors: The Definitive Climbers Guide to Moorland Gritstone

Edited by Martin Kocsis with Ian Carr

Published June 2012 by the BMC

Reviewed by Steve Crowe 

The toil is over. Martin Kocsis and Ian Carr can finally climb elsewhere. For well over a decade they have examined every moorland nook and cranny and with the help of Niall Grimes have recorded their findings in the latest BMC climbing guide. Over the Moors is more than just a definitive climbers guide, it is a spectacular celebration of all that is best about climbing high up on Kinder and Bleaklow, and down in the Chew Valley. The coverage is extensive encompassing  Kinder, Wimberry, Shining Clough, Standing Stones, Ravenstones, Pule Hill, Shooter’s Nab, Laddow, Rollick Stones, Upperwood, Rob’s Rocks, Wilderness Rocks, Den Lane, Running Hill Pits, West Nab, Hobson Moor, New Mills Torrs. In all 4000 climbs are recorded on over 600 pages. The guide is littered with a kaleidoscope of action photographs which illuminate the breathtaking adventures that await you. Dave Simmonite had to put his camera down and pull on his rock shoes to check out one route where all others had failed! This is a guide for all seasons and all tastes. Rock, ice, bouldering, soloing, sport and even urban floodlit climbs are described all with the same enthusiasm! So many fantastic photographs but the shot of Dave Pegg, totally committed, on page 461 sums up climbing for me, superb. Many years ago I voted against the BMC continuing to publish guide books, how wrong I was! Well done to everyone involved, climbing guidebooks don’t come any better than this. As Mick Ward says in his detailed review on UKC Over the Moors is up there with LLanberis by Paul Williams and Cloggy by Nick Dixon. Read sample pages on the BMC website here. Over the Moors: Download free extras from the BMC website. Over the Moors by Martin Kocsis and Ian Carr will go on to inspire the next generation to explore and develop the many diverse crags all across moorland gritstone and the guide will be remembered fondly long after it has gone out of print so buy your copy now... while you can!

Reviewed by Steve Crowe 11th September 2012






by Alan James, Chris Craggs

Published May 2012 by Rockfax

Reviewed by Karin Magog


Peak Limestone is another glossy production by Rockfax which covers the vast assortment of limestone crags and quarries that are climbed on in this area. It is divided into three geographical areas; the north, the south-east and the south-west. Of these the north makes up the largest percentage of the book, covering the likes of Stoney and Horseshoe in the north-east, the classic areas of Water-cum-Jolly, Raven Tor and Cheedale in the middle then finally the popular quarries around Buxton such as Harpur Hill and Staden. The south-west comprises mainly of Dovedale, Manifold and Beeston Tor, which leaves the south-east and the popular crags around Matlock such as High Tor and Wildcat. I have to admit I haven't done stacks of climbing in the Peak, being a big fan of Yorkshire limestone, but I have climbed on most of the major crags in the guide at least once and flicking through I was surprised at how many of the venues I recognised from trips down in the 90's when I was just getting into sports climbing. There seems to be a massive choice of crags in this area, covering all grades both on the trad and sports climbing front, so definitely something for everyone.


Like you would expect from Rockfax the guide is well adorned with clear photo-diagrams, easy to follow approach maps and plenty of other useful info, such as approach, access and conditions. The route descriptions are well written with enough info to compliment the diagrams and the lay-out is  nicely uncluttered. There's a good range of action photos, covering routes of all grades and styles. I was particularly drawn to some of the photos of Stoney as this is somewhere I've hardly climbed but I think I'll be checking out Windy Buttress this summer. The photo of Luke Holmes on Scoop Wall (pg 43) is one such photo and sells the route well I think. However, I was confused by the photo of Laura Hudson on the infamous Body Machine rock-over (pg 7) as it just didn't look like how I remembered. I pretty sure she's on the equally as good Indecent Exposure to it's left? However, small errors like these are almost inevitable, especially when you're turning around so many good guides so quickly. The guide also has a route index (always useful I find), both a trad and sport graded list (great for discussion in the pub afterwards) and details on local climbing walls, shops and pubs (all very useful for our British summers!). There's also a page on gear and bolting with web addresses of both bolt funds if you wish to contribute.


All in all a very useful guide to have in your collection and one which I'm sure will be very popular. A good joint effort by writers Alan James and Chris Craggs.





by Mark Glaister, Pete Oxley

Published February 2012 by Rockfax

Reviewed by Steve Crowe

It is seven years since the last climbing guide to Dorest was published by Rockfax. This new guide covers Portland, Lulworth and Swanage. It includes many entirely new sectors with all the sport routes in the area and the bulk of best trad climbing in a bumper (424 page) edition.

Dorset follows the excellent Rockfax format which includes useful logistical tips at the front, clear maps and excellent photo-diagrams  The guide offers a great mix of grades and styles of climbing, from easy slabs to ferocious overhangs, deep water soloing. The guide is littered with completely new set of excellent action photos which provide a good indication of the nature of a particular crag and work well with the photo-diagrams when deciding on which of the many crags to visit.


To make space for the additional routes and larger than ever photo diagrams the bouldering has been dropped from this edition however a Miniguide to Portland Bouldering – Cuttings Boulderfield is available to download for £4.  The Devon sports climbs have also been omitted, these can now be found in the recent South West Climbs also by Rockfax.

Dorest is available now at £24.95 and can be bought directly from Rockfax
Reviewed 20th April  2012



Soothe Away Aches from Sore Fingers. A unique new product arrived at Climbonline Towers recently which is designed to soothe sore fingers. Spiky can be used to warm up the fingers, especially before a fingerboard workout or a crimpy wall session. Spiky is also very nice to use after climbing to massage those achey fingers and very good a nursing tweaks. Spiky  is discrete enough to use in the pub after a session without drawing unwanted attention! Finger injuries be gone! On sale now £3. They are currently available at Durham Climbing Centre and The Climbing Works and will soon be available from a shop near you. In the meanwhile you may be able to get your Spiky direct from Mickey Stainthorpe Reviewed 14th March 2012





By Niall Grimes
Published November 2011 by Ape Index

Reviewed by Steve Crowe

Boulder Britain is a selected guide to the best of British Bouldering. It covers all the best bouldering spot of England, Scotland and Wales with full access details, many inspiring action photos and lots of useful topos to a handy selection of great problems. Boulder Britain doesn’t aim to replace the local definitive guidebooks rather serves to encourage climbers to travel more widely and too seek out pastures new. Niall's very special and humorous brand of enthusiasm is sparkles thoughout what could otherwise have been a rather dull encyclopaedia. The highlight for me however is the fantastic selection of inspirational action photos from many photographers including our very own Mark Savage

Many crags in Northumberland are mentioned including Back Bowden, Bowden Doors, Callerhues, Dovehole, Hepburn, Kyloe Crag, The Woods, Queens Crag, Ravenshuegh, Rothley and Shaftoe.

The North York Moors coverage includes our Bridestones, Clemmitt’s Wood, and The Wainstones.

Other venues mentioned by Niall in Boulder Britain that are within easy reach from the North East are Brimham, Goldsborough and Slipstones.


In all there are 180 venues included and 3,200 problems described so perhaps there is no better time to start bouldering a little further afield. There is no longer any excuse about being unable to locate those far flung areas that you have read about in the news! For a look inside, to read more reviews and to order a copy visit www.boulderbritain.com Reviewed 14th March 2012




Published November 2011 by Ground Up

Reviewed by Karin Magog


This is the much anticipated new guide by the North Wales based Ground Up team and really is an outstanding looking guide. It's been a while since the heady days of the 80's, when slate was the happening place, however, it's seen a bit of a resurgence in more recent years. The old fixed gear has steadily been replaced and new routes have been rapidly appearing, especially in the lower grades. The quarries are once more fashionable and this book is more than just a guide, it's a celebration of slate climbing.


First off, the practicalities – how easy is the guide to use? Each section starts with a detailed introduction to the area which includes info on conditions, approach and graded lists of both trad and sport routes. Navigating your way around all the different areas and levels of the quarries can seem a bit daunting at first. However, as well as clear approach maps throughout, there are also photographs of the more complicated areas such as Australia and Rainbow Walls, with the different levels, classic routes and approach paths detailed. This makes moving around the various levels much less complicated. The photo-diagrams are very clear and sharp and are complimented by well written route descriptions. All these aspects already make this an excellent, easy to use guide. However, it's the extras that really sell this guide to me. First off there is an amazing selection of action pictures. Here all grades and several decades are represented and really highlight the delights on offer. Climbing on slate is all about movement, consequently you make some pretty interesting shapes on some of the routes. Some of my favourite pics include:- Ivan Holroyd on Where are my Sensible Shoes, Jeff McDonald on Ride the Wild Surf, the sequence of Johnny Dawes on The Quarryman, George Smith on The Wall Within, unknown climber on The Take Over by Dept. C, and James McHaffie attempting the Meltdown project. The guide also includes short profiles of some of the iconic Slateheads, (the many characters responsible for the development over the years) and includes such greats as Johnny Dawes, Paul Pritchard, Stevie Haston, John Redhead and Martin Crook, as well as those less well known out of the area. Another added feature is the Diary of a Slatehead by Martin Crook, which gives a more colourful view on the history of this area. There's plenty more to read in the book which is great when you're sat in Pete's Eats waiting for the sun to break through.


The Ground Up team have done a superb job here and their passion for the area really shines through. I can't praise this guide enough and whether you are a slate aficionado or a slate virgin you should buy it and get exploring.





by Adrian Berry

Crags covered include: Ardeche, Actinadas, Les Branches, Gorge du Tarn, Le Jonte,

Le Boffi, Cantobre, Thaurac, Hortus, Claret, Russan, Seynes, Mouries, Orgon

Published November 2011 by Rockfax

Reviewed by Karin Magog

This is Rockfax's latest guide and is yet another valuable guidebook to France, the third they have produced in recent years. It basically covers the area between the two main auto-routes of the E11 in the west and the E15 in the east. As Adrian points out in his intro the title given for the book is a loose term as some of the crags are outside of this region, but it was chosen to give an idea of the geographical area covered. The guide covers seventeen crags in total with some of the well known areas in the guide being the Ardeche area in the north-east, Orgon down near Avignon, Claret and Russan near Nimes and the famous Gorge du Tarn near Millau..  The area is divided into five geographical regions each of which come with the usual detailed info such as map, where to stay and local guidebooks.  The individual crags then have their own intro giving you an idea of what to expect from the crag, best time to visit and how to find it.  As you would expect each crag also comes complete with clear photo topos, which give an excellent indication of what to expect from the climbing. Some of these can't have been easy to get either. The guide seems well balanced with a good mix of high and low grade venues and routes, therefore offering something for everyone. The action photos are okay, generally reinforcing the nature of the climbing at that particular crag rather than inspiring you to do a certain route.  Although the photo of Jonathan Ayrton on the amazing Le tube neural at Seynes certainly brought back memories, one of the must do routes at that crag. The guide seems well researched and a lot of work obviously went into it. On the whole an excellent, well put together guide and a good effort by Adrian. For a sport climbing trip this area of France should be high on everyone's list of places to visit and you'd get several holidays out of this guide alone.




Sport CLIMBING + (Second Edition)

by Adrian Berry and Steve McClure

Published June 2011 by Rockfax

Reviewed by Steve Crowe


Sport CLIMBING + by Adrian Berry and Steve McClure was first published by Rockfax in 2006 and has become acknowledged as essential reading for all sport climbers. It covers every aspect of sport climbing from gear and ropework to tactics and training methods. The belaying section has been updated to show the newest belay devices and discusses in detail how to use a Grigri safely. Both onsighting and redpointing approaches are discussed in detail from warming up and preparation through to resting and refueling! How to improve technique and mental toughness as well as good diet and skin care are all covered. Multipitch sport climbing has its own chapter too. New in this edition is a detailed discussion of the advantages of using a Personal Anchor System (PAS) for the speedy setting up of stances. Sport CLIMBING + is packed with inspirational action pictures and many updated instructional photographs. It also details a good selection of sport climbing destinations in England and beyond. Absolutely nothing is missed out. If you have not already got a copy now is the time to buy this updated second edition.   




Lleida Climbs

By Pete O’Donovan & Dani Andrada


Reviewed by Steve Crowe


Lleida Climbs by Pete O’Donovan & Dani Andrada is a modern multilingual photo topo guide to some of the very best climbing areas in northeast Spain around Lleida. In recent years the Catalan province of Lleida, has become increasingly popular and Lleida Climbs by Pete O’Donovan & Dani Andrada covers twenty one different zones and features close to 2,000 single and multi-pitch routes, from grade IV to 9b half of which are below 7a. Lleida Climbs is crammed full of excellent photodiagrams and inspirational action photos. There are detailed maps, complete with GPS coordinates for parking spaces, provide easy-to-follow approach instructions. The text is in English, Catalan and Spanish. There is also a very informative blog (www.lleidaclimbs.com) to accompany the LLEIDA CLIMBS guidebook, giving detailed information about all the sectors and updates for the existing guide." Pete O'Donovan. For more information about the guide, and for updates if you already own it, visit www.lleidaclimbs.com



THE MATTERHORN - The Most Dangerous Mountain

by Steffen Kjaer
Published April 2011 by Alpine Avenue Books

Reviewed by Karin Magog

THE MATTERHORN - The Most Dangerous Mountain by Steffen Kjaer Published April 2011 by Alpine Avenue Books

Since the dramatic first ascent in 1865, the drama and the myths have created a unique interest in this mountain, which has probably caused the deaths of more mountaineers than any other. Each year, thousands of climbers attempt to reach the summit, but only one in five succeeds. And every season, the mountain claims the lives of ten to twenty climbers. Steffen Kjaer describes his and his climbing partner Brian Jorgensen’s attempt to make it to the summit of the Matterhorn. After careful preparations and perfect acclimatization, they take off to face the challenge of their lives. On the descent, however, something goes wrong. All of a sudden, they find themselves caught in one of Matterhorn’s countless and lethal rockslides... "I have to admit that mountaineering isn't something that usually grabs my attention, and although I can see some of the appeal of the Matterhorn (it's a beautiful looking mountain), the mental effort required to safely climb mountains is not for me. Hence I started reading this book with a dispassionate interest and thinking it would be a bit of a chore. However, after the first chapter I was already grabbed by the story and drawn along by the enthusiasm of the author. The book is very easy to read and the story well told without too many technical terms (although there's a very good glossary at the back if you need it). We follow their journey from their arrival at Zermatt, through their period of acclimatisation on smaller neighbouring peaks to their final preparations for the big day. The account of the final ascent and descent was riveting and I was reluctant to put the book down. It didn't take long to read at all. Throughout the book are various short articles, which were generally interesting and added to the overall production. These included the story of the first ascent, two interviews with local guides, extracts from the North Wall Bar visitor's book (which I found particularly interesting), as well as a piece on acclimatisation and a letter from President Roosevelt amongst others. Quite an unusual mix of all things 'Matterhorn'. I think this book would certainly appeal to both mountaineers and non-mountaineers alike and I would highly recommend it. However, one things for sure, after reading all about the loose rock, difficult route finding and hauling up fixed ropes I won't be in the queue in the near future!" Karin Magog



by Alan James, Mark Glaister, Daimon Beail

Published February 2011 by Rockfax

Reviewed by Karin Magog

It doesn't seem that long since the last Mallorca rock climbing guide was published by Rockfax but it's actually four years which was a surprise. This new guide is bigger and better than the old one, with nearly twice as many pages (up from 176 to 304). There's a few new crags including including the superb Es Verger but the big bonus is the Deep Water Soloing section at the back. Mallorca is a very popular destination for this sub sport and it's well documented here, great for those groups who like to mix things around a bit. I was also glad to see that they'd managed to track down the route names that were missing in the previous guide – good job.

Mallorca Climbs follows the standard Rockfax
format which I'm sure everyone is now familiar with. This includes plenty of useful info at the front, clear maps and excellent photo-diagrams This new guide has more of these than the last guide, with only a few remaining hand drawn topos of those sectors where photography was obviously impractical. The photos also offer an approximate route length which was very useful and made spotting the endurance crags nice and easy, as well as being a reminder to be careful with your rope length. The guide offers a great mix of grades and styles of climbing, from easy slabs to ferocious overhangs, deep water soloing to multi-pitch adventure, mountain settings to crags on the beach – surely there's something here for everyone?

The action photos are pretty good in the main although some of them do seem a bit soft. They give a good indication of the nature of the particular crag and work well with the photo-diagrams when deciding on which of the many crags to visit. I particularly like the front cover which certainly sells the place to me.

It's been a long while since I've visited Mallorca but this new guide has certainly whetted my appetite. Another good production from Rockfax
and well worth buying.
MALLORCA Sport Climbing and Deepwater Soloing guide by Alan James, Mark Glaister, Daimon Beail is be available now, price £24.95. Reviewed 10th April  2011



Yorkshire Gritstone Bouldering: Volume 2.

By Steve Dunning and Ryan Plews.

Published by Total-Climbing.com
Card cover, 15cm x 21cm, 293 pages.

Reviewed by Steve Crowe

See sample pages here.


An excellent new guide book by Steve Dunning and Ryan Plews to bouldering on the wilder and higher crags in the peaceful and quieter parts of Yorkshire! It covers many superb quiet and remote destinations such as Simon's Seat, Lords Seat, Hen Stones, Crookrise, Deer Gallows, Fairies Chest, Hellifield, Rylstone, Brandrith, Flasby Fell, Goldsborough, Guisecliff. It that isn't obscure enough for you there is also a chapter packed full of classic esoterica. Printed in a full colour A5 landscape format and with full colour topos and stunning colour photography throughout. The guide also has easy-to-follow approach maps for each area covered and has lots of useful information about bouldering ethics, weather, conditions, grades etc. Bored with bouldering at the same old venues? Looking for some fresh challenges. Check out Yorkshire Grit Bouldering Vol 2. Available now priced £22 published by Total-Climbing.com. Read Greg Chapmans excellent and detailed review at Rockrun.com   Reviewed 4th April 2011





FRANCE-Côte d'Azur

by Chris Craggs

Published by Rockfax

Reviewed by Steve Crowe


Rockfax's second selective guide to France is very impressive. Packed within its 400 pages it includes over 25 superb crags along the sunny Mediterranean Coast of France, from Marseille to Monaco. It also includes inland venues such as Sainte-Victoire, Chateauvert and the Verdon Gorge. With the usual excellent photo diagrams and clear maps it is easy to get an appreciation of the crags even before you leave home! Chris Craggs has been climbing in France since the 1980's and this guide reflects his detailed experience and knowledge of the area. The guide seems well balanced with a good mix across grades of both single and multi pitch routes it offers something for all tastes. Further reading on UK Climbing. There is also a third edition in the Rockfax France series due out later in 2011 covering the South West from the Ardeche to Gorges du Tarn (Languedoc-Roussillon) however there is enough clear and concise information in this one volume to provide sufficient climbing for many years to come!

FRANCE Côte d'Azur by Chris Craggs is be available now, price £24.95. Reviewed 3rd March 2011



Miura Lace up
Reviewed by Steve Crowe

Upper: Suede leather, slip lasted

Lining: Dentex

Sole: Vibram® XS Grip 4 mm

Sizes: 32 - 46 including half sizes

Weight: approx 450 grams per pair

I mush admit that I was a bit skeptical at first and took some pursading to try them but after slipping into them and lacing them up I soon forgot that I didn’t have my faithful “Pinks” on! The fit is a personal thing but for me the Miuras were precise without being uncomfortable. They aren't super sensitive, nor are they overly stiff. The Miura is designed to stretch in the back half of the shoe rather than the front which should help you stand on small edges.

It's nice to climb in a shoe that gives you confidence. I've worn 5.10 shoes for many years and have been very trusting of the C4 rubber but it took me no time at all to trust the new rubber. I was pleasantly surprised to find that these shoes stick very well on both slabs and edges also they felt particularly at home on the steep tufa walls in Catalunya.


La Sportiva's Miura Lace Up is the perfect performance shoe for cracks, small pockets, vertical edge climbing and overhanging steep rock. You can confidently grab positive edges with your toes and happily hook lips with your heels. I highly recommend these to anyone who wants a precise lace up for all round performance. More info on the La Sportiva website.

Reviewed by Steve Crowe 13th January 2011






The Petzl Gri assisted-locking device.

Reviewed by Steve Crowe


GRIGRI 2, the new Petzl belay device with assisted braking.


Petzl have recently redesigned their popular belay device the Grigri to accommodate the wide range of modern ropes, from super skinny ropes 8.9mm up sturdy 11mm wall ropes. I borrowed a Grigri2 from Rockworks Shop at the Newcastle Climbing Centre and took it on a six week road test.
There have been many changes made to the Grigri2; it is 25% smaller and 20% lighter weighing in at a mere 185g. However the actual cam is slightly larger which means that it is less likely to lock up when paying the rope out when leading and it is significantly smoother when lowering off. However the release handle is slightly smaller and takes a little getting used to at first. Lowering off is slightly slower than with the original but this is probably another safety feature.

The new cam design includes a smaller groove which means that it can grab skinnier ropes much better and without the slippage that was a problem when using the original Grigri with modern lightweight 9mm single ropes.


Feedback that I received from climbers that have had the opportunity to use the new Grigri2 say that it feels much easier to payout rope and yet would lock better in the event of a leader fall.






The new device is billed as an assisted locking device not an auto lock in an attempt to reduce the amount of misuse the Grigri has suffered in the past. It is worth remembering that the belayer is always required to keep a hand on the dead end rope when belaying with ANY device and the new Grigri2 is no different!  The new Grigri should be available during the spring 2011.



In summary the new Grigri2 works just like the original Grigri but with added benefits; is much smaller to handle, lighter to carry and significantly safer. I would suggest that if you regularly lead with modern 9mm sport ropes or have had your original Grigri in constant use for almost 20 years then it may be time to consider upgrading to the new Grigri2.



Want to get a glimpse of it in action?  Check out the Petzl website.






Read another excellent and detailed review of the Grigri2 by Justin Lawson:


Reviewed by Steve Crowe 10th January 2011






by Mark Glaister

Published by Rockfax

Reviewed by Karin Magog

The latest Rockfax is a mighty tomb covering a vast area from Bristol down through Devon and Cornwall and finishing up along the south coast as far as Swanage. With so much quality climbing to cover I don't envy the task of it's author in deciding what to include and what to omit. This will always be a contentious issue. Personally if I'm making the effort to drive to the south west from the north east I'm unlikely to bother climbing in the Avon Gorge, so I would have rather seen some of those 24 pages dedicated to other areas such as Sharpnose, which is infuriatingly selective. This is perhaps true for many of the crags, with just enough routes to wet your appetite, thereby ensuring sales of the definitive guides to repeat visitors.

Once you get into the guide the number of crags covered is staggering. There's the ones I'd heard of such as the Avon and Cheddar Gorges, Black Church, Sharpnose, Tintagel, Pentire, Bosigran, Sennen, Chair Ladder, Lizard Point, Anstey's, Portland and Swanage. However, these crags are complimented by an array of other venues offering a good choice of climbing styles and rock-types. There's the various quarried venues such as Portishead and Cheesewring, the sports venue of Brean Down, the culm slabs of Gull Rock and Vicarage Cliff, the committing Carn Gowla and Gurnard's Head, the killas slate of Kenidjack, the superb granite cliffs around Land's End, the Dartmoor Tors and the outrageous looking Berryhead to name just a few. The guide's most impressive feature as always are the high quality photo diagrams, the work involved to compile them massive. To me this is a big selling point as they really offer a flavour of the style of climbing on offer. The diagrams are backed up with written route descriptions and the usual rockfax icons. The guide as always contains easy to follow maps, backed up with written approach info, and a paragraph on access/tides and conditions. There's also a reasonable selection of action photos covering the full range of grades and styles on offer.

The guide covers climbs of all grades, although those operating in the VS-E2 range are the most catered for. For those wanting trad routes of E4 and above there seems to be little new stuff to discover but all the classics (such as Fay, Pacemaker, Darkinbad, Il Duce and America) are covered. With a guide of this size there will always be errors to find, perhaps the most blatant is the incorrect description of Coronary Country, which is described as climbing to the good spike of Fay before heading up to the pegs. This error first appeared in the 2000 CC guide (check the 1988 guide for the correct description) and the fact that it has been replicated here highlights how much Rockfax rely on the definitive guides for their information.
All in all though an excellent production and a must buy for all those climbers thinking of visiting this area of the country. There's enough routes in here to keep you going for several holidays, without visiting the same crag twice. This guide is a truly fine effort by the author Mark Glaister. West Country Classics by Mark Glaister is available now for £24.95 from Rockfax.
6th September  2010






by Jack Geldard

Published by Rockfax

Reviewed by Karin Magog

This new guide by Rockfax is pretty impressive, containing a vast choice of routes across North Wales all packed down into a pocket-sized book. It's concentrated on the mountain areas primarily (Gogarth, Llandudno, the Lleyn Peninsular and the slate aren't included) but also includes an excellent choice of routes at the popular roadside venue of Tremadog. No guide to North Wales would be complete without the Llanberis Pass and Cloggy and both are included in some detail here, giving an excellent selection of classics in the VS-E3 range. Where this guide excels however, is the selection of routes in lesser known areas such as Cwn Silyn, Lliwedd and Carneddau. Along with Ogwen and Betws y Coed these 5 areas are packed with quality routes below HVS, including numerous multi-pitch VDiffs. As one expects from a rockfax, each crag is accompanied with a clear photo-topo and the usual sketch map. The routes all have clear written descriptions and details of the crag descent are highlighted on the photos. Also included is a short but detailed winter section, just in case we get another winter like the last one. All in all a quality production which the author, Jack Geldard, deserves to be proud of. There's plenty of routes to keep the low extreme climber busy but if you climb at HVS or below and enjoy a good day out in the mountains then this guide is a must. North Wales Classics by Jack Geldard is available now, at £16.95 from RockfaxReviewed 1st June 2010 


FRANCE-Haute Provence

by Adrian Berry

Published by Rockfax

Reviewed by Karin Magog

This is Rockfax's latest guide and certainly doesn't disappoint. It basically covers the area east of the main autoroute du soleil, between the towns of Gap in the north-east and Avignon in the south-west, or in crag terms Ceuse in the north and Buoux in the south. The guide covers fourteen crags in total with some of the other well known crags in the guide being St Leger, Volx, Sisteron, Orpierre and Les Dentelles. The area is divided into four geographical regions each of which come with the usual detailed info such as map, where to stay and local guidebooks. The individual crags then have their own intro giving you an idea of what to expect from the crag, best time to visit and how to find it.

As you would expect each crag also comes complete with clear photo topos, which give an excellent indication of what to expect from the climbing. The guide seems well balanced with a good mix of high and low grade venues and routes, therefore offering something for everyone. Obviously this area has many outstanding crags and the author needed to be selective, however I was still disappointed to find Ventavon missing for example and some of the routes I'd done at both Buoux and Ceuse didn't make the cut either, but I know it's impossible to put everything in. The action photos are okay, generally reinforcing the nature of the climbing at that particular crag rather than inspiring you to do a certain route. However, for me the one of Toby Dunn climbing Mariotte at Combe Obscure really stood out. If you ever wondered what a 7c slab would be like check out page 183 – horrendous!

One design feature that I wasn't too keen on was the see through textboxes on top of some of the photos. It's a good space saving idea I agree but personally I would just make them white, less distracting. On the whole the guide seems well researched and pretty accurate, however, one typo that stood out was the sentence that suggests that the Cascade area at Ceuse gets the sun until late morning when in fact that's the only time it's not in the sun, a very important difference. On the whole an excellent, well put together guide and a good effort by Adrian. For a sport climbing holiday this area of France should be high on everyone's list of places to visit, making this guide an essential buy.

FRANCE Haute Provence by Adrian Berry is be available now, price £21.95. Reviewed 9th January 2010






by Chris Craggs and Alan James

Published by Rockfax

Reviewed by Karin Magog


Before I start this review I feel I should point out that this is an area of the country that I have little experience of.  Apart a couple of brief visits to The Roaches back in my student days I haven’t climbed at any of the crags in the guide.  However, that may change after pouring through the latest Rockfax and seeing all this large area has to offer.


The guide is divided into seven geographical areas, Staffordshire Grit, Windgather Area, Kinder Scout, Bleaklow, Chew Valley, Lancashire and the Cheshire Sandstone.  Each section is introduced with the now standard double-page photo and is accompanied with a general map marking the crags in that section.  Each individual crag has a more detailed map, a brief introduction, approach, a paragraph on conditions and a table which summarises the number and quality of routes in each grade band.  As you would expect with Rockfax the guide offers clear photo-topos with accompanying route descriptions.  The lay-out appears more spaced out and less cluttered than some of their other, more recent guides, better to have a few more pages and a clear, concise guide, than to produce a more crowded, but slightly less bulky guide.  One thing I really liked about the guide was the good number of action shots, which represented the full spread of grades on offer and the fantastic settings of many of the crags (good examples being the photos of Hanging Crack at Dovestones Edge and Ivory Tower at Kinder South, to name just two.)


No Rockfax would be complete without the usual detailed introduction, info on accommodation, local pubs, etc.  There’s also a selected graded list based on grade voting on the Rockfax Route Database, and a useful route index at the back of the guide. All in all another classy Rockfax production which showcases the delights this vast area has to offer.


Western Grit by Chris Craggs and Alan James is be available now, price £21.95. Reviewed 7th July 2009





by Ian Parnell and Neil Gresham

Published by Rockfax

Reviewed by Karin Magog
Third in the series, this is a very comprehensive book from Rockfax covering everything you need to know about winter climbing.  It’s written by Ian Parnell and Neil Gresham who have a vast amount of experience behind them.  Ian is perhaps better known for his mountaineering exploits, whereas Neil brings good knowledge of the more modern mixed climbs.  They are also both familiar with the infamous Scottish winter climbing and ice climbing.


Like previous publications, such as sports climbing +, this is a well laid out, easy to read book.  It is well-illustrated with photographs, both action and technical, and sports a few interesting anecdotes.  The book is divided into ten chapters: - starting out, equipment, mountain safety, ice (style and ethics), ice (techniques), mixed (style and ethics), mixed (techniques), the mind, training and destinations.  As someone who dabbled in winter climbing a few years ago I found the section on equipment particularly fascinating.  I hadn’t realised that some axes were more suited to ice or mixed, that clipper leashes existed (mine are fixed) and that crampons could be changed from dual to mono point.  This section alone was invaluable in bringing me up to date and refreshing my knowledge.  Mountain Safety was also well written and seems to cover all the basics.  For more in depth knowledge there are several books out there dedicated to this subject alone.  The main chapters on the two different types of winter climbing are a mine of information and I’m sure even the most experienced winter climber could learn something here, being a bit of a winter climbing punter I was a bit overwhelmed to be honest.  I was more at home reading the two sections on the mind and training as much of it applies to climbing in general.  The final section covers that all important question ‘where to go?’  Scotland is the biggest UK destination and is covered in the most detail accordingly.  Other areas include Wales, the Lake District, France, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, USA, Canada and Quebec.


All in all an impressive publication which should appeal to both those just starting out in winter climbing and the more experienced climber alike.







SCOTTISH ROCK VOLUMES 1and 2 by Gary Latter

Reviewed by Karin Magog
This pair of selected guides cover between them a vast proportion of the Scottish mainland and its associated Northern and Western Isles.  First out was Volume 1, which encompasses the area north of the Highland Boundary Fault but south of Skye and Torridon. There are eleven main areas described, these being Isle of Arran, The Arrochar Alps, Isle of Mull, Glen Coe & Glen Etive, Ardgour, Ardnamurchan, Glen Nevis, Ben Nevis, Central Highlands, The Cairngorms and finally Easter Ross.  The more recent Volume 2 covers ten areas, Skye, Applecross, Torridon, Gairloch, Coigach & Assynt, Sutherland, Caithness, Lewis & Harris, Pabbay & Mingulay and finally Orkney.


The guide has an entertaining and informative introduction with headings such as Using the Guide, Accommodation, Eating Out, Access, Wild Camping, Caravans (very amusing), Birds, Seasonal Restrictions, Directions, Conservation, Ethics, Style, Quality Assessment, Climate, Tidal Information, Weather Information, Wee Bastards (aka midges and ticks), Mountain Rescue and Grades.  Following this in Volume 1 is a section on geology and as someone who’s always amazed at the vast array of different rock to be climbed in the UK I found this particularly interesting (Scotland has some of the oldest rock in the UK, as well as the best, Lewisian Gneiss being the first to spring to mind).  Each short paragraph describes how the rock was formed, what its like to climb and where it’s found in Scotland.


Now onto the climbing areas themselves and each of the sections start with a good, overall map (more detailed maps follow if required), a short intro, info on accommodation and amenities and a brief but informative history.  Next the routes and the guide is well served throughout with clear photo diagrams (an excellent effort given some of the territory the guide covers), as well as detailed written descriptions.  Presented in a well laid out, generally uncluttered style means the guide is a pleasure to use.  The route numbers in the text and diagrams appear in a coloured dot, the colour of which signifies a particular grade range e.g. green for moderate to severe, purple for E4 and above.  This makes identifying crags of interest much easier when flicking through the guide.  Amazingly each grade range is well served so whether you’re after long, multi-pitch severes or hard, technical extremes there’s enough here to satisfy even the most manic of climbers.  There’s also plenty of action pictures which are well placed in the text and cover the full range of grades and styles of climbing on offer (amazingly the sun always seems to be shining).  The cover photograph of Volume 1 is an interesting choice but highlights the diversity Scotland has to offer, whereas the cover of Volume 2 has me booking my ferry to Lewis and dreaming of sun drenched rock.  Each volume stands at almost 500 pages and describing 1670 and 2400 routes respectively they offer amazing value for money.  It also means they’ll be heavy to carry up those multi-pitch mountain routes but I reckon that’s a small price to pay.


Being particularly familiar with many of the areas in Volume 2 I can testify to the excellent job that Gary has done.  I was browsing through the book with sweaty palms and exclamations of ‘we must get back there’, ‘that crag looks amazing’, ‘I would love to do that route’, etc.  All in all two superb publications that Gary deserves to be proud of.  It might have taken him 12 years to produce these guides but they were certainly worth the wait.  His love and knowledge of climbing in Scotland are present throughout the guides and help make them truly inspiring.  Get your copies now.



Reviewed by Karin Magog
After their well received North Wales Select Guide the Ground Up team rose to the challenge of producing a definitive guidebook to Gogarth. Since the last Climber’s Club guide to the area in 1990 there has been much development and although the CC had talked of publishing a new guide for several years nothing seemed to be happening. It was a big task for the Ground Up team to take on, in fact so large that they’ve decided to split the area into two volumes, North and South (the latter being due out later this year).

The guide follows a similar layout to the North Wales guide with each area receiving a detailed intro which includes the usual headings such as approach (including a good sketch map), conditions and basic info on aspect, rock-type,etc. There are also a few paragraphs which offer a general insight into the nature of the climbing and, like North Wales, a list of all the routes and their grades, which is particularly useful when you’re skimming through for ideas on which crag to visit.

The area that I feel this guide has really excelled in though is their use of photo-topos. These are well-produced and very clear, despite the number of routes on them. For Main Cliff the crag is covered by several overlapping photos and with a topo every few pages they are quick and easy to locate. I found the double-page photo on page 112 particularly stunning. The guide is easy to follow starting as it does at Holyhead Mountain and moving clockwise (or north) from there. The crag approaches, such as where to ab, are clearly found in the text and also shown on the photo diagrams, very useful. There’s also plenty of great action pictures spread right across the grades, my favourites include the one of ‘A Dream of White Horses’, just look at that exposure – awesome!

As well as the traditional Gogarth cliffs the guide also has details on the less well-known limestone sport crags along the north coast of Anglesey. In total the guide details over 500 routes, which is pretty impressive bearing in mind that this is only volume 1. The guide also sports a very detailed and interesting introduction on all aspects from access and conservation to the high speed ferry wake and loose rock. There’s also a good history section at the back which is split into decades and is illustrated by some great photos.

If I have any criticism of the guide it’s the use of split grades in places. This is perhaps understandable on some of the harder routes in Wen Zawn that may not have seen many repeats but surely Mammoth Direct deserves a more assertive grade than E5/6 6a/b. I know this crag in particular can be condition dependant but surely adding ‘top-end of the grade’ or ‘soft for the grade’ into the description may have been a better approach. (Personally I would go for top-end E5 6b and the same for Mammoth). However, this only applies to a handful of routes and certainly offers an opportunity for post climbing discussions!

All in all an excellent production, a big well done to all the Ground Up team and their editor Simon Panton. I’m looking forward to Gogarth South but in the meanwhile it’s off to Main Cliff this summer.

EL CHORRO ROCKFAX by Mark Glaister

Reviewed by Karin Magog
This, the latest guide from Rockfax, certainly doesn’t disappoint.  Previously, the climbing at El Chorro had been detailed in the triple-area guides (Costa Blanca, Mallorca and El Chorro), but now (in line with the other 2 areas) El Chorro finally has its own guidebook.


It’s the first time that photo topos (as opposed to hand drawn ones) have been used for the area and what an impact they make, for me really highlighting some of the impressive cliffs down there.  The lay-out is much less cluttered than some of the more recent Rockfax guides which makes using the guide easier and more pleasurable.  Add to that some superb action shots and you’re onto a winner. The areas included have been updated since the last guide to reflect local access restrictions and popularity, meaning we’ve lost the Upper Gorge (climbing is now banned here) and the small venue of Campillos Gorge but we’ve gained the worthwhile sounding wall at Villanueva de Cauche and the rather off-putting but apparently not bad Mijas.  Many of the popular areas such as Makinodromo and Desplomilandia have seen plenty of development in recent years offering even more to go at, especially in the higher grades.  However, there’s also plenty of less steep stuff around as a quick flick through the guide will testify. As with any Rockfax guide the intro and logistics sections supply all the answers to questions such as accommodation, getting there, best time of year, etc.  There’s also the usual high standard access and approach maps. All in all a very good looking guide to this popular and worthwhile area, that Mark Glaister deserves to be pleased with.  It inspired me so much I’ve already booked my flights. 



Lundy (2008)

Lundy by Paul Harrison (2008)
432 pages of text, maps, pictures and drawings
ISBN 978-0-901601-82-7

This is a completely revised edition of the 2004 guide by Gary Gibson and Paul Harrison. Just under 1000 climbs are described, an increase of over 200 on the old guide. The island of Lundy lies off the south-west coast of England and provides a superb mix of granite sea cliff climbs. A very attractive guide by Paul Harrison with lots of colour photo-topos and action shots. Dave Pickford has contributed a section on Deep Water Soling. As befits the island, most of the solos described are at the harder and more adventurous end of the scale, and all require a high tide! http://www.climbers-club.co.uk/guidebooks/lundy.html


LUNDY GUIDE by Paul Harrison
Reviewed by Karin Magog
Well the new Lundy guide by the Climbers’ Club is now out and what a great looking guide it is too. Whilst still maintaining the look of a traditional guidebook a quick flick through it’s pages shows that the CC have really upped their game.

The guide starts with the usual sort of introduction with info on topics such as Staying on Lundy, Fauna and Flora, Weather and Tides, Fixed Protection, etc. There is also a useful piece entitled A Coastal Journey which takes you round the island clockwise from the village describing prominent landmarks and geographical features that help in locating the climbing areas. The guide also comes with a very useful and extremely detailed separate map to the island which I’m sure most climbers will find invaluable. However, the cliff line of Lundy is very complex so even with all this info don’t be surprised if you get lost at least once.

Now onto the meat of the guide and this is where the main improvements lie, notably the use of photo diagrams. There are so many walls and zawns on Lundy that photo diagrams for all the routes would be an impossible task, instead the more popular areas have been covered. The photos are all well lit and nice and sharp, giving a good indication as to the character of the cliff as well as helping you locate your route. As a person more used to ‘outcrop’ guides and hence, every route having a number, I have to admit to sometimes getting a bit frustrated with the numbering on the diagrams. Yes the numbers and the routes they relate to work fine on a basic level but then quickly locating the corresponding route in the text is not quite so straightforward. However, this style is consistent throughout the CC guides and those using them on a regular basis will probably wonder what my problem is. Another excellent new feature are the more general cliff photos, which encompass several of the climbing areas and give you an immediate picture of where, for example, Wolfman Jack Wall is in relation to Landing Craft Bay and Black Cliff. Many also show any useful navigational features on the cliff top, (such as the various rocky outcrops, which are invaluable in ensuring you head down the correct grassy slope) and highlight the main abseil points. The guide still has plenty of detailed written info and several sketched maps, all of which should help you locate your chosen route first time. The back of the guide also contains a detailed history or chronology as it is called. This includes plenty of entertaining anecdotes as well as listing the first ascentionists and makes for a good read.

Finally I must mention the action photos as the majority are fantastic. Every grade is covered and all angles, from in your face close ups to atmospheric long shots, all of which capture the essence of climbing on Lundy. They certainly got my adrenaline flowing.

Paul Harrison and team are to be congratulated on such an excellent job. I’ve been drooling over the guide making out my ticklist in anticipation for my trip in September. Even if you haven’t got a trip planned then still buy the guide as I can guarantee after looking through it you’ll be there next year.
Reviewed by Karin Magog 17th July 2008





Reviewed by Karin Magog
Volume 1 of Scottish Rock encompasses the area north of the Highland Boundary Fault but south of Skye and Torridon (the area north of here will be covered in volume 2). There are eleven main areas described, these being Isle of Arran, The Arrochar Alps, Isle of Mull, Glen Coe and Glen Etive, Ardgour, Ardnamurchan, Glen Nevis, Ben Nevis, Central Highlands, The Cairngorms and finally Easter Ross.

The guide has an entertaining and informative introduction with headings such as Using the Guide, Accommodation, Eating Out, Access, Wild Camping, Caravans (very amusing), Birds, Seasonal Restrictions, Directions, Conservation, Ethics, Style, Quality Assessment, Climate, Tidal Information, Weather Information, Wee Bastards (aka midges and ticks), Mountain Rescue and Grades. Following this is a section on geology and as someone who’s always amazed at the vast array of different rock to be climbed in the UK I found this particularly interesting. Each short paragraph describes how the rock was formed, how it climbs and where it’s found in Scotland.

Now onto the climbing areas themselves and each of the eleven sections start with a good, overall map (more detailed maps follow if required), a short intro, info on accommodation and amenities and a brief but informative history. Next the routes and the guide is well served throughout with clear photo diagrams (an excellent effort given some of the territory the guide covers), as well as detailed written descriptions. Presented in a well laid out, generally uncluttered style means the guide is a pleasure to use. The route numbers in the text and diagrams appear in a coloured dot, the colour of which signifies a particular grade range e.g. green for moderate to severe, purple for E4 and above. This makes identifying crags of interest much easier when flicking through the guide. Amazingly each grade range is well served so whether you’re after long, multi-pitch severes or hard, technical extremes there’s enough here to satisfy even the most manic of climbers. There’s also plenty of action pictures which are well placed in the text and cover the full range of grades and styles of climbing on offer (amazingly the sun always seems to be shining as well). The cover photograph is an interesting choice but highlights the diversity Scotland has to offer. At almost 500 pages and describing 1670 routes this guide offers amazing value for money. It also means it’ll be heavy to carry up those multi-pitch mountain routes but I reckon that’s a small price to pay.

All in all a superb publication that Gary deserves to be proud of. His love and knowledge of climbing in Scotland are present throughout the guide and help make this a truly inspiring book. Get your copy now. Available direct from Pesda Press. From the Foreword by Hamish MacInnes … “If you have an ambition to do all the climbs in these two Scottish Rock guides I think you’d better schedule time off in your next life. This labour of Gary’s has been of gargantuan proportions. Those of you who use the guides will benefit by his dedication and the sheer choice offered; if you divide the retail price of these by the number of good routes you’ll realise this is a bargain. Volume 1 covers a proliferation of Scottish crags up to the natural demarcation of the Great Glen. They are easier to access than most in Volume 2 and present infinite variety. I have been a long-time advocate of selected climbs and the use of photographs to illustrate both climbs and action. I’m glad that this principle has been used throughout these two volumes. It gives you a push to get up and do things. The list seems endless and if you succeed in doing half of them you’ll be a much better climber and know a lot more about Scotland – have a good decade!”

Reviewed by Karin Magog July 2008




Reviewed by Andy Birtwistle

It is generally recognised that the evolution of climbing guides over the last 15 years has been driven by the Rockfax machine. From the first foray with Yorkshire Limestone in 1990 Rockfax guides evolved into “state of the art publications” and a benchmark that set the standard for others. Their innovative approach also went some way to excuse them from the oft leveled criticism that they rely on the hard work and research of unpaid members of established clubs for their material. By re- working  information into a user friendly and attractive way of finding ones way around the crags they kept moving things on. The overall guidebook standard improved and the quality bar was raised. In doing this they also provided a great service to climbers in areas where guides were out of date or out of print. But how far this would go without straining the system too much remained to be seen.

So it was a mixture of curiosity and trepidation that I felt when I opened their latest offering “Northern England”. Curiosity, because even though I have always had reservations about the way they sourced information, I tended to use the Rockfax as well as the definitive guides. In a way they seemed to complement each other and this perceived symbiosis appeared to benefit everyone in the long run. Trepidation because on this occasion, I didn’t know quite what to expect from a guide that tried to do so much and it was also trespassing on some hallowed ground!

My first reservation is that the areas covered in “Northern England” do not link in a geographically logical way. Most of the crags in Yorkshire have more affinity to, and are closer to the gritstone edges of the Peak than the remote sandstone outcrops of Northumberland. Apart from that three definitive and up to date guides already cover this large area so what was the raison d’etre for publication of such a wide encompassing volume? Author Chris Craggs, originally from Northumberland, also admits in the acknowledgements that Alan James was unsure when he says he “finally caved in after four years of badgering and agreed the guide would be a good idea” .This suggests a strong reluctance to go down this route and leaves the reader wondering why he changed his mind.

 Was this hesitance perhaps brought about by the fact that these areas really do not have much in common? Possibly also he was aware that they had strong and fiercely independent climbing communities, and in the main modern and up to date guide books.  Maybe also, patching them together was illogical. Even the title “Northern England” requires further explanation in the introduction?

At first glance the guide is the usual professional, polished and colourful product we have come to expect from Rockfax. Crag shots are very good as are the photographs but they tend to rely heavily on a few individuals particularly that old Rockfax stalwart Colin Binks. There are also a few of a younger slimmer Chris Craggs in his native “County”. The guide contains a mixture of routes and boulder problems with V grades used for the bouldering. The usual array of well know symbols accompany the route descriptions.

Yorkshire takes up about half the book but surprisingly starts with Pule Hill and Shooter’s Nab. Where? I reach for my library as these are not the first places that come to mind with Yorkshire Grit. They are in Yorkshire but they’re in Lancashire Rock! After this puzzling introduction we are soon back to the popular favourites such as Almscliff, Ilkley, Earl, Caley and Crookrise. The crag layouts and photo- diagrams are excellent as we are accustomed to but there appears to be a lack of consistency in the selection of outcrops with boulder problems and those without. At some top bouldering venues, such as Widdop, the reader is referred to the definitive guide, whereas other areas have comprehensive details of problems. Shipley Glen is missing altogether. This makes one wonder what criteria were used for the choice.

Still within Yorkshire the guide documents in detail the isolated mainly bouldering outcrop of Crag Willas and Durham’s Goldsborough Carr. The North York Moors section in particular appears to be cherry picking of crags rather than routes, which is almost certainly going to make any future definitive guide for this region a non starter. An area such as this has difficulty warranting a guide of its own anyway as its crags are small and geographically scattered. The main crags at Scugdale, Wainstones and Ravenscar receive full attention while Park Nab and Highcliffe Nab complete the coverage. Strangely the excellent bouldering at Barkers Crag in Scugdale is omitted as are all the other esoteric but beautiful isolated outcrops in this region that are now likely to become forgotten.

So on to Northumberland, where my concerns are now beginning to escalate. The introduction begins with a mistake. The author borrows a quote by Geoffrey Winthrop Young, from the most recent climbing guide. This quote has been used in all the definitive guides by the Northumbrian Mountaineering Club since the 1950’s but the last edition had a mistake where the word “county” was used instead of “country”! Rockfax repeat this, a small but telling error. Furthermore this section begins with Causey Quarry which isn’t in Northumberland. That apart the quarry is rarely used these days having long gone out of vogue. Crag Lough, Peel Crag and the major sandstone crags get full treatment. The Bowden’s, Great Wanney, The Simonside’s and the Kyloe’s and even smaller venues such as Corby’s and Berryhill. Only a few minor crags are left out, in fact only a few routes are left out and it would appear that the reasons for this are more to do with page layout than picking quality lines. We are told in the frontispiece that this is “a rock climbing guidebook to selected routes”. It would be interesting to know what has been selected. One gets the impression that the routes have been pulled out of the Northumberland guide wholesale.

Some grades have been changed and at Callerhues in particular the authors have taken it upon themselves to adjust the traditional grades “to one more in line with modern thinking”. Sidewalk goes from MVS to HVS and Paving from MVS to E1. The latter is font 4+ in the new bouldering guide. The reason for this is that Callerhues grades have always been contentious. They have little if any protection and the crux is often at the rounded finish. The latest definitive guide did a lot to address the problem but obviously not enough for Messrs Craggs and James. Maybe the author had a hard time, who knows?  The bottom line is that most Northumbrians pride themselves on their routes and grades and perhaps it is up to others to rise to their standards as long as they have been forewarned of the grading. Many of these routes can be classed as high ball solos nowadays anyway. Rockfax itself give Crouching the Mahogany E5 6b or V8! It is no higher than many of the other described routes. This policy of upgrading strangely also applies to Second Born a route that is protectable and above a very soft bog, and as far as I am aware has not had a second ascent so how was it graded?

 I am also aware that I can easily be accused of nit picking but at the risk of this and on delving deeper, we may have a few more insights into the author’s mindset for producing this guide. On pages 346-7 at Kyloe Crag there appears to be a little dig, where First Born E4 6b gets the comment “originally given 7a”. This is obviously gleaned from a mistake that appeared in the Northumbrian Mountaineering Club’s 50th Anniversary celebration book “No Nobler County” in 1995. First Born was in fact given 6a in the 1984 new climbs supplement. One has to question the author’s research, as who in 1980 would claim a 7a?  More revealing however is Chris’s Arete where the first ascent is credited to Chris Craggs mid 1970s with the quote “he has to wait 30 years and write his own guidebook to get due recognition”! To claim this minor route at HS 4b is rather strange when in all probability it was done in the1950s, after all Devil’s Edge HVS 5a was done in 1957 and it is unlikely that such an obvious and easy line remained unclimbed until well into the1970s. Perhaps a few axes have been waiting a long time to be ground? Whatever the reasons, mistakes such as these, (and there are many, too many to mention) highlight the shortcomings of the Northumbrian section.

In conclusion, “Northern England” is a well produced a guide as you would expect from the Rockfax stable. It will probably prove popular to visitors as it contains a wealth of superb climbs between its covers. If all the information you require is the route, the grade and how to find your way there, it serves its purpose adequately. The dedicated boulderer however will be frustrated as much is missing and the keen local may prefer the greater accuracy, history and coverage provided by the definitive guides.

 A final but pertinent point is that with this guide Rockfax seems to be entering a new era. A comprehensive all encompassing “selected guide” like this will make the future production of definitive guides more unlikely. Local clubs and climbers who have as previously stated, relied on unpaid volunteers and enthusiasts to research and collate this data will be the victims. These clubs, who plough any profits back into their climbing community, will not have the resources to risk such a venture. The Rockfax data base now contains all this information and it can easily be added to for future publications. The question is will Rockfax also be the stewards for the soul of our sport? If definitive guides suffer, as they are almost certainly going to do in this case, will we be deprived of a rich heritage of our climbing history in the future?

With their latest publication Rockfax may have overstepped the mark. Not only have they bitten the hand that feeds them, they could well have eaten the seed corn as well.

Reviewed by Andy Birtwistle July 2008





Reviewed by Karin Magog
Deep Water by Mike Robertson includes everything and anything you would want to know about deep water soloing. The guide starts with an excellent introduction with much needed advice on safety, grades, tides and tactics. The safety section includes some good advice on splashdowns with a couple of good photos on how to and how not to land in the water. Onto grades next and the reasoning behind the adoption of sports grades is explained, along with meaning of the ‘S’ (or safety) grades (a fall off an S3 is not recommended!) Each route in the guide is assigned both which tells the climber a lot about a route before even reading the words. The section on tides is really interesting (did you know that the high spring tides always occur either early or late in the day?). It also includes a table which discusses tidal swings at the more popular venues, with Pembroke having tidal swings up to 8m compared to Dorset’s miniscule 1.7m. The introduction also includes a glossary of DWS terms, a who’s who in the world of DWS and a brief history on its evolution, all of which makes interesting reading.

The guide now gets down to business with each venue described in the usual rockfax manner. A couple of pages detailing conditions, accommodation, food and crag approach lead to the high quality crag photos and route descriptions. The pages are well laid out and less cluttered than other recent rockfax guides, making it very easy to use. All the major venues in southern England are covered in detail (e.g. Swanage, Lulworth, Devon and Portland to name a few), there’s a small section on Scotland and another on other possible UK venues. For Europe the major destinations appear to be Mallorca, Portugal and the Costa Blanca all of which look appealing with some steep and impressive lines above turquoise sea. The book finishes with a rest of the world section with a paragraph on potential venues for those of you keen to explore.

The book is illustrated with plenty of action shots, many of which unfortunately are a bit soft and generally not of the same high quality as the photo topos. However, they certainly give you plenty of idea of what it’s all about.

All in all Mike Robertson has done an excellent job and his passion for DWS is evident throughout the book. Whether you’re a true aficionado or a DWS novice this book is for you.



Two new Rock Climbing Atlases out now.



Reviewed by Karin Magog
Fancy somewhere different for your next climbing trip, a new country to explore but don’t know where? Well two new publications could give you the inspiration you’re looking for. The well named Rock Climbing Atlas, one for South Eastern Europe and one for Greece and the Middle East, offer a vast choice of venues, in a well laid out, easy to read format. South Eastern Europe covers Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania and Slovenia, with Greece and the Middle East covering the Greek mainland and islands, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey.

Each book starts with an introduction on how to use the book, what the symbols mean, etc followed by some suggested itineraries. The countries themselves are then introduced with a map detailing the climbing areas and main towns, basic climbing info, typical climate (with average monthly temperatures and rainfall), getting there, moving around, accommodation, food and drink, guidebooks and a useful facts table. The book then gets down to business with sections on the main climbing areas of that country. Here is all the information you need to decide where and when to go, how to find the crags, where to find the local guidebook, where to eat and sleep and some good suggestions on what else to see when your arms need a rest. The books are also well illustrated with some excellent pictures, which give a good flavour of the climbing on offer, as well as the local scenery and culture of the area.

Altogether two superb publications which the authors Wynand Groenewegen and Marloes van den Berg deserve to be proud of. The only problem is with so many great looking places to visit, where do you go first?






Reviewed by Karin Magog

This is an excellent book which contains all the essential information you need for this aspect of the sport.  It is divided into twelve sections which cover starting out, gear, ropework, tactics, multi-pitching, onsighting, redpointing, the mind, technique, training, self-care and destinations.  Each section is illustrated with plenty of easy to follow diagrams and sketches, breaking the information down into manageable chunks.  The book also contains some stunning photographs with climbers operating at all grades, with many of the photos used well to illustrate a particular technique or situation. For a sports climbing novice this book is invaluable, but even experienced sports climbers will find some useful information amongst its pages.  The starting out section includes photos and sketches on tying in and that all important threading a lower-off to get back down.  In the gear section the art of belaying with a gri-gri is discussed, again with clear photos, and is something that many experienced climbers would find useful.  The next section on ropework contains tips that many climbers could benefit from including how to clip, better belaying and stripping a route.  The importance of warming up is one of the many useful tactics discussed before the book moves on to describe multi-pitching, on-sighting and red-pointing in more detail.  The three sections on technique, the mind and training will help hone your skills and give you the confidence to push your grade.  The training section in particular does a good job on explaining the various physical aspects of climbing such as strength, recruitment and the various types of endurance.  Each explanation is accompanied by some good suggestions on how each can be improved.  The short section on self-care includes some basic info on skin care, injuries and diet, all of which help ensure every subject has been covered and add to the completeness of this publication.  The final section on destinations gives some suggestions on what the UK and the rest of the world has to offer the sports climber and includes some useful website addresses. All in all this is an extremely appealing and useful book and should be on the wish list of any sports climber hoping to improve their grade, no matter how experienced.




Reviewed by Karin Magog
The new Mallorca guide is of the same high standard we have come to expect with the Rockfax guides, with a full colour easy to follow format. The majority of the topos are the clear photo-topo style, with the hand drawn topos only used for the more tree obscured crags. The crags are described geographically, which works well, with the usual simple but effective approach maps to guide you to the crags. There are a few new venues in this guide and the authors have obviously made an effort to collect as much information on the routes as possible. There are however, still a few question marks here and there which will make exploring these venues more intriguing. The new double page photo spread is a nice touch, although some of the photos seemed a bit soft. In general the photos were fairly uninspiring and didn’t have me rushing to book a flight. In the main though another excellent guide and a must for those wanting to explore the variety of climbing available on this island.