Saturday, November 21, 2009

How To Make A Guidebook Suck

Continuing on with ways to de-improve your climbing experience, Gumbies! On! Crack! brings you advice on extending The Suck to your guidebook experience. We will base our handy make-it-work-as-well-as-the-Canadian-mission-in-Afghanistan advice around David Bloom's Indian Crock: A Climbing Guide (2nd Ed.)

We will however have to detour before we get to the main event, in the way that Napoleon needs to do Starbucks before climbing, or I need to visit before getting on my bike. Yes, porn makes one ride faster (like if I were a golfer, you know what they say about one Mr Woods, whose money shots sure didn't affect his money shooting). Anyway, our reference points will be Kevin McLane's The Climbers Guide To Squamish and the Supertopo guidebooks.

Now, Mr McLane has made a guidebook which has several outstanding and essential features. These include

a) clear and detailed topos
b) accurate descriptions of gear needed
c) accurate information about how to get to the climbs
d) a total lack of essay (or other) non-essential writing
e) being staggeringly comprehensive (last edition had 1,250 routes)
f) a lack of colour photography
g) a total lack of spray by sponsored and other climbers.

Moral: for a GOOD guidebook, write a la McLane.

Then there are the Stupidtopo books, which are actually for blind and retarded climbers. Consider: move by move beta, detailed gear beta (in some cases piece by piece), advice on how to succeed on long routes (e.g. Astroman strategy: "The key is to keep moving quickly through the many long 5.11 pitches") and descent beta that would allow a retarded, blind and seriously beer-deprived climber to safely and quickly make his or her way back to the cooler, walking stick and/or group home. Only problem is, Supertopo did not write their guides in Braille, so blind climbers will need to get their retarded partners to read them the beta in order to memorise the beta, and, take it from me-- a slow dumm guy-- us retards will need a LOOONG time to read the beta, cos, believe me, it's that detailed. It would probably take the typical rock-climber 25 or so minutes to read the description for Epinephrine IV 5.9 in Red Rocks, time which could be spent watching porn (if you are The Filth), drinking Starbucks (if your name is Napoleon), or approaching the route.

The one thing you have to say for Stupidtopo is that the info is, well, all there. Failing on a route you have Stupidtopo'd into your head, by getting lost, or because you forgot to bring that essential 17th blue Alien fromt he gear list, would be like being unable to drive out of your driveway while having your significant other, GPS system, rear-view mirrors and all other systems perfectly functioning and guiding you.

Now let's look at Mr Bloom's book, so you too, should you decide to write a climbing guide, will be able to make your book suck, should you so choose. You could opt for the excellent McLane style, or the for-the-blind-and-retarded style of Stupidtopo, or for something more Bloomian.


8) Make the edges square-cornered, not rounded. This will eventually make the dog-eared edges so thick that you will be able to use the book in place of a .5 Camalot. And as Crock climbers know, those .5 Camlots, well, that means you are in 5.12-cos-it's-sustained-like-a-Spinal Tap-guitarist's-favorite-1959 Gibson.

7) Add a full-colour front and back flap-- and don't add anything useful, like a pocket to put notes etc into.

6) Make your guidebook expensive by adding colour photos-- hundreds of them-- to it. It is important that these colour photos look great and be inspirational. But they should not under any conditions provide actual information about the climb.

5) Take the photos of the crags and routes from as far away as possible. This will add to the difficulty of finding one's desired route. Bloom's book is about 10 inches in height; his crag photos are about 1". Go squint.

4) Make the book low value. Bloom's book has 1,116 routes and sells for ~$37.60 Cdn. That's 3.4 cents/route. McLane's book, on the other hand, has 1,250 routes for $34.00 Cdn, so you get each route for 2.5 cents. Bloom's book is therefore almost ONE CENT/ROUTE more expensive. Multiply this by 1,116 routes and you are playing ten bucks more than you would at nice, logical, Canadian, free-market prices. And ten bucks is, well, four bottles of Two-Buck Chuck, or 12 PBRs, or 1/4 of a bottle of decent wine, or two plates of tacos...

3) Include essays and memoirs. Thanks, Steve Hong, for doing the FAs of so many awesome routes...and I am happy that you think we really need to hear that you are bummed that the Creek has been over-run by crowds. Yes, the Creek should be your private climbing preserve, and not pasture for we the arrivistes. I am glad that, having told others about your routes, you did not expect them to be climbed. Mr Hong, don't do what Mugs Stump suggested: climb the most awesome route in the world, and don't tell anybody about it. Climb awesome routes, tell everybody, get bummed that your area is now over-run...and then whine about it!

Scott Carson, if you "absolutely hate" to write about yourself...thanks for doing it anyway. Yes, I would rather read your story of climbing the Optimator for the first time than have a clear topo to look at. And then there is Lisa Hensel, saying that she loves the Creek because of the "growth" that she and her partners experienced while climbing there. Really? I want to be in the book, too-- I want to tell the world that breathing and walking are important to me. I want some essay space to say that. Oh, also I like climbing.

Mr Bloom, however, did one thing right-- he ditched the Timmy O'Neil memoir. If there is anything more boring than watching people eat dinner, smoke pot and then try to play the drum, it's reading about people eating dinner, smoking pot and trying to play the drum. I mean if you want see Mr O'Neil doing it right, you watch this.

2) Make the beta wrong. List too little gear, of the wrong size, and get your pitch lengths wrong. This is an especially good strategy if you have, as the jacket blurb says, twenty years of climbing experience and a Creek regular. Then you can REALLY screw with the gumbie masses. Do NOT pass on accurate knowledge.

1) Leave out hundreds of routes. And leave out every third or fourth route on each crag. This allows you and "the locals" to have their own private climbing Idaho where the (m)asses won't go. Here's a riddle:

Q: How many yellow Camalots does "Staggering out of the Bar" (5 stars, 5.11-, 35m, at Cat Wall) take?
A: You mean you don't know?

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