BMC Roaches Guide
As the chair of the BMC Peak Area Committee I have followed the saga of the Roaches vs Froggatt guidebook production with interest (a chair should never get involved with the debate!). The Froggatt guide has been imminent now for a number of years. The Roaches guide was Niall Grimes's first effort as the BMC's guidebooks officer back in 2004. It was so successful that the print stock ran out just a few years later. Instead of simply printing a load more of the same 2004 guide the BMC decided to update it. Niall's honest Introduction to the new and improved version compares the process to that of a diy practitioner peeling back a little wall-paper only to end up re-decorating the whole house. You've guessed it, the new guide took much longer than planned and the Froggatt guide was delayed even further.
Was it worth the wait? I can't compare it with the Froggatt guide as that's not out yet, but I can say this: with every guide that Niall produces on behalf of the BMC, he does a better and better job. By that argument, the longer we wait for the Froggatt guide, the better it will be when it finally arrives. 315 pages have grown to 397 and the format is ever so slightly bigger too, so there is clearly a load more information between the covers. Interestingly, the price has risen from £17.50 to £19.99 (£18 to BMC members). An aside: People often complain about the price of guidebooks. Personally I don't have a problem with paying this sort of money for such a quality book. Consider the frustration of being lost in thick woods, taking a wrong road on an approach, or simply not being able to find your route on a fuzzy black and white drawing that bears little or no resemblance to the crag you are at. I'd happily pay a few quid to avoid these scenarios. Interestingly, it's usually whilst abroad that these things happen - British guidebooks, are, in my opinion, the very best in the world.
Back to the review. New to this edition is the inclusion of a series of bouldering circuits. Introduced in the excellent and award-winning BMC Stanage guide these provide a Fontainebleau style collections of similarly graded problems to focus your efforts on. A fantastic inclusion, and given that they invariably include plenty of out of the way, usually over-looked, problems, a positive step against concentrating people onto a hand-full of problems.
Throughout the pictures are both high quality, and thoroughly inspiring. What is noticeable is the thought that has gone into the captions, each one being a sentence or two telling a short story about the route or ascent. It makes browsing the guide even more pleasurable than normal.
It can't all be good can it? Well, I must admit that when I first opened the book and read the intro, I looked with interest at the bouldering circuits and turned to page 121, listed as the starting point for the Ramshaw Rasher circuit. I seem to have an uncanny ability to open any new guidebook and find a glaring typo. In this case, the circuit actually starts on page 213! Sorry Niall. Not trying to nit pick, but just pointing out that nothing is perfect. In fact, as Niall mentions in his introduction, he and the team have no doubt ironed out old errors only to introduce new ones! Thar brings me on to an important point. Niall may be responsible for pulling the whole thing together, and the mastermind behind the inclusion of the bouldering circuits and random interesting nuggets (Crack School for example), but any guidebook is the result of a large team of volunteer climbers, photographers and proof readers. Page 8 lists these people - be sure to read it and pay silent thanks that we have such dedicated activists who produce such excellent guides.
Forecast for tomorrow is good. I can see Froggatt out of my window. Now, where's that guide?
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