Llanberis by The Climbers' Club

Review by Matt Heason
Monday 17th August 2009

The front and back covers of the new Llanberis guidebook from The Climbers' Club

It's easy to forget that there are other major climbing guidebook publishers operating in the UK alongside the BMC and Rockfax Guides. Vertebrate Graphics have recently entered the fray with a series of very well produced Peak District based books, but arguably the biggest producer of all is The Climbers' Club. The Climbers' Club Guides to Wales have an onerous task - they have the highest concentration of climbable rock anywhere in the UK, but the numbers of climbers visiting the area is not enough to warrant a great deal of attention from Rockfax, Vertebrate, or even the BMC, leaving the CC to quietly get on with producing updated versions of the myriad of definitive guides to the varied area. Ground Up Productions have recently produced a couple of decent additions to the local library of guides, so it is good to see that the driving force behind Ground Up, Simon Panton, has been responsible for the bouldering section to the all-new Llanberis Guidebook.

Llanberis is quite probably the most important guide, historically, anywhere in the UK so it's important that the CC get it right. As mentioned above, the CC produce the all-important definitive guides that we Brits are very lucky to have available (such guidebooks don't exist in the same way in any other country in the world, with a few exceptions in certain areas of France and Germany). That means that if some scraggy railway cutting has seen some cleaning and a new route or two the chances are they will be included in the guide! Furthermore, in recent years, it has meant including bouldering and trad climbing in the same guides.

So what's it like? The first noticeable thing is the adoption of a colour coding scheme on the contents page. It's got to be a difficult thing to do: to decide what order to list the crags in on any guidebook contents page. Alphabetical order makes sense if you know the crag you are looking for; geographical makes sense if you know the area, or are visiting for the first time, know where you are, and want to find the nearest crags. This guide has attempted the latter, in conjunction with a double spread map of the area and crags on the inside front cover, however it hasn’t used the colour coding on the map so it takes a few minutes to get your head around it. Turn the page again and there is a double page spread of photo diagrams, bouldering topo's and area maps, all colour coded to match the contents table. Flick through the book and the colour coding stays with you. The system works, but the pastel colours are not always easily discernible.

Once you have your head around how to navigate your way around the book it's a delight. Photos are (by and large) clear, focused and inspiring. They are also labelled with the route name, grade, climber and photographer (I'm never sure why the page number of the route isn't listed, nor in this case, the technical grade of the route). The star system is in use, which I am glad to see after the last Tremadog guide by the CC decided against them. Route descriptions are full and concise, and the topo lines are crisp and easy to follow.

All in all I'm very psyched to get myself back over to Wales for some summer tradding!

Don Sargeant's photograph of climbers on Cenotaph Corner (main) and Cemetary Gates (top) is used in the new guidebook. Copyright: Don Sargeant / CC Guides 2009

Here are some further details of the guidebook courtesy of the CC:

For this, the 6th edition of Llanberis, the text has been comprehensively updated, with details of over 50 new routes climbed since the last guide and revised assessments of the popular classics where necessary. Iwan Jones was author of the 2003 guide and co-author of its 1993 predecessor. He has now been involved in over a hundred first ascents in the Pass, and he has continued his efforts to make sure that the correct local names are given to all the crags. The resulting changes, as well as the origins of various crag names, are explained in tinted text boxes.

One remarkable product of Iwan’s historical research is the discovery that the name Bryant’s Gully has been given to the wrong gully for the last 60 years or so. A two page glossary of climbing terms in Welsh has been given, both to aid climbers whose first language is Welsh and also to promote an appreciation of the Welsh language among English speakers.

Particular care has been taken to making the approaches, descents, aspects, and optimum conditions for the climbing stand out. This includes the BMC’s advice as to the best approach to Dinas y Gromlech to minimise the large area of ground erosion below the crag.

The guide contains descriptions of the most popular bouldering areas in the Pass written by local bouldering guru Simon Panton, and illustrated by 14 of his own photo topos and a number of action photos.

The graded list, a feature of the last five Llanberis guidebooks, has been expanded to include nearly all the climbs graded E6 and above, and also, on an experimental basis, French grades for those climbs to reflect the recent discussions about the grading system for the harder routes. The text covers the current emphasis on attempting the hardest routes on sight.

The book lays a strong emphasis on encouraging climbers to visit the lesser known crags. Thirty two of the photodiagrams illustrate crags that have not had diagrams in previous guidebooks, and a light-hearted Alternative Llanberis List is given of recommended climbs off the beaten track. There are eight photoplans, complemented by both area and detail maps, which show the location and approaches to all the cliffs.

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