Remember what climbing guides once looked like, utilitarian little pocket books that did the bare minimum? They'd get you to a crag, (approximately, knowledge of grid references being a distinct advantage), get you to your climb of choice, (providing you were tuned into the nuances of the author's directions) and, well, that was pretty much it.
The new Yorkshire Gritstone guide is entirely conventional - post Rockfax and BMC Peak District guide conventional that is. It has the now obligatory and excellent photo-topos, a wealth of historical data, numerous mini-profiles of local heroes such as Manson, Syrett and Barley, trivia enough to keep the armchair guidebook browser occupied for weeks and fine photos from the usual suspects, Glasby, Hutton, Avery, Gill and the rest. There are some nice tweaks to the usual formula too.
How many guidebooks spoil you with aerial photos of the crag? These give the first timer a unique and eminently helpful view of the crags and the habitué a new perspective. A guidebook team with their own plane? That's Yorkshire posh for you.
But it's the sheer heft of the book that stands out. Not in terms of weight but more in the feast of brilliant, intimidating, technical climbing crammed into this handsome volume. I've always felt that Yorkshire Grit was another land, a little divorced from the rest of the British climbing mainstream, a bit singular, insular and intimidating. Now I realise that's just bollocks, piffling excuses. There's so much quality that there's no excuse for not getting stuck in and this good looking volume should be all the invitation one needs.
When it comes to weight, the decision to cover Yorkshire Grit in two volumes is clearly correct, the first encompassing such premier league crags as Almscliff, Caley, Brimham and Slipstones and the second no less compelling a prospect covering as it does Ilkley, Widdop, Crookrise and Rylstone.
Browsing volume one had the usual effect on me - fantasy climbing at its best. I was reminded time and again of the routes I'd done, the routes I should have done and of the painful reality that, short of moving to Otley, I was never going to make even the slightest dent in that mental tick list. The aforementioned pictures feed that route envy, particularly shots of classics like Great Western, Angel's Wall and Rough Wall.
The editorial team, Robin Nicholson, Adi Gill, Andy McCue, Matt Troilett, Richard Connors, Stuart Nicholson and a legion of willing helpers are to be congratulated for transferring their enthusiasm onto the page. The crags are brought to life with some punchy prose, the route descriptions are pithy and the addition of a variety of hit lists, graded lists and mini-essays ensure that this guide isn't just for the crag but a perfect companion for a mug of tea, a comfy chair and an idle hours browsing. Good effort chaps!
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