This is not your average pocket-sized guide. Rock Climbing in Europe boasts that over 1000 of Europe’s best rock climbs are described within its pages (all 520 of them), and it feels like it. Weighing in at a hefty 1200g you wouldn’t want to have to bring it on a Ryanair flight! However, one should never judge a book by its cover, or weight for that matter. So, I did some pull-ups, packed up the car and off I went to Europe, guide under my arm.
The guide, published in Connecticut, appears to be written for Americans visiting Europe on a road trip. The introduction is aimed at Americans with information on Visas, flights and other logistics, not much use for your average European. But, several road trip itinerary ideas are suggested and these are very useful for anyone planning a route-climbing sojourn to the continent, from anywhere. Suitable for coffee-table reading and winter daydreaming…
The book is divided into sections by country, with each introduction giving some brief information about that country, showing a map with the main areas marked. The introductions to each individual area are comprehensive and helpful. They include; directions how to get there (shown on very good maps), where to stay and eat, what to do on rest days, an idea of the range of climbing at the crag and descriptions of some of the routes. The range of grades described is excellent, with gems for climbers of every ability. There is also an index of useful contacts in the back.
At first, this book didn’t do a lot of work as a guidebook. But, we did find it very useful. During a two month trip it was used as: a rounder’s bat, a stove wind shield, a saucepan lid, a step to reach high things, a fly swat, a table leg, an umbrella, a dumbbell, a cushion, a toothpick, a bench, a chopping board, a wasp trap, and occasionally we even read it.
I did actually use it as a guide once and found it worked perfectly well as a cragging guide book. (Apart from feeling a bit ridiculous while reading from a Bible-sized tome at the crag!) It is not intended to be used as the sole guide book for an area and just features a “select few” routes in each area, with grades given in both American and local route grades (i.e. French sport grades in France, German grades in Germany etc).
The book claims to contain over 1000 of Europe’s best routes- a brave claim to make…and a difficult task for anyone. Everyone will have a different idea of what Europe’s top 1000 climbs are, but are 66 of them really at Stanage’s Popular End?
In between slating the author’s choice of top routes, some beady-eyed mates noticed some errors in the grades given too. With some unfortunate faux pas such as the famous 9a Realisation being given 9b, a controversial up-grade…. A delighted friend also found that the 8a+ he had just climbed was boosted to 8c+… However, there are very few discrepancies and as less emphasis is on small details and more on general information, these are forgivable.
A disappointment for me was the lack of range of countries and crags it covered. It gives lengthy descriptions of places such as Ceuse, Stanage and the Frankenjura, which are already quite well documented. I would have liked to see descriptions of a wider range of crags in each country, even if it meant in less detail. The inclusion of Belgium and Norway gives a flavour of how good a guide it could be. A Swedish man I met was particularly affronted that no information about his mother country was included, even though there are no shortage of high quality crags there (according to him - I’ve never been, yet!).
The book is bound and printed well; it actually has a guaranteed binding. Which, even after rigorous testing, lasted very well and - amazingly - still looks almost new! The print and layout were comprehensible, easy to read and find your way around with a detailed contents and route index.
Each crag description includes a picture with routes shown on them. The vast majority of these pictures are very good, inspiring, accurate and clear.
Despite barely fitting in my rucksack and now being too battered for the coffee table, I am quite attached to this book and look forward to dipping into it in the future!
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