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planetFear - Rock Climbing, Adventure Racing, Mountain Biking

Yorkshire Gritstone

Review by planetFear
Thursday 1st April 1999
Yorkshire grit — it’s not beautiful, but it works, a bit like John Dunne on the cover of the guide. Yorkshire can’t claim to have the most photogenic crags in Christendom, but by God, there’s a wide range of hard, esoteric and at times quite challenging lumps of rock to throw yourselves at — and they’re all here. Or at least those the Musgrove boys want us to know about.

As has become the accepted norm, the latest Yorkshire tome is produced to the highest standards, hard-backed, sewn-stitched sections and just short of 700 pages in its 1½" depth. Despite the quality of production, this brick of a book will no doubt take a battering in most rucksacks. The only answer would be for the guide team to have split the book — North and South would work, the dividing line being the A65 — with an even distribution of honey-pots and hellholes in each. I reckon it would work, but ours is not to wonder why…

The guidebook team led by Dave Musgrove commenced the task of ‘updating’ Graham Desroy’s 1989 masterpiece, but owing to the volume of new routes and new crags the task became one of overhaul — in the process many crags were rewritten and grades reassessed. Not a bad thing, as Yorkshire activists tend towards the bags of sand approach when it comes to grading. Many anomalies have been corrected (i.e. Marine at Rylstone) but many more will hopefully have been introduced. It’s just a matter of finding them.

A plethora of colour plates serve more as documentary evidence to the variety of situations to be found on grit in the county rather than a glossy portfolio, and I’m all for this. Photographs which glorify the ‘move’ or the ‘body’ belong in magazines or coffee table books, so those expecting to be thrilled by them may be disappointed. Nigel Baker’s maps and diagrams consistently convey accurate and detailed data, are a pleasant change from the increasingly popular computer generated graphic, and they add to the overall hand-made feel of the book. A minor criticism is the niggling number of typographic errors which occur throughout, the inconsistencies between sections of the book serve to illustrate the dangers of splitting the albeit colossal poof reading job between several people.

There are as many connoisseur crags as major crags listed in the contents, and in the case of Honley Quarry there are more two/three star routes than at Chevin Buttress. What criteria have been used to differentiate the mainstream crags from t’others?

Despite having been a cross border raider since I started climbing (it’s funny, I’m sure Widdop and Bridestones were in Lancashire when I started climbing) and a resident off-comer for the last few years, this new guide has brought home to me how parochial one can get. I’ve not even heard of some of the crags, let alone visited them, but a few dry days and a following wind will see this redressed.

A new guide can rekindle and inspire, leading to an increased load on the crag environment. Hopefully the honey-pots of Almscliff, Brimham, Caley and Ilkley will continue to draw the crowds, alleviating pressure on other, equally worthwhile crags. In many of the crag introductions attention is drawn to access considerations, some of which have changed or become more critical since the previous publication so if you are visiting a crag for the first time, please observe any restrictions.

If you want to climb on Yorkshire grit, you can get by without this guide; you’ll just miss out on all those esoteric places that makes the grit in Yorkshire something special.

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