Monday, April 07, 2008

Climbing Guides and Thier Great Stupidity

I'm going to take this opportunity to rant about climbing guides in general, especially the two main 'Gunks guides: The Gunks Guide by Todd Swain and; The Climber's Guide to the Shawangunks: The Trapps by Dick Williams.

First of all, the whole point of a guide is to help someone find something that they probably would have a difficult time finding on their own. They are kind of like maps; they direct us to a particular location by providing information that we otherwise would not be familiar with. If you know the route, then you probably don't need a map, right? The same goes for guides. OK, I know there are a lot of routes in the 'Gunks (over 300), and it is difficult to know them all from start to finish, but one must be able to find the routes, too, right? Let me give you an example about how to find Minty. According to the Swain guide, Minty is, "50 feet right of Snooky's." Well, OK. That's easy enough. So where is Snooky's? According to the Williams guide, Snooky's is "45 feet right of Beginner's Delight." Huh. OK, so where is Beginner's Delight? According to Swain, it is "125 feet right of Asphodel below a big left facing corner system." WHAT THE FUCK PEOPLE?!?!?!?! Do you realize how many stupid left and / or right-facing corner systems there are at the 'Gunks? I mean, let's get real. Is one really supposed to start at climb #1 in the book and walk all the way along the edge of the cliff marking each climb as one goes just so one can find a 5.3 200 routes down the path? Get real.

Look, I know these books are pretty good otherwise, and it would be difficult to describe a climbing area without using this technique of starting with one climb and continuing down the line. And I know that once one knows the 'Gunks then it is easier to move about. I didn't have a problem getting to the climb that I'm bitching about (Minty) because "Ratherbe" knew where to go. But for me to describe to you how to get to this climb is nearly impossible. In fact, I can't really do it without confusing anyone, so I'm making the decision that you are better off not having my directions, because you'll just get lost anyway. Ask someone who knows at the cliff instead.

And if anyone gripes about me not having a solution to my complaint, then here's one: work with the Mohonk Preserve to post signs and names of all the staircases that lead from the carriage trail to the cliff. The names don't have to be creative. In fact, they probably shouldn't be. I would name the trails after the route that is directly at the top of the trail. That way folks can move about much more easily and not have worry about where the hell they are, because the guides certainly aren't going to tell them. If you want to know where High E is, then walk down until you get to the High E trail, then head up. It's that simple.


Strongmadsends said...

Too funny. We we're talking about the same exact thing on our ride down rt 55.

GB said...

I understand the method of describing the start of routes based on where they are located geographically in relation to other climbs, but there has to be some context when the cliff stretches over 300 climbs. To start at the beginning and have to follow all along the cliff is just dumb. It isn't helpful at all, and that's what a guide is supposed to do. It is supposed to help when one doesn't know. If one knows, then one doesn't need the guide. It's just plain dumb.

happiegrrrl said...

Respectfully, I have to disagree with your post.

The way I "find" routes, once past the Stairmaster, or Connecting Trail, is by looking at the portion of the Williams guide where there are topos for the wall sections. It's easy enough to do.

First, look up the route's number(#203 in the Grey Dick). Turn to the topo page that lists that number(Page 422/423). All the access trails are "named" there, usually by one of the classic routes nearby. Actually, there is even one called "Minty Trail."

What I do is - simply count the number of access trails starting from the Connector Trail, to the one I seek. If I counted correctly, the Minty Trail is the 5th one after(not including) the Connector Trail in the guidebook I have. (I don't use Swain much, but believe that guide has a similar concept.)

The preserve will never have nametags at the access trails; the idea has been bandied about thoroughly. Their mission is to preserve the ridge in the condition it was in before the industrial age. In some aspects, concessions must be made. For example, there are public restroom, but not with running water. There are named markers for the very largest trail intersections, and less obtrusive blaze markings to guide people along the trails. Bolted rap stations, to preserve the health of trees along the clifftop and on the walls to facilitate safety. The Mohonk preserve is, as it's name implies, a preserve.

GB said...

I don't disagree with keeping the place a preserve. In fact, I very much care about the notion of preserving land, and I feel that the Mohonk Preserve does a good job of this.

However, while your idea is a good one, the access trails are not always easily identified, especially in the fall and spring when leaves cover what would otherwise be an obvious trail. On top of the that, during the summer months, some trails just don't seem to be as obvious.

I actually think that it is very easy to blaze one's own trails in the 'Gunks, and that, to me, is a problem. I would much rather have signed trails to keep people from wandering than not have signs to protect the heritage.

However, my main concern is finding my way around. For $85 for a season's pass, I'd rather not waste my time looking, looking, looking...