Don Mellor's long-awaited update to ice climbs in the Adirondacks has finally been published (Blue Lines: An Adirondack Ice Climber's Guide). While ice routes had previously been a chapter in a region-wide guide to technical climbing published by the Adirondack Mountain Club, this volume is dedicated solely to ice and is the first book published by the Adirondack Rock and River Guide Service.
I spent part of the weekend on the sofa sipping Scotch and coddling my new, bionic hip while reading the new book cover to cover. Thanks, Sam, for bringing me the book and for having Don inscribe it to me.
If you're anti-guidebook, you can stop reading here.
As an entire volume on one subject, Don was able to put in a lot more material than would fit into a chapter in a multi-purpose volume. His "Staying Alive" section is based on his 30+ years of experience and ought be required reading of all winter climbers.
There are several new areas described, e.g., Lock Ness; some previously known areas documented well, e.g., Underwood and Champlain Palisades (awesome!!); and many lines between lines. With photos and good descriptions he makes sense of the incredible jumble of climbs on different tiers at Poke-o-moonshine. And I was amazed by the number of new/recent mixed routes described.
I always look forward to the publication of a new guidebook to learn about newly-discovered routes I can do. But I also fear that things I've climbed and found challenging will be downgraded. Indeed, Don now calls the Crystal Ice Tower and Lions on the Beach 4-, having previously been 4's. Tant pis, I'll get over it.
The new volume has more pictures, some sketches of areas, and a few maps; I only wish there were more. The "dagger" icon that indicates an author-recommended climb is gone, but I don't feel it did much; I mean, how bad is any ice climb?
(smike should have written that sentence.) Missing this go-around are the notations "reliable," "unreliable," and "rare." The subject matter is often discussed in the text but not systematically. I for one would find it useful when visiting new-to-me areas to alleviate the perpetual dilemma: is that route over there This reliably-forming one or That unreliable one? The omission I miss most has to do with slides. I've done Giant's Question Mark and Eagle slides in winter, plus others; they were about as hard as the Chapel Pond Slab, perhaps a tad easier, but certainly worthy of inclusion.
But I carp, needlessly. There's plenty of new material, and this volume is a worthwhile purchase that will help you plan your Adirondack visits.
Nobody ever got rich writing a climbing guidebook. Don's royalties, if there are any (and you know the publisher didn't give him a seven-figure advance
), across all the copies that will ever be sold, will amount to pennies per hour for all the hours he spent taking notes instead of climbing and the time he sat huddled over a keyboard. He won't be able to quit his day job as a result of this publishing coup. Instead, the guidebook is a labor of love and a public service. We owe Don Mellor a debt of gratitude.
I'm sharpening my picks. See you out there.