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#39173 - 08/20/08 12:29 AM Re: new guidebook in August? [Re: Kevin]
learningtolead Offline
old hand

Registered: 04/16/02
Posts: 981
Loc: a wanna be kerhonkson-er
So Jim, if they produced a guidebook of the same style and quality for the adirondacks and it had the same pros and cons, would you buy it? I just kind of feel like it's disrespectful to the folks who spend so much time and energy producing a thoroughly researched and documented guide so I wouldn't. If you would buy it after having produced the researched and documented variety, then i can totally understand your recommendation to buy the new gunks guide.

#39175 - 08/20/08 12:41 AM Re: new guidebook in August? [Re: Kevin]
caver Offline

Registered: 01/11/03
Posts: 260
Loc: High Falls
it's disrespectful. The book should be titled, "How the Gunks feels to me: A journey of ineptitude."
Williams' Guide books rule, I will never even consider this new attempt.........

#39176 - 08/20/08 03:22 AM Re: new guidebook in August? [Re: caver]
Coppertone Offline
old hand

Registered: 08/17/00
Posts: 1055
Loc: Newtown, CT
I can understand trying a new approach and trying out new ideas for a fresh perspective. This should not include haphazardly regrading climbs in a rediculous fashion. Coex at 11.a is one thing, but making Never Never Land 11.b, harder than Comedy, Coex, Graveyard, Matinee and many others is simply stupid. Modern Times is 10b and the same as Falled on Account of Strain, Star Action, Transcon, Welcome to the Gunks, Doublissima and Try Again, have these guys actually done any of these climbs? Creating your own new routes and keeping the name the same as the original classic is also crazy. I do not doubt that allot of work went into this, but obviously not nearly enough.

#39178 - 08/20/08 06:58 AM Re: new guidebook in August? [Re: Kevin]
rg@ofmc Offline

Registered: 12/25/99
Posts: 2467
Loc: Poughkeepsie, NY
I've been worrying that my initial reaction to the preview of the guide was too harsh, as ShakesAlot said. In particular, I'm sorry I called it a "piece of crap," which, if not at all extreme for internet posting, nonetheless violates my personal standards of discourse. So I went out and bought it, hoping to find the real thing better than the preview. And indeed, there are some things that are better than I realized. First, there are a bunch of very nice climbing photos. Second, the organization of the cliff into regions delineated by photographed carriage-road landmarks is a nice tweak of the carriage road guide that is printed as a "crawl" along the bottom of the cliff photos in Grey Dick. And third, in some cases a picture of the climbs from the base makes it clear where the routes go.

Unfortunately, that's about it. The rest is even worse than I imagined, so bad that it would take multiple posts to cover it all. So I'm just going to forget about the esthetics, the layout, the inclusion of pages and pages and PAGES of irrelevant fluff. When all is said and done, the thing is supposed to be a guidebook, but it is so riddled with errors, inconsistencies, and questionable grading that it should never have been released---at present it needs a major editorial effort just to fix the typos and internal conflicts.

I think things start off badly right away. The title is The Gunks-A Climber's Guide to the Shawangunks. In terms of what you get, the subtitle should be "Selected Climbs in the Trapps," because that is all that is covered. Since only one of the first seven climbing photos is actually in the Trapps, a browser could be pardoned for thinking that the the guide is more comprehensive, but the coverage diagrams that follow, which end at the Slime Wall, should correct that misimpression.

The first text you encounter is a more dire version of the standard disclaimers all guidebook authors are obliged to include. But this is the biggest laundry list of the authors' potential failings I've ever seen, and not a word about making any effort to be as accurate as possible.

In order to emphasize just how unreliable the contents might be, the disclaimer goes on to say that the book "contains information that is nothing more than a compilation of opinions about climbing the rock climbs in the Black Hills Needles." This sets the tone for the pervasive lack of attention to detail that follows.

The next thing that appears is acknowledgements. It is a matter of common decency to thank the folks who helped you produce your work. Williams has a page of acknowledgements thanking thirty or so people and apologizing the omissions he fears are inevitable. Lawyer-Hasse record their indebtedness to more than 300 people. Orenczak-Lynn say, "thanks to all who contributed knowledge, stories, belays, and photos." In view of all the errors, the knowledge-contributors, if there were any, are probably just as happy to remain anonymous.

On to the route descriptions. In general, the route lines sketched in on the photos are rough approximations and make little effort to follow the details of the climb. The topos are more descriptive, but don't work as well in the Gunks as they do in areas where the rock features are more geometric and independent. And there are some areas that don't have topos, in which case the approximate route lines by themselves are inadequate, and as well as some descriptions that have neither topos nor route photos. Gunks rock has so many details at so many different scales that it is hard to provide useful data with a few lines, and some of the topos just give up and leave large white areas with no details to guide where the lines are drawn.

My sense from reading the routes is that the authors just don't know the area that well; this is the only explanation for some of their choices. By far the most egregious routing error I noticed is in the description of Maria, which sends the party up what the topo accurately describes as a "mud slope," completely avoiding the overhang on the last pitch that is the crown jewel of the route. In my original comments I noted the unfortunate rerouting of Snooky's Return onto Minty, therby missing out on some excellent climbing. Climbers on Drunkard's Delight are instructed to traverse over and finish on Sixish, rather than complete a perfectly good third pitch directly above, and the third pitch of sixish is then described incorrectly. The same thing happens with Classic; the excellent second pitch corner isn't mentioned and the party is instructed to traverse over and finish on the much less interesting and esthetic Jackie second pitch. The nice 5.8 first pitch of Blackout is ignored and the party is instructed to climb up Betty, and the second pitch description seems to be missing the top part. The City Lights second pitch description forgets to mention moving right soon after the top of the right-facing corner. I could go on and on, but the point should be clear by now, and I leave it to others to discover the mistakes further down the cliff.

Grading is where everything totally falls apart. There are inconsistencies between the topos, route descriptions, and photo captions on almost every page. The topo grading is especially high, many of us will be overjoyed to learn how good we really are. A few examples:

Dirty Gerdie description, 5.8+, topo 5.9.

Bunny description, 5.4, topo 5.7.

Retribution description, 5.10b, topo 5.10c.

Belly Roll description 5.4, topo 5.5.

Jane description, 5.6, topo 5.7.

Betty photo caption, 5.3, description, 5.6 but but the text says two moves are 5.7. The only grade on the topo is 5.5.

City Lights photo caption, 5.7, description, 5.8-, topo, 5.8. (The topo also labels a walk across a ledge as a "slippery traverse.")

Frog's Head photo caption, 5.6, description, 5.6-, topo 5.7.

Maria photo caption, 5.6, description, 5.6+, topo 5.7 (and this doesn't include the top overhang).

Drunkard's Delight Description 5.8-, topo 5.8+.

Shockley's Ceiling description, 5.8+ with bulge above 5.8, topo ceiling 5.9+ with bulge above 5.9.

Something Interesting description 5.7+, but text says top corner has 5.8 move. Topo says that same move is 5.9. At the top, the description and topo send the climber up a dirty corner, bypassing a two-bolt rap anchor on a ledge before the choss starts.

Higher Stannard description, 5.9-, but the text says 5.9+, topo 5.10a.

Coexistence description 5.11a, topo 5.11d.

Star Action description 5.10b, topo 5.11a.

This should be enough to indicate systemic inaccuracy, not just an occasional goof. I ain't even gonna get into whether some of these grades make sense in this universe.

Then there is the matter of history. As far as I can tell, the authors just make up whatever they want. There is a whole page entitled "The Truth About Pitons" that is laden with false statements and historical misunderstandings. Apparently, the authors think their audience will be edified to learn that modern efforts are more intense because now gear must be fiddled in when previously "you could walk up to the cliff with a rope and a rack of slings." What total bull.

Then there is the comment that Baby "is not the walk-up it once was since the large chockstone at the crux dislodged from the crack, making the crux much more difficult." Since the topo indicates 5.8 on the second pitch, one has to wonder just how gigantic this chockstone must have been to have eliminated all that difficulty. But the reality is that there wasn't a chockstone there originally, someone carried one up and placed it, and eventually someone else returned the climb to its original condition, which of course is not 5.8.

Arrow is characterized as "one of the first of many rap-bolted routes in the Gunks." Where do these guys get this stuff from? As far as I know, there are two rap-bolted routes, Arrow and Sente. There are a few other bolts placed with aid.

Given the fact that the authors seem to have no fixed idea of what the grade of many climbs is, it is not surprising that there is no index by grade in the back, and the alphabetical listing of climbs does not have their grades. You're a visiting climber and want to climb a nice 5.6? Thumb through every page, sparky.

Finally, there is the matter of price. Grey Dick at $29.95 has 495 routes. at about 6 cents a route. Adirondack Rock at $36.99 has about 2000 routes at less than 2 cents a route. In The Gunks, you are paying a very hefty premium for the manifold irrelvancies, many in color, that I haven't the energy to mention. The $35 price gets you 204 routes at about 17 cents per route. And with this premium price comes all the inaccuracies just described.

Jim Lawyer, in his very kind review, says that he recommends the book but wouldn't actually bring it to the cliffs. ShakesAlot agrees. Good call there, guys.

#39180 - 08/20/08 03:16 PM Re: new guidebook in August? [Re: rg@ofmc]
Dillbag Offline
old hand

Registered: 05/02/06
Posts: 1130
Loc: "The Town"

I can't WAIT to actually see this thing... It sounds like a train wreck, I expect there will be people creating a traffic jam at R&S rubbernecking at the book...
...anethum graveolens cucumis sativus!

#39181 - 08/20/08 04:58 PM Re: new guidebook in August? [Re: Dillbag]
strat Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/30/01
Posts: 4242
I think it's especially hysterical RG, that you shelled out the money to buy this, seemingly for the sole purpose of having the credibility of owning it, so you could shred it.

I'm sure there are some tricky differential equations that need solving!

#39182 - 08/20/08 05:10 PM Re: new guidebook in August? [Re: strat]
tradgunkie Offline

Registered: 09/10/03
Posts: 38
 Originally Posted By: strat
I think it's especially hysterical RG, that you shelled out the money to buy this, seemingly for the sole purpose of having the credibility of owning it, so you could shred it.

If Rich doesn't want it, I'll buy if from him for $10. That is if he hasn't literally shredded it by now.

#39183 - 08/20/08 05:45 PM Re: new guidebook in August? [Re: tradgunkie]
rg@ofmc Offline

Registered: 12/25/99
Posts: 2467
Loc: Poughkeepsie, NY
Strat, glad to have contributed to your daily dose of amusement. Perhaps, in gratitude for the merriment I've provided, you would like to send a small contribution to defray my expenses? Your tips are my wages.

Trad, thanks for the offer, but it'll go into my guidebook collection, where it won't be lonely, since I've got the famously error-riddled Roxanna Brock Red Rocks guide and the original Ortenburger guide to the Tetons, whose incomprehensible descriptions led to my first routes.

Plus, whenever I get a little down about the decline in ability that comes with age, I can just open up The Gunks and instantly be up to four grades better. The ego boost (no matter how bogus) is easily worth the purchase price, and I am, after all, supporting the publisher of Dumais lovely picture book of the Gunks.

#39188 - 08/20/08 09:21 PM Re: new guidebook in August? [Re: rg@ofmc]
BillH Offline

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 59
Loc: Maryland
Richard, I too have that origninal Ortenberger guide. It got me up the Grand my one and only time (Petzoldt Ridge). Care to share the story of your "new route." Bill
Bill Hutchins

#39190 - 08/20/08 10:20 PM Re: new guidebook in August? [Re: rg@ofmc]
MarcC Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 07/10/00
Posts: 3532
 Originally Posted By: rg@ofmc
...and the original Ortenburger guide to the Tetons, whose incomprehensible descriptions led to my first routes.

I know one former Trust ranger who regularly referred to it as the Ortenbungler guide.
- Marc

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