17 Down Under:
17 DOWN UNDER. "A celebration of moderate grade climbing in Victoria". 184 pages. 285 images. Father & son team, Steve & John Morris, embark on a journey to climb and photograph 50 of the best rock climbs in Victoria, grade 17 & under. Inc bookmark $50.00
G'day folks, Gerry sent me his latest guidebook to review, so for what it is worth, this is what I thought...
CLIMB TASMANIA - Selected Best Climbs
by Gerry Narkowicz
2nd edition (2013) Published by Climb Tasmania RRP $49.95
The first edition of Climb Tasmania came out in 2005 and provided a much needed guidebook that serviced all the best cliffs of Tasmania in one attractive package. Whilst there was also the massive compilation produced by www.thesarvo.com and titled The Tasmanian Climbing Guide, it really wasn’t as sexy as Gerry’s Selected Best Guide. Unfortunately the book’s sex appeal was undermined by the disproportionate number of photos of Gerry climbing. The other frustrating aspect was the lack of stars to distinguish between routes. Eight years on and it is good to see that Gerry has made amends with this second edition. Combined with full colour printing, plus new cliffs and some fabulous new climbs, this guidebook really looks superb.
A guidebook of this magnitude is an impressive achievement. It is arguably the most involved compilation in Australia due to the sheer variety of the cliffs it covers and the fact that quality maps and topos have been created to locate over 850 climbs in 25 different areas. Bouldering is also given a brief chapter with half-a-dozen areas described. The book really does justice to the spectacular nature of the climbing with a lot of stunning images from many different photographers. If you have never been climbing in Tasmania, then this guide will get you psyched.
The design and layout of the guide is very appealing and user-friendliness is a strong point. As well as the alphabetical and grade indexes at the back of the book, the start of each area has a grade index which also describes whether routes are sport or trad giving readers a clear idea of whether the cliff is likely to suit them. Topos have sun/shade icons and descents are generally well marked. Belays aren't always marked however so read the text carefully to pick up any extra details.
As for the starring, well before I get into the nitty-gritty let me just say that it is great to see stars in this guidebook, mainly because it gives everyone something to argue about. Guidebooks with no star-system means everyone just bitches about the same thing – no star-system. It is also good to see a simple three-star-system unlike the five-star-system used in the Blueys guide. Ironically Tasmania is one of the few states that could justify an extra star on a number of its routes (which totally shit over anything in the Blue Mountains). However it does seem that the stars in Climb Tasmania are occasionally thrown around like confetti, particularly where Nick Hanc--k’s routes are concerned. This is typified with his grade 1 first ascent called Wilderness. Despite there being only a dozen climbs listed in the guidebook under grade 12, with most routes receiving only one star at best, Nick’s addition still scored his customary three stars.
Although it is emphasised in the introduction that the starring throughout the book is in relation to the cliff and that you can’t possibly compare a three-star route in Cataract Gorge to the Totem Pole for example, it would be wise to see the guide using a bit more discretion than Nick Hanc--k does when starring his own routes (but then again he is from the UK and they have no idea about starring or grading).
On the subject of lower grade climbs, it does seem that Tasmania has surprisingly little to offer in this regard (apart from Nick’s three-star grade one). Intermediate climbers will see that there are a few more routes in their grade range, but they shouldn’t underestimate the seriousness of many of these climbs. I feel that Climb Tasmania could do a bit more to highlight potential dangers on a lot of these ‘moderately graded’ climbs and could take a leaf out of the Point Perpendicular guide which not only included star ratings, but also a warning symbol and a spider web (for rarely repeated climbs). The Point Perp guide is unique (as far as I know) in that it always has a note next to both the stars and the warning icon specifically telling you why the route received stars and/or a warning. Typical Tassie climbs where this sort of info might be useful would be Skyline Minor/Sentinel Ridge, an epic three-star grade 14 on the Organ Pipes at Mount Wellington which in my opinion is best prepared for by spending a season of alpine climbing in New Zealand. Likewise on Frenchmans Cap is The Sydney Route, a two-star, grade 17 climb which has zilcho protection for entire pitches and can take a few days to dry after rain. The stars are primarily given for its historical significance and adventurous aspect, not for superb moves with good protection. Not all climbers will appreciate sketching around on wet rock with no pro only to learn later that the stars were handed out for adventurous water features and a history lesson in how tough the first ascent team were. But then again anyone venturing to the bigger and more serious cliffs in Tasmania would do well researching a little more about the areas and climbs they intend to do (get on www.thesarvo.com and www.chockstone.org for further info and opinions). If you aren’t so psyched on trad adventure routes, then Tasmania does offer some friendly sport climbing areas with moderate grades as well as heaps of stunning sport climbing in the higher grades.
Another minor fault which wasn’t rectified from the first edition is the information (or lack of it) provided for climbing the spectacular Candlestick (110m grade 16), next door to the famous Totem Pole. Mention is made of bolts being at the base of the main route to the summit (which is only reached after an epic swim in surging seas). The truth is that there are no bolts at the base of the standard route, but there are bolts at the base of another (more difficult) line. More than one party has wasted its time swimming to these bolts only to start up the wrong climb and been forced to bail.
Whilst the book makes it clear that its focus is on Tassie’s best cliffs, I personally would have liked to have seen the addition of Fruehauf, a sport crag in the heart of Hobart. I know it is a chipped piece of quarried nonsense, but given that every travelling climber will probably be stuck in Hobart at some stage waiting for the weather to clear on the Pipes, then Fruehauf is a fun place to get a work-out in-between seeing the sights of Hobart.
Despite any nit-picking on my behalf, I still can’t recommend this guide highly enough. Overall it is a very inspiring production and a ‘must buy’ for all Australian climbers. Even if you haven’t got a Tassie trip planned, you probably soon will have after checking out the climbing photos and topos throughout. And at $49.95 the guidebook is great value too. It will be in shops by the middle of January. If you order one direct from Gerry (email: firstname.lastname@example.org ), he will post it out to you free of charge and you will receive it before it hits the shops. If you are planning a trip to Tassie, you can also give him a call on 0428 505 259 and collect it directly from him.