Chris Kalman: The Murder of the Guidebook

Chris Kalman gets heated about the historical loss of sandbagging.

Looking around my scattered bookshelf, it occurs to me that I may be horribly antiquated, and outdated.  Old tomes that have gone with me from coast to coast, back and forth…

They are some of my only meager possessions.  Now I see decaying bindings, torn and tattered covers from books that were already old when I bought them.  Steinbeck, Camus, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Salinger, Faulkner, Hesse, and other great names line the shelf in disheveled disarray.  Still, I can pick out each well-loved book from a glance at the spine, and bask in the warm nostalgia of pleasant times curled up with a good book.

The bookend for my collection of classic novels is a stack of guidebooks to some of my favorite climbing areas.  Thailand, Rocky Mountain National Park, Joshua Tree, Leavenworth, Index, Washington Pass, Yangshou, the High Sierra.  These are some of the only books I’ve ever bought brand new in my life, and they are some of the best-loved.  I’ve gone through each from time to time, and read all the “stuff” in the beginning.  You know, all the “stuff” about history, ethics, access, land managers, geology, etc.  That “stuff” gives each crag I have had the pleasure to climb at the depth and nuance that makes a place special.  You know how that favorite climb of yours has that crazy knob out left, right where you need it, and then the finger slot is good, but you have to hit it just right… You know all those details that give your favorite climbs character?  Those details exist for places as well, and the guidebook is the modern catalogue of those details.

The guidebook has long been one of the most important pieces in my quiver of climbing gear.  I’ve used guidebooks to generate psyche about routes days before I had the time to go climb them – poring over old photos, and descriptions of first ascent epics.  I’d carry guidebooks proudly with me from home to car to crag.  I’ve both read Peter Croft’s “The Good The Great and The Awesome” cover to cover while driving out to the High Sierra, and given my own copy to a friend to do the same.  I’ve carried full size guidebooks on alpine routes before, just because of the high quality of that author’s beta, and the importance of word for word accuracy in certain things such as descent information.  It can be a touch heavy, but it saves you a trip to the print shop.

Recently, Mountainproject partnered with Black Diamond to release Mountainproject’s free downloadable guidebook app for smart phones.  I applaud the proliferation of readily accessible information as much as the next liberal-minded free thinker, although I may be more of a luddite when it comes to new technology.  I still have a flip phone; my car is an 87 vw with an 82 engine; I have glasses, not Lasik; and some of my clothes I’ve had since high-school, more than 12 years ago.  I suppose I don’t take change well.

… Read the rest on Chris Kalman’s website.