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West Country Climbs



by Mark Glaister

Published by Rockfax

Reviewed by Karin Magog

The latest Rockfax is a mighty tomb covering a vast area from Bristol down through Devon and Cornwall and finishing up along the south coast as far as Swanage. With so much quality climbing to cover I don't envy the task of it's author in deciding what to include and what to omit. This will always be a contentious issue. Personally if I'm making the effort to drive to the south west from the north east I'm unlikely to bother climbing in the Avon Gorge, so I would have rather seen some of those 24 pages dedicated to other areas such as Sharpnose, which is infuriatingly selective. This is perhaps true for many of the crags, with just enough routes to wet your appetite, thereby ensuring sales of the definitive guides to repeat visitors.

Once you get into the guide the number of crags covered is staggering. There's the ones I'd heard of such as the Avon and Cheddar Gorges, Black Church, Sharpnose, Tintagel, Pentire, Bosigran, Sennen, Chair Ladder, Lizard Point, Anstey's, Portland and Swanage. However, these crags are complimented by an array of other venues offering a good choice of climbing styles and rock-types. There's the various quarried venues such as Portishead and Cheesewring, the sports venue of Brean Down, the culm slabs of Gull Rock and Vicarage Cliff, the committing Carn Gowla and Gurnard's Head, the killas slate of Kenidjack, the superb granite cliffs around Land's End, the Dartmoor Tors and the outrageous looking Berryhead to name just a few. The guide's most impressive feature as always are the high quality photo diagrams, the work involved to compile them massive. To me this is a big selling point as they really offer a flavour of the style of climbing on offer. The diagrams are backed up with written route descriptions and the usual rockfax icons. The guide as always contains easy to follow maps, backed up with written approach info, and a paragraph on access/tides and conditions. There's also a reasonable selection of action photos covering the full range of grades and styles on offer.

The guide covers climbs of all grades, although those operating in the VS-E2 range are the most catered for. For those wanting trad routes of E4 and above there seems to be little new stuff to discover but all the classics (such as Fay, Pacemaker, Darkinbad, Il Duce and America) are covered. With a guide of this size there will always be errors to find, perhaps the most blatant is the incorrect description of Coronary Country, which is described as climbing to the good spike of Fay before heading up to the pegs. This error first appeared in the 2000 CC guide (check the 1988 guide for the correct description) and the fact that it has been replicated here highlights how much Rockfax rely on the definitive guides for their information.
All in all though an excellent production and a must buy for all those climbers thinking of visiting this area of the country. There's enough routes in here to keep you going for several holidays, without visiting the same crag twice. This guide is a truly fine effort by the author Mark Glaister. West Country Classics by Mark Glaister is available now for 24.95 from Rockfax.
6th September  2010


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