Since 1922 the Fell and Rock Climbing Club have been publishing guidebooks to rock climbs in the English Lake District. Their latest edition is a completed updated and re-worked guide to that most popular of valleys – Borrowdale.
I know a lot of climbers have awaited the new guide for a long time – it’s 16 years since the last Borrowdale guidebook was published – and a lot has happened in the valley over that time.
Perhaps one of the most noticeable changes in the new guide is that a good few crags that were in previous editions have been left out. To be fair, there have been a lot of routes claimed in Borrowdale over the decades that simply are not worth climbing, and there are a fair few crags that even when they were documented in the older guidebooks probably never saw more than one or two teams of climbers going there each year. What the new guidebook has done is to remove all those cruddy crags and routes, and it now concentrates on all those superb climbs that the valley is best known for, as well as highlighting some of the slightly more off-the-beaten-track gems that are destined to become the new classic climbs of the future. And for those of you still complaining that you were planning on spending all next summer on Cat Ghyll Bluffs or some other such esoteric pile of choss, well you can still access full details of this crag and all the other deletions from the Archives section of the FRCC website.
The other big thing about the new Borrowdale guidebook is that it is big! And I don’t mean fat. The new book is about A5 size, which is a winning formula hit upon when the FRCC produced their ‘Lake District Rock’ guidebook in 2015 in conjunction with Wired Guides. Some folk don’t like the size of the new guidebook as they say it’s too big to carry on a climb. I get that, and I do agree, but to be honest most climbers these days tend to take a photograph of the page with the description of the climb they are doing, and another photo of the topo too, and carry that with them on the climb instead of a bulky book. A smart phone is much more likely to be taken on a route than the guidebook. And yes, I know that people argue that a smart phone is not great in wet weather. Well, let’s be frank. A paper guidebook isn’t that great in a downpour either.
Personally I’m totally on board with the new Borrowdale guide. I like the size, and I like the deletion of all those scruffy crags and climbs. I also like the fact that should I decide that I do want to go and tackle any route that’s not in the new guidebook I can look up the page in the FRCC Archives.
What I really, really like about the new guidebook is the photography. There are photo-topos throughout, which makes finding your route, and following it, a lot easier than with the old-style crag diagrams. The action shots and landscape photos are inspiring too.
Overall I think the FRCC guidebook team have done a cracking job in bringing Borrowdale and its range of world-class climbs slap-bang up to date, and presenting it to us in a friendly, inspiring format that is sure to catch on.
The new Fell and Rock Climbing Club guidebook to Borrowdale is available throughout all good outdoor shops in the Lake District and further afield, and you can also order it direct from the FRCC website here. It retails at £26.50.