Friday, 25 September 2009

Ailefroide's new Guidebook

Following an old post of Dave, I've been playing with wordle and here's the best picture I have come up with.:

Talking about the Short Span, Dave the Flan has updated his PDF guide of the bouldering in Ireland - that's no big news given that it's been up and running on his website since 04 September. The main 5th edition's addition features the Black Valley, a great spot in Co. Kerry that Damo Sullivan & Co had started to develop back in 2007.

Moving onto John Watson's comment on the last post, I did write a little review of the new Ailefroide's topo, which I had sent to the Short Span, but I think it collided with Dave's guide publication, so I'll stick it here instead.

Is it worth buying the guidebook?
(I bet you ask yourself that question every time you try a new destination)

Ailefroide’s new guidebook (Ailefroide, Topo des blocs, Team les Collets, 2009) was published last June, right on time for the coming summer event, the Ailefroide bouldering meet following the “Tout à Bloc” competition. I was going to spend a week there in August so I spent the money on what I thought was the result of some hard work from the locals.

Apparently this 2nd edition is an improvement compared with the 1st guide. According to Zebloc, 100 new problems have been added to the original 200 in the first edition, with 5 news areas and 2 children circuits added. The quality of the paper is better and the cover stiffer. The whole document is in black and white apart from the usual colourful sponsoring ads.

The info is plain but well organised. For each area you get a numbered list of climbs with their names, grades, and a quality indication based on a 3 star scale. Each boulder has been photographed and has been attributed a letter. The problems have then been indicated on the photos by a white line and the number corresponding to the list. And if you’re not sure where you are, a basic map of the boulders and their corresponding letters is also given for each area.

A small “Edito” introduces the guide. It is written by a certain Gilles Estrambouli but you cannot be sure if it is the right spelling because the name is handwritten and does not appear anywhere else. However the guy clearly wants to become famous because he claims Ailefroide “contributed to making him a legend.” I might be wrong but when you have to tell people that you are famous, somehow I think you’re not there yet.

Apart from this you do not get much text and this is maybe why I felt a bit cheated. It looks like the authors have wanted to keep it easy and simple. The photograph approach is indeed very handy for identifying the problems. On the other hand photographs do not give you indications of how to climb the problem. Of course we do not want the tricks to be given away, but when no description is given, you always come across that one problem where the question remains: “Is this in? Naaah, can’t be, that’d be too easy... wouldn’t it?” So you climb the line again without the hold to make sure you have done the problem properly. It can be fun and it can be a good way to get strong. I think it can also be a good way to frustrate visitors, and this is how I felt a few times.

So the question remains, is it worth 13 euro?

Here is a comparison including various guidebook details I gathered on the net:

Guidebook Problems Pages Hardback Price year
Ailefroide,Topo des Blocs300+ 66 No € 13 2009
Boulder Albarracin200+ 7 PDF free 2007
7+82000+ 288 Yes € 28 2002
The Short Span1400+ 114 PDF free 2009
Northumberland1800+ 433 Yes £19.95 2008
Peak District bouldering2000+ 384 Yes £19.95 2005
Bouldering in Scotland? 188 Yes £19.99 2008
Targabloc 2005350+ 35 PDF free 2005

However to really find out the answer to our question, we would need some sort of rule of thumb to compare prices. For example, spuds are priced per Kg, childminders per hour, and translators per word. So I think guidebooks should be price per problems. This way we can see that The Peak and Northumberland are roughly £0.01/problem, while Font is about €0.014/problem. We can also note that the sneaky John Watson does not want to give away the price of his hard work. The real bargain is coming from people like Dave Flanagan who give you the best competitive rate on the market at approximately €0.00/problem: the guy must be Chinese. But Ailefroide’s guidebook, at €0.043/problem is far from the crowd and should not therefore be contemplated...

But if you are not one of these brainless traders who made a fortune by putting the world’s economy on its knees, you might be able to acknowledge somebody’s good efforts (after all someone had to clean these boulders, right?) and in that case I strongly recommend you to buy the guide on the following webpage: