The end of the dark ages is upon us – with the arrival of the new, glossy, and gigantic, North Wales Bouldering Guidebook from Groundup. We snatched it away from the BMC Shop as soon as it arrived to review this epically proportioned tome.
Out of stock and out of print for years, getting your hands on a copy of the first edition of the North Wales Bouldering Guidebook was for most either (a) impossible, (b) hugely expensive (some were selling on ebay for £200+!), or (c) a malicious act of theft off a ‘friend’…
So, after being promised for a …while… the eagerly anticipated second edition is finally here, and the question on everybody’s lips: is it worth the wait?
First impressions are that it’s massive; the bouldering guidebook for North Wales is bigger in fact than Boulder Britain, the bouldering guidebook to the entire UK. Oh, and it’s bigger than a banana.
Banana for scale.
Those familiar with Groundup’s previous guidebooks – North Wales Rock and my favourite, Llanberis Slate – will recognise the style and quality, with excellent topos and descriptions alongside a host of photos. In fact, the thing that stands out the most is the sheer volume of content the book contains. The only two-page-spread photos are on the inside front and back covers, and the number of full one-page photos or pages dedicated to photos is surprisingly low.
It starts in Llanberis Pass, describing areas in much of Snowdonia – the Ogwen area and a whole load of outlying crags too – before heading to the Rhiw area further west out on the peninsula, then up along the coast north to Anglesey and then Llandudno, before finishing in the north east area.
There’s very little else, no history or background content, only a handful of introductory pages, and no glossary, appendix, legends or the like. Considering that the introduction ends at page 14, and the next section jumps straight to describing bouldering areas and problems on page 17, this guidebook is pure unadulterated information relentlessly described non-stop straight through to the end of the book, with the last two pages reserved for acknowledgements and an advert directory.
It's available to buy from the BMC Shop with a 10% discount for BMC members of course.
That’s right, this guidebook holds 650 pages dedicated to bouldering in North Wales, minus a few adverts. That’s a ridiculous amount of topos, photos, area and boulder descriptions, and what must be a gigantic heap of boulder problems, a lifetime’s worth, perhaps.
For those that have been waiting for umpteen years, I’ll just say this: it’s worth it. There’s more than enough motivation to go out and climb North Wales rock to satisfy even the most jaded local. Even Simon Panton, author of North Wales Bouldering, can’t put it down: “I'm often sick of the sight of a guidebook by the time a project gets to the end, but this one feels different – I can't stop looking at it!”
We caught up with Simon to find out more:
“I'm quite optimistic and often underestimate how long things will take, this is especially true of guidebooks. Producing the second edition of the NWB guide proved to be a monumental task, at times it felt like I would always be not-quite-finishing it. Then suddenly, here we are and I'm holding it in my hands and it feels strange, but the best type of strange you could ever imagine.
“The bouldering scene in North Wales has always been good, (at least it has in the 21 years that I have lived here) but in recent times it kicked up a gear. The last five years have been so exciting if, like me, you like developing new areas. There's a fairly small crew of locals who chase first ascents; the same names crop up, but Martin Crook is the main man when it comes to finding amazing new crags. We follow in his wake, eager for the next eye-popping discovery. He rarely disappoints – go and check out the Pant Ifan area if you want a glimpse of what I'm talking about.
“Generally what happens is that Martin starts the ball rolling, calls a few friends and we do what we can. Then we get Pete ‘the Hoover’ Robins to do all the stuff we can't, or are too scared to do. It's a good system, it works well.”
Simon's top 5 favourite recent problems
Super Crack 7A, Aberglaslyn. Stunning ascent from Martin, a contender for one of the best of its grade. Page: 383
The Tench 7A (7A+ sds), one of mine at Pant Ifan. An attractive leaning wall, perfect rock, lovely features, etc. Page: 401
Corbyn Youth Surge 7A , another of mine at Craig Nant y Fedw. Did this on my own, no spotters, so felt pretty exciting! It just made it into the guide; I remember walking back to the car with a massive smile on my face, a perfect ending. Pete added a SDS a few days later and raved about the quality. Page: 336
Bill Psyches 6C, an Alex Mason line up a big-ish wall at Clogwyn y Bustach. Fantastic climbing, culminating in a great diagonal feature. I love the atmosphere in those woods. Page: 316
Seams Choughed 7A, an 'old' one climbed by Jon Ratcliffe back in 2003 at Porth Nefoedd. Immaculate rock and beautiful, tenuous moves. Just go and do it! (See page 665 in the guide for a shot of Jon on it). Page: 523
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