Is there really space for another Peak District guidebook? A few friends asked this as we passed around a brand-new copy of Graham Hoey’s Peak District Gritstone (published by Vertebrate Publishing last April). The answer, we decided, depends on the guidebook… As it turns out, there’s definitely room for this one.
Original route descriptions
Graham has climbed 95% of the routes in the book (the extra 5% were recommended to him), which really makes this guidebook stand out. A huge amount of research and personal experience has gone into this book, and it’s nice to know that he is recommending and describing routes that he has actually climbed. I found his descriptions really clear and easy to follow.
Is there really space for another Peak District guidebook?
Another feature of this book is updated grading, which reflects modern styles of climbing and equipment. Graham has upgraded typically sandbagged (undergraded) routes to prevent climbers from being caught out. Routes that have become easier with modern protection have received a downgrade to reflect this. It is nice to see an author making such adaptations for safety and enjoyment.
Some routes also have Font (bouldering) grades as well as traditional grades, where pads have evolved the style of ascent.
What I really like about the BMC gritstone guides is the attention to climbing history. However, there are 5 separate routes guides for the Peak District alone. Peak District Gritstone has less space for stories, but first ascents are included for every route. This is an important feature, and not just for historical significance: first ascensionist can be as much of a factor in route selection as any other!
In many of its practical features Peak District Gritstone is similar to other guidebooks. I like that the route description is on the same page as the photo topo. This is something I find a faffy with the BMC guides (but is inevitable as they are so comprehensive).
As this is a selective guidebook, the photo topos are also very clear and uncluttered, which makes this a nice book to read when you’re not at the crag too.
The book is really nice to look at with uncluttered topo photos and beautiful photography.
It’s hard to judge the approach maps for areas you know well, but this book has seen frequent use on Introduction to Rock Climbing courses and we’ve safely made it to the crag everytime. The book also features a fold out crag overview page, with a summary of each crag (routes, grades, aspects, approach times etc.).This is a great feature for helping those unfamiliar with the area to plan a trip or day out.
As a working instructor I tend to use the BMC comprehensive guides, as they give you lots of less busy route options that are useful on a sunny day at Stanage. However, those guides aren’t ideal for the new climber, visitor, or anyone who isn’t ready to commit £100 to buying the 5 guidebooks for the Peak District. Similarly, the RockFax editions split the Peak into two volumes: a sizable sum to fork out. Peak District Gritstone is certainly less comprehensive, but still provides a lifetime of climbing in just one book.
About the author
Few people are as qualified as Graham Hoey to compiled a selected routes guidebook for the Peak District. Not only has he spent 50 years exploring gritstone, but he’s been proofing and writing guidebooks since his university days. He was also one of the primary authors and researchers for Peak Rock, a beautiful coffee-table sized book that explores the history and development of Peak District climbing.
Peak District Gritstone is a great option for both visitors and locals who want good recommendations from an all-knowing source. It covers the entire Peak District, doesn’t sandbag you, and includes hidden gems that look rubbish but climb beautifully. I usually recommend this book to those on those on Intermediate Rock or Learn to Lead course who are keen to start exploring Peak rock.
However, if you want something comprehensive, complete with interviews and local history, this probably isn’t the book for you. We’d recommend the BMC Peak District guidebooks, but you’ll need 5 books for the full set!
BuyPeak District Gritstone at the Vertebrate Publishing shop here.
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Most of our courses are run in the nearby Peak District National Park which has some of the finest climbing, bouldering, walking and hiking in the world.