Ken Wilson adds (more):
ou only have to look through these books - both the walks books and the climbing books (and in that I would include The High Mountains of the Alps) to see what a range of talented photographers we have. Probably in the tradition of the Abraham brothers and people like Donkin and Milner we are lucky to have a great photographic head of steam in
Britain. There are scores of really talented photographers and these books of mine have given me a valuable opportunity to become familiar with the work of many of them and I have been greatly privileged to use their work. It is a real buzz to get a good photo and then showcase it properly in the correct context and well captioned so that it achieves
its maximum potential. The books allow the various styles to be "picked and mixed" to great advantage. For example John Cleare's picture of Left Wall in Extreme Rock (a very conventional silhouette though a very good example of the type), is juxtaposed against Bernard Newman's very factual pictures of Basher Atkinson leading Right Wall (all taken in the Douglas Milner tradition) with every detail of the climb in full view - essential information to anyone who wants to do the climb.
One point that everyone should remember is the vital importance of snap-shots (impromptu conversation pieces and even formal groups) that capture for ever a moment in time that is unique. These pictures are almost always far more interesting after a few years that action shots or landscapes, unless the former is an actual moment of history like a first ascent. My call to everyone is take more snapshots. Remember that you and your friends and what you are doing, what you are wearing and where you are doing it is a unique moment in time and history. Make sure you capture it!
In addition to these photographic musings there is a whole literary tale to tell about these books. Suffice to say that there is little point in publishing any written passage unless the writer has something interesting to say. The various permutations of this and its various styles are what constitute a good or bad article, the judgement of which is very subjective
anyway. I have been really lucky in the great efforts the authors have gone to for these books and I think we can claim a reasonably high success rate, though sometimes the most talented writer gets it wrong and their essays have to be diplomatically "sidelined".
The main charge against the books is the honey-potting effect, most notable on limestone climbs that can get very polished. This is a fair point, but in general the widely spread and distant location of many of the climbs schemes against this. The compensating encouragement to young climbers to get out and check out climbs and crags that they might never otherwise visit (thus keeping at least a skeleton of our marvellous repertoire in
working order) is well worth the odd bit of wear and tear on the more popular routes.
Another point that I think should be noted is the value of these books as a grading "corset" preventing, to some extent, the devaluation of grades. Climbs like Main Wall, Doorpost, Bracket and Slab, Ardverikie Wall and Cioch Direct should remain as challenging hard Severes in my view and not be upgraded to VS just because todays climbing-wall trained luvvies cannot bear to think that they might find a severe hard. These are all tough hard
Severes and they should remain as such. I see no reason why a climb like Black Slab on Stanage should be upgraded, especially as footwear and protection equipment are so much better these days. These are the type of climbs on which young climbers should "learn
their trade" and in doing so they will be far fitter to face the serious business of "staying alive" rather than wobbling up some fashionable HVS or (these days) more likely a bolted E1 on Pen Trywyn or Portland. Equally, Right Unconquerable (HVS), White Slab (E1) The Crack (VS) and Praying Mantis (HVS) might be considered yardsticks for their grades.
The website looks splendid. I am impressed!