Tuesday, April 16, 2024

New Route Books: The Black Dog

As a young climber in the 1980s I was always fascinated when we were able to read the books that had been left in various locations; reading the first ascent records in the words of the climbers who actually did the climbing, in their own handwriting and often signed. It made the whole thing so close and so personal.

Climbing new routes is indeed a personal thing. Each one is a unique journey that only the first ascensionist can experience, and completely different on each and every one.

That personal experience and connection with the route is often laid bare in the handwritten records in the new route books and is a probably the clearest example of climbing history ‘in the raw’.

Those books were the basis for communication and debate, and fed the contents of forthcoming guidebooks, well before the deployment of more modern-day internet grade and quality voting algorithms.

Apart from the factual contents of these books though there is often an ongoing underlying narrative that was never written down or described as such, but reading them, one can sense the times, the passions, competition and controversies. These are often tales which have never been told, and probably a lot of them will never be told, but that’s all part of the mystery and the reasons for publishing the books in this format.


The RockArchivist project started in earnest back in 2009 when I moved to Sheffield and started to think more about the opportunities almost on my doorstep.

I tracked down the custodian of the surviving Stoney Café routes books and agreed that they could be published. Then I did the same with the Outside in Hathersage and started to cast the net wider.

Pete Norton (of Pete’s Eats Café fame) embraced the idea immediately and gave permission for whatever we needed to do, which saw me driving over to Llanberis to pick up a huge plastic box containing all the surviving books from the café from the new owner, Tom Potter.

Whilst in Wales I then drove over to Eric Jones’ house and agreed exactly the same with Eric, so we had the Snowdonia range covered quite early on and would be followed later with the books from Lyon Sports in Llandudno, detailing the developments of the limestone crags on the Ormes.

Brian Cropper was massively keen to get his archives digitised, especially his new route books from the YHA in Manchester, and these would later be joined by three books from Rock ‘n Run in Ambleside, the lost book from Tanky’s shop in Sheffield, Joe Royle’s shop in Buxton, and the book which really started it for me; the Black Dog book, which was still kept by Ian Lonsdale and brought back innumerable memories.

Overall, there are over 10,000 scanned pages in the RockArchivist collection, and it is hoped that we can work through these to now publish them in hard copy book format for everyone to enjoy in (almost) their original format. The collection is also still growing, and if possible new volumes will be released when the opportunity allows.

For now though, I hope you enjoy browsing these books in their native form. You might even get out a biro and write your own comments, but above all, just enjoy browsing.

The original plan for RockArchivist was for it to be a completely non-profit project, and I am proud to say that this is still the case.

A portion of nett profits from the books in the RockArchivist new route book series will be used in support of a variety of causes, from local mountain rescue teams, the North Wales bolt fund, preserving the raw historical record for future generations, and maintaining the climbers’ memorial area in Wilton One (Lancashire).

Your support for these causes by purchasing the new routes volumes is gratefully received by all concerned, so thank you for this support.

The Black Dog, Lancashire

During the early 1980s, the Black Dog pub in Belmont was the focal point for climbers visiting the quarries. Its new routes book includes routes by Paul Pritchard, Dave Kenyon, John Hartley, John Monks and a variety of others.

Published: 19th June 2023
ISBN: 9798389142404
Printed Pages: c106

Introduction by: Ian Lonsdale; Lancashire activist and landlord of the Black Dog.


Buy it here: https://amzn.to/3vC2g9w

The Lancashire Book (Work in Progress)

The history of rock climbing on the crags and quarries of the Lancashire guidebook area

It has often been said in the past that one of the most endearing features about climbing in Lancashire is that the local activists aren’t interested in fame or fortune, they climb in the County purely for the pleasure of it, and typically they don’t tend to publicise their activities.

Personally I’ve never agreed with this point of view, but maybe that’s just me.

Researching and writing this book is a fascinating thing to do, with great stories, lots of personalities, a few bits of intrigue, a smattering of controversy, but overall the history, when described in the very words of the activists themselves, brings the area out from under the bushel it used to hide under, and out into the open, where it belongs.

Publication of The Lancashire Book (not it’s real name by the way!) is scheduled for November 2026.

Monday, April 15, 2024

2013: A Bit of History - Peak Rock

The History, the Routes, the Climbers…

Published in November 2013, Peak Rock is a celebration of significant developments at the cutting edge of rock climbing in the Peak District, from the day that James W Puttrell first set foot on rock at Wharncliffe Crags in the late nineteenth century, through to modern day ascents on the area’s gritstone and limestone crags.

Meticulously researched and written by a team of local authors, this is the story of the sharp end of Peak District climbing as told through the words of many of the Peak’s and the world s top climbers, including: James W Puttrell, Jack Longland, Joe Brown, Don Whillans, Ed Drummond, Tom Proctor, John Allen, Ron Fawcett, Andy Pollitt, Jerry Moffatt, Johnny Dawes, Ben Moon, Miles Gibson, Pete Whittaker, Steve McClure, Ryan Pasquill and many more.

The late Giles Barker first started work on Peak Rock (then titled Peak Performance) in the early 1980s, before progress was halted by his premature death in 1992. It was almost twenty years before Phil Kelly picked up where Giles left off, pulling together Giles’ original research and interviews, which were stored at the Mountain Heritage Trust. Phil enlisted Graham Hoey to work on the book, updating the manuscript with their own interview material and other primary source information, writing a number of missing chapters and also adding a number of chapters, including the significant developments of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s and including ground-breaking coverage of the history of bouldering in the area, the gradual acceptance of bolted climbs on some limestone crags.

Phil and Graham brought in a team of experienced Peak District climbers drawing on their knowledge of specific developments trad climbing, sport climbing, bouldering, gritstone, limestone and worked with them to develop individual chapters. This resulting book on the history of Peak District climbing is the most comprehensive to be published since Eric Byne and Geoff Sutton’s High Peak in 1966.

New Route Books: The Black Dog

As a young climber in the 1980s I was always fascinated when we were able to read the books that had been left in various locations; reading...