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

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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...