First impressions: A beautiful book!
The first thing you'll notice about Ian Nicholson's "Washington Pass Climbs" is that it so very pretty. Andrew Burr's stunning cover photo of Ryan O'Connell on the Direct East Buttress of SEWS sets your expectations for what you'll find inside. It is, in fact, rare to open the book to a page that doesn't have a beautiful, full-color photograph on the page or on its opposite, and in those cases, you'll find a detailed route topo or color area topo.
Nicholson and his design and editorial team have clearly done their best to produce a book that shows you the majesty of the area it is describing. Even if you'd never heard of Washington Pass, the photos alone would make you want to go there immediately. Northwest climbers will recognize the names of many of the photographic contributors, whose ranks include Steph Abegg, John Scurlock and Tim Matsui.
The book appears to be well-bound, and the paper weight is heavy enough to be durable (i.e. climber-resistant) but not so burly that you wouldn't want to pack it on an overnight. At 248pp, it weighs in at 430g.
Contents: Route info and presentation
Nicholson's bio notes that he has climbed every route described in his book. While anecdotal information is acceptable in a guidebook to an area the size of Joshua Tree or Red Rock Canyon, where it may be literally impossible for the author to climb every single route, in a book containing only about sixty routes, the reader expects direct experience and information. Nicholson doesn't disappoint.
Area, route, and approach descriptions are clear. They give specific mileage, landmarks, and turn instructions, and, due the fact that the guide is brand-new, every piece of information is absolutely up-to-date. Getting lost on the way to the base of any of the climbs listed in this guide would be not only embarrassing, but perhaps a sign that your routefinding might not meet the challenge of any route that notes that it will be necessary.
The first climb of each mountain/massif/rock lists the approach and descent notes, and, thereafter, every climb for that feature is broken into history, strategy and retreat/storm. The strategy section, where most readers would expect a pitch-by-pitch description, is more general, relying on the excellent topos that accompany each route. Having not read other SuperTopo guides, I will admit that Nicholson has set the bar pretty high for me as a reader. I've climbed a few of the routes described, and his info is dead-on and elegantly presented.
Of note is Nicholson's star rating system. A somewhat annoying feature of many guides is to say "one star means it's crap, and you shouldn't climb it, and if your friend tells you it's cool, he's a dork" and then go ahead and list pages of one-star climbs. The South Face of Kangaroo Temple is the only
one-star route in the book. Nicholson lists four two-star routes (Ultra Mega OK on Burgundy Spire, the South Face and Patriot Cracks on Concord, and the West Ridge of Cutthroat), and only a handful of three-stars. The rest are all four- and five-star routes, defined respectively as "excellent climb" and "undisputed classic."
Nicholson has clearly taken the time to offer a guide that is easy and informative to use, is fun to plan and dream with, and is designed to help the reader have a great time at Washington Pass.
No complaints from me; I think this is a really outstanding effort. That said, I might as well mention it because someone will: the copy editing is a little slipshod. Typos abound and at least one route description cuts off for a page break that never completes. Issues such as these are symptomatic of rushing a book to press. But, y'know what -- who cares? The important part of the book -- the information it contains -- is understandable, accurate, and up-to-date.
As I've said, it is a lovely book aesthetically, and it's nicely put-together. I anticipate many years of use and enjoyment, and I congratulate Nicholson and his team on an excellent product.
Copyright 2012 by SuperTopo