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review: Bouldering in Ireland (2011) (Read 8435 times)

habrich

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review: Bouldering in Ireland (2011)
February 23, 2011, 05:04:39 am
At the outset I should say I have an extreme positive bias towards this guide and struggled to be objective. The range of reasons is quite extensive: the author, Dave Flanagan, has been flatteringly attentive to my beta on obscure venues in western Ireland for almost a decade now; this will almost certainly be the only book in the lifetime of the universe where my name appears in the same list as John Gaskins and Dave Macleod; I have also self-published a guidebook and am very aware of the stress involved; bouldering in Ireland is where I started out as a climber, scrabbling around on little rocks by the Atlantic as a kid, whilst my parents spent summer after summer trying to convert an abandoned cottage into a holiday home. Actually all the regulars on this site should favour the book too, as Dave has included UKB amongst his "debt of gratitude" credits.

As the book started shipping a couple of weeks ago, there's already some feedback here and at climbing.ie and so far it's all very positive. The design motif will be familiar to anyone who has seen any of the guide's previous online incarnations at theshortspan.com. It works just as well in print - nicely clean and unfussy. More of a surprise is the sheer volume and quality of  photos assembled in one place. There are some especially fine examples of the lonely sculpted boulders/ moody backdrop genre, which Irish scenery suits so well. I'd guess there will plenty of new visitors seduced by those images and correspondingly lots of impulse purchases of the guide. There are also some quirky contextual photos that I liked very much: close-ups of odd rock features like cobbles and boreholes and a visual geology guide in the intro section. Even the obligatory cliched approach-walk-with-pads shots are well chosen.

The book is Dave's first and the hyper-critical may detect signs of that here and there. Graphics geeks may frown at the tonal variance in the images and itch to photoshop more consistent skies or fiddle with white balances. Similarly the text layout is a little odd in places - hyphenated web URLs for example. But personally I could care less. Slightly more substantially, I did wonder whether the ambitious scope of the guide - the whole island in 260 pages! - has come at the expense of adequate location detail in a few cases. Certainly for one or two minor areas that I know well, finding the boulders without careful use of the grid references and another map source might be demanding. But my impression is that Dave has been more generous with his location maps for the major areas.  Talking of which, could Glendalough be the biggest and best bouldering area in the "British" Isles? Does the UK have anything as extensive?

New English-language guides to large previously undocumented areas don't appear often. And new guides to undocumented areas a mere ferry-ride from the UK are never likely to repeat (unless there are rocks in Holland that the Dutch are keeping carefully hidden ... ). So overall "Bouldering in Ireland" is a big deal, a signature event. I'd urge everyone to go seek it out.

habrich

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#1 Re: review: Bouldering in Ireland (2011)
February 23, 2011, 05:14:50 am
And a short interview with Dave Flanagan:

What got you going with the theshortspan.com thing in the first place?

Not really sure. There was zero information about bouldering in Ireland at that time (2000) so I just started putting up information about the things I had done. It evolved from there as bouldering became more popular.

And what encouraged you to make the leap to a print guide?

For years people had said I should do it and I did seriously consider it a few times. I was made redundant at the end of 2009 and I had time on my hands so I thought if not now then never. So I gave myself a year to get it done.

You chose to handle the whole book project by yourself: author and publisher. How steep was the learning curve and what was the cruxiest moment?

Mountaineering Ireland did offer to publish it as did others but I decided to solo it. I was confident I would muddle through. I found the worst bit was the days before sending it to the printers. I worried so much about how the colour was going to turn out. I tried to learn a bit about colour spaces and CYMK and all that stuff but to be honest it was too much for me. The learning curve was pretty steep. I knew the material pretty well. I had the 120 page PDF as my base which probably wasn't as helpful as you might think. Some of the descriptions and especially the directions were shite. I used Adobe InDesign for the book which I hadn't had any prior experience of. Its a great tool and pretty easy to use so it wasn't a problem. I didn't have any fancy design ideas I wanted to keep it as simple as possible.  My favourite guide from a layout point of view is the Peak Bouldering guide. I suppose you could say it was an inspiration to me. The thing was that as my guide covered a lot of different areas and rock types there wasn't really going to be a standard layout so I just worked out what was best for each area.

I notice you have succeeded where generations of republicans have failed and managed to re-unite the whole island. Did you encounter any resistance?

No none. It was never something I consciously decided to do. It would have made no sense to do it any other way.

What proportion of the areas did you visit personally? (from the photo credits, it looks like a lot)

I have been to 84 of the 90 areas which is 93%. I tried to get around as many as possible in the last year but I ran out of time.

Wicklow accounts for nearly half the guide. Would you expect that to be the case in a future edition? is Wicklow worked out?

It wouldn't be the case in a future edition as the Wicklow section won't change much but I would expect the rest of the country of increase a huge amount. So yes Wicklow is pretty worked out. I don't think there are any decent sized areas to be found. There are tons of smaller areas with maybe a few problems or areas with quite spread out boulders. Having said this Coilte - the forestry people - have been doing a lot of felling the last few years (which exposed the boulders in Mall Hill for one) and they may clean some random hillside and reveal loads of boulders.  The scope in the Cork/Kerry mountains is staggering.

You're not very prescriptive in the visitors section. Care to recommend a perfect road trip for, say, a two week visit?

No I didn't go in huge detail. As a rule (and assuming you are flying/ferrying into Dublin) I would head down to Wicklow for a few days, if you like stay. I would then either tackle the west coast from north or south. From the north start in Donegal then south to Aughris, probably skip Connemara, check out Doolin and/or Inishmore, then Kerry Moutains ie. The Gap of Dunloe and The Black Valley. You could stay and explore around their or head back to Wicklow to finish up. If you liked steep hard stuff then you could go up to Fairhead from Dublin and swing across to Donegal. Its just a matter of reading the guide seeing what you like the look of and joining the dots.

UKBers are notable for their pastry fetishes. Can these be satisfied in Ireland or should they bring their own supplies?

Pastry? Nothing outstanding. Best stick to the pig. A full irish breakfast each morning should keep you well fuelled through the day.

DubDom

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#2 Re: review: Bouldering in Ireland (2011)
February 23, 2011, 11:41:41 am
Just got it today

Thanks Dave, you're brilliant!

This is an amazing achievement. Perfect, just perfect.

Paul B

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#3 Re: review: Bouldering in Ireland (2011)
February 23, 2011, 02:10:17 pm
That cover shot is really great, 'tempting' even.

DubDom

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#4 Re: review: Bouldering in Ireland (2011)
February 28, 2011, 03:32:51 pm
And there's some great shots of the Gritstone in Leitrim and Fermanagh too!! Yup -  that's right, untouched gritstone.

Dave Flanagan

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#5 Re: review: Bouldering in Ireland (2011)
February 28, 2011, 05:00:11 pm
And there's some great shots of the Gritstone in Leitrim and Fermanagh too!! Yup -  that's right, untouched gritstone.

Not quite 'untouched' Dom. But I'm sure there is plenty more that is.

Stubbs

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#6 Re: review: Bouldering in Ireland (2011)
February 28, 2011, 09:55:44 pm
That cover shot is really great, 'tempting' even.

Bit highball for you Lucky  ;)

fatdoc

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#7 Re: review: Bouldering in Ireland (2011)
February 28, 2011, 10:15:11 pm
Just got it today

Thanks Dave, you're brilliant!

This is an amazing achievement. Perfect, just perfect.

and to be fair... that's the review anyone needs... born, bred and wants to return.. sorted.

I'm planning a trip end of summer. looks great fun!

RAK Punter

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]At the outset I should say I have an extreme positive bias towards this guide and struggled to be objective. The range of reasons is quite extensive: the author,


Irrespective of your struggle to be objective, your review made me curious about the bouldering in Island particularly as my only exposure to climbing there was Fairhead in the late 80s.

Pantontino

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I've just posted a review of the guide on http://www.northwalesbouldering.com/newsitem.asp?nsid=489

Nice one Dave, a truly great effort.

I'm gutted I can't make it this weekend - hope you have a good one; forecast looks good.

Dave Flanagan

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Thanks for the generous review Simon, thats a pity you can't make it this weekend. The forecast is excellent, its an absolutely beautiful spring day here today and it should hold til the end of the weekend...

underground

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Bargain and looks great, duly ordered!

tomtom

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Mine arrived this afternoon. Superb. Beautifully put together - and some great features. Just got to pursuade MrsTT to go to Ireland on Hols now! Well done Dave.

DubDom

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And there's some great shots of the Gritstone in Leitrim and Fermanagh too!! Yup -  that's right, untouched gritstone.

Not quite 'untouched' Dom. But I'm sure there is plenty more that is.
Relatively untouched then, it's had me scraping my greasy fingers down it in one or two places. Should have worn off by now though. I just meant that there's lots more to go at yet - as you say, and you are the man to know.