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Alpine Beta: Too Much and Not Enough

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Guidebooks used to have horrible beta to "preserve the adventure". It led to thousand of descriptions like "Follow the most promising line past several difficult bits to reach the obvious gully" for a 15-pitch route.

 

Nowadays it seems guidebooks have swung the other way, determined to prevent any complaints about "bad guidebook beta" by telling everyone which hand to use on which hold and which tree to turn left at when bushwacking. Soon the paragraphs describing the approach will be longer than the approach? "Proceed up the third creek gully (counting from the parking lot), beginning at GR 567 890, for 238.1 meters until you reach a large maple tree (GR 567 892). The tree has been marked with 15 rolls of flagging tape. Turn east (climbers uphill right) here and, being careful not to step on a seasonal wasp nest, take three steps to get around the tree. Now locate a large boulder 16 meters way at bearing 283 degrees and proceed towards it, using short steps on the blocky talus" blah blah blah.

 

Anyways how much is "not too much and more than not enough"?

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Beta is like bolts. You can choose not to use it if you like.

 

The amount of beta needed to complete a clmb changes as you gain experience.

 

When I first started climbing I spent a lot of time making sure I was on route by analyzing every bit of data I had with me. These days I take a quick look at a topo and climb through what seems to be the easiest line.

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My favorite "stale beta" experience was back years ago when I started climbing. I decided to try Mt. Baring, the dog route. I had an old copy of Beckey I'd got from a used book store, and so when the route description said to 'head uphill at the clearcut' well...

I didn't know then that it wasn't that great a climb with the best of beta.

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Please write a guide in haiku using only pictures with lines because Google and CC are aid.

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Here are Hugh's last words as haiku

 

it often goes bad

quickly. The tree falls down, the

flood wipes out the trail.

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Good topic. If the grade is moderate, I actually prefer not to read the any beta just for funs sake. Drives my parter nuts as I'm always getting lost just for the hell of it. On harder stuff, I'll study every known detail of the route to stack things in my favor. Although I must say that sometimes trying to memorize beta gets me into trouble. I'l spend so much time trying to look for that "mandatory" crimp that I'll mess up what would otherwise be trivial moves.

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Check out Jeremy's post in the BC forum on the Crossover descent:

 

http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/839067/Slesse_Crossover_Pass_Descent_#Post839067

 

That's an example of super detailed but very useful (and welcome) beta!

 

However, I would find the same level of detail on the climbing route to be overkill, and to "spoil" the adventure.

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Guidebooks used to have horrible beta to "preserve the adventure". ... Anyways how much is "not too much and more than not enough"?

 

Are you sure the "sketchy beta" was intentional? Maybe so (Im not sure myself) but maybe it was because climbing was not quite as popular as today and the authors figured the skill/experience level of those that would follow would be higher than it perhaps is today overall.

 

I think if youre gonna bother to write a guide it probably aught to be as clear and accurate as possible. A climber could always choose to not read it and accept the risk of being called a fool for not doing so should something unexpected happen.

 

You can always choose to use a static rope and hobnailed boots as well.. wink.gif

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Guidebooks used to have horrible beta to "preserve the adventure". ... Anyways how much is "not too much and more than not enough"?

 

Are you sure the "sketchy beta" was intentional?

 

Yes, in many cases, the author's introduction stated that route descriptions were kept short in part to preserve the adventure and ensure that future parties would be able to experience the same route finding challenges as the first ascent party.

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Guidebooks used to have horrible beta to "preserve the adventure". ... Anyways how much is "not too much and more than not enough"?

 

Are you sure the "sketchy beta" was intentional?

 

Yes, in many cases, the author's introduction stated that route descriptions were kept short in part to preserve the adventure and ensure that future parties would be able to experience the same route finding challenges as the first ascent party.

 

 

That being the case then, it's just a matter of personal preference and thats pretty subjective and various.

 

I guess I like to see as much beta as possible - but I admire it when people are going 'onsight' as well. If your confident, got the skills and experience then certainly going completely "beta-less" has to be more fun right?.

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I think several people have made some valuable points. Certainly it cannot hurt to have more information available. It's then up to each individual to determine how much of that information they want to use. Because there are different info expectations for people of various levels of experience (and also for different people regardless of experience), it's probably good to have lots of very detailed information that can be picked through for the essential bits.

 

I would also like to add that, with the invention of new technologies, e.g. GPS, it is now easier than ever to create and transmit certain information. Maybe in 10 years all that you'll see in guidebooks is a list of coordinates that you follow. Maybe there won't even be guidebooks for things like hiking and approaches and you'll just download a set of coordinates directly to your GPS or you'll have a little back-country Garmin thing strapped to your pack.

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I always bring a copy of the cascade alpine guide description or a summitpost description and/or topo. I normally just follow the line of least resistance but never hesitate to whip those things out if i really stumped.

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I think it's great that there are select guides with detailed information, but it's probably not necessary to cover all of SW B.C. and Washington with alpine select style detailed descriptions. The coverage for B.C. at least seems about right. I don't have any experience with the select guides in Washington.

 

I kinda approach alpine climbing like climbing in Squamish. Alpine Select == Apron, Peak 8380 == Zodiac Wall. You're going to have a much different experience depending on where you go and if you know where Peak 8380 is you should know where to climb to get the experience you're looking for. If you couldn't care less about not knowing about Peak 8380 then you're probably having a good time anyway.

 

One of the bigger beefs about instruction manuals that people can't get around by "ignoring the bolts" is that they lead to more crowded alpine climbs but I think that the current guide book situation and the realities of access around here won't lead to Diedre type line ups on many alpine climbs.

 

Maybe also related to a couple other things:

 

- I love the guidebooks for Waddington, the Selkirks and the Bugaboos plus Alpinist. Though I'll probably never use most of the details in these books, it's nice to have them for bedtime reading. It's a little hard to get worked up about some Beckey or Fairley guide descriptions :)

 

- This isn't meant to be chest beating, but... In the McLane guide some of the alpine grades seem to be soft on the climbs that novices are more likely to get on. I don't know if that was intentional, but I think it's a good strategy so that people don't get in over their heads.

 

- Some more modern routes do require more description compared to older routes that are pretty much covered by the route name.

 

- Some of the approach info in the McLane guide is pretty out of date and have thrown a wrench in the plans of quite a few weekends. It would be nice to have a free website for getting updates.

 

- If the original post is actually to see whether or not Dru should publish/get involved with a 2nd alpine select, if I'm true to my comments above, then no. But I sure wouldn't mind if he sent me his detailed route descriptions in private ;)

 

- The original post is more likely in response to Jer's description of the Crossover Descent information. I think for something like this where it could save a lot of people from doing the soul crushing regular descent it is worthwhile, though I would never have the patience to put something like that together.

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The original post is actually in response to some discussions with Matt re: second edition of Scrambles guide but I suppose it applies to some of the others too.

 

If I ever write a guidebook the approach beta will be less detailed than the climb beta. I'd rather a party get lost on the approach than bail from partway up a climb. :D

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Good topic.

 

I think maybe it relates to time. Many first ascentionists are full time climbers so can afford to take all the time it takes to find a route and climb it.

 

Many others of us only have one good weekend a month (if that) and don't have time to mess around if we want to get things done.

 

I've found even with the most beta that sometimes a complex climb is better the 2nd time around because you figure things out that aren't in the beta.

 

Just a for instance, the Slesse crossover descent. If I hadn't done 1/2 of the crossover in reverse the weekend before it would have been a bushwack nightmare to do it straight up after the climb. With this new beta that wouldn't be necessary.

 

Another for instance, Liberty Crack, no where does the beta tell you that you can easily retreat with a single 60M because the stations are fixed at 30M for the first half of the climb. So a lot of people end up hauling an extra rope for no good reason the first time they climb it.

 

But it also holds true you'll never hone great routefinding skills by not trying stuff out for yourself. And slim details also may work as a filter to keep people away that maybe shouldn't be on something too dangerous/difficult anyway. Sort of like a scary approach just to get to the base of something.

 

The worst thing about guide book beta is when it's wrong.

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The SuperTopo guidebooks are Exhibit A in the trend toward ‘beta overkill’. Do we really need to know exactly where we can place our yellow camalot, when it is within the range of pro sizes recommended in previous guidebooks? Do we need a pitch-by-pitch topo diagram of a mid-fifth class alpine climb?

 

Though I avoid reading the things prior to a climb, it is almost impossible for me not to check the details afterward, once I get a chance.

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I was also thinking about Matt's book when I was responding but didn't think you would be referring to it. There are a lot of details for some pretty straightforward scrambles but for the audience I think they're appropriate. His guide is great for hikers who want to climb mountains but don't have the information or don't want things as serious as some of the easier things in the Alpine Select. It kinda bridges people into Alpine Select type stuff. A gateway drug. More advanced users of his guide can easily ignore the details and shouldn't get too worked up about them being there.

 

Is he thinking of making a change for the 2nd edition?

 

 

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I've always been a "beta hound" but lately I've been trusting my nose more, which is fun. It takes some experience. You have to be able to look up at something and decide if there is any way a 5.7 climb could go up that. Likely...not :D.

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