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The Good, The Great, and The Peter Croft (A review)

Submitted by jmlangford on 2002-08-11

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The Top 40 High Sierra Rock Climbs, by Peter Croft

Review by Jody Langford

I have long considered R.J. Secor’s The High Sierra and Moynier and Fiddler’s Sierra Classics to be the premier guides to California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Upon reading Peter Croft’s book, I now have three premier guides. In fact, Croft references the above books in his, giving them praise for their comprehensive coverage of the mountain range.

Croft’s book, however, is more specific. He set out to write a Top 40 book about the very best alpine rock climbs in the Sierra’s. The guidelines were to describe technical routes with a one day or less approach. Reading the forward by Galen Rowell in which he describes his love for these mountains took on special meaning for me in light of Galen's tragic passing. I would say that Croft ‘summited in style’ with this outstanding effort.

The introduction is very comprehensive, giving details on how to get there, driving times from different regions, the weather patterns, and access information. He also gives a list of equipment to carry in an Alpine Rack and a list for a Technical rack. On each route description, he then recommends one or the other for that particular climb. I found this particularly nice in that it didn’t clutter up each description with a laundry list of what to carry.

One thing I especially liked about this book is Croft’s writing style. In the preface Croft writes, “…I’ve tried to add a bit of history, not in dry, text form, but more like the campfire variety, particularly if there was plenty of wine at that campfire.” He definitely followed through on that pledge! The following quote is from the section about dogs in the backcountry; “My wagging companion and I once encountered a woman on horseback in the backcountry. We stepped off the trail to let her, her horse and the pack-laden ass that was bringing up the rear go by. Despite our good manners and a friendly hello, she glared down on us from her mount like an angry Charlton Heston in the Ten Commandments. Now you might say that because she so blatantly disapproved of my dog while parking her wide end on a far bigger animal that she was being a little self righteous, but you’d be wrong. I say she was being super self righteous (and I hope she falls off her horse)!”

At the beginning of every route description there is an approach map. On the more technical routes a detailed topo of the climbing route is included. The written route description includes: The Approach, The Climb, and The Descent. In addition, each route contains a shaded “information box” including First Ascent, Approach (mileage and elevation gain to the bottom of the route), Total Gain(elevation from car to summit), Area Map(page number of the map with the road to the trailhead), Photo (page number of the photo of the route), Topo (page number of the topo of the route), and Gear List(whether to use an Alpine or technical rack and any special gear requirements). All of this information is easy to understand and laid out in a very reader friendly fashion.

The book is written in a very laid back manner, very personable, unlike so many dry, sterile guidebooks of today. You learn a lot about Croft’s personality and great sense of humor in this book. For example, when describing Western Front-IV (5.10c) on Mt. Russell, Croft writes, “I first climbed this combo with Galen. We meant to simply repeat his route, but several pitches up, where that route goes up and right into blocky cracks, we angled up and left into the obvious dihedral that shoots to the top of the wall. It’s perhaps important to note that Galen didn’t have much of a clue as to where the hell his route went at this point, despite the fact that he had climbed it twice before. Now Galen is a really smart guy (approximately twice as smart as me) and just jampacked full of all kinds of important scientific trivia (that I don’t understand) and yet he couldn’t remember a minor detail like WHERE HIS OWN STUPID ROUTE WENT! (Not that it bugged me or anything.)”

There is something here for climbers of all abilities. From the Class 2 NW Slope of Mount Agassiz to the 5.11a Positive Vibrations on Incredible Hulk, Croft has it covered.

The Good, the Great, and the Awesome, is stuffed with outstanding photos by Galen Rowell, Chris Falkenstein, and others. The quality of the photo reproductions (done in black and white) is tremendous. The format and layout is very good and all of this is in a book that will fit into your pack with no problems.

I highly recommend buying this book! It is published by Maximus Press and is part of their Eastern Sierra Climbing Guides series. It is available from Rockfax.


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