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Guidebooks Ethics Debate - sound off

saxfiend · · Decatur, GA · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 4,225

Give them names. Like Larry said, you've done the due diligence for your guidebook, so if anyone's entitled to name the "unknowns," you are.

Brad Mills wrote:My vote is to go ahead and name the unknowns and put some sort of annotation on the route to leave room for corrections. Labeling a route unknown does the route more disservice than not giving its FA credit.
I agree. I hate seeing something labelled "unknown" or "unnamed." Every route has some distinctive character (even if it's a bad one), and "unknown" is too generic to reflect that character. For areas I manage on this site, if there's a route I've climbed that isn't in the guidebook and all the investigation I do doesn't come up with a name or FA, I'll give it a name. I'll also note in the description that this is what I've done, in case anyone can come through with a true name.

Jason Haas · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2005 · Points: 1,275

Thanks for all the great ideas. Keep 'em coming! I also appreciate all the positive feedback and everybody offering constructive opinions.

Matt Robertson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2001 · Points: 115

As a traditionalist I hope every guidebook contains 100% correct FA information (including original route name) for every single route. However, as a guidebook user, I want the book to be a useful source of route information first. If the author has made efforts to research FA information and remains unsure, I hope he takes the step (and assumes the risk) of giving a name better than Unknown #3 to the awesome splitter crack which just felt like the greatest pitch I've ever done.

Authors who apply a name to a route run the risk of stepping on toes, creating ambiguous information, or failing to properly recognize a climber whose ascent has a real place in area history. That's a big responsibility and usually impossible to meet 100%. Didn't Harding call that big route simply the South Buttress?

I'm facing similar challenges with the new Taiwan guidebook - trying to get all the facts straight, all the history correct, but ultimately naming some routes myself. Add a second language into the mix, along with a cultural tendacy to be silent about one's achievements, and it becomes quite the interesting challenge. I'll surely get some facts wrong, and accept any criticism that results, but ultimately I want the book to be the best possible source of information, both reference and historical, and we strike a balance as best we can.

Big props for your hard work, Jason. Writing guidebooks redefines the meaning of unappreciated labor. I'm looking forward to using your new Platte book.

Lee Smith · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2003 · Points: 1,545


Just as a side note here, famous guidebook author Gerry Roach has probably named more features and mountains in Colorado than the USGS. I think that is a solid precedent.

+1 for all your work and excellent books.

Mike Lane · · Centennial, CO · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 905

Once again I want to reiterate that none of this would apply to any contemporary work currently being done. That said, I think applying a thought-up name to something someone else has done is creeping to close to the slippery slope of unraveling all these weird little unwritten rules that kind of keep us somewhat unified.

I do think that once every avenue is explored (including a plea for info posted here prominently), I would be ok w/ a beta-like name:

  • 5.10 killer crack
  • 5.11 choss face
  • Wicked 5.9 Roof
  • Runout 5.12 Smearing Nightmare
Stewart M. Green · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2002 · Points: 100

Route names are a real problem Jason. I always call the routes in my books "Unknown" or "Unnamed" when I can't find a record of the original name or the climbers who did the FA.

I can understand folks that want names for everything but if I didn't do the FA then I have no right to name the route. Simple as that.

Plus there are a lot of routes that simply don't have names because the first ascensionist chose not to name them. I've done a lot of FAs that are that way, including a whole bunch of routes up in the SPlatte. If I didn't name them and I give you the info on the new routes and new crags then I certainly don't want you or anyone else to give them names in a guidebook. Best to let the mystery be.

At another off-the-beaten-track limestone area that we've been developing in southern Colorado, we purposefully have not named the cliffs and routes beyond giving them letters and numbers...X1, X2, X3, Y1, Y2, Z1...depending on when they were put up. If they ever go into a guidebook, I hope the author respects our lack of names. Heck, we don't even rate the routes beyond the old rating system that Billy Westbay and I came up with in the early 1970s...Billy and I decided that ratings were bullshit and climbs could be lumped into these four categories: Easy, Hard, Fuckin' Hard, and Super Fuckin' Hard!

Another consideration is that a route name is simply a way of identifying it...nothing more. Maybe some routes have names have that have significance for the FA party, but often not. Sometimes they're names of songs from some music album. So while names are important and some names are cool, no names are just as important! Leave them as Unknown and Unnamed...

tcamillieri · · Denver · Joined Sep 2008 · Points: 1,140

I don't really see an issue with giving an unknown route a descriptive name. That is, "Left Arete" or "Right Dihedral." It simply identifies the route and more than respecting any FAist (which he all know is a huge part of writing guides) the purpose of the guidebook is to direct parties to climbs.

Furthermore, often times routes acquire names even before they have an FA (i.e. Daniel Woods' "The Game," or "Desperanza," or need I even mention FRFM?-- all it needs is the abbreviation!). So it seems that this practice is a.) meant to distinguish the line an attract attention to it and b.) is named without "the right" to name it. Hence, while their may be an effort to find the FAist, climbing ethics have something of a precedent for naming routes with "the FA right" to.

When I am working on Projects for that matter I prefer a descriptive name. One of my last lines (that I never completed) was call the Right Sign Project. I was considering names at the time but preferred to stick with a descriptive name so as to leave room for the name the FA'ist might give (if it wasn't me).

So maybe a suggestion might be to name it something like "Right Sign Problem" for designations and let the stars you give it do the talking.

Petsfed · · Laramie, WY · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 915

Well, nothing brings out so-modest-they-didn't-want-to-spray-about-it first ascensionists quite like renaming their routes. When I enter a route into this database that I can find no information on, I give it a name because such an act tends to bring out the too-good-for-spraying spraylords, not because I think my name is necessarily better than theirs.

On the other hand, Stewart has a pretty valid point. To a certain degree, the route name is simply a more poetic way of expressing a point on the map. Ultimately, its not the name, or who climbed it first, its the climbing itself that people are interested in. Some very famous climbs ended up with popular names that aren't what FA named them. Supercrack and Necessary Evil come to mind. So what I say is that if the point is to differentiate between different climbs or different cliffs, feel free to find alternate names for repetitive expressions of ignorance and apathy. Bear in mind that the only people who will get really torqued about it are the ones who have proper climbing resumes, or those who want to spray without the guidebook around. If you delineate the routes with numbers or letters that refer to photographs, that's enough for most.

COEveryman · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 300

Hey Jason--

I second Tony B

The "Presumed Name" is the perfect answer. That way you list it as "Unknown", but give it a "PN: Way of the Wild Donkey," and you have satisfied everyone and created a super cool new guidebook designation.

Captain Guidebook gives this the seal of approval!!!

(actually, just Cole's buddy Jordan)

This idea is awesome and takes guidebook jargon to an amazing new level.

Monomaniac · · Morrison, CO · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 17,425
Brian Scoggins wrote:Well, nothing brings out so-modest-they-didn't-want-to-spray-about-it first ascensionists quite like renaming their routes. When I enter a route into this database that I can find no information on, I give it a name because such an act tends to bring out the too-good-for-spraying spraylords, not because I think my name is necessarily better than theirs.
So true!!!
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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