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New Additions to the Armando Menocal Guidebook Collection

Posted on: December 1st, 2011 by The AAC

I recently had the chance to spend the day with guidebook author and climbing pioneer Armando Menocal. As a founding member of the Access Fund and climbing guide, Armando has climbed all over the world and has been deeply involved in the climbing community for decades. He stopped by the AAC Library to drop off five huge, plastic bins full of hundreds of guidebooks. From Sierra Club meeting minutes from the early 1930’s, to hand-drawn Yosemite topos from the 60’s, to the most recent SuperTopo guidebooks, Armando’s collection is vast and diverse. His passion for collecting started when he began to work on access issues and was exposed to books from places he had never visited. As the collection grew, so did its focus. It is now a historical record of guidebooks published in the US—especially California. Read Armando’s guest blog from May, 2009 to learn more about his collection history.

Menocal Guidebook Collection

Before Armando departed, I pulled him aside and asked him several questions about guidebooks, access issues, and climbing history. A few small excerpts from this brief interview follow:

What do you see as the main benefits of guidebooks, aside from solely guiding?

I see them as the raw materials of climbing history, without the narration of climbing literature. Looking at different books and different areas, it’s easy to see local trends and ethics, and see the evolution of those areas. Early on, each area was different. You’d never expect 5.8 one place to be 5.8 anywhere else. Whenever we’d go somewhere new, we’d warm up the standard, easier routes and then be able to get a feel for the local grading and style. Now, there’s a real homogenization. It can be sort of a shock when 5.8 doesn’t feel right, and people don’t think twice about getting on climbs at their limit first thing. We never used to do that! The local ethics have often become homogenized as well, and looking at these older guides gives you an idea of how things used to be.

Do you see guidebooks as a problem in respect to access issues?

Well, it’s always a question when you are working on a guide. What should be put in, whether to publish an area or a book at all. There are areas—Jailhouse Rock is an example—that no guide was ever published for, but now that the word is out, access is threatened. A new guidebook can bring the numbers up at a crag, but as long as the access is already secured, it’s usually fine. The issue is when someone publishes information that shouldn’t be out there—that’s when access issues arise, and people need to be conscious of that and recognize that in certain situations, what they are publishing can hurt the local scene. They have the right to publish it, sure, but should they? Probably not.

Your guidebook to Cuba just came out in 2009, any more books in the works?

Oh lord no! Now I’m more interested in writing articles and shorter pieces on things that interest me.

Thanks for your time Armando, and thanks again for the amazing collection. AAC Members will be enjoying it for years to come! Remember, as a Member, you can check out guidebooks from hundreds of locales, along with thousands of other books in our catalog.  Check out our Membership page for more information on AAC benefits!

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