Share 'Library, Geographically Organized' on Facebook Share 'Library, Geographically Organized' on Twitter

Library, Geographically Organized

Posted on: January 19th, 2012 by Andrew Szalay

I asked Andrew—a longtime Member of the Club—to write us on his use of the Library’s Guidebook Finder web-tool. His blog (The Suburban Mountaineerfrequently veers into very interesting literary territory and has great commentary on climbing and alpinism—both contemporary and historical—and I wanted his thoughts on the tool. My assumption was that he would have some insight on what worked and what didn’t—and my assumption was correct: His critique highlights both the good and the bad and details how it could be improved. I felt like it would be helpful to post his report in full below. 

—Luke Bauer, AAC Content & Marketing Manager

Have your own thoughts on using the Guidebook Finder? Email the Library, using the subject line: “Guidebook Finder Feedback”. We’ll be taking all comments under consideration and updating the tool soon. 

The Library, Geographically Organized

I’m preparing for a business trip to Phoenix, Arizona—where I’ve never been beyond the airport security gate—and I thought that I might try to take in some of the local rock  between meetings. But I ran into a problem that a lot of traveling climbers run into when trying to find what is worthwhile—especially when time is short. This wasn’t like choosing what three bistros in Paris I was going to dine in; I couldn’t even find a listing for a reliable restaurant.

If you search the Internet for “climbing Phoenix” or “climbing Scottsdale” you get a list of climbing gyms. If you do a similar search in other cities, you might get a list of traditional gyms that just happen to advertise their 12-foot climbing wall. It took some real digging to find what rock was climbable and how close anything worth visiting was to the airport and the site of my business meetings. And as you know, MapQuest and Google Maps don’t list the landmarks that matter to us—like the names of peaks, cliffs, valleys, trailheads, and so forth. Fortunately, The American Alpine Club came up with an innovative gadget to help and it’s connected to the greatest repository of English-language knowledge on climbing.

Climbing’s Information Age

We are in a new kind of Golden Age of climbing. It doesn’t deal with the traditional objectives, like seeking first ascents on big, unclimbed peak—although that’s not excluded (I mean, Golgotha in the Revelations is not yet climbed!) Instead, it’s a benefit of the Information Age.

There is a wealth of resources available to us to guide our climbing trips even before we set foot near the park. Beta specific to our needs is available through other climbers in chat rooms and through social media, and—of course—the online archives of the American Alpine Journal.

Before all this was accessible we relied on word-of-mouth referrals from the folks we met at outfitters, bars, and coffee shops near our objective. Some even got beta from Alex Lowe’s famous binder of Hyalite Canyon. Somewhere in between, guidebooks were deemed worthy of printing by some publishers, often covering concise areas like a single mountain or park. Now we have a myriad of guides covering specific types of climbs—trad, sport, ice, bouldering, and even larger regions and broad populist topics, like the Fifty Classic Climbs of North America (you might know it better by its other moniker, Fifty Crowded Climbs of North America).

Geographic Card Catalog

The biggest help in finding the right information for my destination—especially this one, which I’m unfamiliar with—came from the American Alpine Club Henry S. Hall, Jr. Library’s new Guidebook Finder. While it is not quite “there” now, it has the potential to be the next most-powerful tool of climbing information. It organizes the library’s holdings of guidebooks geographically by using Google Maps. Zoom into your destination—say the greater Lake Placid, New York area—and get a listing with Don Mellor’s Climbing in the Adirondacks among several others.

Books listed on the Guidebook Finder can be borrowed by AAC members no matter where you live—you only pay the shipping and insurance for returning the book. You return them at the media-mail price, so it’s inexpensive. In fact, a big part of the reason I joined the AAC was for the library borrowing privileges. The other offerings pushed me over the edge. For the price of membership, you have borrowing privileges, they pick
up the postage to send it to you, and you get rescue insurance, a copy of the annual editions of American Alpine Journal and Accidents in North American Mountaineering, among other benefits.

…the Guidebook Finder ought to list narrative nonfiction in the library that discuss these locations on the map…

The Guidebook Finder has potential to be an even greater resource. I’ve heard that some members have suggested improvements to the Guidebook Finder’s functionality, but I would like to see it broaden its scope: While guidebooks provide excellent route locating, documents first ascents, and list the climb’s ratings, the Guidebook Finder ought to list narrative nonfiction in the library that discuss these locations on the map. For instance, while Mike Gauthier’s Mount Rainier: A Climbing Guide provides key information on the routes around Rainier, also listing narratives like Jim Davidson’s & Kevin Vaughn’s recent book The Ledge: An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival on Mount Rainier on the list would give the mountain and the routes the additional color about the routes. The Guidebook Finder could also go even further in completing the picture of an area by including links to references in the American Alpine Journal archives and Accidents in North American Mountaineering.

For my trip to Phoenix, the guides currently listed are more than I had before and that’s a great start. 

Phoenix is the backyard of a lot of people, including some climbers that are AAC members. Thankfully, a couple of them have written some good guides. I appreciate them for giving this traveler a leg up and for the Guidebook Finder for making the job easier!

—Andrew Szalay, Member, The Suburban Mountaineer

Have your own thoughts on using the Guidebook Finder? Email the Library, using the subject line: “Guidebook Finder Feedback”. We’ll be taking all comments under consideration and updating the tool soon.

Comments are closed.