Discussion: Alternatives to support crag development and bolting

  • Started: 2 years ago on Mon 25th May 2020

Public discussion This is a public discussion in World.

started this discussion 2 years ago.

Alternatives to support crag development and bolting


I would like to have your opinion and experience on (financially) supporting crag development and maintenance.

In my area, there is frequent discussion going on about who is allowed to publish topos, whether you should consume online topos and how to give back to the people that do the (re-)bolting. The common theme seems to be "Buy the local guidebook from the local bolters - do not buy vampire topos". With "vampire topo" being referred to companies like Rockfax, that publish guidebooks for areas, e.g. Costa Blanca in Spain, where they did not contribute to the actual development. Thus, supposedly, stealing money from locals.

So, I myself am very active on theCrag creating new areas, making topos, adding descriptions of places, etc. and I enjoy doing it. Now it seems, there are people arguing that I potentially harm the local bolters, because I provide a free alternative to buying their guidebooks. Obviously, nothing stops me or others from still buying a local guide book while maintaining and consuming information on theCrag. Still, I assume that to a certain degree the abundance of crag information online is detrimental to sales of (any) printed guide book.

Probably most of us know that bolting a route has a significant cost to it, let alone an entire crag. And we are not even speaking about the time investment. I would even argue that if climbers were asked whether it was fair that crag development costs were shared among not only the bolters but also the climbers, they would agree.

However, my feeling is that still there is not a well-established and working system to distribute the costs for crag development fairly in most places. Printed guidebooks have their pros and cons. I believe that as a means of sharing the costs of the crag development they are only so-so suited (e.g. they are a lot of work to make, potentially a large percentage of the revenue stays with the publisher, ....). Hence I believe that there must be better ways.

I would like to hear from you how it works out in your area. What alternatives to printed guide books are being used to support local bolters? Does it work out well?

Are any of you developing crags themselves? How do you see the situation?


Evan Wells replied 2 years ago.

This is a very important topic and you have articulated it very well. One thing that has not been mentioned is that most climbers do not wish for any governmental regulatory bodies to enter the equation beyond typical access and activity permits. Otherwise insurers will dictate a 'insert specific brand' bolt every one meter. Whatever the solution it should be locally based and as non-technocratic as possible. Websites such as thecrag are great ONLY if there is no local guidebook, or as a suplement, as its just an opportunity for misinformation, or skewing of information. Having just returned from a trad multipitch area where on thecrag somebody has wholesale botched almost every topo on routes they have not climbed, its downright dangerous too. (A bit of a tangent, back to sport climbing) I personally had purchased one of those 'vampire books' in Madrid and the information was bloody useless , yet a local book had just been published for region. I transcribed just a little information into thecrag and immediately felt hypocritical for doing so as I am effectively undermining local economies for a phone based centralised impersonal system. Further-more here where I live, I have received bolts from my local guidebook publisher to rebolt old routes, also from our largest online outdoor gear supplier (both keen climbers). They are the real community. Having said all of that, as a route developer, it is completely your choice to go up and desecrate rock and further alienate any possible refuge or habitat for wildlife on the basis of your desire to climb and new routes , in my opinion, should be wholly funded by the people who desire to create them. To skank about the crag lording it over some pasty white polish tourists about how they dont contribute is silly. Rebolting , and maintanance such as rap rings or lower offs, definitely it would be nice to have support. Here in NSW Sydney Rockclimbing Club has graceously donated time and materials to adding replaceable rap rings and mallions on some popular routes. This is the way it should be. Everyone knows the best way to reconnect climbers with proceeds and cause them to actually physically congregate would be for everyone to throw their phone in the garbage.

David Westerlund replied 2 years ago.

It would be interesting to see if crowdfunding campains would work if there is a crag that needs to be renovated or if there is an area that can be developed.

It feels like it could work because it is in everyones interest that it is working well.

replied 2 years ago.

New route bolting is a choice of the bolter and thus should be totally self funded IMHO, seeking to gain payment to cover costs and future development is personally, I think is not in the spirit of the game.

The crag is a great resource and guide, and like everything has pro and cons etc, but not to put information on the crag because someone else wants to make money on a printed guide is stupid IMHO, having the crag and its info at a base level just means the guidebook author who wants to make money has to be better, if they cant..don't do the guidebook.

As for fundraising for re-bolting that guidebook author might claim to do, effort would be probably better spent just going around a crag with a donation tin and hitting people up TBH, so should be used as an excuse not to put info on thecrag.

replied 2 years ago.

I might be crucified for saying this:

Personally, I think that its rare that "new crag development" is actually done "for the community" and is fundamentally a selfish thing, with the prospects for a crag to become popular being a fortunate bi-product of the initially selfish agenda (and I point this finger at myself as well).

That is to say: we enjoy developing new routes/crags because we enjoy developing new routes/crags, not as some sort of altruistic objective.

To me, the "community support" aspect of a crag comes in the form of maintaining the most populous/trafficked crags (rebolting, sustainability, etc). Though this has always been a challenging area in which to raise revenue for rebolting efforts, in recent times there has been a surprising success by reaching out to the climbing community for these areas via social media, in which the donations that came in were quite overwhelming, despite a relatively minimal effort (from a permeation perspective).

My fundamental point being: I don't necessarily see that the websites like TheCrag and efforts to generate funding to support the local community component of climbing to be mutually exclusive.

replied 2 years ago.

100% Paul totally agree.

Evan Wells replied 2 years ago.

If you are on the southcoast of Spain and local climbers are outnumbered 500 - 1 by tourists that have considerably more disposable income, and the people selling all the guides are some old blokes in the uk who dont bother with correct info if the grade is above 6c maybe its harder to permeate a source of funding, and some resentments may build. I think they are two uniquely different scenarios socially.

Evan Wells replied 2 years ago.

By the way if thecrag was up to date I would not have bought either the initial crappy rockfax , or the levante north book. Does that answer your question? I know this sounds weird but sometimes the fact that I have a printed guidebook spurns me to return (or at least desire to moreso) to a place.

replied 2 years ago.

Its a funny one, cause I collect local guidebooks (I have an entire bookshelf full of them) in lieu of collecting anything else (and to relive the memories of my travels that they encompass), BUT "generally" (yes, I'm stereotyping) I've found the quality of local guidebooks to be substantially worse than a "vampire guidebook" (even from a Topo and route information perspective), to the point where -if I didn't collect the local guidebooks- I wouldn't actually have a reason to buy them, irrespective of the existence of sites like TheCrag.

I also wonder whether the time/effort to produce and print local guidebooks is actually greater than alternative methods of sourcing funding for valid community-related climbing expenditure (which, as I said before, I solely consider the domain of major crag maintenance, and not usually developing new areas).

Josiah Hess replied 2 years ago.

In QLD, we have Safer Cliffs Qld that you can donate to and the funds go towards the rebolting of existing routes. Lack of manpower is more of an issue, rebolting routes takes time that many would prefer to spend climbing or establishing new routes.

Monty Curtis replied 2 years ago.

The Sydney Rock Climbing Club funds a lot more than just a few mallions Evan Wells. They have put in many thousands of dollars towards bolts/glue etc and local climbing gear wholesalers have also directly donated hundreds of commercial grade climbing bolts. The money from the SRC comes from club memberships and substantial donations from the general public (some individuals have donated over a thousand dollars). This is all for rebolting - not new routes. I strongly believe new routes (in Australia) should not be funded by donations that could be put towards fixing up already established areas (trackwork, toilets, signage and rebolting).

Thecrag can be the most up to date information as it is online - but it is not always the most accurate as it relies on the general (unpaid) public to update it. I get annoyed when i hear people saying the info on thecrag is inaccurate - and those same individuals don't fix the inaccuracies. If you see something that is wrong, especially y if it is dangerous, fix it up! Online guides are not going to disappear.

Bing replied 2 years ago.

Really interesting topic, I'm also eager to see if a working system exists. As an active thecrag editor, I actually got contacted by a guidebook author, asked me to delete information I updated. Claiming this would hurt the guidebook sale, the funding of which goes to maintaining the local routes. I checked with another local climber, and the feedback was the author claimed to publish the new guidebook for two years, but no progress, and doesn't really maintain the local routes...

> I get annoyed when i hear people saying the info on thecrag is inaccurate - and those same individuals don't fix the inaccuracies. If you see something that is wrong, especially if it is dangerous, fix it up!

Monty Curtis 1000% agree!

replied 2 years ago.

I agree with Paul Thomson and Evan Wells.

Unfortunately I haven't set up a route yet, but I am involved in the IG Klettern Donautal / Zollernalb e.V. and help to maintain the trails and climbing routes in my home area. I also regularly struggle with whether it's okay to publish "vampire topos", but I think that access to and information about nature in general and rocks in particular is public domain (at least in Germany).

I always hoped that publishers would discover theCrag as a distribution channel / partner, but that seems not to be the case at least in Europe. I would love it if every climbing area had a link to the purchase of the local climbing guide. I like to buy the books. It is nice to leaf through and read in them and they are often more practical than the mobile phone. On the rock I would rather let a stranger look into a book than into my phone. I see theCrag as a central / international addition to the regional guide books. And I think it is important that the content is still accessible to everyone (even without an account) and that the community maintains it.

Freddie Chopin replied 2 years ago.

> I get annoyed when i hear people saying the info on thecrag is inaccurate - and those same individuals don't fix the inaccuracies. If you see something that is wrong, especially y if it is dangerous, fix it up!

On the other hand, not everyone has editor permissions for given crag and not everyone will get it. I see a lot of area for improvement in thecrag's user permission system. For example I think that new users should be allowed to edit/add whatever they wish but their edits must be verified by region's editor before being actually accepted (for technical reasons a limit of pending edits could be implemented, but nothing more). The case with karma is a bit of a chicken-egg problem. You cannot edit without karma, but you won't get karma without editing (logging ascents gives way to little to be a feasible way to get enough for editor permissions).

At least something like a button "notify responsible editor" for the crags should be implemented here.

> How do you see the situation?

Nobody mentioned the biggest advantage of printed physical guidebooks over online websites. They work with no electricity and with no internet access (; To be honest, in Europe in like 80% of crags (I'm guessing [; ) the mobile network coverage is either non-existent or is very very weak, so weak that you can maybe call your friends, maybe send or get a SMS message (sometimes even this can be a problem), but browsing through websites is just a PITA... The only competitor to a printed guidebook is a mobile application that can easily work offline, otherwise it's not a competition at all. Even then the guidebook is still better, as it won't suddenly die because of low battery. Not to mention that a typical guidebook is much bigger than the biggest smartphones, which makes it easier to use/read, and it won't break when you drop it on a rock.

As someone already mentioned, I also think that collecting guidebooks is very cool, so I really have zero problem with buying a printed one even if all the info is available online.

, but just maybe, I would reconsider in rare situations like these:
  • printed one is very old or outdated,
  • printed one is written in a language I don't understand,
  • printed one is extremely expensive compared to its contents,
  • I'm visiting the sector for just a few days and there's a very low chance I will ever be there again,
  • local guidebook is hard to buy.

Marc dM replied 2 years ago.

Speaking on my behalf only, not the Crag team : I have never bolted or rebolted anything, but in South Africa i have seen the following:

the MCSA is the national association that mostly caters for climbing. They manage both a Re-bolting fund, and sponsor a Bolting initiative. These are funded through membership, donations, and possibly some national stipend to the organization (not sure but i guess).

Any aspiring bolter can apply and according to criterias both about themselve and what they intend to bolt, will get given some bolts & material. This can help to try it out, and raise "vocations".

Then you have your serious serial bolters, i am not sure but believe a big part of what they do is self funded.

The biggest sport crag Waterval Boven (>1000 routes) is managed by an onsite guide/gear shop/couple. In that case i assume some gear is from the MCSA fund and some from their business since its an investment for them (and a life long vocation anyway).

Then again there is Blue Mountain Publishing, a small publishing company owned by a lifelong climber which does really excellent guidebooks. I have not much knowledge about them, but assume they probably are a donor to the funds mentioned before.

So yeah, very few people which have a life long passion for climbing certainly do most of the work and a big part of the funding, be it privately or because their business is focused on climbing. And a national body is critical to allows organization, management, and also the size required to tap into government money...

Freddie Chopin concerning the permissions: we are still updating the buttons and process, which may be a bit broken today. But in my experience anyone requesting editing rights to most areas, and not terribly messing up, will get them. Currently if not per button, a mail to support will get anyone there. The permission system while not perfect does limit vandalism. And we are not of a size currently to be able to implement human double checking on every edit, or control any free edit. Look it up on wikipedia, there is a lot in place in architecture, and done both by Bots and by users to counter vandalism. We are nowhere near able to do that. But hopefully wont ever need it either.

Freddie Chopin replied 2 years ago.

Marc dM I know this is not wikipedia, and I also know about the button to request permissions (that's what I used [; ). However I guess there's a non-negligible group of (potential) users, which are not willing to go through the process of adding routes themselves (for whatever reason), especially if this involves first requesting some editing rights. These may be people who are "not technical enough" with the computers to deal with the whole process or just people who don't know English well enough to write an e-mail to your support. I don't have a perfect solution for this problem, but I think it should be considered if the user base is to grow. One of the options for them would be a localized (in native language

Yannick Froese replied 2 years ago.

I would always prefer to buy the printed guidebook from the local developers for the support of the crag. To empower this I would strongly recommend on to add only route lists for crags where a local guidebook can be purchased.

replied 2 years ago.

One thing I observed on 27crags is that they are very explicit in wanting its users to make money on selling crag information, with more and more crags having a paid guide book on 27crags only. The site is full of copies from official guide books. Although I do think that this is a way to get quality information (by paying the contributors,) the whole thing feels wrong. Perhaps TheCrag could take this model, but not lock away the information, and not allow runaway plagiarism. Maybe use a donation system or so - allow for donations to the people updating the site, or donations to the organisation in charge of the crag.

replied 2 years ago.

The crag doesn't allow plagiarism from current guidebooks and takes it down if it appears, all it takes is a takedown request, which is very quick and easy to do. Note listing a route name and grade is public information, you cant copy over descriptions and topos though. Its a free community resource, that while not perfect does a good job. By trying to bring in payment mechanism onto thecrag all you would be doing is causing the same issue guidebook authors seem to have about ownership of information to the platform and monetising free information that should not be.

replied 2 years ago.

Despite having several good friends who are prolific guidebook writers, and having contributed hundreds of hours to printed guidebooks myself, I'm yet to be convinced the argument stacks up that climbers should buy locals’ guidebooks for the reason of supporting local route maintenance.

The publisher of course wants to make $ off the book, which is fine, but they have a clear conflict of interest in promoting this argument.

If you look at where the money goes when you buy a guidebook, a vast majority goes to production costs, the printer, publisher & retailer. The “profit” is whatever small amount is left over...if anything (in my experience a large number of guidebooks make a loss).… and then donations to rebolting are usually some small percentage of the profit. So whatever you spend on buying a guidebook, at best only a tiny fraction will ever make it to route maintenance.

And, if you look at it from another angle, you can also think about how route maintenance is actually funded. At least from my (Australian) experience, a vast majority is funded from other sources: climbing clubs, fundraising drives, supportive local business, and most often the rebolters’ own pockets. So from this perspective also, the “proceeds of guidebooks” is a drop in the ocean.

So buying print guidebooks is at best highly inefficient, and often is completely ineffective, as a way of supporting local route maintenance.

I’d suggest that you would probably make a lot more for route maintenance if you put great route descriptions and topos info into, accompanied by some very high visibility hints about how to contribute to the local rebolting fund. People who didn’t burn $50 on the print book will be more inclined to sling a few $$ to a donation.

(Mods, some more systematisation of donations channels on an area-by-area basis might also help defuse the “vampire” accusation against thecrag from gaining traction).

Monty Curtis replied 2 years ago.

Agree Will Monks!

replied 2 years ago.

Completely agree with Will Monks . I also heard from people that have published guide books that only very little money from the book sales arrive at the author or bolter respectively and that most of the money is used for the printing and overhead.

As a climber I would prefer that if I donated money for the purpose of (re)bolting that most of it would also arrive at the right place. Therefore, I was wondering if anybody has already experimented with other types of payment systems.

E.g. what I see in other areas than climbing, e.g. blogs, podcasts, journalism etc. is that people provide their work for free, but then ask for voluntary donations via Patreon. I could imagine something like this for crags, too.

"How did you like your climbing at Crag XY today? Care to donate 1€ for maintenance and (re-)bolting? Click here."

Such (verified?) links could be posted on theCrag (or any online topo).

replied 2 years ago.

Dominik you may find the ASCA model interesting.

replied 2 years ago.

Thanks Will Monks for the insights. I agree you too.

A little anecdote on the subject. In our climbing area it is common practice to use permanently installed biners only if there is no other way (last descent/abseiling). Otherwise you should use your own biners to lower off so that the abrasion of the permanently installed material is reduced. For me this was and is a matter of course.

When I once pointed this out to a climbing partner, I was confronted with complete incomprehension. I then asked him if he knew who was paying for the equipment and if he participated in the financing. Of course he did neither one nor the other.

I'm afraid the majority of climbers are pure consumers and don't worry about financing the equipment of rocks. A lot of persuasion is needed here. The situation is, of course, exacerbated by the increasing number of climbers, because this increases wear and tear.

Translated with (free version)

Patrick Burr replied 2 years ago.

Bing replied 2 years ago.

+1 Will Monks

replied 2 years ago.

In my experience, most bolting is done out of the pocket of the bolters - and for most new route development, I think that is very reasonable. I think having a local bolt-fund (contribution-based) for route maintenance (anchor updates, replacing worn or loose bolts, rebolting popular older routes with more modern hardware or bolt spacing) is probably the best way to go.

I don't think guidebooks to cover costs is a useful or effective way. Guidebooks should be made to be guidebooks, and bought to be guide books. I'm not sure whether or not online sites such as TheCrag decrease book sales. I'm a heavy user and contributor to thecrag -- but I also buy a lot of guidebooks. (For example, I currently own four different guidebooks to El Potrero Chico (Mexico), on in 3 different print editions, and one in a print edition and a Rakkup edition.) I don't think, for me personally, using TheCrag has reduced my purchasing of paper guidebooks. I, especially, find paper is far more readable than any phone screen in bright sunlight, and I like climbing on sunny days.

I also do route development -- I've bolted (mostly) or supplied the bolts for about 20 routes at this point, plus anchors for a few more (trad) routes. I expect to cover those costs.

Is this personal reward or service? Some of each. It is rewarding to put up a new route -- but I started doing this development when local-area land-management closed down a bunch of climbing. So, also, service to the community. And I want people to climb the routes -- if I did all that work, and spent all that money, I would think it wasted if just I and a few friends climbed the new routes. (Also, if they're not climbed, nature will retake them in a few years.)

Macciza a.k.a. Macca replied 2 years ago.

I would just like to add that according to the UIAA or some other similar org, that the ‘bolting funds/groups’ should also provide support for the removal of bolts which are unnecessary or unneeded ... ie retrobolts or bolted trad lines... don’t have the link at hand unfortunately... but if you think it through it’s obvious that both side of the matter should be supported so that diversity is maintained in our sport...

replied 2 years ago.

Comment and answers by theCrag team

First of all we from theCrag would like to thank all the participants of this discussion for their input and the positive tone. Thanks also to Dominik for raising this important topic that pops up in so many different forms all the time. Now that many things were said, we would like to take the opportunity to comment on the different topics raised from our point of view and also answer some questions that were raised throughout the discussion.

Guidebooks and funding

As stated by several of you, the prevalent argument for buying local guidebooks is often to support local route development and / or maintenance. While this sounds very honorable, the truth is - and this is also stated by some of you, most notably Will Monks - many if not most guidebooks fail to live up to this goal. From discussions we had with developers and guidebook authors in many different countries we know for a fact that they hardly pay for the publishing costs, even less though if you calculate the time invested to create them in the first place. Keeping them current or just publishing the next edition is therefore often not happening, often leaving certain crags without mention in any guidebook. Of course this is not true for major areas and holiday climbing destinations where guidebook sales can be a substantial business. These areas are often big (think Arco, Red River Gorge, Kalymnos, Arapiles) were developed over decades by many different climbers and have multiple guidebooks covering it. Thus it is more than questionable if any of the proceeds ever make it to the actual developers. If all goes well, some of the proceeds find their way to a local club or advocacy group supporting re-bolting and crag maintenance. We concur with Will’s statement “...buying print guidebooks is at best highly inefficient, and often is completely ineffective, as a way of supporting local route maintenance”.

Alternative ways of funding

To get back to Dominik’s initial question of alternative ways to fund developing and bolting (and we understand he meant new routes), we also think there are different, probably better ways to obtain funding for route development and even maintenance. If you are in an area with well established climbing, local or regional advocacy groups are certainly a good idea. Not only do they offer a legal construct to collect and distribute funds, they are an indispensable representation for climbers and a contact point for all other stakeholders involved in climbing. This is especially critical in times where the popularity of climbing constantly increases while more and more areas are threatened with closure. If you are lucky enough to develop an area with pristine cliffs or live in a country with less organized structures we encourage the use of donation or bolting funds. These might even allow for the funding to be available before the actual bolting happens. An example can be seen here, for a single multi pitch route on Pena de Bernal in Mexico. But you can find these bolting or development funds all over the world, from the Philippines to Turkey and from Mexico to the UK.

theCrag supports advocacy groups and bolting funds in many ways. Please get in contact with us if you want to make use of preferred or even free advertising for your Advocacy Group or bolting fund (see also the help articles for Advocacy Groups and Route Setters). We think it is way more efficient to raise funds then relying on sales of a guidebook and leaves you the time to bolt and ensure access to climbing is maintained.

Various other points

Freddie Chopin addressed the issue of electronic and especially online route information and we are fully with you on this one. While the network coverage is improving all over the world, offline availability is a clear requirement. You might be aware of our PDF feature - while not perfect and with certain limitations it allows you to create your personalized PDF and bring it printed or offline to your crag. Of course, there will be the day when the theCrag becomes available offline as an app .

We also agree on the topic of local language raised by Freddie. Freddie, you might not be aware that theCrag is currently available in 7 languages. We are afraid to say that Polish is not on this list, this is why you might have missed this feature. We are always looking for support in bringing up more languages but it is a major effort.

Danny van Bruggen mentioned the 27Crags business model. Let us be clear and frank about it, theCrag has no intention to put any content behind a paywall. You can read it all over the site, we think climbing information is public information that shouldn’t be owned by an individual or an organization. We also think that paying someone to put up content isn’t right, it brings all sorts of wrong incentives with it and discourages the sharing and distribution of free information.

We hope that this addresses most of the points raised so far and are happy to continue to follow this discussion. Ideas like Dominik’s "How did you like your climbing at Crag XY today? Care to donate 1€ for maintenance and (re-)bolting? Click here." are always welcome and we will keep an ear open.

The Team of theCrag

replied 2 years ago.

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replied 2 years ago.

Thank you for the long and thought response, Ulfi.

Adrian Woodcraft replied 2 years ago.

Yes David, that's my response to Ulfi also... especially the part in reply to Danny van Bruggen.

theCrag is doing an excellent job for local climbers in particular, but for the climbing community world-wide.

Thanks guys! Adrian.

Leith replied about two years ago.

Ulfi - great summary.

It's a bit like Uber.

A centralised information (booking) system that allows many more guidebook authors (drivers) to contribute to the supply side of the industry.

So, hostility is unsurprising. You're taking away from people's pay days.

But for crag development in Australia, crag developers that are propped up financially by themselves or others can more readily afford to bolt because bolting labor is generally uncosted, and the household's disposable income can more readily meet the material costs.

Perhaps the tourist dollars that pay for Spanish made guidebooks are received with much wider and keener eyes!

But, for crag maintenance, surely 21st century bolt maintenance is going to cost quite a lot more than the pittance provided by guidebooks...

It seems utterly ridiculous that authors should have to sacrifice an even greater proportion of their profits for the future good of others to be provided with maintained crags on the back of their guidebook authoring efforts. Whether Online or Print.

These funds should be directly sourced from the people that use them (climbers) as much as possible.

Leith replied about two years ago.

Dominik I think it depends on how you're sourcing your information.

What seems almost impossible to me, is for a TheCrag author to avoid using the information that a printed guidebook author has gathered.

At the very least, it makes sense to cross-reference the information.

And so what has possibly taken print authors many hours to collect and collate has taken you only a few moments to re-configure for online use.

On the other hand, generally none of the information that a guidebook author collects belongs to them. So that's the risk they're taking in writing a book without unique information.

In places like Tonsai, where tourist climbers outweigh local climbers, there seems to be enough demand for multiple guidebooks with pretty much all the same information.

One of the controversies there is that the author who is last to publish their most updated version has the highest return on their labour - because they can simply steal any new route information without vetting and collecting it themselves.

So, on balance, I'd guess the "You're taking money away from bolt maintenance" is just a guilt-tripping jab more than anything else.

Keep up the good work!

replied about two years ago.

"What seems almost impossible to me, is for a TheCrag author to avoid using the information that a printed guidebook author has gathered."

I would like to note that exactly none (0%) of the information I have authored on The Crag for Lac Sam ( has come from a printed guidebook.

You seem to overlook the obvious case of recording information for climbing regions/areas/crags that do not have printed guidebooks.

Leith replied about two years ago.

David Gibbs, not overlooked, just not that relevant since we're only talking about crags that DO HAVE printed guidebooks available.

But, I agree with you - it is impossible for a TheCrag author to use a printed guidebook that doesn't exist!

replied about two years ago.

Guidebook authors can not lock up factual information, because copyright protection is not given to facts. So factual content such as route names, grade, length, location, aspect, and the like, can be freely copied into thecrag. (Indeed, guidebook authors routinely copy such info from earlier guidebooks). Only "creative" content is protectable by the guidebook author and I would strongly disagree that this content is impossible for thecrag contributors to avoid, it is in fact trivial to avoid. Especially seeing as thecrag provides tools for bespoke creation and presentation of topos, maps, tags, etc.

One Day Hero replied about two years ago.

That's a pretty naive take, Will. Good guidebook authors put hundreds of hours into establishing and corroborating facts. It's very rare that crowd sourced "facts" are as accurate or useful.

I put over 30 days of fact checking into Booroomba and you can be sure that the second we publish, all of the corrections which I found will be added here by people who won't ever get off their arse to do actual work.

Macciza a.k.a. Macca replied about two years ago.

The biggest problem I’ve seen up here in the Blueies since the last SRC guide in mid 90’s is there’s only so many ways you can re-paraphrase “ Up L to bolt then to break and on to top”. ‘Up left to bolt, up to break then up to top’ ... before some guidebook author is probably going to possibly complain ... A routes a route, the description is always gonna be pretty much the same... isn’t it..?

replied about two years ago.

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Freddie Chopin replied about two years ago.

One Day Hero :

> I put over 30 days of fact checking into Booroomba and you can be sure that the second we publish, all of the corrections which I found will be added here by people who won't ever get off their arse to do actual work.

If they would do the actual work, they wouldn't need to buy the guidebook anyway, right?

You can either gather the facts yourself - paying with your time - or buy the guidebook - paying with your money. The fact still remains - most of the data that is presented in the guidebook is not copyrightable. It's the same as with maps.

I'm also pretty sure that the guidebook authors don't start from scratch, but use the previous guidebooks as source of info. Why wouldn't they?

One Day Hero replied about two years ago.

Or you just wait for one person to buy the guidebook, add all of that information to thecrag, then everyone gets it for free.

I think it's quite disingenuous to pretend that the main contribution of a print guidebook is a few adjectives. The work which goes into a book includes fact checking, developing structure, producing topos, maps, and clear approach information.

I don't have a huge problem with thecrag, but it's a secondary source which plagiarizes print guidebooks as standard procedure. Pretending otherwise is ridiculous.

replied about two years ago.

At least personally, I don't find online route aggregators (like TheCrag or to be rivalrous with printed guidebooks.

I am a fairly heavy user of this site (13 years, 300K karma). But, I still buy guide books.

On my last-but-one visit to El Potrero Chico, despite already owning 3 printed guidebooks (one in at least 3 different editions) and the Rakkup, there was a new guidebook available, so I bought that too. And EPC has quite good and complete information here, too. A lot from me -- but 3rd contributor is Frank Madden, the author of one of the paper guide books and the Rakkup one.

Or, I've been looking at a trip to Skaha -- looked at the information on here to get a feel for the area, decided yes I'd probably visit... so I ordered the two in-print guides for the area. If I hadn't been able to find the information online that let me know there was likely to be enough moderate climbing there to be worth it, I wouldn't have bought those two guidebooks on spec.

Now, maybe I'm the exception, I can afford to buy guide-books on spec. But, I also find that, in practice, a guidebook is easier to use at a crag than an online resource. Among other things, it is a lot easier to read in the sun than a phone screen.

What does a guide-book contribute for me? As noted above, readability is a big one. Also, usually better route topos -- whether hand-drawn, or aerial photography, or whatever. Almost always these will be better than what one can find online.

Leith replied about two years ago.

Will Monks I think even with topos having the print guide available provides TheCrag authors with a far easier way of producing equivalent crag climbs or access to the crag topos.

Consider One Day Hero Booroomba guide. I've only been there once. But with his guidebook, I could easily re-create access topos and the like by using all his content for areas that I've never been to...

On the other hand...

I know at least 3 different guidebook authors that have used online database information to help produce their printed guidebook.

So, as everyone seems to be aware of, the factual information belongs to no one and everybody.

Jason Lammers replied about two years ago.

I actually agree with Leith on this one ^^

One Day Hero replied about two years ago.

It's an easy position to agree with as long as you assume info is flowing freely and equally in both directions. I think that the vast majority of info flows from guidebooks to thecrag, via a bunch of "helpful individuals" who have never gone out and put in hard yards at the crag to establish facts.

Another thing which shits me to tears on this site is how many people think that their single shot on a route on their first day at the cliff is sound basis for altering a description written by the people who put the fucking climb up. It's a real window into how few climbers can conceptualize other people having different tastes and points of view.

replied about two years ago.

Rockfax, a major UK publisher of guidebooks for both the UK and, as far as I can tell, Europe (or, perhaps, anywhere the Brits go to climb), also maintains a large online database of climbs, etc. It used to be at, but now seems to be at the UK Climbing logbook site:

Though, poking through the logbook site, it does not seem as helpful as I remember the older Roxfax website being. (I remember crag diagrams about like what they put in their books -- it now looks mostly like a tick-list database, though there seems to be an option for people to add photos.)

Tom replied about two years ago.

I don't use a printed guidebook when I update the theCrag entry: I was there, I climbed (or at least tried ) the route and I shoot a picture of it so I can enter the relevant information.

Leith I don’t think copying the topo from a book is legal: I contributed for some time to openstreetmap and it was/is not legal to copy from a map which is next to you.

Jason Lammers replied about two years ago.

And I also agree with One Day Hero as well. Yes it’s so frustrating when some muppet climbs a route on a shit day when it’s wet and 1000 percent humidity and proceed to upgrade the route by 3 grades.

Freddie Chopin replied about two years ago.

> Yes it’s so frustrating when some muppet climbs a route on a shit day when it’s wet and 1000 percent humidity and proceed to upgrade the route by 3 grades.


> Another thing which shits me to tears on this site is how many people think that their single shot on a route on their first day at the cliff is sound basis for altering a description written by the people who put the fucking climb up. It's a real window into how few climbers can conceptualize other people having different tastes and points of view.

This is just a technical issue. It just means that the permission system on TheCrag needs some fine-tuning (assuming that 50% of users are not "editors" or "coordinators" already). Seems like an easy change - for example allow almost anyone (with some karma) to enter NEW description or NEW data, but allow modification of existing data only for people with "a lot" of karma (possibly earned in the same crag or country).

> It's an easy position to agree with as long as you assume info is flowing freely and equally in both directions.

It would be a fair comparison only if guidebooks would be free and open, just as TheCrag is. Don't get me wrong, as I prefer printed books as well (I explained that at the top of the thread), but you cannot limit access to information that is "public domain". This obviously does not include exact text of the description, the drawings, photos and so on, but you cannot own a copyright for the info that on crag X there's a route Y graded Z, put up by A.B. on year CDEF. I see it almost the same as people writing encyclopedias wanting to shut down wikipedia.

Gavin replied about two years ago.

Another point to add to this is how well thecrag can work with guidebooks.

Particularly in the UK where i have been updating lots of crags, the guidebooks are often old and lacking in topo information, particularly for the less popular routes.

I personally tend to get the guide (or read the multiple conflicting guides), take quite a long time deciphering where the route must go and then put on the crag a much more detailed set of information including a map, topo and significantly more (or at least more recent) information on the approach to a climb.

As far as a usable resource goes, i think this can add a lot of value for the community.

replied about two years ago.

On the topic of 27crags: in Belgium, where I do most of my editing, the local people who used to create free topo's, and the bigger maintainers of the crags all the way up to the Belgian climbing organisation, one by one they are putting their information for sale on 27crags. I can understand why - I've seen people getting demotivated because their topo's were getting copied and plagiarised, and making a paper book is probably a huge process - and it is outdated within a year. The site offers a basic way to deliver this information and get paid for the effort. A simple way to create an up to date online guidebook.

However, if this trend continues, then soon you won't be able to climb in Belgium at all without paying for a third party commercial website subscription, because that company will have paywalled everything. That is not a future I like. It seems unavoidable because most people simply go "oh, I have to install this app and pay a few euro? Okay.". And even if 27crags fails, another site will pop up with the same approach.

They did make one observation which seems very true: if you rely on climbers who fix a route here and there, you will not get a quality guide. Someone has to put in the work, it will cost a lot of time and money, and most people won't do this for free.

(Sorry for adding to this discussion so late. I'm just really, really upset that people drop their principles so quickly when you wave a few euro bills in their direction.)

replied about two years ago.

Danny van Bruggen thanks for your comment. However, I think some of the observations and the conclusion might be flawed. I can just tell you how I see it from what is happening on theCrag and what we observe from other community platfoms. The experiences you see in Belgium seem to be the exception.

First, we have seen a major influx from users and contributors since 27Crags has widened their paywall. We are very thankful to all new contributors who joined and support an open data model and put up their contributions on theCrag.

Second, we at theCrag don't think that relying on individual climbers who fix a route here and there (your words) will result in an inferior product. On the contrary, as platforms like Wikipedia, OSM and the like show, the contributions by many in general produce a much better product than a product created by an indivdual. While a financially driven approach might yield better short term results, in the long run a community driven approach will yield a better, more accurate and a more current product. While there might still be a reason to buy the Encyclopædia Britannica (like making your book shelf look fancy) you probably don't own it but look up the info on Wikipedia. The lever of a community based approach is simply that much longer than a commercial one and once the community info achieves a satisfiable level a commercial approach is simply a dead business model.

The best approach to counter paywalls for climbing information is simply to encourage as many fellow climbers to contribute and support theCrag in order to make any paywall obsolete. no matter how much weight they put on their side of the lever, the community will outweigh it .

replied about two years ago.

Thanks for the positivity, and I must agree: lately there has been significantly more activity here. I had not realized that their ever expanding monetization might be the cause!

Alright, back to exploring Belgium's huge amount of tiny crags, and I won't mention 27crags again ;-)

replied about two years ago.

Danny van Bruggen that’s the spirit 😊

replied about two years ago.

If you're worried about local bolters ... then encourage people to donate to the local bolters?

jim bean replied about two years ago.

Hello, im a local bolter i have bolted almost 100 routes in 2019-20. I created 2 new crags in my hometown and expanded 3. I dont think all my routes are guidebook material so thecrag helps me a lot for publishing my new routes and giving info to someone. The routes that are guidebook material will be included in the next guidebook of Greece (for free). I dont want any funding for the bolting i personally believe that bolting is another hobby and just like all hobbies has its economic needs.

replied about two years ago.

This comment has been removed.

James Hugh Festeryga replied 10 weeks ago.

Super old discussion, but I'll jump in, addressing the initial topic: Here in Cambodia we're talking about starting a Crag Development Fund. Probably to be overseen by the Cambodian Climbing Federation. It will be all donation, and I suppose money will make it to the actual bolters via an application process. We have a small enough climbing community to just do one for the whole country and likely be effective. In other areas maybe that would have to be smaller regions. Does anyone else have success stories or words of warning about starting funds for crag development and maintenance? I'd love to hear your stories.

replied 10 weeks ago.

Inevitably the topic of thecrag's impact on guide book purchases came up.

In my own personal Mexican perspective, when I started climbing in 2012 there were only three guidebooks for the Area where I live: two for Potrero Chico and one for La Huasteca. They were all outdated with very confusing information (in my point of view as a novice). Even so, I had one copy of each of them (a $450 mxn investment which at the time wasn't cheap for me). I would add post-it sticky notes to my copy of The Whole Enchilada to update new routes, bolt counts, approach information, etc. The information I gathered and documented was only available to me and my climbing partners (then I lost my guidebook in 2014 and lost everything). changed that in 2013 when I ran into it on a blog post. I shared the site in climbing FB groups and a few people started contributing info about many other areas that didn't even have a single outdated guide book (later I traveled to one of those crags and prepared myself with screenshots and the pdf export generated by the site since there was no cell network coverage in that area).

I believe that eventually we'll see that is only a tool (a great one) and we'll find new ways to use it to our advantage as a community.

replied 10 weeks ago.

ElUri thanks for that feedback and for keeping this discussion alive. It is very important to us and the community. As for James Hugh Festeryga there are plenty of good examples out there how bolting funds or advocacy groups provide a much better way to fund development and maintenance than guidebooks (that often don’t even cover the cost of production - if ever produced, are outdated before released, don’t provide any option to update access changes (and other warnings) and thus put long term access at risk and often disappear over the long run with the information they provided, making whole areas ‘white’ on the climbing map.

We invite you to provide a banner and a link to your advocacy group/ fund and are also happy to share on social to support you.

One Day Hero replied 9 weeks ago.

Benefits of online guides;

-Easily updated as information changes

-Easy to correct bad information

-Cheap/free to obtain and replace

-Anyone can edit information

Benefits of print guides;

-You own an actual physical object which can't vanish, taking all the volunteer contributions with it (as numerous online guides have done)

-The people who bothered to write and print an entire guidebook usually know the crags very well (unlike many of the people who add info here)

-The maps and topos are almost always better in books. Approach maps on thecrag usually suck, and the topos are seldom good unless they are copied from a print guide.

The reasons for this are fairly obvious. Thecrag benefits from massive crowdbased editing which has no time limits. However, it lacks refined higher level architecture (with regards to describing whole crags, approaches, etc) because doing that stuff well requires "field work".

Any punter can climb a pitch and change a word in the description that evening. But if you want a good cliff topo, you have to kick scrub for an hour then sit around and wait for the light. You probably won't go climbing that day.

So that's my continuing problem with online guidebooks. 50 000 sub editors, no author, no researcher.

replied 9 weeks ago.

One Day Hero thanks for these arguments. However you forget that there are plenty of contributors who actually provide guide book level quality contributions to theCrag and even use theCrag to publish guidebooks thus combining the advantages you list with the ones for books. This is thus not a question of online vs printed but about the quality of information gathering and contribution. I have seen plenty of bad printed books out there as well 😉

One Day Hero replied 9 weeks ago.

Hi Ulfi, I absolutely agree that there is a range of quality both in print and online. I just haven't seen any top quality approach maps on here. Any suggestions for which crags to check out?

Another problem which is a bit awkward to discuss is that some climbers are just terrible at putting themselves in the shoes of a person who has never been to this place, and describing what that person needs to know in a clear an concise way. A lot of guidebook authors seem to have these skills.

Many people contributing here seem to think that more information will necessarily make things clearer. In fact, I know of quite a few instances where deleting some topos and text would vastly improve functionality.

Anyway, this site is a really useful resource. I'm grateful to you guys for setting it up and keeping it running.

Petr Melichar replied 9 weeks ago.

Less bolting, more trad. Industry production of bolts and its low cost is trouble more than funding. Just look around how many areas and routes was created past years and how many is newly and densely bolting or even more densely rebolting. Spirit of climbing? Turning from pure courage to clipshitting. Bolting is for volunteers, nobody pushing them. Also past years is bolting funding from climbers directly (sending money to bolters) or inderictely; climbing club, association members fee, staying in bolters refugio, taxes (subsidies from goverment or city to bolting). Better than ask for funding is asking for sustainability. More bolting, more attack to rock, more polishing. I have electronic guidebooks, for treveling around world I really cant maintain library, but I more like paper guidebook and own more than 60.

One Day Hero replied 9 weeks ago.

Thank you Petr for introducing me to the term "clipshitting". The syndrome is global, but I didn't know the correct terminology until now.

James Hugh Festeryga replied 9 weeks ago.

I had to go back up to the top and confirm, I thought this discussion was about figuring out how to financially support crag development, it got way sidetracked to paper vs. e-wizardry.

But in response to the last couple of comments: Are any developers NOT volunteers? I'm super happy to push Trad climbing, but there is not a piece of trad equipment in this country. I kid you not there is ONE store that sells climbing equipment in the nation, you can get a rope, shoes, harness, chalk bag (no chalk, they've been sold out for over a year), and inexplicably belay glasses.

That's the situation we're in here, and no-one has the money to fix it... but we have bolts. Soooo basically top rope, bolt, or don't climb are the options.

In Canada I loved the trad vs. sport ethos debate when I had the time and money to care and lived among people who had likewise. Now I live among people who's ethical debates are more like "should I sell my child so I can feed my other two?" Making something accessible that gets people out there doing something inspiring instead of sitting around the village is why I want to develop crags. To trad or not to trad can be debated by the well fed.

James Hugh Festeryga replied 9 weeks ago.

Sort of sorry for the rant. Sorry enough to apologize, not sorry enough to delete.

One Day Hero replied 9 weeks ago.

The initial discussion revolved around the ethics of large entities publishing guidebooks to multiple crags. One of the arguments against this is the idea of local authors funding crag maintenance via guidebook sales.

Then Petr moved on to a related point which is the idea of never ending "improvement" of crags by adding more and more bolts.

Now you've gone off in another direction by putting forward the idea of a very specific poverty level, where people can afford climbing shoes and harnesses and ropes and quickdraws, but would have to sell a child to buy cams.

Sounds like weaksause excuse making. No wonder you got kicked out of Canada 😀

Petr Melichar replied 9 weeks ago.

I just feel the need to say; see the Costa Blanca mentioned in the introduction, there is no need to deal with financing, but the quality and not the quantity of routes, the quality of the placement itself and, last but not least, ethics and sustainability. We already have super safe, certified equipment (rope, harness, quiqdraws ...) So why a clipstick, toprope...? Unfortunately, my real experience, not only in Spain, Czech, Germany etc; after the release of the guidebook, hordes come to the area, that has been already for many years, and literally occupy the rock and often apply fitness style. Instead of trying to climb what they should in real, they clipsticking and trying to dig up "dream" 6b, c, 7a ... They are not climbers, they are just snowflakes and socialneter, who want to declare "I am climbing difficulty X" "I climbed path xy, which is TOP rated in the area ". They want to climb just like lifting dumbbells, doing push-ups, self-presentation. These self-representatives try last decade occupied Meteora, Adrspach, Tatras, Alps ... because these areas have sound. Unfortunately, these clipshitters carry their mental disorders and want to climb "safely" in areas that have a name for their hard reach. It's the same with the supplemental oxygen crowds on Everest. In short: NO FUNDING, no stars to routes in guideboks, clipstick and panic quickdraw prohibition and top rope only for one second. And you should know there is a new guidebook for CB from locals this year.

James Hugh Festeryga replied 9 weeks ago.

One Day Hero I thought the initial question was “I would like to hear from you how it works out in your area. What alternatives to printed guide books are being used to support local bolters? Does it work out well? Are any of you developing crags themselves? How do you see the situation?” (Quoted from top comment)

I really wanted to hear about the ALTERNATIVES the original guy was asking about. But everybody was so focused on the online vs. Print discussion, it never got much airtime. Oh well, forums can move organically.

But yes, Canada decided I wasn’t hard enough so they sent me here to toughen up

One Day Hero replied 9 weeks ago.

From the initial post;

"In my area, there is frequent discussion going on about who is allowed to publish topos, whether you should consume online topos and how to give back to the people that do the (re-)bolting. The common theme seems to be "Buy the local guidebook from the local bolters - do not buy vampire topos". With "vampire topo" being referred to companies like Rockfax, that publish guidebooks for areas, e.g. Costa Blanca in Spain, where they did not contribute to the actual development. Thus, supposedly, stealing money from locals."

Also from the initial post;

"Are any of you developing crags themselves? How do you see the situation?"

I feel that most of the subsequent discussion addressed these points.

Mel replied 9 weeks ago.

I think the insights from bolters very interesting, but to get back to the initial question, some constructive input:

as I suggested in this thread I'd simply add links to theCrag on-site.

if I'd bolt, I'd very likely just add another link to a or profile. Those profiles have enough space to explain what the donation is used for.

could look like this:

after a nice climbing day--wouldn't people donate 2 bugs for a beer, if they know that every bolt in the rock costs that much?

replied 8 weeks ago.

Really nice Mel !

And for One Day Hero check out these as just some example sthat come to my mind:

  • (work in progress by someone who actually will create a printed book from it)

One Day Hero replied 7 weeks ago.

Hi Ulfi, I had a look at Datca, looks like a great cliff.

It just appears like a standard page on, slightly improved by the wide overall topos. Seems to be a fairly linear cliff (every route is one route left of the previous one) which makes things far easier for the author and climbers on their first visit, and there isn't high vegetation obscuring anything.

As usual the approach maps are fairly useless because there is no mechanism on this site for anything other than google maps.

Try having a look at the Mentz-Tempest guidebook to Mt Arapiles in Australia, or the current guidebook to Squamish in Canada. These are two of the best guidebooks I've seen, describing geographically complex climbing areas and presenting the information in a clear and concise way which visually makes sense. It isn't possible to dispute that those books provide vastly better information for their crags than this site does. And it isn't really a surprise. The books were produced by very experienced local climbers through years of work and the kind of decision making which cannot happen on a crowd sourced site. The information which is omitted is just as important for clarity as the information included.

Here is an example from my local area of the joys of crowdsourcing.

Topo photo taken from midway up a 130m cliff. Looking sideways at routes 50m away. Doesn't show starts, finishes, or anything really. And for extra points, the horizon is tilted 40 degrees so the slab looks horizontal. This is the kind of "information" which some climbers think is useful

James Hugh Festeryga replied 5 weeks ago.

Thank you Mel that's so helpful!

Mel replied 5 weeks ago.

haha, James Hugh Festeryga even theCrag picked up my idea for ads

James Hugh Festeryga replied 5 weeks ago.


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