Review

(11/27/00)

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Mill Valley, CA 94941

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SuperTopos - Yosemite Big Walls

SuperTopo is the brainchild of Chris McNamara.  Seemingly tired of inaccurate, vague and historically void big wall topos, in 1999 Chris decided to improve on the current state-of-the-art.  The initial cut of the SuperTopos - Yosemite Big Walls is quite an outstanding achievement and sets a high watermark for detailing big wall information.

Most everyone who attempts a big wall spends much more time researching the wall of choice than actually climbing it.  The best sources for information on walls came directly from the S.A.R. site in Camp 4.  If you happened to be traveling from out of the area, on a tight schedule or couldn't find anyone who has done the route in question you were left to follow your own devices.  Old topos, older guidebooks and trying to glean as much information through your binoculars was as good as it gets.  Often times unexpected, easily solved while on the ground issues arise while two days from the top and three days from the ground.  No one said you needed TWO #5 Camalots to aid that 5.11 off-width crack on pitch 21! 

There are plenty of folks out there that like the added challenge of climbing into the relative unknown.  Good for them.  For the rest of us, information is power.  In addition to the best big wall topos ever developed, the guide includes with each route a summary comparing the climb to others of similar difficulty, first ascent history, route specific strategy and retreat/storm details.  A small but handy drawing of the formation with the general route positioning is included.  A pitch-by-pitch matrix is provided giving the user a head start on lining up the pitches he would like to (not) lead.  The matrix gives the aid rating (hammer & clean) and free rating of each pitch.  An up-to-date gear list is also included (of course).  Most pitches on the topos include gear needed (size), pitch length and pitch linking detail.  The bivys are also rated on a subjective scale; great, good, ok or poor.  One of the truly important aspects of this guide is the detailed approach/decent information for the various formations.  Maps and topos (in some cases) are provided to help you get to and from the wall safely.

The John Dill (NPS Search and Rescue) "Staying Alive" dissertation has been included.  This piece of Yosemite literature should be read periodically by every valley climber or aspiring valley climber.  "Staying Alive" was first published in the 1987 George Meyers & Don Reid Yosemite Climbs guidebook and is as valuable today as it was nearly fifteen years ago.

Another interesting addition are the climber profiles.  The climbers briefly profiled are responsible for most of the climbs highlighted in this guide.  A section called "Wall Tips" is good for the novice wall climber and "Big Wall Cuisine" gives better ideas than the can of pasta/can of fruit regimen.  Another nice inclusion is the listing of climbs from easiest to most difficult.  Environmental considerations and over use concerns are voiced spuriously throughout the text.  Pay attention to what you leave behind.  The rock is a non-renewable resource.  Tread lightly.

A few small mistakes can be found but are mostly cleared up on the SuperTopos web site, updates & corrections.

Overall, Climber Online strongly recommends that any aspiring Yosemite wall climber should purchase this book.  Even if you're just slightly interested in wall climbing, this should be the book to own.  We're looking forward to the next releases of the SuperTopo collection.

Where to get it:  Amazon.com, Mountain Gear, REI.


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