Virtually all in black and white apart from eight colour plates at the back the theme is Gothic and very stylish. The first thing most people will notice on picking up the guide is the cover photo, an unconventional statement of intent, a close up of the chalky hands and arse of Malcom Smith standing poised below "Pool of Bethesda" the hardest boulder problem in North Wales. The second thing is that the text is in both English and Welsh this adds to the size of the book (only 20%) and is slightly distracting initally but quickly one doesn't notice it.
The topos are clear, the descriptions are precise without being laboured and the black and white crag photos work particularly well. For the text I personally would of preferred a more conventional font but it suits the look and feel of the guide. There are plenty of great action shots spread through the pages mostly by Simon himself and Ray Wood. At the beginning are chapters on conservation and access, bouldering gear, spotting and landings, the definition of a boulder problem and grading. All these are useful and interesting to read especially for someone relatively new to the art of bouldering. And at the back of the guide is an excellent sixteen page history section which starts back in the late eighteen hundreds with a certain Oscar Eckenstein and finishes rather appropriately with mention of one of old man Pantons latest test pieces.
Amazingly 80% percent of the problems in the graded list at the back where climbed post '95. Around this time the North Wales bouldering mafia realised the potential on the hillsides and coastlines in North Wales and a frenzy of bouldering began that is still continuing to this day. The forerunners of the present guide were the "Northern soul" fanzines that Simon produced to keep people up to date with the rapid development of new problems and even new areas.
This is a brilliant guide to some excellent mountain and coastal bouldering areas less than 3 hours from Dublin. What more could you ask for? Go.
Available from v12 Outdoor for £18.95 Phone number UK (01286) 871534 www.v12outdoor.com
For updates, news and more topos check out www.northwalesbouldering.com