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New Topo. Rockfax – Cote d’Azur

December 28th, 2010 by admin

The latest book in the Rockfax series to France covers a huge area from Marseille to the Italian border and inland as far as the Verdon Gorge. With 400 pages describing over 25 crags this is a big book and seems excellent value for money (under 25 pounds).

As usual (with Rockfax) the photo topos are clear and easy to use, their system of symbols and brief descriptions for each route is enough without over doing it and the maps and access details are clear and simple. Basically, Rockfax know how to make good guidebooks and their formula is now considered to be the industry standard.

Unusually, for a Rockfax guide the colour photos range from being excellent to surprisingly ordinary, with most falling somewhere between the two.

Rockfax claim their policy is not to compete with local guidebook producers, rather they aim to introduce climbers to new areas which they wouldn’t have visited without the inspiration their guidebooks clearly give. Rockfax actively encourage visitors to buy the local guidebooks and provide details on each of these as well as where to buy them.

The first book in this series, Haute Provence, immediately led to renewed interest in crags such as Buoux, the Dentelles de Montmirail and those around Buis Les Baronnies and the increased numbers of visitors was obvious (by the numbers of climbers using the book at the crags).

Unfortunately (for the locals) the Haute Provence guidebook was so well produced that although it is a selective guidebook (covering only the best crags), the ones left out are no where near as good and coverage of those included is so good that any sectors missed out are hardly worth worrying about.

The production of the Haute Provence guidebook was inevitably met with criticism by local climbers and guidebook writers who feel that this book will mean that visiting climbers now have no need to buy the local topo, the proceeds of which go towards the equipping and upkeep of the routes.

The excellent crag at Peillon.

The excellent crag at Peillon.

The Cote d’Azur guidebook is far more selective, both in the crags chosen and the number of routes described at each.  If this was a conscious decision by Rockfax to avoid the same criticism (and associated backlash from locals) then the latest book should go along way to appeasing them and uphold the Rockfax philosophy.

For instance, in the Toulon area the crags at Faron, Coudon and Baou de 4 Ouro are all covered in detail while the excellent crags of Cimai and Destel aren’t included at all and climbers wanting to visit these crags will need to buy the local topo.

In the same way the coverage of the crags in the Calanques near Marseille is very limited (with some surprising omissions) and the very brief description for the excellent Gorge du Blavet, with only 40 routes of over 250 on offer included, means anyone wanting to get the best out of these areas would really need the local topo as well.

The section of this guidebook that really stands out is the Verdon Gorge, with detailed coverage of the main climbing areas, excellent photo topos, clear maps and easy to use approach details for the longer routes. Also, for a ‘foreign’ topo the info contained is surprisingly more accurate than the locally produced guidebook!

The book also covers many less well known crags in good detail, including Les Gorges du Loup, Chateauvert,  Peillon and Gorbio, all of which are well worth a visit.

In use you get the feeling this huge area may have been better served with two smaller guidebooks giving more detail and covering a few more crags and doing justice to the huge variety of quality climbing found here.

Sormiou - only limited coverage with some great crags not included.

Sormiou - only limited coverage with some great crags not included.

In short this is an excellent and well-produced guidebook that will undoubtedly stimulate a lot of interest in this region.

For climbers planning a trip to this area for the first time or for those organising a road trip to explore this whole region it will be invaluable and contains a huge amount of useful information.

For those planning a short trip to a small part of this region (and limit the amount of driving) then the guide may be a little too selective and the addition of the local topo will complement the Rockfax book and give more comprehensive coverage.

Where to buy it.

The book costs 24.99 pounds and can be brought directly from Rockfax.

Whats Good.

Excellent easy to use photo topos.

Clear and accurate maps and access details.

Good coverage for many crags (especially the Verdon Gorge).

An ideal resource for first time visits or road trips covering the whole region.

Whats Not!

Some of the pictures.

May be a little too selective with the crags included and route descriptions given.

Some excellent crags not included while other more ordinary ones are covered in detail.

December 28th, 2010 by admin