• Rocktown Bouldering Guidebook: A Review



    That’s was my first impression of the new Rocktown Bouldering Guidebook as soon as I pulled the book out of the shipping envelope…and the WOW factor didn’t stop as I read through the book for this review! With eye popping, brilliantly colored, high resolution action photos jumping off of nearly every page, this guide doesn’t disappoint those that love some good eye candy!

    Atop Lookout Mountain in Northeast Georgia exists a labyrinth of sandstone boulders with practically every shape, size and variety of hold and route possible…Rocktown!  Rocktown is one of the Big 3 boulderfields in the Southeast, Little Rock City (or Stone Fort to those that haven’t been bouldering for a while) and Horse Pens 40 being the other 2. Rocktown is typified by steep and slopey sandstone, with some routes requiring the same technical and powerful climbing that LRC is known for, and others more similar to the bubbly slopers and slabs of Horse Pens 40.
    There are tons of boulder problems at Rocktown, some estimate over 1000 problems if you include all of the variations and eliminates, but this guidebook has whittled that down to around 500 quality problems worth visiting, and still left many boulders out to provide a little exploration for those that don’t like to be spoon-fed beta all the time.  Unlike the convenience of LRC and HP40 though, Rocktown isn’t a “pull up” bouldering crag where you can practically throw the pads out of the car and onto the landing zone. The hike in to Rocktown will get you a little warmed up and you’ll definitely break a sweat by the time you make it all the way out to the famous Crock Block. The boulderfield is in the middle of a beautiful hardwood forest and feels a lot more wild than the sometimes (OK, almost always) overcrowded blocks at HP40 and LRC. Rocktown is also bigger than the other 2 boulderfields, in size and in number of boulders and routes.

    Did I mention that this book is PACKED with incredible photography?;) Even during the usual introduction/general info section at the beginning of the book, there are stunning action shots thrown in to make sure you don’t get bored. Rocktown isn’t as convenient to get to as many other boulderfields in the south, requiring a gravel/dirt road drive up the mountain that can confuse and confound some folks (and their low clearance vehicles). But the guidebook gives great directions and GPS coordinates to make sure you don’t get lost along the way. Also provided in the introduction is enough information about camping/lodging, gear shops and even a small map of Lafayette, the nearest town to Rocktown, pointing out gas stations, grocery stores, the movie theater and the library.

    After the short but sufficient introduction (I’m personally not a fan of seeing a long introduction, especially packed wit advertisements, that lulls you to sleep before getting to the real meat of the guidebook), the best of the best routes are listed for all the grades that have been established here, V0-V12, so everybody can find a few uber classics to pull down on during their visit. Following this is an overview map of the entire area, showing all of the mini-areas of boulders and each boulder or cluster of boulders is numbered for easier reference. From there, the book dives into each mini-area and gives another overhead topo of the mini-area showing each subset of boulders within it and then each subset has its own overhead topo showing each boulder within that subset of boulders.

    After getting you around to each individual boulder, there are overhead topos of each boulder and many photo topos to make sure you’re on the right route. Some guidebooks can become confusing when they transition between the various overhead maps/topos, and get the boulderer lost before they can find their target problem. But this guidebook makes sure you’re tagging along the whole way and you don’t get lost and confused as to which mini-area, subset and boulder you are at or headed to.  Check out the various images in this review for the variety of topos used in the book.

    I commend Dan for his layout and foresight to make sure he doesn’t lose a pebble wrestler along the way. As you thumb from area to area and between all of the problems, one thing kept sticking out to me…there aren’t a ton of obnoxious ads that detract from the book and make it feel more like a magazine or even worse, like you just paid for DIRECTV and all you’re getting are the commercials. Over the years, the advertising in some guidebooks have gone so overboard that it feels like you have to really search though the book to find your beta and route descriptions, but Dan has strategically placed the ads as to flow with the design of the book and the absolute TON of spectacular action shots. You’ll still be informed about some great sponsors of the book, but its more like product placement during a TV show, rather than just sitting through a commercial.

    Overall, the guidebook is a big winner and I haven’t found any mistakes or typos to make it seem less professional. Dan Brayack did an amazing job with the layout, design and photos and Sean Kearney and Zak Roper’s writing keeps the mood light and playful while still delivering the beta you need to know for your road trip to Rocktown.  The photography is amazing as it engulfs and transports the reader to the boulders and gets their psyche up to send!!!  Even if you don’t plan on going to Rocktown any time soon, the guidebook is a great book to have around for the eye candy alone!  I really enjoyed the fact that this guidebook is truly packed full of useful, valuable information and there are very few pages wasted on advertising or ramblings that most readers care little about.  I commend everyone involved with this guidebook and give it my highest recommendations!!!

    To order this amazing bouldering tome, click over here and it’ll be in your mailbox before you know it!!!

    Dan Brayack is a well known climbing and bouldering photographer, whose photos have been in all of the major climbing magazines, as well as authoring the Coopers Rock Bouldering Guidebook. His photos are known to be descriptive, telling a story between the protagonist climber and the antagonist route or boulder problem. You’ve probably skipped past other boring shots and paused to stare at one of his photos, while flipping through your favorite climbing rag and you just didn’t know it. Now he has taken his talents to the next level by starting Brayackmedia Publishing and the Rocktown Guidebook is his first and rather beautiful publication!  Dan was very kind to provide me with all of these great images for the review, along with a copy of the guide, without thinking twice!  Thanks again Dan for giving back by donating 10% of the profits of the book to support local climbing!!!   





    The duo of authors, Sean Kearney and Zak Roper, both bring a unique perspective to the guidebook. Sean is a hometown, Chattanooga boy who’s been bouldering at Rocktown since 1995. He is very familiar with the boulderfield and problems and his expertise helped to ensure accuracy and consistency of the route locations, names and grades.



    Zak Roper, originally from Knoxville, spent the better part of a season at Rocktown, preparing the guidebook and descriptions, and has since moved on to live in West Virginia. Both of these guys, like many of us, enjoy exploring for lesser known/new areas and Sean is living the essence of the enlightened boulderer by discovering, sending and then leaving the unnamed and ungraded problems for the next enlightened one to come along and learn the lessons these mysterious routes teaches them. This trio of boulderers have created a beautiful tome that appeals to those familiar with the boulders of Rocktown, those planning a road trip or just those that love looking at incredibly stunning images of others crushing problems most of us could only dream of.

    I was intending to have this review up almost a month ago, but life got in the way of me getting it out until now…my apologies to those that have been waiting patiently for this review! In the meantime, I was able to swing by Rocktown for a quick visit during the heat of the summer…check out the trip report here.

    Brad Caldwell

    Brad grew up and now lives in the foothills of Pickens, SC and spends much of his time exploring and enjoying the outdoors nearby. He has been climbing and bouldering for 20+ years, and still gets the same great feeling everytime he touches rock. Brad has been focusing much of his efforts on the Jocassee Gorges area in northern Pickens and Oconee counties, and finding, cleaning and sending new boulder problems, and has recently released a guidebook to this area. He has been teaching Anatomy and Physiology at Greenville Technical College, in Greenville, South Carolina, for over 10 years and enjoys seeing his students succeed and create a better life for themselves and their families. He is married with a one year old daughter and has 2 dogs that they love to share their life and home with! Brad also runs Upstate Bouldering (www.upstatebouldering.blogspot.com) which focuses on bouldering, access and events around the upstate of South Carolina, western North Carolina and northeast Georgia.

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Discussion 9 Responses

  1. August 29, 2012 at 7:31 am

    I’m sold Brad!

  2. August 30, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    I read your in depth trip report.  You are brave to go bouldering in Chattanooga in the summer.  What do you mean Art of the Vogi doesn’t top out?  That is part of the crux!

  3. August 30, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    It was definitely not sending conditions, but as life moves on and family responsibilities start to take more precedence, I’ll take any chance I can get to go bouldering…even Chatty in the summer!  According to the guidebook and many vids of Vogi, after you establish yourself on the bubbly face, topping it out is optional.  I’ve seen it finished both ways, but having only a small pad with me, I decided to punt on finishing it to the top and just hop off after standing up on the lower slopers and establishing myself on the face.  You saying that makes me want to head back with my Behemoth and top that bitch out though:)

    And thanks Ten Finger Tom…you wont be disappointed with this guidebook!

  4. August 30, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Erich…just checked the guidebook and there isn’t any mention of punting. Thanks for the motivation to get that thang this fall!!!

  5. August 31, 2012 at 8:07 am

    If you like steep roof climbs like Art of the Vogi, you should also go find “Six Feet Under”, also at LRC.  Its a little hard to find but its up above the Dragon Man/Dragon Lady area.  Or you could just go to Rocktown as the boulder problems there tend to be steeper than LRC. 

  6. August 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    When these books showed up at the shop we were dually impressed. Nice work Danno!
    Great review Brad.

  7. September 24, 2012 at 7:46 am

    I agree, this guidebook is WONDERFUL. It opened my eyes to so many new routes and areas I never even knew existed. This is truly a crag that was in dire need of a guidebook – and I am so thankful for the fellas who put it together (and for the fact that my blog gets a tiny little shoutout on the second to last page)! 

    I must voice my discontent with some of the grading though. Must we always sandbag? The Vagina is NOT a V7, folks.  

  8. December 3, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Everyone seems to be complaining about the grade on the Vag.  Sack it up ;)  Probably get 8 points in the next edition though.  We’re trying to wear Sean down on that one!!!!!  

  9. May 12, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    If you are looking into buying a handheld GPS, then chances are you already have an idea of what these items are and how they can make your life easier. In fact, many people are starting to look into these very useful Global Positioning System devices, since they quite literally tell you were you are in the world. Obviously if you are active in outdoor sports, such as hiking, camping or boating or the like, a GPS can be a very handy item, giving you piece of mind that you will always know exactly where you are. With a GPS, you never need to fear getting lost in the wilderness ever again.-`

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