Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Interview / Review > Brayackmedia > Rocktown guide

Do you read guide books before you go? Or after you've been to someplace? We do, and after spending a couple of winters at HP40 we were looking at trying somewhere new this Christmas... Rocktown was pretty high on the list and thankfully Bravackmedia have just published a new guide to the area. Which is great timing for us and GREAT timing for you if you're looking for somewhere new to climb this Winter.

Now we've interviewed / reviewed a guide on Stone Fort (here) and that is a good guide to the area; the new guide to Rocktown is well written, succinct and has a touch of humor to it... and we're not just talking about the names of the area names (Vagina Area, Idiot roof or Police brutality) or even some of the route names (Touchin' Cotton, Mr. Stiffy or Butt Crack) but we're talking about the proposed 27 star system that they tried and failed. Sean Kearney and Zak Roper have done a good job of writing a guide that gives you the facts on all the good lines and has a great touch of humor added into the mix. So much so that it's a fun read from start to finish and on reading it makes you want to go there (for me again) and to wrap up some problems.
We talked to the publisher Dan Bravack about the book and how it came about.
Name and job:
Dan Brayack. Photographer, Publisher and Climber out of Charleston West Virginia. I'm also a bridge engineer (pays the bills you know?)

So you aren't just the guide book author you're the publisher?
I am the publisher, I worked with Zak Roper and Sean Kearney authored the book, though we really all brought what we had to the table, me my photographer and layout experience, Sean his detailed and indepth knowledge of the area, and Zak the energy, drive and motivation to put together the best possible book we can.  I'll expand in question 6.

You've climbed at Rocktown I'm guessing? Any problems that stand out for you?
I have a good bit.  When we were doing the book, we were more systematic about the problems.  We wanted to make sure that a person reading the book who had never been to the area could not only find the area, but figure out which problem was which and have a good idea what they're in for. (Like "Campus Punks" is really a slab.)  Some problems that really stood out to me were "Helicopter" V6 which I blew my A-2 Pulley on in December (whoops), "Lab Rats" V6, "Nose Candy" V6, and "Little Bad Boulder" sandbagged V5.  I feel like if you asked me this question again, I may spurt out 6 different problems.  They're just all so good! 

You own the publishing company, Brayackmedia Publishing?
That's me.  Really, there are just so many good publishing companies out there, I feel like I'm standing on the shoulders of giants.  Wolverine publishing for example has been continually upping the ante with the quality of their books.  Their new Joshua Tree Boulder Guidebook makes me feel like some 5.9 top-rope tough guy watching Chris Sharma campus his project to warm-up...

You sent us the new Rocktown guide, it's a thing to behold, how long did it take to put together?
About a year all said and done, though there were definitely some crazy months, especially when it came down to the wire and we were making final decisions on grades, layout, photos etc. 

Sean Kearney and Zak Roper wrote the guide, are you just the publisher or did you help write it? Not only the three of us, but many many others.  We had about a dozen proof readers going around with print-outs on little mini mission, for example: OK Stella, here is the "Idiot Roof Area."  From this guidebook, get yourself there and see if you can figure out the problems and check all the spelling.  Coming from a technical writing background, I tried to keep the text somewhat professional which the occasional "Beautifully gorgeously aretastically fun" thrown in for some flavor.  Zak and Sean did a lot of the first step documentation and then I took that text and tried to make it more concise, for example we try to use "edge" instead of "crimper" and we have a specific formula for each description like: where it is, what does it start on, where does it go, how does it finish?  I've had some bad experiences with books where they give left hand/right hand, left foot/right foot beta and I hated it.  We tried to give just enough information to get someone up the correct problem.

What grade do you climb?
Sport climbing is where I climb best; I'm more likely to onsite a mid 5.12 than to day flash a V7 (get it in one day of working) though I definitely have snagged a few in one day.
So how many of the routes from Rocktown have you actually climbed?
I've been climbing in the area for quite a while now - maybe 6 or 7 years?  I've done a lot of the obvious problems that I can do, though like I said above we were really systematic about our days with the book, so we'd all try and do most of the problems to confirm grades, get photos, check descriptions do stars etc.  We climbed a lot of problems...

Any stand out lines that spring to mind?
Any lines that stand out?  Oh.  "Asphalt" V4 is awesome.  I really enjoyed that one.  In the same Cluster is "el Bano" V3 which is also really good!  The rock there just lends itself to incredible lines.  I really wanted to do the "Sherman Roof" V7 but I never really got around to trying it, ditto with "Inspired by an Idiot" V6.  Oh and "Golden Shower" V5.  WOW!  We should have given that one 22 stars.
Do you have any projects there still?
I have all kinds of projects there; most of them were stuff that I didn't even really get to try much or at all.  I really want to do "Police Brutality" V5 but never even got to try it!

How are the descriptions of the climbs written?
I think I covered some of this above in 6, but I'll expand on how a problem is described.  Different people perceive information is different ways; some prefer a textual description, some like maps and some like topo images (and all three will definitely get you to fall off the correct problem.)  The goal of the layout of the book was to have all of these elements on the same page.  We ended up repeating a lot of maps, but my biggest pet peeve is having a problem described on one page, the map on another page and the topo image 3 pages later.  I hate that! So every page is a self contained unit for the particular problem.  Not every problem has a topo image; some are obvious, but for the most part we tried to follow the above formula.

What up with the 27 star rating system :)
One thing we really tried to accomplish was cutting the fat.  Instead of having 30 problems on every imagineable boulder, we really stuck to the obvious and classic lines; but we cound't have like 600 four star problems right?.  We got a little goofy with the variations but really tried to avoid it but decided on key factors to come up with a specific star system.  Its a tough question - how many stars to use in a book?  Five seems like too much, 3 seems to thin, so we went with 4.  I'm glad you caught that part about the 27 star system.  Adam Henry's HP-40 guidebook is based on a theoretical five star problem and gives the qualifications for this "five-star problem."  The problem is: There aren't any five star problems there!  We thought that was pretty whitty of him so we decided to go overboard and choose an arbitrary 27 star system.  We actually gave Golden Harvest 26 and a half just for kicks.

Julia Statler... shes in a lot of the photos, whose girlfriend is that, it's got to be one of the three people involved in the book!!J
That's so funny. I can't wait to tell her that. She's actually married to my friend David Statler; the two of them own the climbing gym here in Charleston and Julia being a photographer as well understands what I look for in images; basically she doesn't complain when I tweak out about her having to change clothes five different times a day and climb problems when they are in the best light.  None of the images are posed, but she's a crusher and basically fill in all the gaps.

All of the areas are very well described and the maps well laid out and labeled, that must have taken loads of time to get into a readable format. How many iterations did you do of these?
Sean was the mojo when it came to the maps.  He pretty much hand draw nailed it first go.  I took his maps, drew them in and then did very little chances.  Maybe a boulder orientation here and there, add a tree, that sort of thing.  The maps by no means are to scale, we went more for a "makes sense when you look at it" kind of book.  As far as the text was concerned, I must have printed it off a hundred times.

The photos are pretty nice as well, were there any photos that you wanted to put in but couldn't

Funny you should ask that.  If you look on page 60 "Tough Love," we did that same sequence topless.  We figured that was probably a bad idea to run however.  From my experience with the Coopers Rock Book that I authored "Falcon Published", images are not even considered to the end of the process; however, with the Rocktown book, I tried to start with an good action image, then build the layout around it.  I would say 70 percent of the spreads are cookie - cutter, but I really tried to emphasize the problems in the best possible manner and used some experimental "hey lets try" layouts to mix things up.  For example, pp 164 and 165 look completely different from any other page in the book as does pp 36.

Rocktown is closed during hunting season right?
Sure is.  If you want to kill your wife of something, take her there bouldering during the hunting season, but say its really a Halloween party and that she should dress up as a deer!  Hang on I think I have a photo of me dressed up like a deer from college - let me look for that...AHHH college...

What other guides are on the way?
Right now I'm working on Grayson Highlands in Virginia.  That is full steam ahead and I think we'll have that to the printer this fall.  I'm definitely looking for new titles, so if you want to do a book, I'd love to love it with you and publish it!

The guide is available from here for $33.99 and it's a well rounded guide with everything you need to know about the local area and a whole list of climbs you should try... for anyone that wants to boulder at a sub V10 grade this place (as we know) is amazing, there's so many sub ten climbs there that it's worth a trip for a nice vacation.

Our advise for a place to stay is:
Why? Because camping is a pain in the ass around Rocktown and this place has had rave reviews and it's a pretty damn chill place to use as your base camp!!, you can find all the details here

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