Bouldering Colorado Slideshow with Bob Horan

by Tom Markiewicz on October 3, 2008

Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder hosted a slideshow last night presented by Bob Horan, author of the new and highly controversial guidebook Bouldering Colorado.

Honestly, I was hoping some of the book’s most vocal detractors would show up for an open debate (hopefully more entertaining than the VP debate happening simultaneously), but there was a relatively small turnout of about 20 people and no visible outrage.

The slideshow was nicely prepared and ran about 1.5 hours consisting of photos (mostly of Bob) with some occasional video footage. Many Colorado bouldering areas were covered with an obvious heavy focus on Front Range bouldering. Included were a few areas in the slideshow that Bob said were actually not in the book (Rabbit Mountain near Lyons was one I asked about).

After the show I spoke with Bob and specifically asked him his thoughts on the issues brought up by some respected Colorado boulders like Peter Beal and Jamie Emerson. As a new resident to the area, I had no agenda other than to get some response from Bob in person as opposed to his not exactly tactful response on his Falcon blog.

He was very accommodating and made the following comments regarding the issues:

  • The original draft of the manuscript was double what was actually printed for the final book.
  • The manuscript was done about two years ago.
  • He said that the only ones complaining were the few elite climbers that had the opportunity to comment, but never spoke to him or provided input. (This is highly debatable though as it’s unclear whether these climbers were actually aware of the project.)
  • Bob said that there will always be mistakes and issues with any guidebook.
  • He also stated that the vast majority of climbers will benefit from the book.

While I disagree with how this entire situation was handled, Bob appeared to be genuinely concerned about writing a high quality guidebook. He made it clear to me that he was open to correcting any mistakes for future editions, but it’s still unclear why this wasn’t done more prior to publication as opposed to after it.

In a nutshell, I think this is what bothers most critics of the book and offers a learning lesson for other guidebook authors. As much as possible, guidebook publishers and authors need to provide an open forum to discuss a new work especially one with previously unpublished areas and those with questionable access. This would go a long way to getting the support of the local climbing community which in turn is the best free marketing you can get.

While Bob mentions this was done, there’s no excuse to not distribute this information well in advance to climbing site and prominent bloggers. I know if contacted, many of us would have been happy to publish information regarding the book years ago. Reading Bob’s most recent post on the subject, I really start to wonder how much blame lies on Falcon as well. Bob discusses how interacting with blogs and Internet media is new to him. But it is most definitely not out of the question to think that Falcon understands how publishing and marketing via Internet channels works.

To me, that is the biggest surprise of this whole issue. Regardless of the possible errors and judgement calls on including certain areas, at the ending of the day they are marketing a book. And a book we can only assume that they’d like to make a profit. Word of mouth and reviews (both print and Internet) will most definitely influence the sales of a guidebook when there are alternative options. With respect to bouldering in Colorado, this is most definitely the case.

As for the book itself, I have only skimmmed it and once I obtain a copy will write a full review after having time to thoroughly examine it. The one striking feature I will mention, and likely reason for the high cost, is the number of full color pictures of problems throughout the book. No one will argue the quality production value of Bouldering Colorado.

I know this issue has been discussed elsewhere, but I invite comments on this especially ones that help us all look to the future of how a situation like this can be avoided.

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