American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Thath-aa-ai-atah, A Rock Climber's Guide to the Lumpy Ridge Area

  • Book Reviews
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  • Publication Year: 1981

Thath-aa-ai-atah A Rock Climber’s & Scrambler’s Guide to the Lumpy Ridge Area, by Chip Salaun and Scott Kimball. Published by the authors, 1980. 192 pages, 52 photographs, area maps. Price $10.00.

When requested by The American Alpine Journal to review the Lumpy Ridge guidebook, I asked, “Is that the guidebook with the unpronounceable name?” Sure enough, it is.

I enjoy a guidebook that is fun to read. Art Gran’s Shawangunk guide of 1964 is my favorite. To this day I enjoy reading descriptions in his classic. While Thath-aa-ai-atah does contain some witticisms, it is not a book I would read for enjoyment. It does, however, have many redeeming qualities, and I therefore rate the book 5.8+ (or 5.9—).

It is more than just a rock-climbing guide. The flora and fauna sections help one appreciate the approaches to climbs. The book also contains ample descriptions of the features of Estes Park to assist a newcomer to the area. Since most of the rocks are on national park land, an important chapter “Rules & Regulations” is included. Pay special attention to the descriptions of descents, or you may get down much faster than you wanted.

Now for the important question: “How well does the guide help you find the climbs?” The composite photo in the back of the book is excellent, as it allows you to locate the numerous outcroppings in relation to each other. In addition, each area description contains large pictures with adequate route lines. The route ratings are, surprisingly, not included on this page. Unfortunately, the large pictures produce a guidebook (5" x 8?") that barely fits into an oversized back pocket. Because of this, there is a high risk of losing or ripping the guide if carried on a climb. Concerning the durability of the book, the orange cover “bleeds” when wet, and the binding on my guide is already destroyed.

A format lacking in this book, which I think every guidebook should contain, is that used by Jim Erickson in Rocky Heights: the designation of quality routes with “* * *, * *, *,” and the protection quality ratings “R” and “X.” Thath-aa-ai-atah (pronounce it anyway you like) doesn’t have such fine distinctions—though it does use (s) for “serious” leads.

One unfortunate side effect of guidebooks is that they tend to bring an influx of climbers to the area. It is important that we appreciate and respect all climbing areas, for they can never be rebuilt. I like to believe that climbers are more sensitive to the ecological balance of areas as beautiful as Lumpy Ridge, but I have been shocked and angered to find litter, wads of tape and cigarette butts stuffed into cracks. I know damn well it wasn’t “Joe Tourist.” Let us preserve our playgrounds like Lumpy Ridge by paraphrasing the “wilderness ethic” for rock climbing: “Leave nothing but chalk, take nothing but hero shots.”

Gregory R. Hand

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