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Rocky Mountain National Park: Classic Hikes & Climbs

Rocky Mountain National Park: Classic Hikes & Climbs. Gerry Roach. Fulcrum, Inc., Golden, Colorado, 1988. 254 pages, black and white photographs. $14.95 (paper).

Climbers should rejoice when armed with this passionate compilation of trails, routes, traverses, and other hikes in what is probably the most accessible mountaineering area in America. The author, Gerry Roach, is the twelfth American to summit Mount Everest and the second person to climb the highest peak on each continent.

To achieve a peak-bagging record like Roach, one must be a proven mountain fanatic. Empowered by thirty-plus years of difficult climbing, Roach unleashes his most humorous, comprehensive, and creative work to date. This book sparkles like Chasm Lake itself.

Mechanically, it is without flaw. Its twenty-four black and white photos have been shot from precise vantages that somehow organize the vast terrain of Rocky Mountain National Park into coherent athletic test pieces. The only gripe I’ve heard about the book is the absence of maps to orient the climber. Roach’s response to this complaint: “I elected not to include maps because 1. doing so would drive the cost of the book up; 2. the small format (the book measures 4? × 6?) would quickly become cluttered by too many maps; and 3. a scaled down USGS map is confusing and misleading.”

There is perambulation for everyone in this volume: hiking routes make up 41% of the book; scrambles, 29%; and technical climbs, 30%. There is a lifetime of adventures to try: 21 trailheads, 36 trails, 69 peaks (yes, Roach has climbed them all), and 143 routes. In keeping with his “Flatiron Classics” style, no technical climbing reaches above the Yosemite decimal scale of 5.6. Additionally, to ensure that visitors get their ankles’ worth of climbing, Roach again has a “Classic” category which highlights excursions most apropos to the alpine experience.

In addition to his always clear and concise descriptions, Roach also teases the climber into further mountain escapades with all sorts of fascinating “Divide Traverses,” “Extra Credits,” and “Special Events” along the way. It won’t take the reader long to realize that Roach has crafted a guidebook that urges him into the farthest and highest experience possible in Rocky Mountain National Park. Unlike the majority of guidebook writers though, Roach accomplishes this elusive task with the quiet intensity of an early autumn snow. The book informs, enchants, and inspires its readers.

Steve Ilg