Originally, this site was developed as i was giving the same advice about Fontainebleau to customer after customer on a monthly basis in the shop. I wanted a medium for sharing this, simply by showing them a website, giving them an address and letting people get the info at their leisure. Then it occurred to me that i’ve been an awful lot of places, and can dispense similar info for the other places i’ve explored. I could create a site that gave travel and logistical help to people who wanted to go to the best bouldering spots in Europe.
But that’s not just what it’s all about: it’s about psyche, about getting inspired, and finding the places to go in the first place and there are other sites out there that are ideal for this. I’ve found a few and to get your juices flowing and to make sure you’ve found that next amazing place to visit, i’ve put them down here for you.
Of course, i’m not the only one to ask, and the internet is filled with forums. I’ve included some of the ones i use often, with a brief outline of what i expect when i go there.
So let’s say you’ve searched the photos online, checked out the info and found somewhere stunning that you’re off to. You’ve checked out what i have to offer and you’re good to go but there are some things that change every day, that you can’t know until you’re about to leave. I’ve included some of the best weather forecasting websites i know of so you can keep abreast of what you’ve got in store.
Some logistical aspects change regularly too: flights, train times and other things like this would be far too difficult to keep up to date, and completely unnecessary as it’s all out there already. I’ve chucked in some of the ones i use too.
Then when you’re back, or even while you’re away, you might want to keep track of what you’ve been up to. Guidebooks are one thing but in the digital age, there are now several good online logbooks available, and i’ll show you the ones i know of.
If you run one of these sites, i hope you’re not offended or annoyed. If you have any grievance with your site being linked, please e-mail me at email@example.com and i will remove your link as quickly as possible. Likewise, if you like what i’ve written, feel free to comment or e-mail me, as it’s good to get good feedback. Finally, if you as a reader know of something i’m missing or a site i should know of, please let me know so i can include it for anyone else who might come across this site. You never know, it could make someone’s trip.
This section is more general useful bouldering-related websites but inspiration seemed more fitting: you’re either looking for these because you’re bored and want something to occupy yourself or you want somewhere cool to go soon. Either way, these are websites that are worth glancing through, as you never know what will happen:
- climbing.ilooove.it Apparently, this started off as a Facebook group but snowballed and is now a website in it’s own right. It is FULL of photos, from every crag you can possibly imagine, and is very inspiring, even if it is littered with “urban lingo”.
- Discover Bouldering These guys actually added me on Facebook and once i had a look i realised how much was here. There’s indoor stuff, outdoor stuff, photos, news and it seems to be updated regularly, well worth a look if you have a hefty chunk of spare time.
- UKC There aren’t many climbers in the UK that don’t know of UKC; it’s effectively an online magazine. I remember it when i was a student and it was mainly forums but now it’s grown with articles, logbooks, photos and is easily enough to waste a wet afternoon staring at a computer screen and getting the psyche up. Not bouldering specific, but still worthwhile.
- Vimeo. Okay, so it’s not in any way climbing specific but it does seem to be the place to host climbing films. It seems to be where most of the good ones are and a lot are available for download.
- Rockclimbing.com. I’ve stumbled across this site a few times before but never really explored it. There seems a lot there, and it has certainly grown quite a bit over the years, although as i say, i can’t comment on it’s quality. One day i’ll have a good look.
- Coronn. I wasn’t sure which heading to put this under; it’s a collection of climbing areas (and now ski and mountaineering too) all over Europe, very similar to this site. It isn’t as specific as here, i find it a touch outdated but it’s excellent. I remember printing topos from here off when i was at Uni!
- DPM. It’s an online magazine really but according to a friend, has TONNES of video. I’ve come across it before and it is pretty good for raising psyche levels and killing time when the rock is dry and you’re stuck at work.
- Petzl Video. Many years ago, Petzl gave away a free DVD with something, probably a magazine, with a bunch of their short films. Turns out it’s one of my favourites, especially the awesome There Was No Robin des Blocs. Over time, they’ve obviously made one or two more, and stuck them all on their website. There are some gems on there (and some dross, it must be said) and i’ll leave you to scroll through and figure out which ones are which.
- Vertical-Axis. These are a couple of German guys with a camera, from what i call translate in my pig-ignorant German. They seem to film Germans climbing around Europe in some destinations documented on here, as well as some competition stuff. The photos and videos are both excellent. They have a good Vimeo account too.
Sometimes you need a bit of a hand from someone with a bit more experience, others you want to see what everyone else is up to or lend some advice to other people, and then there are the times when you’re in the mood to wind people up. Whatever you’re using them for, forums can be useful, interesting and infuriating all at the same time. Whether they’re your thing or not, here are the ones i know of and use.
- UKBouldering. This is bouldering specific and is generally very good natured. Don’t expect to be the big fish in this pond – most of the UKs best boulderers are on here and you’ll find a lot of people really know their stuff. But for info on climbing in the UK, it is a great place.
- UKC. I know i mentioned this above but i’ve put it again to point out one major thing: the forums here are fickle. I don’t use them these days as i tired of the sanctimony of it’s popular users, the way bouldering seems to be treated and the general trolling used just to aggrevate people. I have plenty of friends who like it but i’m not a fan.
Okay, we all know they’re not exact, and are only really accurate when they’re actually talking about now (and even then i’ve often found them wrong). Does that mean we won’t religiously check them as often as possible just before a trip? Of course not. I’ve detailed some of the best sites i know of, mainly UK based for obvious reasons, with some great international sites too. If there’s a good one for your country, please let me know – locals always know this stuff best.
- yr.no. This is a Norwegian website that plucks it’s data from local weather stations and feeds it right back to you. There is no limit at all to the size of the place you want to check for and it covers all over the globe. It’s pretty staggering the spots it knows in it’s database and is remarkably accurate in my experience; my number one site to go for forecasting. Oh and you can change the language to English in the top right corner of the homepage and don’t forget to scroll down to check out the local webcams.
- earth.nullschool.net. I came across this site over a friend’s shoulder as he saw it posted on Facebook. It is absolutely fascinating and shows all the current wind for the whole world. Wow, i hear you say, that sounds like a good gimic. It’s not. With a little understanding of basic weather forecasting, this can be really useful to see what’s potentially heading your way in the next few days. Remember: high pressure (air flowing out) is generally good, low pressure (air flowing in) is bad. Now have a look.
- Met Office. The UK Met Office is one of the most highly renowned weather forecasting organisations in the world, and with good reason. These are the guys that issue weather warnings in Britain when things are about to go tits up and if you’ve been here when they do, you’ll understand. The link will take you to the Atlantic pressure charts, as i prefer to make my own predictions, but it’s easy to navigate round to get a forecast for somewhere specific. It’s also full of weather forecasting info so if none of this has made sense, take a look and it will help to explain. World forecasting also available.
- World Climate. This website is insane: it documents the average temperature, rainfall, air pressure, all sorts for tonnes of cities all over the globe. It is a bit tricky to find places, and i’ve noticed it’s often easier to just try and get the data for the nearest airport, but it’s another tool in the box that’s worth a look.
- Met Check. My theory on forecasters is they go one of two ways: be pessimistic, claim it’ll be poorer than you think and if you’re wrong, no-one will mind as it’s nice out anyway or be optimistic and more people will use your site. Met Check (in my experience) go for the latter… which can be quite useful when you’re trying to convince your mates it’ll be worth going out tomorrow! Seriously, it’s another option, another prediction and you can compare with the others to get a better idea of what’s going to happen. The more they all concur, the more likely it is that’s what’s going to happen. They also cover Europe and the rest of the world too.
- BBC Weather. If all else fails and it all gets too complicated, use the BBC website. They get their data from the Met Office (as does everyone else for that matter) and then interpret it in their own way and produce in a simple and easy to understand way for your average Brit. And come on, who doesn’t trust the BBC?!
Travel and transport isn’t something i’ve delved into too heavily on this site, for one reason or another. These are some of the sites i use regularly, and others that i thought might come in handy to save a bit of time and effort. I’ve gotta be honest and say i normally drive everywhere so if you know any other good sites, please let me know.
- Skyscanner. I can’t believe everyone doesn’t know about this website – it could put travel agents out of business. The premise is simple: put in where you’re flying from and to, the dates you’re going and it scrolls through countless airlines to find you not only the cheapest deals but ALL the airlines going between those destinations. Remember to be vague when selecting your airport; i’ve started searching “From: UK airports” and then plucking out the sensible ones to fly from for me.
- Google Maps. Okay, so this one is a bit of a daft addition, as everyone online must know about Google and their maps are world famous. Still, don’t underestimate how useful it can be for getting clear and concise directions from almost anywhere in the world to anywhere else. It is always the site i go to first to find out where i’m going.
- Trainline. Purely for the UK, this is your best bet to get train times and train tickets online. Actually, considering the state of the Great British train station, it’s probably your best bet anywhere! Just remember it’s British Rail so they’re unlikely to be early…
For a lot of people, simply putting a tick in a guidebook is enough of a record of their achievements. Others don’t do anything! Recently, there has been a bit of a surge in online logbooks available for climbers to document (and share) what they’ve been up to, normally with plenty of other features thrown in for good measure. They’re sometimes also useful as topos and online guides, with boulders regularly documented and good old Google Maps helping to show where to look in the first place. Finally, it’s often worth browsing through in order to find that next project, recommended by similar climbers. These are a few, either popular ones or my personal favourites.
- 8a.nu. I’ll start with the oldest (to the best of my knowledge). 8a.nu has been going for years and has literally tens of thousands of members, including such names as Daniel Woods, Adam Ondra, Dave Graham – and those are just three that i’ve plucked off the top of the rankings now! But that does lead me neatly onto one of the main complaints about 8a.nu – everyone is ranked on there, according to their ascent grade and style. As such, it can feel a bit elitist and can add a competitive edge that you didn’t really want. It’s not actually why i stopped using it though; that was because i got tired of the repetition of problems and the old-feel of the site itself. Still, 50,000 members at time of writing so it must have some good points…
- 27crags. If you use my site to check out destinations, you’ll notice i use 27crags a lot to show different locations and as a reference. It was shown to me by my Swedish friend Fredrik, was originally started by some Finns, and is growing all the time. You can log in using Facebook too, eliminating the need to remember another password, which makes things simpler. It’s cleaner, easier on the eye and they’re a friendly bunch. I tidied up a lot of the North Wales crags and input a lot of the bouldering data and i’d encourage anyone who goes on there to do the same for their local crag. Again, there’s tonnes more on the site besides a ticklist, so it’s well worth a look.
I’m still a fan of actual physical magazines i can turn pages of at the crag or on a park bench but as we’ve already said, this is the digital age and times they are a changing. There are magazines for plenty of countries out there, in plenty of languages and while i am finding out more of them as i go away, i couldn’t even scratch the surface. So these are the ones i know of, with their country of origin given too.
- Climb (UK). I regularly read Climb for years, and am quite pleased with it. For older UK readers, it’s the new version of On The Edge (a much better title if you ask me but never mind). It is fairly boulderer-friendly, includes plenty about sport as well as the expected dose of trad, winter, etc. and normally has a good interview, a kit section and some sort of training advice. Some months substantially better than others, but still a good punt.
- Rock and Ice (US). My personal favourite in terms of Yankee Doodle climbing porn. The website is pretty good too, and you can easily track through old copies and have a read online (as i often do with Issue #170 and it’s Hawaii article…). I’ve bought a couple of copies in the past too and was pretty impressed – even if i did find myself in Vancouver reading an article about the Peak District…
- Climber (UK). I tend to find this mag more trad and mountaineering orientated and thus tend to avoid it in favour of the more glossy Climb mentioned above but it’s still not bad. In truth, if we sold both in the shop, i’d probably end up buying both so i guess i’d put it somewhere between awesome and average.
- Climbing (US). The only thing i know of this magazine is that it sponsors the Reel Rock Tour films, often with silly adverts involving a man climbing something while gaffa-taping a copy of Climbing to the rock. Site looks alright though.
- Grimper (France). Finally! one not created by the Brits or the Yanks. Much like with my attempts to buy the sporting newspaper l’Equipe, i’ve often neglected the low-level of my French reading ability and bought a copy of Grimper when in France, only to find i really don’t understand any of it. The pictures are nice though, and Google does a wonderful job at translating their websites…
- Klettern (Germany). Another climbing mag that i struggle to read, the German’s are more at the forefront of the international climbing scene. As such, the magazine is as you’d expect: high quality with some great photos.
- Alpinist (US). Oh, the Arc’teryx of climbing magazines. It is almost entirely big-mountain focused and to be honest, i’ve often found myself surprised to even find multi-pitch sport climbing in here but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth a read – it really is THE most inspirational magazine i have ever come across.
- Desnivel (Spain). I don’t know much about the Spanish climbing scene, having not spent much time there, so i asked a Spanish friend for recommendations on magazines. She said there are three: “Desnivel (mountain, ice, rope climbing…), Escalar (more for bouldering) and Campo Base (mountain, trekking, ice, boulder, rope…) I woud say the best one is Desnivel, at least it,s the most popular” I managed to find the link for Desnivel but not the others, so have a browse, courtesy of Rocio Fernandez, proprietor of Sofa Boulder in Albarracin.
I’ve found that looking directly at the publishers websites can be as handy a way as any to find new venues to explore and it can be especially handy if you want to see if a guide exists to where you’re thinking of! Either which way, it pays to know who they are really, so here are some of the ones i know of and a link to their site.
- Panico Alpinverlag. These guys are German (i think) but seem to publish guidebooks to all over the place. I’ve used the Alpen en Bloc guides a bit and while they weren’t amazing, they did cover a lot of places. There are a couple of others I’ve seen that could be worthwhile from them too.
- Versante Sud. Daone Prog was excellent and Jacky Godoffe’s Font a Bloc is a personal favourite (as long as you only want that volume at the moment…). Generally photo topos, generally well laid out and well worth a look.
- Gebro Verlag. I’ve gotta be honest, i’m not a fan of the guides from these guys but they do have a tendency to be the only ones doing guides for those areas. Often selective guides over a HUGE area, they are often your only option. Could be worse.
- Stone Country. These Scottish boys do make some good guides – their Font guide, while hugely selective to the point of almost being a ticklist, is fantastic. They’re the guys doing the Scottish guides too so worth keeping an eye out for if you’re heading North o’ the border.
- Jingo Wobbly. I’m repeatedly told that Jingo’s Fun Bloc guide is the best to the forest. I disagree but figured i should include him on the list, especially as he is the only person i know to do a bouldering guide to Portugal.
- Rockfax. Not my favourite people for personal, local political reasons but they changed the game to UK guidebooks and have a couple of bouldering guides. I would encourage the alternatives but thought they should be included to give you a more complete view of the publishers in the UK.
- Vertebrate. I’m breaking my own rules putting these guys on here, as they only make one bouldering guide (my preferred one to the Peak, rather than Rockfax). So i’ll justify their inclusion by pointing out they’ve done Jerry Moffatt’s and Ron Fawcett’s biographies…
- Supertopo. Going to the States? Taking a pad? These guys are the ones you want for guidebooks; or at least that’s the impression i get. I may be well off the mark, i haven’t been, but they’ve got a good selection for quite a few places.
There’s more, it’s a big internet out there, i’m still working on it…