Technology is a wonderful thing. I use it to compensate for my broken eyes. Having a program that can speak to me is a god-send, almost like magic. Technology allows me to access what most people take for granted, the ability to read. It’s strange, that in all my years of climbing I’ve never really interacted directly with a fundamental part of the outdoor climbing ecosystem, the guidebooks. They’re a cornerstone of the way of life , not only a practical means of finding your way, but a link to the history of the routes and often a astute and witty commentary on this strange sport and culture that is climbing.
Niall Grimes is right when he describes them as “a book of spells”, another form of magic to counterpoint the technical wizardry that is the text-to-speech programs I use.
Fitting then that I recently found a way to use this wizardry to unlock that book of spells. I found that with some ingenuity (and a small amount of sighted help), I can use my screen reading software to “read” the Rockfax App. I’m more than 20 years into my climbing life and I have only just taken the introductory step of reading the guidebook and dreaming of routes that I hope to someday climb. I have truly relished this freedom.
Finding routes for the wishlist had always been an enigma for me, my only way of finding new routes was to garner suggestions from other climbers and while some had kindly given great suggestions in truth , the list had been getting rather short lately. No longer. The past week has had me set my sights on a great selection of climbs throughout the UK. From Pembroke and Cloggy to Scarfell and Skye, the routes I’ve picked are well-spread and varied, ok perhaps not as varied as they might be, not many slabs made the list haha. I was picking routes for a blindman after all. I’m excited to get on these and see if they feel to me as I have imagined them, but more importantly I’m extremely happy that I’ve found a way to finally access a climbing codex and be able to build my climbing dreams for myself.
Top of my list is this: “The line follows the huge corner all the way but on an angle of rock normally reserved for E5s. Start below the corner and climb up to the sloping ledge. Climb the right wall to an overhang. Move around this and continue to another bulge with a line of holds leading out right. Ignore these holds and pull over the daunting bulge above on some of the biggest holds in the universe. Continue straight up the crack and right-leaning groove above to ledges. Climb the crack above to the top, then stand back and beat your chest triumphantly!” It sounds suitably epic and right up my street.
Using the technology skeleton key has reinforced that famous line “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Deus Ex Machina