How to Write a Guidebook

Charlie Barrett is writing a guidebook on bouldering in Yosemite National Park’s Tuolumne Meadows. How does one write a guidebook? Charlie explains how he ended up with this job, that it’s not as easy as it sounds, and why he thought Tuolumne Meadows would be the perfect place to write about.

I used to climb routes in Tuolumne Meadows when I was a 16-year-old kid. But, I quickly realized that the hardest moves I wanted to do weren’t going to be on a rope here. I started bouldering at all the classic, roadside areas and soon started looking for new boulders and areas to satisfy my newfound bouldering love.


After years of searching and wandering around the woods with my friends, we started to realize Tuolumne Meadows was on its way to becoming a major bouldering destination. I remember talking with my friend Chris Falkenstien, a rope-climbing guidebook author, and he asked me to help out with a small bouldering section in the back of his route-climbing book. We ended up writing about five or six pages on bouldering, a tiny amount for what the sport was to become.

Years later, I asked him if he thought a full bouldering guidebook could be a book in itself. He thought yes. But it took until a few years after that conversation, when I was sitting in Rifle, Colorado, fresh off an injury that occurred while sport climbing, and the Tuolumne bouldering guidebook idea popped back into my head. I called Chris to see what he thought about doing the book over the next few summers. His reply? “We were just waiting for you.”

Charlie's desktop during guidebook-writing season.

Charlie’s desktop during guidebook-writing season.

About two years ago I finished writing the Mammoth Bouldering Guidebook, which took a whole year to write – figuring out the programs, cameras and how to take proper notes. So now with a new area to map, look through and climb, I’m overwhelmed! So here I am today, working away on this new project. I go to bed at 4:00 a.m. and wake up at 9:00 a.m. to start working and researching again. But I’ve come to realize making a guidebook isn’t just work; it’s a pleasure, a chore and a lifestyle I wouldn’t change for anything.

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How To Cross Train For Your Sport

Brooks-Range ambassador Carlos Buhler is one of the leading high-altitude mountaineers in the U.S., specializing in using minimal equipment and no oxygen on his climbs. He talked to us about how he trains for his adventures using his passions.

Transitioning from winter into summer activities is not the easiest physical challenge to tackle. However, with the right attitude, the cross-training effect is phenomenal. (Take a look at this link for an introduction.) There are three training categories to cross training: strength, endurance, and flexibility. Combining all three develops a rounded fitness level, keeps motivation high and helps to avoid overuse injuries. At the same time, this training method allows injured muscles, ligaments, and tendons some time to recover without coming to an activity stand still.

Carlos Buhler on Siula Grande’s West Face (20,000 feet) during the first ascent of a new route called “Avoiding the Touch” (photo credit: Mark Price).

Fortunately, the seasonal variety of outdoor activities offers a pretty good path for physical development. In my case, I tend to concentrate on my body’s larger muscles during the fall and winter months – specifically my lower body and my back, as well as my aerobic endurance. I shift my focus during the spring and summer months to my upper body’s smaller muscles – particularly my shoulders and forearms. It’s not a complete change from season into another, but the balance or ratio changes.

My cross training makes sense due to the sports I enjoy. When spring arrives, I change from ice and mixed climbing to rock climbing. My aerobic activity changes, as well; I trade my cross-country skate skis for my road bike. Stretching is my weakest link and I know I always have to put energy into in order to maintain. However, all of this may be different depending on the sports you appreciate.

However, I cannot expect to equal the peaks of performance of the dedicated athlete in any one of these disciplines. Clearly, if you only spend a third of your training days on cross-country skiing, for example, the level you reach will be less than if you’re putting all of your training efforts towards skiing. But the cross training effect is excellent as a supplement. My overall fitness is great and I never get burned out psychologically on one activity. Plus, I rarely have to deal with overuse injuries.

While I am excited to engage in new seasonal activities, I know that when hopping on my road bike for my early season rides, I’m going to get passed by many cyclists. Likewise, when I rock climb, I will find the first month a very humbling experience.  The right approach is to not be too demanding of myself during the early season.  The first month of a new seasonal activity needs to be moderate in order to be motivating. A season offers plenty of length in order to intensify my workouts and performance level.

My long-term intent is to keep up a reasonable level of varied activity throughout the year rather than to train very hard as a transition approaches. The trick is to stay motivated over a lifetime. And I think, by accomplishing that, you have achieved success!

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Describing Clichés: On Hope and Inspiration in Nepal

Kevin Tatsugawa is an assistant professor at Westfield State University in Massachusetts and also a Brooks-Range Mountaineering product ambassador. A few months ago, he took off to Nepal for a trip that made him think about what the word “inspirational” really means.

This blog is about a trek to Nepal. Ang Tshering Lama (a Nepali guide and my friend) and I co-led eight of my students from Westfield State University on a 14-day trek to the Langtang area this past winter.

I am a university professor and springtime is also graduation time. I realize that the term “inspiration” is often used to describe awe-inspiring feats in the outdoor adventure world. But, sometimes I think that the overuse of this word leads to the perception that some sublime feats are mundane and cliché, rather than noteworthy and uplifting. How many truly inspirational feats can one person accomplish or experience in a lifetime?

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In my humble opinion, most people lead productive, constructive lives in a tough, unforgiving world. My students embodied this every day in the Himalayas – as tough and unforgiving an environment as one will experience. But, sometimes people can rise above their circumstances to reach levels they never thought possible – inspiring themselves and others along the way. Events and achievements unfolded in just such a manner in Nepal.

On our trip, no world records were set. No firsts ascents were achieved. No “last great lines” fell to our prowess as climbers. However, something deeper and more personal happened. Personal altitude records were set, since most of them had never been above 10,000 feet, and doubts and fears were overcome daily.

2014-02-07 16.39.59Did they suffer more than a world-class alpinist putting up a first ascent on an 8,000-meter peak? No. Did they face howling winds, horizontal snow, and freezing temperatures? Aside from one blustery day, no. Still many of them struggled with the high altitude, exhaustion, illness, minor injuries, and uncertainties.

They all managed to overcome these personal hardships with positive attitudes and few complaints. And at the end of each day, they managed to leave a positive impression on me and filled me with hope that they could meet the next day’s challenges in the mountains.

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Thus, in a few days when I watch the same students that I led in Nepal accept their diplomas, I will be filled with hope, not inspiration, with each step that they take across that stage. Hope for their future and the future. Hope that they will fulfill the potential that I saw in all of them as they toiled up that mountain.

I find my students inspirational when I reflect upon all of the challenges they overcame to make it to that graduation stage – much the same as when I climbed the mountains in Nepal with them a few months ago. And like school, although each step they took up the mountain was probably not inspirational, the trip was exciting and breathtaking.


Play safe out there!

Dr. Kevin


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