Update: The Sharp End has printed bookmarks with the corrections on them, along with 5 years of free access to the digital edition. Some local gear shops will have the bookmarks, or contact The Sharp End directly via their website.
This is the prettiest, shittiest guidebook I’ve ever used.
I bought the Shelf Road guidebook after Neptune Mountaineering was revitalized, partially because I wanted a Shelf guidebook, but mostly because I wanted to support Neptune’s. It sat on my shelf for 5 or so months. Initially, I was impressed the design was very fresh and had pretty pictures.
I started to hear whispers that the guide was useless, a terrible guide, but I didn’t believe it until my recent trip to Shelf over Labor Day weekend.
I went to Sand Gulch to chase the shade. I already knew how to get there, so I didn’t bother checking to see if the directions make sense. I did note that there is a useful map at the day-use parking lot that clearly defines the paths.
I open the guide to figure out where we’re going to climb once we reach the wall. I search the overview photo for the two main areas, Freeform and Contest Wall. Nowhere on the overview image is Contest Wall listed. Strange. But when you turn the page, the first area in the book you see is Contest Wall. I later noticed that the compass rose on the map is oriented in completely the wrong direction (Freeform faces west, Contest faces East, meaning the canyon runs north/south. The compass points due East with the arrow marked North!).
Contest Wall not listed. The trail is not shown. The compass rose is facing 90º in the wrong direction.
At Freeform Wall we climb a couple warm-ups, a fun, hard 11b, then I go in search of a 5.8+ for my girlfriend to work on her lead head. Dordi is listed in the guide to the left of Freeform Wall, so we wander off attempting to count bolt lines (“500 feet past the last route” is stated a couple times). These routes are not listed on Mountain Project or in the old guide.
There’s no photo of either an overview of the wall or individual routes. The Description very descriptively reads “Follow the line of bolts to anchors.” Sweet! I could definitely pick this route out from the thousands of other sport routes in Shelf!
Very confused about the whole area, I search for more information and find this wonderful tidbit.
To start… WHY TF would you suddenly switch the direction you’re listing out the climbs? Secondly, this applies to climbs 88-93, not 87-94. Thirdly, f$&*ken seriously? “See the map on page____ for details.” THERE’S NO F$&*KING MAP!!
We make our way back to Freeform where another group is climbing Castrator (5.10b) but think they’re on Barney (5.9+). This is their mistake, since they were only using Mountain Project. The description for all of the surrounding climbs is super confusing, talking about original climbs and extensions, without a clear mention of how the current climbs go.
The description for Barney (5.9+) says “6 bolts to first anchors, 10 for the whole enchilada.” Thanks for the variety from English, but that’s all dead wrong. There’s no first anchor (was removed years ago, definitely since before this guide went to print), but after 4 bolts (not 6) of climbing super fun 5.8 crack, you can step right into the anchors for Bad Brains. If you elect to go through the 10a bulge you find the bolt line runs out and you either have to venture far left to Freeform or far right to what I assume is Helter Skelter. Mountain Project recommends 13 draws. The author downplays the quality of this route, sourly stating that it doesn’t deserve the stars it receives. I sincerely disagree. This route, especially before the bulge, is pure joy climbing.
The sun was hitting us on Freeform, so it was time to move to the newly shaded Contest wall. We walk across the canyon and try to register ourselves with the overview photos, where I found something peculiar.
The two circled portions are exactly the same section of the cliff, with climb numbers 12 digits different (the same section of rock is notated as route #50 on one page and #62 on the next. #62 is correct). Absurd! How can you make a mistake this big!! The overview photo for which people bought the guidebook to use to find their climbs IS COMPLETELY WRONG!
I follow the overview photo to find climb 72, Zia (5.10a), a short, fun but awkward crack climb, except there’s no mention of the crack in the Guide. And I quote, “Begin from the Ground…climb the clean panel up into a scooped corner and on to the anchors.” Let me reiterate that Rick Thompson wrote, “Begin from the Ground.” Where else should we start, ye floating wizard?
Mountain Project more descriptively says, “The line climbs a rounded prow with a short dihedral at the top”, then mentions the crack/flake which sets it apart from every other route surrounding it. You know, useful information.
Where #72 is marked in the overview photo (above), and this “clean panel” that the author describes is actually the start to Monster Man (5.11b), which has a very powerful start before you gain a ledge. The traverse left marked in the guide is what I had to do to get to the anchors of Zia. There is no left traverse on the actual route, it goes straight up into the anchors. #73 on the overview photos is Monster Man and #74 should be roughly where #73 is.
To summarize, do not buy this guidebook. Sharp End Publishing and Rick Thompson should be ashamed to have their names attached to such a pile of trash. I do not believe that Rick Thompson has been to several of these areas or has climbed almost any of these routes. He plagiarizes Mountain Project (Monster Man “Offers climbing that is softer than it appears from the ground”), yet can’t give decent descriptions of almost any route. “Climb the bolt line.” “Just to the right of [route I also didn’t describe]”.
This is the prettiest, shittiest guidebook I’ve ever used. I’ve seen prettier guidebooks, I’ve seen shittier guidebooks (barely), but never such shitty content in a well-designed package. Seriously, Sharp End Publishing owes anyone that bought this book a huge apology and $28.
EDIT: Fred Knapp contacted me and told me he would personally go take photos of Sand Gulch and fix the errors I have listed out. He’s going to offer stickers to go over the photo with the wrong route numbers, and access to the corrected digital edition. Additionally, he’s going to reprint this book with the corrections. If you have found any other errors in the Shelf Road, let me know about them and I can pass them on to Fred to fix.