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Tough Schist - Rock Climbing in Northern Vermont
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Contact: VT Rock Press
Tough Schist - Rock Climbing in Northern Vermont by Travis Peckham
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Tough Schist - Rock Climbing in Northern Vermont by Travis Peckham
VT Rock Press

Long overlooked by rock climbers, Vermont is home to a wealth of climbable crags for those willing to travel a bit and explore. However, for many who have been interested in Vermont climbing, the primary issue has largely been the lack of information. Wait no more! Hot off the presses is "Tough Schist", the first comprehensive guidebook to climbing in the Green Mountain state. Written by Vermont native and CRAG-VT board member Travis Peckham, the guide covers the northern region of Vermont roughly running diagonally between Rutland and St. Johnsbury. Peckham divides this area into five regions that are all quite diverse from one another, offering the climber a range of  trad routes, hard sport routes, and long adventure climbs on schist, granite, and limestone.

The guide covers the well-known Bolton and Smuggler's Notch areas, but also unearths the very impressive Marshfield Ledge in Groton (first developed by Cannon legend Chris Ellms), as well as the family/beginner friendly crags in west-central Vermont. Marshfield is particularly important as it is home to the hardest climbs in the state, with 29 of its 42 routes 5.10 or harder, with 4 at 5.14. Peckham also provides significant coverage of the Northeast Kingdom including Wheeler Mountain, a granitic dome weighing  in with nearly 100 routes that offer something for everyone, with adventure climbing as the common denominator. Peckham also provides descriptions of the dozens of boulder problems around Bolton, but oddly only provides brief mention of the bouldering in Smuggler's Notch, instead referring readers to the guide "New England Bouldering".

What I especially appreciate is Travis's obvious passion for his home state and for making it a home for climbers. In the introduction he describes how when he returned home to Vermont after college in search of climbing opportunities he was told "there's no climbing in Vermont". But Travis has changed that attitude quite a bit, chronicling the significant amount of new route development that has occurred over the past 15 years. I also admire Travis's efforts at searching out the history of climbing in Vermont, from Stowe resident Fritz Wiessner, to routes done in the 1940's on Wheeler Mountain, to John Bouchard's efforts in the 1970's.   

Guidebooks have also changed quite a bit over the years and Travis has incorporated many of these new, user-friendly features including overview beta of each area including aspect, height, as well as a quick overview of the approach. In addition, there is a breakdown of the number of climbs at each grade for the area. There are  topos for virtually all crags as well as overview maps. The photography is absolutely excellent. My gripes are few: there  is only an alphabetical index of routes - a separate index by grade would have been welcome.  And the bouldering in Smuggs was worthy of at least a few pages. Also, some of the more obscure crags could use GPS data.

Like many others, I have a love-hate with guidebooks. You love them when you are exploring a new area, hate them when others start exploring your area. Travis confronts this issue in his introduction, drawing the very logical conclusion "I've come to realize that because these crags belong to the public, so should the knowledge they exist and the history of their climbs. It's our duty to share this information before it is lost." I'd like to add that the very nature of Vermont rock needs traffic to keep the routes clean, so his guide should direct traffic and hopefully help continue to clean and preserve these routes.

Vermont will most likely never be a climbing destination - Peckham admits he hopes to keep it a "friendly, quiet, second-rate climbing backwater." Fair enough, but pick up the guide, head on over to the Green Mountain state, and rack up. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Conclusion:  Affordable, user-friendly guide to climbing in Vermont highlighting climbs over a wide area that offer something for everyone. Kudos to Travis Peckham for for tackling this large task and producing the first ever rock climbing guide to Vermont.

Details: 311 pages. Color photos, overview maps, and topos. 9" x 6". ISBN 978-0-9853138-0-7.

Greg Gagne
October 2012

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