Yesterday I posted a review of my favorite guidebook publisher, High Col Press (which I will be updating soon), and today I am going to look at another one of my favorite companies: SuperTopo. Founded by renowned climber Chris McNamara in 1999, SuperTopo has been publishing beautiful climbing guides with excellent topos (for my non-climbing friends, a topo is a drawing of a route), detailed climbing history, entertaining personal stories and stunning photography. Like High Col, the authors are climbers who, if they haven’t climbed every route in their guide, have climbed nearly all of them.
I own 8 books by SuperTopo: Big Walls, Alaska Climbing, High Sierra Climbing, Red Rocks Climbing, Yosemite Valley Free Climbs, Yosemite Valley Bouldering, and Tuolumne Free Climbs. Prices are generally around $19.95, with Alaska Climbing & Big Walls costing $29.95, so these books are pretty affordable, and considering the content, well worth the cost.
While most of the books published by High Col (at least the books I own) strive to be comprehensive (and as a consequence they run from 360-456 pages in length), the volumes from SuperTopo are much more selective in scope, focusing on the respective subject area’s best climbs. Two different philosophies, yet both High Col and SuperTopo do an excellent job publishing high-quality guides.
Part of what I like about SuperTopo is that they do not strive to simply show an area’s most popular climbs, rather, the authors focus on a nice balance of great climbs that can be popular, but also hidden classics and forgotten gems, thereby avoiding adding to the congestion that tends to occur in places like Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne. For that they deserve commendation.
My favorite of the guides I own (reflecting my passion for alpinism) is the Alaska Climbing guide. Written by the late Joseph Puryear (who was tragically killed while climbing in Tibet), this guide gives route information for the classic routes such as the West Buttress route on Denali (aka Mt. McKinley), the Infinite Spur on Mt. Foraker, and the West Ridge of the Moose’s Tooth, but also reveals little-known classics such as the Sultana Ridge on Foraker and the North Ridge of Mt. Russell (this mountain is remote enough that its summit has only been stood upon by something like 6 parties). The pictures in this book in particular are nothing short of staggeringly beautiful. No book I have ever owned has made me want to go to Alaska like this one.
High Sierra climbing by Chris McNamara is another one of my favorites, revealing lots of lesser-known classics in the Range of Light, such as the various arete routes on Temple Crag – Venusian Blind, Moon Goddess Arete & the Sun Ribbon Arete. Other intriguing routes like the North Arete on Bear Creek Spire and the South Face of Charlotte Dome, while well-known, get a fresh look in this book.
Just like High Col Press, I really don’t have many misgivings or criticisms about what they produce. Sure, I might like a more comprehensive guide to certain areas, but that isn’t what they are about, it isn’t what they set out to do, so why whine when they do such an excellent job?
All in all, SuperTopo is yet another small publishing company that has set out to make guidebooks that stand apart and they have succeeded very well in doing it. I am certainly going to purchase more of their books in the not-too-distant future.