Review by: saxfiend, 2005-08-15
Unlike the latest Harry Potter book, southern climbing stores have not seen people camping in the parking lot waiting for the new edition of the Dixie Cragger’s Atlas to go on sale. But this southern climbing guide has been eagerly awaited for a long time, and now that it’s finally here, I can tell you it was well worth the wait.
The Cragger, authored by Chris Watford of Roswell, GA, has been a mainstay for climbers in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee for six years, but hard to find since it went out of print a year or two ago. A lot has changed since the first Cragger was published, and the new version incorporates those changes along with a number of welcome improvements in format.
Sheer size made it necessary to split the Cragger into two volumes. The 544-page Tennessee volume alone has 75 more pages than the old book. The second volume for Alabama and Georgia is 272 pages long. Both new volumes share the old Cragger’s deluxe printing paper and binding techniques. You won’t find your Cragger’s Atlas falling apart even after repeated stuffings in your gear-filled pack. The dimensions of the new Cragger are slightly smaller than the old one.
There are a number of new areas included in the new Cragger; one highlight of these is a 50-page section on Jamestown in Alabama, reopened earlier this year by the Southeastern Climbers Coalition after more than 10 years of closure. Other notable additions include Big South Fork in Tennessee and High Point in Georgia.
One of the biggest improvements in the new Cragger is numbering of routes, keyed to topos and photos. In the old Cragger, it could be frustrating to cross-reference an unnumbered route description with the corresponding photo, especially with the almost unreadable murky blue route overlays on the photos. The route numbering, combined with numbered bird’s eye cliffline topo maps (also new), make orienting yourself a breeze. Also, many new routes have been added at old areas, and route ratings have been updated as appropriate. First ascents and dates are noted where known.
Another nice improvement in the new edition is crisper photographs. Photos in the old Cragger tended to be muddy and low contrast. Cliffside photos were often zoomed back so far that matching the route diagram (hard to read anyway) with what you could see from the ground was almost impossible. In the new Cragger, the cliffside photos are no longer murky, many have been zoomed in for better viewing and the route overlays are in an easier-to-read red color. Climbing photos are also of a markedly higher quality and include some real pioneers of southern climbing.
One surprise new feature came about almost by accident: a pocket guide to Tennessee Wall. When the books were ready to go to the printer, someone suggested to Chris Watford that he print the chapter on Tennessee Wall as a separate book. So now there is a nice almost 100-page T-Wall guide that is considerably lighter in the pack.
The only thing missing from the Cragger that I'd like to have seen is driving maps to the climbing areas. Each section includes written directions, but anyone who has never been to some of these areas could easily get lost even with these directions. A small map showing the turns would have been a big help.
Watford has obviously put a tremendous amount of effort into improving a great product. The Dixie Cragger’s Atlas will be an invaluable resource for southern climbers for years to come.
The Dixie Cragger’s Atlas is available at many climbing stores, or can be purchased on its web site, http://www.dixiecragger.com/. The Tennessee volume is $38, the AL/GA volume is $29, and the T-Wall guide is $20.