A new-school take on the modern guidebook

Somewhere in The Swamp....

I never noticed this climb before... it looks kind of fun - I should do it, but don't want to risk the potential flail-fest.

"Hey man, any idea what climb is this?"
"Ya, it's 11+"
"Cool! I should be able to do that - do you know what it's called or who put it up?"
"No idea, a friend just gave me that info"
"Cool man, I'll give it a shot"

So a few things usually happen after this exchange:

  • It ends up being harder than expected, I flail, leave a bailer, and curse the sandbaggery
  • It ends up feeling easier, I get an inflated sense of ego, and then someone points out that it's the 9
  • It ends up being a chossy pile and I almost break my legs and/or kill my belayer
  • It ends up being fucking awesome, but I don't know who to credit or the name for recommendation

So with this new guidebook, I don't have to (mostly) worry about this anymore - awesome!


The Physical Book

  • easy viewing with one hand

  • durable cover and build

  • full colour with light gloss

For size and weight, it's pretty standard for a guidebook, but it handles like a dream. The spine is very flexible, so the pages spread easily, staying open on its own without the need to press your thumb against the spine or use two hands. It doesn't seem like a big deal, but for usability's sake it's noticeably nice to get a full view.

So what about durability? Admittedly I can't really comment on this without long-term usage, but based on my current experience and the projections from that, I don't foresee any problems. The spine is stitched, glued and split up into mini sections - I was able to press down on the spine from the inside without any de-lamination or worry of page splitting. I hiked around and pressed the spine against trees and rocks (as I usually do when I brace myself) and it held up pretty well - probably due to the laminate finish.

The guidebook's build is up there beside some of my most long-standing ones, and it surprised me by being an unexpected favourite feature.


  • detailed approach beta & photos

  • cliff GPS coordinates and sun coverage

  • route distribution and bolt counts

As with any guidebook, I'd say this is probably the most important part. Ontario Rock Climbing does all of the standard things I'd come to expect and adds in some extras.

The guidebook includes all the standard bits: approach beta, hiking times, coordinates, sun coverage, route distribution, bolt counts (when available), star ratings, tick boxes, and a few other things you'd intuitively expect. It goes a bit further by providing actual approach beta photos, which is a huge plus in my books. I can't count the amount of times I've been lost due to misinterpreting an author's description or definition of what "300m" is. Maybe this destroys some adventure and further coddles our delicate society, however, I'm ok with not having my epics on the approach. 

When it comes to history, Ontario Rock Climbing falls a little short in the that field, providing less than what I'm used to. Maybe its importance will depend on what you like, but I do enjoy more stories about climbers, routes, and the like.

In terms of usability, this guidebook reads like a magazine, where it nukes you with imagery, have the text adapt to that. There's consistency among the main chapters, but occasionally there's some info that moves around within the pages which can cause a bit of searching (ie. GPS coordinates), or the route images will move in reverse direction from the descriptions. None of this is sin, but it does break flow.

So how's the accuracy of the information provided? Overall, I do agree with most ratings, grading, and descriptions, but did run into some minor discrepancies. Again, nothing dire that would affect your potential fun-having. On this note, the team has provided a website to report these issues for future copies and public knowledge, which is dope. (ontariorockclimbing.com/report/)

Topos & Photos

  • massive amount of photos

  • focus on the non-elite

  • easy to navigate topo images

I'm pretty sure "the more photos, the better" was the motto for this book - to that end, I think it worked out.

The guidebook has a massive amount of photos - way more than I'm used to. Photos include route topos, action shots, approach beta, snakes, shrubbery, and many other wild bits. 

The action shots include everyday heroes, which offer (what I felt was) a sense of inclusion for anyone new to the sport. I thought it was nice to see climbers within our community on routes that weren't going to slay my tendons.

The plethora of route photos was something I grew more fond of with usage. Route photos were often available when I needed them, and if they weren't, there was enough context with other photos to help me locate a route. Overall it was a pleasant surprise being able to match up a wall with a photo as often as I did.

I noticed after flipping through the photos that many of them were actually taken by the team. It seems like they must have sacrificed a lot of climbing days and hours to earn those shots, so I thought that was worth a kudos.

Overall, if you like your guidebooks to be heavily photo-driven, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one.

Unique Touches

  • ripe with diversity

  • unique set of assets and design

There is definitely a few things about this guidebook that contrast it from the ones I'm more accustomed to:

I don't want to admit this, but one of the things I first noticed about the book was the subject on the cover - a female protagonist of colour (Sabrina). Having the thought cross my mind already indicated to me that it was a break from social norm. While I don't think it's uncommon to see females on any sort of climbing media now, I don't often see ones of colour taking center stage. Perhaps it doesn't seem like much, but I think it mentally opens up the sport to new climbers who perhaps never considered climbing in the first place because of the majority demographic normally portrayed. This theme carries on throughout the rest of the book, and there's actually a little blurb about it on page 9.

The guidebook also separates itself with its slightly gaudy and cheesy design - which I'm sure will incite some interesting reactions.

Cheesy quote here? Sure!
Memes? Why not?
8-bit art? Damn right!

Admittedly, I found this a bit abrasive at first, not having the available white space I was used to, but then it kind of grew on me. I started to welcome Good Guy Jesus randomly popping in to tell me to stick clip, or Moses warning me about the deep pot-holes on the TV Tower approach. I appreciate how the team was unapologetic with their design choices and took the risks to give the book some life and character. There's also apparently some hidden (stick) dicks in the guidebook somewhere - none of which I have found.

Love it or hate it, Ontario Rock Climbing proudly presents itself as it is with the design.

Overall Impressions

Ontario Rock Climbing takes a very unique spin on the modern guidebook while still providing all the necessities that one would expect from any classic guide. It falls a little short on history and the design can get some getting used to, but makes up for it with a plethora of route photos and a unique character that gives a lasting impression.

I feel like this guidebook works well in the hands of climbers of all levels, but is best suited for new climbers venturing into the outdoors. It opens up its arms to the new and growing population of climbers in Southern Ontario and reminds us all to chill out and have a little fun sometimes.

- Peter






  • A copy of the guidebook was provided for this review, however the views here are my own

  • I am aware of the recent controversy surrounding the guidebooks for the area. For the purpose of this review, I left out my personal thoughts on the issue and reviewed the book as a standalone piece (instead of a comparison review)