Inform and Inspire

Welcome to Upstate Bouldering, designed around bouldering in the Upstate region of South Carolina. This website is intended to inform the reader of local spots in SC, Western NC and Northeast GA, as well as a blog of my experiences climbing at these great spots. I hope everyone learns of a new place to climb or is inspired to climb somewhere close to them. If you have any comments, please send me an e-mail.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rocktown Bouldering Guide: A Review


That’s was my first impression of the new Rocktown Bouldering Guidebook as soon as I pulled the book out of the shipping envelope…and the WOW factor didn’t stop as I read through the book for this review! With eye popping, brilliantly colored, high resolution action photos jumping off of nearly every page, this guide doesn’t disappoint those that love some good eye candy!

Atop Lookout Mountain in Northeast Georgia exists a labyrinth of sandstone boulders with practically every shape, size and variety of hold and route possible…Rocktown!  Rocktown is one of the Big 3 boulderfields in the Southeast, Little Rock City (or Stone Fort to those that haven’t been bouldering for a while) and Horse Pens 40 being the other 2. Rocktown is typified by steep and slopey sandstone, with some routes requiring the same technical and powerful climbing that LRC is known for, and others more similar to the bubbly slopers and slabs of Horse Pens 40.

There are tons of boulder problems at Rocktown, some estimate over 1000 problems if you include all of the variations and eliminates, but this guidebook has whittled that down to around 500 quality problems worth visiting, and still left many boulders out to provide a little exploration for those that don’t like to be spoon-fed beta all the time.  Unlike the convenience of LRC and HP40 though, Rocktown isn’t a “pull up” bouldering crag where you can practically throw the pads out of the car and onto the landing zone. The hike in to Rocktown will get you a little warmed up and you’ll definitely break a sweat by the time you make it all the way out to the famous Crock Block. The boulderfield is in the middle of a beautiful hardwood forest and feels a lot more wild than the sometimes (OK, almost always) overcrowded blocks at HP40 and LRC. Rocktown is also bigger than the other 2 boulderfields, in size and in number of boulders and routes.

Did I mention that this book is PACKED with incredible photography?;) Even during the usual introduction/general info section at the beginning of the book, there are stunning action shots thrown in to make sure you don’t get bored. Rocktown isn’t as convenient to get to as many other boulderfields in the south, requiring a gravel/dirt road drive up the mountain that can confuse and confound some folks (and their low clearance vehicles). But the guidebook gives great directions and GPS coordinates to make sure you don’t get lost along the way. Also provided in the introduction is enough information about camping/lodging, gear shops and even a small map of Lafayette, the nearest town to Rocktown, pointing out gas stations, grocery stores, the movie theater and the library.

After the short but sufficient introduction (I'm personally not a fan of seeing a long introduction, especially packed wit advertisements, that lulls you to sleep before getting to the real meat of the guidebook), the best of the best routes are listed for all the grades that have been established here, V0-V12, so everybody can find a few uber classics to pull down on during their visit. Following this is an overview map of the entire area, showing all of the mini-areas of boulders and each boulder or cluster of boulders is numbered for easier reference. From there, the book dives into each mini-area and gives another overhead topo of the mini-area showing each subset of boulders within it and then each subset has its own overhead topo showing each boulder within that subset of boulders.

After getting you around to each individual boulder, there are overhead topos of each boulder and many photo topos to make sure you’re on the right route. Some guidebooks can become confusing when they transition between the various overhead maps/topos, and get the boulderer lost before they can find their target problem. But this guidebook makes sure you’re tagging along the whole way and you don’t get lost and confused as to which mini-area, subset and boulder you are at or headed to.  Check out the various images in this review for the variety of topos used in the book.

I commend Dan for his layout and foresight to make sure he doesn’t lose a pebble wrestler along the way. As you thumb from area to area and between all of the problems, one thing kept sticking out to me…there aren’t a ton of obnoxious ads that detract from the book and make it feel more like a magazine or even worse, like you just paid for DIRECTV and all you’re getting are the commercials. Over the years, the advertising in some guidebooks have gone so overboard that it feels like you have to really search though the book to find your beta and route descriptions, but Dan has strategically placed the ads as to flow with the design of the book and the absolute TON of spectacular action shots. You’ll still be informed about some great sponsors of the book, but its more like product placement during a TV show, rather than just sitting through a commercial.

Overall, the guidebook is a big winner and I haven’t found any mistakes or typos to make it seem less professional. Dan Brayack did an amazing job with the layout, design and photos and Sean Kearney and Zak Roper’s writing keeps the mood light and playful while still delivering the beta you need to know for your road trip to Rocktown.  The photography is amazing as it engulfs and transports the reader to the boulders and gets their psyche up to send!!!  Even if you don't plan on going to Rocktown any time soon, the guidebook is a great book to have around for the eye candy alone!  I really enjoyed the fact that this guidebook is truly packed full of useful, valuable information and there are very few pages wasted on advertising or ramblings that most readers care little about.  I commend everyone involved with this guidebook and give it my highest recommendations!!!

To order this amazing bouldering tome, click over here and it'll be in your mailbox before you know it!!!

Dan Brayack is a well known climbing and bouldering photographer, whose photos have been in all of the major climbing magazines, as well as authoring the Coopers Rock Bouldering Guidebook. His photos are known to be descriptive, telling a story between the protagonist climber and the antagonist route or boulder problem. You’ve probably skipped past other boring shots and paused to stare at one of his photos, while flipping through your favorite climbing rag and you just didn’t know it. Now he has taken his talents to the next level by starting Brayackmedia Publishing and the Rocktown Guidebook is his first and rather beautiful publication!  Dan was very kind to provide me with all of these great images for the review, along with a copy of the guide, without thinking twice!  Thanks again Dan for giving back by donating 10% of the profits of the book to support local climbing!!!   


The duo of authors, Sean Kearney and Zak Roper, both bring a unique perspective to the guidebook. Sean is a hometown, Chattanooga boy who’s been bouldering at Rocktown since 1995. He is very familiar with the boulderfield and problems and his expertise helped to ensure accuracy and consistency of the route locations, names and grades.


Zak Roper, originally from Knoxville, spent the better part of a season at Rocktown, preparing the guidebook and descriptions, and has since moved on to live in West Virginia. Both of these guys, like many of us, enjoy exploring for lesser known/new areas and Sean is living the essence of the enlightened boulderer by discovering, sending and then leaving the unnamed and ungraded problems for the next enlightened one to come along and learn the lessons these mysterious routes teaches them. This trio of boulderers have created a beautiful tome that appeals to those familiar with the boulders of Rocktown, those planning a road trip or just those that love looking at incredibly stunning images of others crushing problems most of us could only dream of.

I was intending to have this review up almost a month ago, but life got in the way of me getting it out until apologies to those that have been waiting patiently for this review! In the meantime, I was able to swing by Rocktown for a quick visit during the heat of the summer...check out the trip report here.


  1. I had a different opinion about this book. While the color photos and lack of advertisement are visually appealing, I find the lack of organization and consistency to be very troubling (to say the least). I'll only express my main concern here, but their are other major flaws (index, section ordering).

    At the beginning of the book we have a nice overview of all areas which sets us up for the rest of the book (excellent). Within each sub area we also have mini topos (excellent). However, each mini topo has its orientation (in regard to north, south, east, west) changed as to best fit within the layout. Now when I want to compare the mini to main topos I have to figure out which way is up, flip the book upside down and go from there. This is also a major pain when trying to get from one section to the next. The orientation of topos changes from page to page so I feel like an idiot walking around the boulderfield twisting the book (and my head) in all manner of angles just to get a feel for where I am.

    Bottom line... Pick one NSEW orientation and stick with it throughout the entire book!

    1. I had seriously considered that. The problem with that though, is that when you are trying to use the map for the problems, you have to flip the book around!! I sorta traded off the "It looks best and makes the most sense when using the map to find problems" for "makes sense when trying to find the next area." Thanks for the criticism though!


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