A chat with Best of the Red guidebook author Brendan Leader

A chat with Best of the Red guidebook author Brendan Leader

Posted by Fred Knapp on 15th May 2017

The brand new Best of the Red is hot off the press and Sharp End is proud to be the US Distributor. The guide was published by Onsight Photography and Publishing (Monique Forestier and Simon Carter) of Australia.

With a long history of quality guidebooks, we wanted to catch up with author Brendan Leader to discuss the latest guide.

Sharp End: Tell us a little about the book concept:

Brendan: It seems hard to pinpoint just how this all started. There was no ‘ah ha’ moment’ but rather an evolution of a vague idea tossed around during a casual conversation at the crag between Monique Forestier and myself. Our chat drifted to guidebooks and the fact that the selection of guides for the Red is currently split into three books covering unique regions within this huge climbing destination. These three books total to $100.95 and cover many lifetimes worth of climbing which led us to the big question: ‘What about the climbers that only have one lifetime?’ Don’t get me wrong, the availability of comprehensive information to a climbing area is essential. Yet what we came to realize is that even with three excellent guidebooks available, there was still a substantial niche left unfulfilled. We started brainstorming on what could satisfy the needs of that niche.

SE: Fill us in on your relationship with the Red.

Brendan: I guess I can claim a pretty deep pool of knowledge regarding climbing in the Red having lived in Lee County, smack dab in the center of the Red River Gorge, for close to a decade now. Simon, Monique and myself had a lot of ideas regarding what we could do to set ourselves apart and end up with a unique product. The first thing we quickly and unanimously decided was to go with a ‘select’ format. The idea was to present the best of the best crags and enough of them to keep a climber busy for a lifetime, though I reckon we ended up with a number of lifetimes worth anyways. Each included crag would be covered comprehensively to eliminate confusion, even if the line is a zero star choss-pile. We made the call to focus our efforts on crags featuring predominately sport climbs, as we determined this to be the biggest user group. The overarching theme we established was to end up with a concise and easy-to follow-guidebook.

SE: Tell us a little about the book process.

Brendan: With an idea in place of what our end product would be, each of us then began to bring our personal flair to the project. Simon’s design style couldn’t possibly have been better suited to our task. He elected to shoot all the route topo pictures as wide as possible, often showing both the ground and the sky, which makes identifying each line incredibly easy. The action pictures were to be kept small yet stunning and white space and unnecessary design elements would be at a minimum. With this layout, we allotted as much space as possible to useful information instead of random graphics and clutter, thereby making for a highly usable, yet small and compact, book. Monique tackled the hiking and driving maps and, sticking with the theme, set out to include as much ground area as possible in each map without sacrificing detail. My goal was for every word in the book to be necessary and avoid any superfluous information. I set out to keep the text informative, concise and to the point—a tall order if you’ve ever gotten stuck chatting with me. Most importantly, of course, was to ensure accuracy. I went into full obsession mode, tracking down every last tidbit of information and spending an immeasurable amount of time slogging through the woods—rain, snow or shine—to make sure I had everything just right.

SE: Now that the book is on the shelves, what can you tell us?

Brendan: I could not possibly be happier with how Best of the Red turned out. As I opened up the first box of books my first thought was ‘did the printers leave out half the book?’ A frantic flip through revealed that, no, nothing was missing. We just hit our mark spot on. We managed to pack 1271 routes and 46 crags into a mere 176 pages! Better yet, we did so at a price point of $35.00. What do you get for that price? Well I can tell you that I have lived here in the Red for close to a decade and there are only an extremely small handful of crags that I have visited that are not in this edition.

SE: So who should buy Best of the Red?

Everyone! The book will be particularly appealing to those climbers travelling to the Red for anything from a short trip to a whole season, as the book covers more than one could possibly visit in such a time. And it won’t break the bank. But even for the seasoned Red River climber, this guide offers not only the most up-to date-information but also an amazingly easy-to-digest format and a size appropriate to leave in the pack for whatever the day brings, instead of making sure you have the right guide for the specific plans. Grab a copy. You will not be disappointed.