The New River Gorge guidebooks, both Vol 1 (NRG) and Vol 2 (Meadow and Lake), are now available as smartphone apps for the Iphone. (Android is on the way soon.) I’ve had the test version of the app in my phone for a while now and I have to say, I’m geeking out a little bit. It’s pretty cool.
For the first edition books, Wolverine Publishing and I partnered with Alpinewerx who did a great job of formatting the book into app form. It was a great app and I really liked the look of it but it was essentially just the book in my phone. Smartphones can do so much more and Rakkup, the developers of this 2nd edition app version, realized that. They've incorporated some amazing features that really enhance the content of the book.
The Rakkup version of the New River region guidebooks is now an altogether different experience from the print version of the book. Print guidebooks will always hold a special place in my heart. I love turning pages, seeing exciting large format photos, studying the history and getting psyched for a trip. I still think the print version is crucial for that aspect as the app is currently lacking in a few areas. Climbing history and trip beta are not included yet, but, as I said, this app offers an entirely different experience that offers functions that a print book can’t. Let me walk you through a few of the features that make the app special.
Navigation is what sets this app apart from a book. Plug in your destination and it’s as easy as following the arrow that pops up on your phone. Say, for example, I’m sitting at my house and I want to go climb the classic 5.10 splitter Remission at Diamond Point, Endless Wall. When you open the app, the default screen shows you an overview trail map. The green dot shows your current location.
Now you know where I live. Stay off my lawn paparazzi!
All the blue and red dots are sector indicators that show how many sport and trad routes are at each sector. I could click on the Endless Wall icon or, at the bottom of the screen, click on “climb list” which brings up an index.
Once in the index, I can click on “endless wall,” then “diamond point,” then “Remission” and click “go.” The map shows your highlighted route and you follow the arrow.
All of the text directions are in the app as well, so if you’d rather read than trust the system, you have that option too. One of the coolest aspects of this system is how helpful it will be for those unfamiliar with the area. Say, for example, that you’re climbing at Legacy and want to end the day in the Cirque. Those unfamiliar with the area might just hike the cliff base thinking it’s a straight shot until you get there. Those familiar with the area know that it makes more sense, and is much quicker, to go back up the Honeymooner’s ladder and hike the top of the cliff back to the Cirque ladder. The app knows that because we told it that! Every trail is given a cost estimate that tells the app how fast you’ll be moving along each trail. It’s the closest thing to having a local guide that knows the area and your handheld local guide will always choose the fastest way to your next destination. Cool bonus feature: when you get to your destination, the app will say “You have arrived. Rakkup!”
The navigation is helpful if you know what you want to climb but what if this is your first day in the region and you’re scrolling through your tiny screen trying to figure out where to go in a region of 3000 routes?
This is where the search engine becomes useful. Say for example, you wake up and it’s freezing outside. You want to go climbing and you have no idea where to start. You’ve heard people talk about Endless Wall, Kaymoor, Summersville Lake…but you have no idea which ones are the best for you and your friends.
You can use the filter function to find a suitable area by setting the search criteria for multiple variables. This morning, I feel like I want to climb a 4 star sport route within the grade range of 5.7 to 5.10a in the New River Gorge proper. Oh, right, it’s also freezing so it has to be in the sun. Guess what…you’re going to Rico Suave at Kaymoor. It’s the only one. Of course you can set these variables to anything, in any conjunction: 5.14 in the shade, 5.11 trad in the sun, only 4 stars or within the range of 2 to 4 stars…whatever you’re looking for it will narrow down your search. That’s something that a book can’t do.
The app can be updated anytime and will be. If a new route goes up today, I can add it into the app. If access changes, like it has at the Meadow, I can note those changes immediately. Anyone that visited 3rd buttress at the Meadow this past year using the 1st edition guidebook was likely frustrated to find 50 new routes there. The book was almost worthless for that zone. With the app, the updates can happen in real time. When you open the app and go to your “bookshelf” you’ll see a little cloud icon appear next your book. That means there is an update. Click it and your book is immediately up to date.
When Wolverine Publishing and I realized that we had to divide the region into two volumes, I had mixed feelings. There are certainly benefits, but I was concerned about the growing cost of owning both volumes. I realize that $55 is no small chunk for dirtbag climbers, especially those that are just passing through for a few days. I believe it’s worth it for core NRG climbers but if you’re only here for a week before you head to the Red, then the Gunks, then Rumney, etc. etc… A road trip could easily set you back 500 bucks if you bought a quality guidebook for every area. Also consider that it doesn't make sense to an author to sell an app that will be on your phone for a lifetime and receive constant updates for a flat fee. You pay once, I keep working as an indentured servant for eternity?
The Rakkup app operates as a subscription service. For New River Rock Vol 1. the app costs $27.99. About $7 less than the book. That subscription is good for three years which is about the same amount of time as a print run (edition of the book). But if you’re only passing through, you can buy a short term subscription: 2 months for $13.99. This is a great option for road trippers, even those that will be here for almost an entire season.
There are lots of cool things about the app but these are the functions that set it apart from the print book. Like I said, I love the print guide but I haven’t lugged that thing to the cliff for years. With the app in hand, I can always look up who got the first ascent of the route that just scared my pants off and immediately curse their name publicly on Facebook right from the crag. That feature is priceless.
Also know that the app will only continue to get better. It’s being released now but Rakkup and I will continue to add features, functions, photos, and new routes. Consider it an investment.
If you’re using the app and have suggestions for improvement or corrections, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get it squared away. Rakkup is really leading the way in digital guidebooks and I’m glad that I could jump on board with them. I think this app is really going to be a great addition for New River climbers and I hope you enjoy using it.
You can download the Rakkup app at their website for free and try out the Red Rocks Sample pack (also free) to get an idea of how it works. You can also learn more about Rakkup and purchase the app at their website. Check it out.