Seven years after the first, a second edition of “Idaho Underground,” the region’s go-to guidebook for rock climbers, is set to hit the shelves this week. Author and Wood River Valley local Dave Bingham sat down with a reporter from the Idaho Mountain Express to talk about what has changed in terms of climbing guidebooks since his first self-published edition and what to look forward to in this new update.
Not long ago, rock climbing guidebooks were taboo amongst climbers who thought sharing crags—climbing locations—would draw too much attention, overcrowd the pristine rock, and dilute beta that was previously only shared with a select few insiders. Today, though, most climbers rely on guidebooks heavily when climbing in a new area. The bare-bones books of old, which would just mention how to get to a crag and a brief synopsis of what to expect, have evolved to divulge as much information as possible about the area, the route, the rock type, the grade of the actual climb, and as many photos to orient the climber.
“People want a different product now,” Bingham said. “There’s a lot more features and color.”
“Idaho Underground,” covers rock climbing and bouldering throughout southern Idaho except for the City of Rocks and Castle Rock near Almo, Idaho. Those areas have a separate guidebook, also written by Bingham.
Bingham says the new edition includes new crags, additional climbing areas near Boise, and more routes in areas that have already been established. The biggest draw in the new edition is the debut of The Fins, fittingly named after the limestone crag on the edges of Howe Peak, roughly 18 miles east of Arco, Idaho. The flanks at the top of a steep hillside overlook the Idaho National Laboratory and are only accessible via a road created and maintained by the lab to reach its utility lines.
Although The Fins is listed in the 2012 book, there has been significant development, with around 100 routes today, versus 50 in 2012. One area, known as “Burning Spear” in the first edition, is now called “Mortal Earth,” and includes more moderate climbs that are not as steep as The Fins upper reaches.
Erosion and human waste are becoming an increasingly urgent issue in the area, as with many other rock-climbing areas around the world. But Bingham said guidebooks can serve as an educational tool to set expectations of climbers.
“Sometimes the development of a book spurs protection,” he said.
A self-described “explorer type,” Bingham has been in the Wood River Valley since 1978. The Vermont native explored nearly all of the crags in the book himself, and for those that he was less familiar with, he reached out to locals.
“It’s a small world,” Bingham said, and finding local experts to write sidebar insights for each crag was relatively easy, although, “a few of the folks took some arm twisting.”
Most importantly, Bingham hopes this guidebook encourages climbers to step outside their usual crags and discover someplace new, and not too far from home.
“I’d like to encourage people to go and explore some place they’ve never gone,” Bingham said.
If that sounds good to you, Bingham’s book will be available at Backwoods Mountain Sports and The Elephant’s Perch in Ketchum, as well as online at wolverinepublishing.com.