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Local to release expanded Independence Pass climbing book

M. John FayheeSpecial to The Aspen Times
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times
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Aspen resident Tom Perkins is getting ready to release an updated, expanded, new-and-improved version of his unbelievably popular (and consequently sold-out) “Independence Pass Rock Climbing” book.According to Perkins, 43, who has called Aspen home for 20 years, Volume II ought to hit the streets this month. He plans to publish 3,000 copies.”I’m doing everything myself, except the actual printing,” Perkins said. “The new book will include 700 routes, which is 100 more than the first volume. I’ve added 14 areas, so basically the book covers the all climbing between Aspen and Twin Lakes.”

But there’s more: In addition to self-publishing a book so route-dense that it would take even the most enthusiastic climber two years to make his or her way through the whole thing, book buyers get additional access to Perkins’ climbing website, which offers even more detailed route descriptions, as well as five or six additional photos of each route.”There are more pictures and more information,” said Perkins, whose previous books have included climbing guides to the Arkansas River Valley between Camp Hale and Buena Vista. “One of my biggest problems with most climbing guides is that there will be this nice photo of the route, and when you get there, you realize there’s 1,000 feet of talus at the bottom that you have to get through. By giving people who buy my book access to my website, we can include a lot more information and photos. I don’t want anyone to have any surprises.”Perkins has been climbing for more than two decades. He came to the world of sphincter-puckering verticality because he crashed and burned a few too many times on his mountain bike.”I moved here from Southern California, and I got involved in mountain biking pretty much when it started,” he said. “But after a few good crashes, I got talked into going climbing with some of my buddies. I’d climbed before, but when some of my Aspen friends started taking me out on the local rock, I started focusing on climbing instead of biking. My body has thanked me.”I crash a lot less while climbing,” he said. “You tend to concentrate a lot more when you’re up on the rock.”Perkins has arrived at the point where he can now spend his summers solely climbing and working on climbing books.”In the winter, I do website hosting and I design websites,” he said. “Since I self-publish my books, it takes a lot of work. I do the routes, I write about them and I design the book. I also carry them around to the various shops. I have to limit my press runs because 3,000 books is all I can fit into my condo.”

Perkins also sells advertisements that are included in his books.”It’s really the only way I can get the money to self-publish the books,” he said. “It’s definitely a growing trend to include ads in guidebooks.”Though most people rightfully look at this neck of the woods as skiing-centric, Perkins believes the Aspen area is one of the pre-eminent climbing destinations in the Rockies.”We have a lot of rock available, and it is good-quality rock,” he said. “We have routes very close to town, like the area across from Difficult Campground. We have rock that takes some hiking to get to. We have winter rock downvalley, and we have alpine climbing. And our routes cover the gamut, from easy 5.6 to hard 5.13. Many are single-pitch and many are multipitch. We have two indoor climbing gyms, and some of the best climbers in the world live here.”Perkins finds a lot of the routes he describes in his book by simply hiking with his dogs.”I am definitely an explorer,” he said. “I have discovered a lot of routes while I’m taking photos for the book. I’ll be out hiking and I’ll notice some rock on the other side of the valley, and I’ll think how cool that looks. So I’ll go over and check it out.”

Perkins says he stays in climbing shape mainly by climbing outdoors as much as possible.”Indoor climbing is hard on the body, so I don’t do it much any more,” he said. “In winter, I try to climb outdoors at least once every couple of weeks. In the summer, I climb and hike so much that I really don’t have to worry about staying in shape.”It is not lost on Perkins that the very process of penning a guidebook raises some ethical concerns.”There were some people who weren’t very happy at first when the book came out,” he said. “They had these local areas all to themselves for a long time. But my main observation about guidebooks is that they spread people out from the popular climbing areas, so that locals can actually experience less people at the areas near town. The other thing is that 90 percent of the routes I describe are at least 20 minutes in. You’ve got to earn the route.””Independence Pass Rock Climbing, Volume II” will be available at local climbing and gear shops well before Independence Pass opens for the season.It’s also available online. For more of the skinny on Perkins and his climbing tomes, go to aspenclimbingguides.com.


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