It’s been a truly very long time coming, however after a decade of waiting on my section (and I’m obvious I wasn’t by myself) this practice-up to the SMC’s classic Highland Scrambles North in the end hit the cupboards this year. Highland Scrambles South brings complete guidebook protection to the total recorded scrambles south of the Huge Glen, plus Knoydart, Ardgour, Rum, Mull, Arran and even the Southern Uplands.
From easy hands-on journeys neutral like Ledge Route thru to mountain rock climbs like Observatory Ridge, the grades on offer span from 1,2 and three scrambles thru Mod and Diff to VDiff rock – a welcome breadth of scope if, like me, that you just would be succesful of well per chance have gotten in mind harder scrambles and more uncomplicated climbs to be really the an analogous explain.
A host of routes are incorporated – 216 named scrambles in all. Many will seemingly be acquainted to any fervent Scottish scrambler; others that you just would be succesful of well per chance know by standing; and then there are those I crawl to wager that you just would be succesful of well per chance have gotten never heard of (Forgotten Ridge on Ainshval; Mullwhachar’s Tauchers Couloir… anyone?). Many of those are described for the first time; really, it could well be aesthetic to purchase that author Iain Thow and pals have in actuality made some first ascents at some level of the study for this guide.
“Compiling the facts fervent having a tall quantity of fun in some colorful areas” Iain told me. “Or no longer it is given me the trail to transfer and take a look at out a entire load of potentialities that I could well repeatedly regarded at and opinion “per chance….”. Scotland has a tall quantity of wild rocky areas where no one goes, so with any luck the facts will obtain a minimum of a couple of other folks out taking half in them.”
Are the total routes herein in actuality marvelous of inclusion? Would possibly well well some deserve printing with a health warning? Alive to readers are with any luck going to have quite so much of fun checking out.
Recent scrambling guidebooks make no longer approach along on day by day basis, and from the volume of labor that has clearly gone into HSS it is miles straight forward to treasure why. It’s apparent that Iain has climbed every route on this guide. His attention to detail and his particular like of exploratory bimbling on vague bits of mountain rock in actuality shine thru.
Rarer peaceable are scrambling guides with a tight unusual structure. Highland Scrambles South will more than seemingly be quite shopper-marvelous, with particular maps and – shock and agonize – colour photo topos. These latter bring the scrambling guidebook into the twenty first Century, environment a peculiar traditional of readability and accuracy that puts older guides to shame. How did we ever practice those dodgy hand drawn topos? Anyone lamenting the dilution of trot that unusual knowledge represents can of route purchase no longer to learn the facts; for the relaxation of us, a line drawn onto an valid characterize of the crag is precisely the form of factor we purchase guidebooks for.
In Highland Scrambles North, printed relief within the mists of 2006, sketches that clearly seem like they were traced from photos were frail. These are about as accurate as line drawings obtain, however you discontinue shock why they did now not valid crawl your entire hog then? Regardless of, they’ve now.
The topos are purposeful no longer easiest to find and following the routes, however in providing you with an thought what to appear ahead to from them. Is it a splurge of in miserable health-outlined outcrops or a fearless and compelling ridge? Which it’s good to well well generally advise straight.
The many circulation photos are a mixed obtain, however largely very accurate. All appear to have been taken en-route, on a valid ascent – there are no skilled posed photo shoots here. They discontinue a accurate job of defining the character and environment of the route, and selling its qualities too. If there’s one criticism I will per chance form, it is miles that the photos discipline a high bar of expectation. Whenever you did now not know better that you just would be succesful of well think or no longer it is repeatedly dry and sunny in Scotland; a couple of more atmospheric touchy photos could well well wish added a dose of realism. We make no longer all explain the accurate weather days scrambling; for a couple of of us or no longer it is in most cases an iffy weather different to mountain rock ice climbing.
Route descriptions are particular and replace-like, and appear to possess valid the ideal level of detail. On a rambling mountain route several hundred metres long you can not utter every block and crack, really to steal a gape at to discontinue so would be madness; however goodbye because the saleint capabilities are mentioned then the commonplace route discovering could well well peaceable be made more uncomplicated. Iain Thow knows this smartly, offering blow-by-blow detail easiest at those capabilities on every route that in actuality merit it.
But how neutral are his descriptions?
Effectively I learn thru quite so much of routes that I’m already mindful of, and the entirety regarded as if it would be within the ideal discipline. But there’s easiest so worthy that that you just would be succesful of well per chance discontinue with an armchair guide assessment: to in actuality take a look at its mettle that you just would be succesful of well per chance have gotten bought to obtain your hands dirty.
There is not any level following a scrambling knowledge up a smartly-identified classic, where signs of damage are incessantly the most productive knowledge you will need. Besides which I’ve doubtlessly completed all of them several instances. For my discipline take a look at I picked the South Face of Glen Coe’s A’Chailleach, a rather vague and rambly day outing on which the accuracy of the route description would be smartly highlighted. From one earlier consult with I knew it would be value my time; however as this used to be relief within the final century I clearly wasn’t going to be working from memory.
“A long chain of outcrops which link to provide an attractive route up the hill… Additionally a precious preliminary to the Aonach Eagach”
Yep, that’s the notion… The automobile parking knowledge is up to this level, reflecting the unusual road structure within the glen. Manner notes work smartly too, quickly getting me to the foot of the first enormous crag.
“Stroll left below a protracted horizontal overhang and steep wall then climb the groove left of those on enormous steps.”
To this level, so particular.
“On the next outcrop climb a imprecise groove within the centre past a perched boulder, ending with a powerful step up utilizing accurate handholds.”
All as described, though the guidebook could well well smartly be round for longer than that perched boulder – non permanent parts are repeatedly an advanced call in a route description.
“Minor outcrops now result in a vertical wall on the ideal. Climb the left edge of this on comforting square prick relief holds.”
I’m practically suckered into a in actuality powerful-wanting groove within the wall itself, however on second thoughts steal the guidebook at its notice and climb mucky wanting ground on the legal left edge. Turns out the guide used to be appropriate and the holds are as promised. Expose to self: whereas that you just would be succesful of well be following a description, strive and really practice it.
“Bound up the ideal-hand edge of a mossy outcrop…”
Appears to be like too inappropriate to gape so I defend away from it altogether, strolling round its appropriate flank. If that is what the guide meant, it could well wish mentioned so.
“…up more broken ground to a steep unlit buttress. Here could well well also be the crux of the route and within the moist is most productive averted, however if dry start within the centre and crawl up to climb an awkward appropriate-slanting ramp. At its top practice a ledge leftwards and up a thankfully more uncomplicated corner…”
On the popular day of all time I make no longer have any worries with slime, however the ramp does indeed expose tricky with a transfer of a minimum of VDiff to start. The ledge does as anticipated – very airily – and the easy corner will get me out of the deathfall zone without breaking a sweat. A nifty bit of route discovering by whoever first went that design, and a utter-on write-up.
After this things obtain messy on the bottom, and thus powerful for any guide to utter. I lose the thread of the route description, and simply form a beeline for the massive orange headwall that guards the slay of the route and “looks to be like an unlikely proposition”. Likely I’ve to have turned to the photo topo…
“Climb the ideal hand of three appropriate-slanting grooves, with a ideal juggy crack for security…”
Effectively there are a couple of evident grooves above me, plus a form of inset slab on the ideal that could well well with poetic license be described as groovy. There is not any signal of that ideal juggy crack. A transient look left all the design thru the corner reveals a couple more grooves, however neither pleasurable for an unroped scrambler. Then it dawns on me. To the ideal, all the design thru a deep gully and at a decrease level, the orange wall rises to its stout height. A transient correction has me relief heading within the suitable route. There are the three grooves, as promised, easiest the ideal of which looks to be like as if any discipline for me. The crack duly materialises – it is miles indeed ideal – and I romp up in a wild blueprint, a valid three-star attain to a two-star route.
The guide did mention strolling appropriate, however because the pure route used to be straight up the front of the buttress I suspect it could well have made a miniature bit more of the diagonal line that you just would be succesful of well per chance have gotten to practice to prevail within the ideal bit of the ‘evident’ wall. Or no longer it is clearer on the topo. That miniature diversion at the slay used to be in all probability more my fault than the guide’s – however then that’s why we purchase guidebooks, to lead us appropriate when our intuition will more than seemingly be pronouncing left.
Total I could well inform that used to be a tight description to an advanced sprawling mountainside that’s powerful to remove in phrases. If here’s anything to transfer by then you definately could well well purchase Highland Scrambles South with self belief.
- Within the interests of stout disclosure, I am an SMC member. On the other hand I’ve had no hand on this, or every other of their books. As such I could well like to think I’m disinterested and fair.
Highland Scrambles South by Iain Thow
UKC Articles and Gear Opinions by Dan Bailey – UKHillwalking.com