David Gibson, Chief Officer of the MCofS, reviews a new guidebook by UKH's own Dan Bailey. Great Mountain Days in Scotland cherry picks the best long challenging hill routes from across the country, a collection designed to appeal to ambitious hillwalkers, overnight backpackers and keen fell runners. "I was well impressed with the book" David tells us. "I've done some of the routes, even one or two in a single expedition(!), and it's left me wishing I was 25 again".
Another book about hill walking in Scotland? In an already over-crowded market you might wonder whether there is space for Dan Bailey's latest book. Perhaps the secret of successful guide book writing is the same as finding a winning product formula: innovation and anticipating customer needs before your competitors.
"The route descriptions promise a wealth of challenges inspired for good measure by the sheer magic of Dan's photography."
Author: Dan Bailey
Size: 24 x 17cm
Published: 16 March 2012
Dan is an accomplished writer and delivers with this, the third book in Cicerone's Great Mountain Days series (the others, by different authors, cover Snowdonia and the Lake District). It draws on the same spirit as Dan's excellent Scotland's Mountain Ridges book, and shares the same large picture-heavy format too. Great Mountain Days in Scotland speaks of Dan's affection for Scotland's wild places.
I was immediately impressed with its overall design and fastidious attention to detail, both of which will appeal to those who enjoy planning expeditions in advance.
I even read the Introduction! While the book is aimed at the more experienced, even they will find this first chapter interesting and importantly, up to date and accurate. For those from the 'flatlands' of Dan's birth on forays into Scotland, it is a great source of non-patronising background info which puts both Scottish hill walking and its winter conditions into context. Don't skip it.
What makes the book different? 50 routes offer long one-day, or two-day expeditions (an apt description because many are significant undertakings) in often remote and challenging terrain. Dan also offers a selection of imaginative routes up and over seemingly well-trod mountains. The routes take you where other guide books fail to reach, avoiding baggers' motorways, often linking Munros and Corbetts, but also explaining how to make transitions between mountains where human traces are minimal and established pathways simply don't exist, either because the perceived challenges have been too great or the route options have never been considered in the genre of popular guidebook writing.
Each route chapter offers suggestions of overnight options from bothies to wild camping spots, such as that for Ben Klibreck (views from which are now threatened by a massive wind farm proposal) where beach-side camping is a real option. The maps and route info boxes provide plenty of well-organised detail, with 'Seasonal Notes' reminiscent of Ralph Storer's books - clearly an author who is a source of inspiration for Dan himself.
"Even the humble bagger will find inspiration, entertainment
and more than one alternative route to their next tick."
There are some great route descriptions – too many to mention individually. One example is the route-finding puzzle required to descend Sgur Thuilm and ascend Streap – neighbouring mountains separated by a huge trench; another is the challenging navigation linking Ben Aden with Sgur na Ciche - adjacent hills but not a situation for the inexperienced, especially in mist.
"The routes take you where other guidebooks fail to reach,
avoiding baggers' motorways in often remote and challenging terrain."
The route descriptions promise a wealth of challenges inspired for good measure by the sheer magic of Dan's photography. Even the humble bagger will find inspiration, entertainment and more than one alternative route to their next tick.
Is this book for you? Yes, if you are fit, adventurous and self-reliant; and yes too if you are none of these, but simply enjoy reading about Scotland's great outdoors and sharing one man's love of the hills, illustrated throughout by outstanding photography.
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