01
02
03
03
03
03
03
Advert

Book Reviews

 

 

Life and Limb - By Jamie Andrew

Published by Portrait. Hardback. 300pages. 8pages of colour photos. Price £17.99. ISBN 0-7499-5007-2

If you are having one of those nothing-is-going-right days, then reflect for a moment on what it would be like to wake up from an operation with no hands and feet, having recently watch your best friend freeze to death before your eyes.For that is what happened to Jamie Andrew, and his courage, determination and sense of humour shine through the words of this remarkable book.Cheating death by being plucked from La Breche on the North Face of Les Droites by helicopter, Jamie tells the story of his incredible come-back from grief and extreme disability to climb rock again at an amazing standard, ice-climb with specially adapted ice axes, and even run a Marathon on his prosthetic legs. Life and Limb is a really great book, and you notice a number of things about it.Firstly, it is very well written, with a clear, honest and gripping style.Secondly, you notice that Jamie has been more affected by the loss of his friend Jamie Fisher, than byhis own misfortune, which for me represents true greatness of heart.Thirdly,his sense of humour had me laughing out louda couple of times, such as when he tells of a hapless stranger who offered to give Jamie a hand, realised his mistake, and promptly said "Oh, I've really gone and put my foot in it !"."It's OK" Jamie said, "Don't feel cut up about it".Life and Limb is a genuinely life-enriching read.Buy it and read it, and then think twice before you ever say something is impossible again.

Richard White

 

 

Living with Mountains - By Joyce Hodgson

Published by Brown and Whittaker 2003. Paperback. 36pages. Price £3.50. ISBN 1-904353-04-5

I was holding the rope at the foot of Higger Tor for a Jim Curran come-back climb and as he put his hands on the first holds something strange happened. He started talking to himself. He was mumbling, ‘You rock, you heaviness a man can clasp,/ You steady buttress-block for hold’. It was strange, yet entirely appropriate. You must know that feeling of first direct contact with an old life-long friend again, as when Menlove Edwards says, ‘You rock’ at the opening of his poem. And the joy of a good ‘clasp’ of it. And the awe at its ‘heaviness’. It’s strong, memorable poetry you need for a moment like that.

I was wondering what a good yardstick for judging climbing poetry would be, and realised that it was presented to me in a demonstration of why we need this poetry stuff that the big magazine editors are so scared of - nothing else will do for the frightening, wonderful, painful, joyous moments we get ourselves into. We should all be telling those editors to be bold, use aid, use a poetry editor, use three, pull on the peg of the personal in a hidden corner of the magazine if necessary, and publish Joyce Hodgson.

She writes direct, accessible poetry that has a strong voice and rhythm, as if speaking aloud to you. She lets her images speak for themselves, lets their juxtaposition make you think a bit. I’d like the language to work a little harder and I’d like to be made to think a bit deeper, longer, with less of a closure in the endings. More of the good things would be welcomed, as in a snapshot of sea-traversing: ‘Innocent/ we live at the edge of time,/ lightly clad as for the garden’. Sometimes a cliché filter could have been fitted. ‘Caressing crystals’ is an awfully artful alliteration, but if you’re feeling for a hold, it’s hardly what you’re doing, is it? Joyce will know it looks like the real thing, but isn’t quite: ‘Almost as awful as unripe bilberries/ are rabbit droppings you carelessly mistook for them’. So here are the poems of an alpinist, a bog-trotter, a midge-swatter and an ibex watcher, who also writes about wilderness on a website. Menlove it isn’t, but look what happened to him. This is poetry that is alertly alive and asking to be read right now. Give it a try.

Terry Gifford

 

 

Mountains - Scotland's Living Landscapes
by Mark Wrightham

Published by Scottish Natural Heritage. 2002. 39 pages. Price £6.50. ISBN 1-85397-326-2

This is a 'glossy' booklet with selected colour photos and a map of Scotland. The text deals with basic geology, glaciation, plant life (divided into woodland, heather and bog, and high level habitats) and fauna (divided into beasts, birds and insects) together with sections on the impacts of sheep farming and deer stalking, hillwalking and mountaineering, and other human impacts (vehicular tracks, hydro-electric dams etc); and finishes with two paragraphs on the need for good stewardship. Since many books have been written about all these topics, I feel that Mark Wrightam has been set an impossible task in distilling each of them into a few words. Consequently, he can only present a few sparse indicators for the enquiring mind, with little substance upon which to engage. A select bibliography is needed! Perhaps Mark could produce one for 'The Scottish Mountaineer' to help us all to understand and appreciate the treasures that lie beyond this booklet, but there for all of us to see.

Mike Newbury

 

 

Mountain Outlaw
by Ian R. Mitchell

Published by Luath Press. 2003. 132 pages. Price £6.50. ISBN 1-84282-027-3

This is a story based on the life of Ewan MacPhee, the last Highland outlaw, who was born about 1784, probably in Glen Quoich, and died awaiting trial at Fort William in 1850. The portrait is painted from perspectives which are to some extent mutually contradictory - those of clansfolk, landowners, officers, lawyers etc, so that the precise character of the outlaw remains elusive. The accounts move on chronologically to build a vivid account of a dramatic, indeed violent life. The

language seems at first overblown or stilted in conformity with the purported raconteur: I was put off at first, but came to find it a rewarding tale, bringing to life the death throes of a society as remote from us as that of nomads in central Asia, but set in places we have seen and walked over - though these places are utterly changed and made largely desolate by outside forces. I suggest that the author's ‘Afterword’ should be read first, as it explains the factual background and the author's unusual methodology.

Mike Newbury

 

 

Hunted - A true story of survival
by David Fletcher

Published by Constable. 2002. 212 pages. Price £14.99. ISBN 1-84119-495-6

The book describes a solo expedition to climb Mount Hess (3639m.) in Alaska. The author deliberately approaches without reconnaissance by a long and difficult route, involving a ridge,

an abseil down a ravine, and a vertical ice wall, before descending to the glacier leading to the foot of the mountain. He carries tent, sleeping bag, stove, snow shoes, crampons, jumars, ice axe, ice hammer, ice screws, snow shovel, snow saw, ski pole etc, with 147 metres [147ft = 45m?] of rope and food for 10 days, but after 5 days manages a long cool drink of orange juice from his water bottle. On day 2 he mistakenly kills a bear cub and is thereafter pursued and attacked by its mother, even in another valley and on returning down the glacier, until on day 8, after a fight in a crevasse, the bear is killed by a toppling ice tower.

I am not competent to judge the bear's behaviour, the author's ice climbing techniques or his self-rescue from crevasses, but I should have thought that his deliberate lack of route planning and his solo wandering on a crevassed glacier would hardly be recommended safe practice, and I was horrified by an incident on the approach ridge:-

'There's an eerie silence...Perhaps it's time I livened things up? Trundling!' He topples a boulder off the ridge, causing an avalanche and stonefall. 'What a marvellous way to start the day!' Then he manages to topple a rock tower to even greater effect, - 'debris begins to rain down everywhere, landing on top of the trees in the valley, flattening the bushes, sweeping all before it. "Beat that one, Jane!" I shout out loud.' Readers may find this book gruesomely entertaining. Pity about the bear!

Mike Newbury

 

 

North East Outcrops – Scottish Mountaineering Club Climbers Guide.
Edited by Neil Morrison

Published by the SMC. 495 pages. 16 colour action photos. 24 maps. 49 diagrams. Price £18.00. ISBN 0-90752-74-6

To properly review a comprehensive guidebook that has been around for less than a year is extremely difficult. It is usually in the fullness of time that the accuracy of its information can be vouched for. However, with this particular guide this is not necessarily the case as this is an amalgam of newly developed areas with information contained in the previous Guide.

Generally this new "guide” has been well received with the information on the new areas being much appreciated. However, there are many glaring errors that have been carried over from the previous guide that should have been corrected. People using this guide as their sole means of reference will have difficulty in finding their way to some of the crags. Access to Sickle Row being a prime example and don’t plan on using the campsite at Glen Clova, which has been closed for some years now. Surely some previously little trammelled routes must have seen more repeats and a better consensus arrived at by now? Some climbs are still under rated at places like Clova.

On the plus side there’s the new bouldering venues on the coast and at the Luath Stones (with grades in British technical and Font’ indicating that this is still a developing sport up here) and the massive new sport venue of the Angus coast, possibly controversial for some, although my only gripe would be the bolts placed on the stunningly impressive, if loose, Red Head, which is surely the preserve of the adventurous.

The photos are an interesting mix of new and historical with some excellent examples from Cubby Cuthbertson that really capture the essence of the area. The diagrams are generally of poorer quality than we are used to in SMC guides of the recent past; those for the new areas particularly look like they were taken from sketches from the back of a cigarette packet.

Had the previously published material been checked then this guidebook would have been more useful. Though far from perfect, this is still the best published information that exists on the climbs available in the North East of Scotland.

Fred Belcher

 

 

Heading North on a Bypass
By Ron Smith

Published Privately, 2002. 181 pages. Price £5.95.
Copies are available from 47 Brisbane Road, Mickleover, Derby DE3 9LS (p&p inclusive)

To celebrate his seventieth birthday and renewed life after a heart by-pass operation, Ron Smith set off to cycle and walk from Lands End to John O’Groats, initially cycling 400 miles to home in Derby and then walking 700 miles: along the Pennines, through the Lake District, across the Borders to Glasgow and the West Highland Way, the Great Glen, Black Isle and on to Caithness.

This is a well-produced book, nicely illustrated, a very personal narrative of the ups and downs of such a venture and it bubbles with incidents and asides as he (and his wife Joan, backing up) celebrate "a second bite of the wonderful experience we call life”. On the way he raised over £8K for the British Heart Foundation. A quietly sincere and inspirational story.

Hamish Brown

 

 

25 Walks PC CD ROM Series
by James Carron.

Published by James Carron Productions. Price £4.99 (post free)

A basic PC package of walks in .pdf file format that give a range from coastal or low level walks, woodland strolls to upland trips on Corbetts and Munros. Adobe Acrobat Reader is all that is needed to view and print off the walking maps (which are based on walkscotland.com features for which James is editor). Angus, Perthshire and Skye are currently covered. On-line support, bi-yearly updates and free bonus walks also available. Orders from: James Carron Productions, Suite 68, 17 Union Street, Dundee DD1 4BG.

 

 

Hiking Guide to Petit St Bernard, Mont Blanc

Produced by Alpes sans Frontieres.
Edited by Le Federation des Clubs Alpins Francais and Club Alpino de Italiano.

The most visited mountaineering venue for us Brits for many a year, Mont Blanc has everything for everyone. This is Number 16 in a series from AsF® which includes a 1:25,000 scale map of the mountains. The book accompanying it has places of interest, accommodation and over 20 main hiking routes criss-crossing the area.