This is the third in a series of handbooks published by the Mountain Leader Training UK (website), “Hill Walking” and “Rock Climbing” being the previous two. It has been written by two leading climbers, both of whom are qualified mountaineering instructors with a wealth of experience. Allen Fyffe has climbed all over the world yet continues to make a major contribution to Scottish mountaineering with over 200 new routes and his position as Secretary of the Scottish Mountain Leader Training Board. Andy Cunningham is also based in Scotland where he has contributed many new routes in both summer and winter, and continues to be an active instructor from his base in Ullapool.
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The book itself follows a tried and tested format beginning with basic foundation knowledge; working through the basic skills; introducing and developing advanced skills; dealing with specific problems and challenges. The sections within are clearly delineated and the cross-references make finding specific information easy. Information for instructors is highlighted in separate boxes.
This book covers the full range of skills required to get the most from our hills in winter, be it walking or climbing, from a personal involvement or professional instruction point of view. Separate sections cover the Winter Environment (including weather & navigation); Basic Winter Skills (axe, crampons, self-arrest); Snow & Avalanche; Security on Steep Ground; Winter Climbing; Winter Incidents.
The text is almost staccato in nature – it says what it needs to say and no more. I felt this was an admiral quality of the book, meaning that descriptions were clear and concise. However with modern technology I do wonder why we still get so many spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. The instructional and inspirational photographs are of a high standard (the photos in the section on avalanches are excellent), and add value to the book – care has clearly been taken in this regard. The illustrative diagrams produced by Vertebrate Graphics are also excellent although they are let down on several occasions by inaccuracies in the text – in a couple of instances the accompanying description is technically wrong.
At 256 pages, the balance between coverage of all the pertinent areas and appropriate technical detail is about right. I contacted one of the authors who confirmed that the editing process was challenging, but I feel they did a good job. You'll find the bulk of what you need in this book at whatever level you operate, be it winter hill walking, scrambles on winter ridges, or serious ice and mixed climbing. This is not just a book for instructors – in fact of the three in the series this one is the least orientated in that direction. This is a book for all who head for the hills in winter enabling the brushing up of old skills and the learning of new.
Winter Skills does not have the anecdotal stories of say, “Scotland's Winter Mountains” by Martin Moran, nor is winter treated as but a section within a bigger tome such as “The Handbook of Climbing” by Fyffe & Iain Peter. This book is therefore specific and holistic, covering the winter skills in a targeted way which emphasises the need to be master of many skills to enjoy the UK hills under snow to the full.
Cunningham & Fyffe have done an excellent job and they should be complimented on what they have achieved. Go out and buy it (and no, I am not on commission!)
Andy Cunningham is a Mountaineering Instructor based in Ullapool. Allen Fyffe is a Mountain Guide and Mountaineering Instructor and is the full time Secretary of Mountain Leader Training Scotland. Both authors have numerous first ascents to their names and have extensive instructional experience.
Winter Skills is the third in the highly successful series of handbooks from Mountain Leader Training UK, following on from Hill Walking by Steve Long, and Rock Climbing by Libby Peter.
This technical textbook is for those interested in all aspects of winter mountaineering and has high quality designs with clear line illustrations and colour photos to further the understanding of the textual information.
About The Reviewer
Andrew Mallinson has thirty years experience as an active participant, instructor, guide and mentor. He is the Mountain Leader Award, Winter Mountain Leader trained and also Single Pitch Award (rock climbing) trained. His a member of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and the Mountain Leader Training Association, and also holds an HSE approved Mountain First Aid qualification. He is a fully qualified member of the MLTA and approved course provider for the National Navigation Award Scheme.
His website is: www.mountaineeringmentors.co.uk