James Rushforth is a busy man. His Facebook feed is a never ending stream of beautiful pictures of climbers, skiers, walkers and mountain scenery to die for, most often the Dolomites where he spends a lot of his time. Although it makes me green with envy it does brighten the long gloomy hours spent working at my desk. Following the completion of the incredibly successful Rockfax Dolomites guide (see the review here), James wasted no time in setting to work producing his next effort - a guide to Ski Touring and Snow shoeing around the area. I have been awaiting it eagerly.
This time his book has been published by Cicerone press and at first glance it broadly follows their normal format; that of a pocket guide covered in a plastic protector, with a good selection of 50 routes from around the region. The book is spilt into three sections:
The first section is excellent; Cicerone in general have a habit of covering this initial information very well and this guide is no exception. There is very little left out which helps set one up to understand the rest of the book. Indeed I would say this edition is above par in this respect and certainly on a level with James' other book.
James has chosen a really good mix of days, covering a vast area of this mountain range. I am a little sad that the southern area is left untouched as I think it is very appealing to the ski tourer - in my opinion it’s wilder and more impressive than the north, but I understand that the pressure of producing a commercial guide means he has had to cut down somewhere.
The next thing to mention is that this is a mixed guidebook with both ski touring and snowshoeing routes included (34 and 26 respectively). This means there's something here for the broadest possible range of winter mountain visitors, from accomplished ski tourers to British hillwalkers taking their first steps by snow shoe.
Here is the spread of routes:
You may notice that some are crossover routes, suitable as either snowshoe days or ski tours. But the main point is that there are almost as many outings of each type. What James has done here is great because as an avid skier, he has recognised that there are many people out there who are interested in accessing the high mountains but who don't necessarily have the skiing skills.
The Dolomites make for a perfect venue for snow shoeing and for those looking to complete their first forays out into a winter wonderland. The weather is often very stable, there is little glaciated terrain, there are bars and huts on many of the routes which serve good food and drink; all of this makes for a rather friendly experience far removed from the blizzards of the Cairngorms and their unpredictable weather.
Furthermore many of the skiing routes are also modest and suitable for those looking for day tours but who still want a full mountain experience. It’s a good staging post before moving onto bigger adventures, somewhere you can hone and build skills without the commitment required in other more glaciated alpine areas.
This sample spread is a good illustration of the book's clear layout:
I feel frustrated that Cicerone's format has failed to do justice to James' photographic skills. This small format guide lacks the full page inspiration that smacks you around the chops when you open more modern guidebooks. The pictures ARE stunning, but they need to be bigger to grab you by the hand, walk you to the travel agent and book you your ticket. That said, the maps are super, a step up from other touring guides I've seen, and everything is very clear.
In summary, this guide is great for novice to intermediate winter explorers, looking for a beautiful area which is easy to access, well appointed with hotels and restaurants, and who want a holiday rather than an expedition. The book is fabulously well written, and while the pictures would really benefit from a bigger format the graphics are really good and its useful smaller format is at least handy for stuffing in pockets.
Regarded as one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world, the Dolomites offer endless winter escapades. Those who venture off the beaten track and into the backcountry (whether by ski or by shoe) will discover a veritable winter wonderland.
Guidebook to 50 ski touring and snowshoeing routes in the Dolomites. The routes, which carry an Alpine (and when appropriate, a Volo/Toponeige) grading, range from 5km to 18km, taking between 2 and 7 hours to complete. The routes are based in and around areas such as Canazei, Arabba, Corvara and San Martino, taking in stunning scenery, quaint villages and enchanting mountain vistas.
Clear route descriptions are accompanied by 1:50K mapping and photo topos, together with information such as total ascent and descent (as well as aspect), expected duration of route and equipment required. Also provided is invaluable practical advice on things such as mountain safety and navigation, equipment, transport options to, from and around the Dolomites, ski passes, accommodation and more.
For more info see: cicerone.co.uk
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