My daily drive to work takes me over the pass – and last week I was dismayed to watch as Central Icefall disappeared before my eyes – marking the end of the finest spell of winter climbing in Snowdonia for quite some years. My misery and disappointment must have lasted literally minutes as – upon arrival at work – the next volume of Scottish Rock had arrived!
Within moments of opening the book, the winter seemed like a distant memory as I embarked upon the 'kid in a sweet shop' journey from front cover to back. “Where are my favourites? What's it got in there? How many have I done? (And, of course, which ones should I have done instead?) Just like in volume 1 you won't be disappointed with the content and the quality. But this time Gary goes one step further – this volume opens the door to all sorts of places that, thus far, you have only dreamt of. You've certainly never seen them in a guide book before.
Of course, your favourites are all there: Famous sea stacks; Diabaig Pillar; The sun kissed crags of Reiff; Isle of Skye classics from Kilt rock to Coruisk. This time, however, the photos are better than you've ever seen, the maps are fantastic, the history absorbing, and the routes are all first class. And this is where this guide book makes its mark. In one double page spread you move from the ultra classic Dubhs ridge **** to the ultra modern Skye wall ****. Moderate to E8 without so much as a turn of the page – yet both are equally inspiring.
Flick through the book again, and there are some of 'those crags'. The sort of crags you'd chosen to forget about – that strike fear into the heart of puerile southern 'Hard Rock' tickers. Oh God! Sron Ulladale and Carn Mor are in there as well!
But the main reason I am so excited about this book is that it takes the lid off some well kept secrets. Like the fact that, and just ask anyone else who has touched it, Torridonian sandstone is probably the finest rock in the world!
Several years ago I had one of those trips to the North West that just define the Scottish Rock experience. The long days seemed to last forever into the evening, with each subsequent day starting later and later. We found big routes, short crags, coastal adventures and the mountains. And from sandbags on sea stacks to party invitations from complete strangers – the 'craic' of the place seemed to soak into every aspect of the trip. It wasn't long before we were high on Stac Pollaidh – belayed atop 'Jack the ripper' with expansive views over the summer isles realizing that this was something really special. But the rock! Wow! Enticing you on, it wasn't long before we were round the corner and truly 'expecting to fly' on Tom Prentice's 'uber classic', astounded that a wall like this had been kept secret from us for so long.
Some years later, and we were expecting something completely different – as my heavily pregnant wife padded up Jetty Buttress in Gruinard Bay. Another trip, another party, and we required some sun kissed climbing, right by the road, and right by the sea. But gaining access to information about these Gairloch crags was something of the adventure. Like some clandestine mission – trying to track down a shop with a 'Wild West topo'.
And then there are the Western Isles – lands of myth and legend where folks like us don't get to go – do we?
And this is where I have to pause for a moment, and express my only vague concern. I call it a 'vague concern' as I am not prepared for it to sound like a criticism in the slightest (not until people are queueing for routes on Mingulay at least) but I can't help but wonder if these places may lose something by being written up alongside more 'common' venues? I don't want these dreams to be turned into 'just another crag'. But I guess that's the real beauty of this book. This is your chance, and mine, to go and find out. This is your invitation to the party!
And like volume one – the best thing about this book is the feeling that it is a personal invitation. From one who knows – to one who can't wait to find out. If volume one confirmed all your hopes about Scottish cragging – then volume two lets you know that you haven't even started yet!
In this volume:
1 Isle of Skye
5 Coigant & Assynt
8 Outer Hebrides
9 Barra Isles – Pabbay and Mingulay
10 Northern Isles - Orkney
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