Scottish Rock Vol. I

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Scottish Rock Vol. 1 (Garry Latter). Look inside.

Scottish Rock Volume 1 (South), by Gary Latter (Pesda Press)

I will start this review with an apology to Gary for not having scheduled time to do it back in the summer. If I had delved into its pages sooner I am sure I would not have spent as many weekends travelling south! When I started climbing in the early nineties Gary's accomplishments were described to me: “open any Scottish climbing guide and you are guaranteed to find one of his routes or photographs”. Alongside Dave Cuthbertson and Rab Anderson, Gary Latter for me was one of the big three names in Scottish climbing. On his explorations of the Highlands and Islands he has gathered an extensive collection of knowledge and extreme first ascents.

This guide represents the best climbing to be found in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. I had known Gary had been working on a selected Scottish rock guide for some time. At some point the decision was made to split the book into two volumes, each one representing areas either side of the Great Glen. The initial target of 1000 routes eventually ran to 4500, taking nearly a decade to cover. Truly a sign of how many high quality routes are hiding out there.

On my first flick through I was very impressed with the format - Gary has raised the bar for modern climbing guides. Cover to cover it has a crisp feel, integrating text, colour topos and fantastic photography into each page. Volume 1 takes in the areas of the Isle of Arran, the Arrochar Alps, the Isle of Mull, Glen Coe and Glen Etive, Ardgour, Glen Nevis, Ben Nevis, the Central Highlands, the Cairngorms and Easter Ross. Across each area traditional climbing, sport climbing and a little bouldering are covered.

Each section starts with a brief area history and topographical map of the smaller areas covered. Access and approach details are given for each area along with grid coordinates, altitude, aspect and approach time – all the important information for planning a day out. Despite its nature as a selected guide the chosen crags are covered in full with clearly marked topos. Individual routes are briefly described and listed with name, grade, first ascent and a star rating from 1-5. Photographs accompany each section, with contributions from other UK photographers as well as Gary himself. My favourites include Dave MacLeod on Dalriada, Paul Thorburn on Repossessed and Rick Campbell on King Kong. Each reflects the different seasons in Scotland as much as the nature of the cliffs themselves. Samples from the guide are available here.

Over the years the SMC guides have traditionally covered the areas of Scotland. Their failing is perhaps the lack of continuity in the series and the lack of a modern standard as each guide is updated. Scottish Rock Volume 1 provides a fantastic overview of the different Scottish climbing regions. It warrants buying two copies just to have a clean copy for the coffee table.

Scottish Rock Volume 1 (480 pages) is available through Presda Press Ltd. for £23.00, and can be bought online or from most good outdoor shops. If you would like a guided tour of some of the routes Gary provides a guiding service through

Scottish Rock Volume 1 has also been reviewed by John Watson and Jack Geldard and Martin Chester.

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