Sunday 29 April 2007

Hostile Habitats review

The Scottish mountaineering club are best known in the climbing world for a) stuffy gentlemen looking down their nose at the modern climbing scene, and b) lovingly produced and highly detailed climbing guidebooks. But despite this polarised image of the SMC as an organisation, its love and appreciation for the Scottish landscape and its climbs is undoubted. The fact that the SMC continue to dominate the market for walking and climbing guides in Scotland is testament to the ongoing improvement and passion for making lovely books. So it’s really quite a treat that they decided to bring out a book looking at the detail of the Scottish mountain environment itself. Whether they are ‘into’ landscape and wildlife as an interest in itself, no Scottish climber can honestly claim not to have appreciated the glories on offer just by travelling and climbing in Scotland; its just too beautiful, as they say.

The new Hostile Habitats book is a rough guide to everything natural that meets the eye in Scotland. But this is no dry environmental science textbook, its aimed at walkers and climbers, so its content is focused on what we see and are most likely to find interesting on out highland and island travels. The book covers in separate chapters Scotland’s geology, landforms, vegetation wildlife and human influences on the landscape. Few of us would sift through each of these huge disciplines in turn just to get a better feel for what we are seeing out there in the hills. After all, climbing is just a pastime for many of us. But with everything laid out in one book, well illustrated and supported by accessible text, we can educate ourselves and enrich the experience all the more, for the sake of a quick reference in one place. The idea here is that knowing that little bit more about the seasonal life of the mountain landscape, our eyes will be opened a little wider and we will get just a wee bit more from the day on the hill.

Surely all of you have been out climbing and been sat on a rock eating or belaying, starting to look more closely at the rock, the vegetation, or the shapes of the mountains and thought “I wonder…”

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