By Andy Hyslop
There's no need to prevaricate about the quality of this guide – it's good, really good. In fact I would say along with the new Rockfax Lofoten guide this is one of the most inspiring guides I have ever picked up.
You'd have difficulty in choosing a more heavy weight editorial team than that of Andy Nisbet, Rab Anderson, Simon Richardson - the new routing machines, of Scottish winter climbings modern era. Their combined depth of route knowledge is incomparable, which means the accuracy of descriptions, grades and conditions is about as good as gets for a climbing area which is characterised by its difficulty in defining what represents 'standard conditions'.
The introduction is comprehensive with lots of essential information on climbing styles, technique, safety and route information. After the acknowledgments the introductory chapter is broken down into sections on 'Environment' and 'Venue, Winter Tactics & Risk'. The advice on predicting conditions based on prevailing weather systems is indispensable as is the lengthy and much needed advice on avalanches.
All the main areas in the Central Highlands are covered along with extensive coverage of the fantastic and remote climbing in the north west, plus the increasingly popular and accessible crags of the Southern Highlands.
The publishing team have really got their act together with crag shots in this guide. There's plenty of white rock with a blue sky back grounds which makes you really want to go climbing. Of course it should take more than a good photo to give you the motivation to go winter climbing but Rockfax learnt the lesson years ago that you need to show case your premier climbing destinations in their best possible light if you want people to visit them.
Coloured route lines on the topo shots help with route identity and action shots have been placed close to the relevant route descriptions. The actual accuracy of the route descriptions themselves will be as good as gets for a style of climbing where conditions can vary wildly.
Most climbers, and particularly those based in England, will never need to buy the specific SMC area guides, although these do have summer rock climbs in them as well. At an average of one route a day and plenty of failures to factor into the life of most winter climbing careers there is a life time of climbing in this guide alone.
I have done more winter climbing in Scotland than summer rock climbing but I still have plenty of classics to mop up and endless amounts of starred routes all over the country which will easily see me out before I have had chance to climb them all. I found this guide totally inspiring and refreshing. It's not easy to get up at 6am when its cold, dark and wet and you've just spent the night sleeping in a van but this guide will help.