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Review by Tony Lourens
On my very first climbing road trip through Italy in 1994, one of the few guidebooks available at the time was Cicerone’s Italian Rock by Al Churcher. Clutching this now iconic publication in our sweaty paws, we discovered many exciting climbing areas scattered across the northern part of Italy. Of course, compared to most modern-day route books, this old guidebook is lacking in a few departments, but at the time, it was our bible and without it, we would’ve been lost, figuratively and literarily. I still have that old guidebook on my bookshelf, full of ticks and markings showing the wonderful memories of those early climbing days.
Over the years, Cicerone have grown substantially, and are now one of the biggest outdoor guidebook publishers in the UK, covering most outdoor pursuits around the world. I recently got my hands on three of their newer offerings – guidebooks that I am sure would be of great interest to South African climbers and hikers planning holidays abroad.
Skye’s Cuillin Ridge Traverse
by Adrian Trendall
The Cuillin Ridge on Scotland’s Isle of Skye is one of the world’s most iconic ridge routes. I know a few South Africans who have done it, and my attempt way back in 1986 was thwarted by typical Scottish weather. It is a coveted traverse that is on the wish list of many climbers around the world. Now Cicerone has published a brilliant pocket guidebook on everything you need to know about planning and doing this great classic – strategies, advice, concise written route descriptions of each section, and detailed topo photos of every part of the ridge (including variations). The publication comes in two separate booklets.
The first is dedicated to the Cuillin Ridge proper from start to finish and includes absolutely everything you need to know, and stuff you never even thought of. Excellently laid out section by section, featuring topographical maps, clearly marked topo pics and useful information (like grade, time and terrain) and detailed written descriptions on each section along the way.
The second booklet covers all sorts of interesting and useful stuff like preparation and fitness, gear, weather, geology, climbing and ropework, and even gives you reasons why you may fail. Also included are ten classic scramble routes that you can do in preparation for the big C!
Personally, the Cuillin Ridge has been hovering on the back burner ever since 1986, but now with this new guidebook, the fire has been rekindled and it is again firmly on my to-do list.
The Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites:
Vol 1 by James Rushforth
and 2 Graham Fletcher and John Smith
Whether you are a climber, mountaineer or hiker, if you have never had a via ferrata experience in the beautiful and striking mountains of the Italian Dolomites, you are missing something very special. The idea of vie ferrate started during WW1, when the soldiers fixed metal cables and pegs, which they could use to reach steep rocky areas in the mountains, so they could man sentry points from which to scan for the enemy. Long after the war, these routes were climbed by tourists and locals to reach places that would normally be impossible to reach without proper climbing equipment. It was soon realized that these vie ferrate could be modernized and made safer and indeed new ones constructed, so that more people could access the high mountains without being experienced rock climbers. To cut a long story short, vie ferrate in the Dolomites is now one of the biggest outdoor tourist attractions in this area, with many hundreds of fantastic routes taking you to very impressive places. The routes are all grades, just like climbs are, and they range from really easy ones to very steep, exciting routes taking in huge exposure and impressive situations. Cicerone have published guidebooks to these vie ferrate for many years, and I have some of their earlier editions, which I have used regularly. But now they have published two new editions covering practically all the best parts of the Dolomites. The books are excellently laid out and include some exciting new routes. Each via ferrata has a detailed description, map and topo photo and also an info box telling you about the grade, times, length, how to get there, parking, etc., along with some great photos of people enjoying the various climbs.
All you need to do is buy the books and go! What’s better than ending the day at a cosy Italian eatery with a delicious bowl of pasta and a glass of vino rosso, after a hard day in some of the most beautiful mountains on Earth?
Cicerone guides are best ordered through Amazon, but are also available on the Cicerone website and as an ebook.
Visit www.cicerone.co.uk and check out their selection of guidebooks.