No-one interested in the Scottish mountains can have failed to come across the books of Ralph Storer. Over the years he has written a considerable number of excellent guides that have introduced many to the delights of hillwalking, and Scottish hillwalking in particular. We first discovered Ralph Storer, and through him the Scottish mountains, thanks to his "100 Best Routes On Scottish Mountains", first published in 1987. He has since written other collections of Scottish mountain routes; a four volume "Ultimate Guide to the Munros"; guides to the Munros for those wanting easier climbs; and a number of other books.
"50 Shades of Hillwalking" by Ralph Storer is a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable collection of 50 short reminiscences of the author's extremely broad range of hillwalking and climbing (and caving) experiences from around the world. Through it, those of us who have followed the author's work over the decades learn much more about the man behind the guidebooks, and his own love for the hills. We start with an ill-planned and highly risky school trip to Snowdonia in 1961 on which a young Ralph caught the hillwalking bug despite near-disaster, and from there venture far and wide: from the United States to Madagascar, taking in Poland, Scandanavia, the Alps and more. Plus, of course, the Lake District, Snowdonia and Scotland.
The reminiscences, except for the first, do not appear to be in chronological order, and neither are they grouped geographically. The result is a real joy as you are whisked around the world and through time. The writing is excellent and the tone is approachable and light, even when adventure becomes misadventure. Until you reach the end of the book, anyway. Ralph's account of the loss of Mairet, a close female friend who was killed on the Matterhorn while they were both students in the 1960s is a sobering reminder that mountains have teeth, and can bite. And this is followed by the story of the much more recent loss of another close friend who was climbing in the Mamores. The change of tone late in the book catches the reader by surprise, but the result is a book that is much more balanced than might otherwise have been the case. The perfect read for the hillwalker in your life.