This is a wonderful book that should be read, and will then probably be re-read, by just about anyone with any interest in Scotland's mountains. At one level "The Call of the Mountains" by Max Landsberg is a "how I compleated my round of Munros" book, albeit a particularly well written one. But there is so much more here too. Max Landsberg loves the Scottish mountains in a way that suffuses this book from cover to cover. The sections on the various trips he undertook on the hills, whether alone or in company, are nicely interspersed with the sorts of thoughts that inevitably occur to those simply engaged in putting one foot in front of the other, repeatedly. So we have a section on whether a circular walk should be completed clockwise or anticlockwise; another on the ideal angle to zig-zag uphill; and others on geology, mountain safety, the clearances, on the many Gaelic words for "mountain"... and so on.
We are even given a nice diagnostic test to allow you to tell when you are truly hooked on Munros. It is when you park your car in Glencoe and find you have left your boots, jacket and maps at home in London, so make the return drive home and back again to fetch them.
You don't have to go back very far in history to find a time when people regarded mountains as fearsome places, to be avoided, or a little later as sublime places, to be painted and to be marvelled at for their landscape qualities. In more modern times the ever broader paths leading to the summits of too many Scottish hills reveal that mountains, in this country at least, are a preferred form of recreation for many residents and visitors. A chance to combine fresh air, physical exertion, mental challenge and a degree of physical risk. And there is no shortage of books catering for those wanting a day on the hills, whether as guides to walks in a particular area or routes up all of Scotland's Munros.
These books perform a great service and many are extremely good and justifiably popular. But it's difficult not to regret the passing of a slightly different type of mountain book, the sort of book that serves to uplift the spirit as well as the mind. Books by writers such as Alastair Borthwick and, especially, W.H. Murray turned mountains into an almost religious experience for many. In truth, that strand of mountain writing, though it may have been in retreat, has never entirely disappeared, and it is wonderful to be able to report that this book picks up that particular baton beautifully.