The Angry Corrie 20: Oct-Dec 1994
Book Review: The Joy of Hillwalking
by Ralph Storer, 160pp, £6.95 (Luath Press, Forest Bank, Barr, Ayrshire KA26 9TN)
Having read and enjoyed Storer's previous books, it was a pleasure to receive a review copy of his latest work. A pleasure, and not a disappointment. Storer sets out to detail his modus walkaroundi in an interesting, none-too-serious round of seasons, summits, sex, etc. The latter is, of course, de rigueur (if one may use such a term), since the title obviously plays on another book featuring a beardy man getting back to nature.
Storer comes across as pleasantly ordinary, with roughly the same number of quirks as the rest of us. He knows bugger all about wildlife (a point perhaps accidentally driven home by his strange description of a ptarmigan which "flies squawking out of the heather"). He likes his food, his camping, his cartography, his snow; he gets jittery on scrambly bits of rock and has taken a serious fall or two in his time. Endearingly, he has avoided the label "Munroist" by deliberately omitting to climb one of the list.
TAC readers may well feel Storer is one of them. Not only does he mention there being 6173 trig points, he knows of an electric loch, muses on the way rising sea-levels will lower the heights of hills - and even admits to having lost his virginity after a day on the Aggy Ridge!
The Joy... is especially good when Storer really enthuses - as on nightwalking for example, where some lovely phrases are turned. He is, rightly, no fan of the overly cautious, who is labelled Safetyman. However, it's surely an error to somehow equate non-hill-users with city dwellers. TAC's subscription database gives the lie to this, while scores of folk who live at the very foot of hills never think to set their own feet on them.
He is, though, succinct on access / environmental issues: "...those who complain the loudest ... are often those who simply want to keep the hills to themselves". Overall, The Joy... follows the good writing dictum to "show, not tell".
The showing perhaps sometimes feels a little too much like mountain namedropping - Alps, America, Scandinavia, you name it - but Storer's been there, done that, so why the hell shouldn't he bring all these various and varied places into his observations?
There is the odd careless typo - hillwaking, Bonnington - and the strange suggestion that the South Cluanie Ridge comprises only five Munros, but seeing as this review is written by one whose own book stated Suainaval stood on Harris, he had better keep quiet!
Structurally, The Joy... perhaps suffers a little from being too linear, whilst Storer's prose tends towards the dry end of the barometric scale. But the only real letdown comes with Malcolm Kelly's line drawings: naive in the childish, rather than the artistic sense.
Few magazines seem to have bothered to review The Joy... (perhaps due to the lack of gloss and photos?), with Jennie Renton in Scottish Book Collector being the only one TAC has seen. This is a fine book nonetheless, well worth its place beside Storer's earlier works.