The Angry Corrie 48: Jan-Feb 2001

TAC 48 Index

Socks, belays and videotape: Safety on mountains - British Mountaineering Council

BMC, 2000, ISBN 0 903908 271

Video + book package 15 (BMC members 12.50), booklet 4 (2.50)

Review: Val Hamilton

ALTHOUGH this booklet and video are described as a package, they do not seem connected, physically or otherwise. There are no references in the booklet to the video or vice versa, and the booklet does not fit in the video box.

The booklet is pretty standard fare. I have a copy of a 1974 BMC publication with the same title in A6 format and priced 40p - cheap and cheerful, illustrated with passable cartoons. The (unnamed) editors of the current booklet, however, do not see it as having this lineage as their text begins with the statement that "ten years have passed since the booklet Safety on mountains was first published." Strange. The current A5 format has colour photos and adverts rather than cartoons and lacks any hint of humour or levity.

The coverage is similar to my 1974 example but has moved on to include mobile phones and GPSs. Checking out our household's hobby horses, I found a good section on angle of slope, no mention of the ice-axe-as-ornament issue (see TAC13), but sensible comment about putting on crampons before things get too scary. There is nothing about snow shovels and only a passing reference to the altimeter as a "potentially useful aid". Trekking poles are in there with ambivalent comment, but there's a photo of a couple of women with single poles captioned, "research suggests that using two is better than one, especially with a heavy sack." TAC's pro- polers will no doubt be able to provide the full refer-ence to this research. Someone else's hobby horse is ridden in a paragraph entitled "Insulation: To layer or not to layer?" I thought this debate only applied to propagating heathers.

The booklet ends with a brief bibliography including a list of magazines which inexplicably omits TAC (so they're the Bastarding MC - Ed.) and a list of organisations. These are given only as unexpanded abbreviations and the novice reader may have some difficulty guessing what MCofS stands for, let alone IMTB (MOS).

The video is not an instructional guide in the same mode, and this may be wise given the dullness of the section where classroom shots at Plas y Brenin link to outdoor practice. Instead it follows the exploits of four yuppie, 20-something walkers as they get lost on a beautiful autumn day in the Peak District, get taken up Cnicht without getting lost, get lost in the claggy Lake District, and finally see the light and make a sensible decision in the Cairngorms, where they experience typical winter (ie September to May) conditions in the corries.

There is not much human interest except perhaps wondering if the beardy guy with a silly hat is wearing it because he's bald (he is), but neither is there anything objectionable about it. I cannot imagine that anyone would watch it more than once and its main purpose must be as a time-filler for outdoor centres who run navigation courses. For a second opinion, I lent the video to a colleague who is an experienced walker but a novice navigator. She too was surprised at the lack of "this is how you do it" type instruction, pointing out that that you do not even have close-ups of the maps when they are being used outdoors.

But it did get across the messages that hills can be dangerous and that walking with a map or even a compass in your hand is not navigating: you need to switch your brain on too. And the spindrift-swept Scottish scenes do give a sense of the power of wind and cold which is rarely created in words alone. So, the book's fine but don't bother with the video. If you ever go on an organised course you're (outward) bound to see it then.

TAC 48 Index