Lowland Outcrops Review
For a long time, it has been easy to predict the format of climbing guidebooks. Vague descriptions, a lack of detail when it comes to approaches, plus a lot of guesswork and problem solving required by the climber who wants to make use of the guidebook in question. The Scottish Mountaineering Club decided to address some of the outstanding issues in guidebooks, and earlier this year they published the new Lowland Outcrops Guidebook, edited by Topher Dagg. The Lowland Outcrops guidebook sets the standard for a new generation of guidebooks.
For starters, the writers take nothing for granted. To me, this is the epitome of good writing practice. Knowledge is not assumed and the introductory pages contain a wealth of detailed information, including how to use this guide, historical information, crag etiquette, area information, what to do if you get a tick (a horrible bitey bug), where to park and where to not, accessibility information and how to be more inclusive at the crag, plus a whole lot more. If you were ever unsure about anything outdoor climbing related, the writers have got you covered, and the result is feeling welcomed and comforted in your endeavours to climb in the Scottish Lowland Outcrops. Thus, making the guidebook accessible to climbers of all backgrounds and experience levels.
Each crag section contains some background information about the crag, directions, information on getting there by public transport and detailed approach notes. Notably, public transport information is not something I’ve seen acknowledged very well in previous guidebooks and the inclusion of public transport information opens outdoor climbing to so many more people. Historic guidebooks have not always included accurate approach information. From an accessibility point of view, getting an understanding of the terrain and approach qualities is essential.
For example, the approach notes for Pillar Crag mention “… cut off left on a bike track up the hill and avoid descending bikers!” For Cambusbarron Thornton’s Quarry, “walk straight ahead into the main amphitheater on a muddy path and some uneven ground.” Finally, for The Hawkcraig, the reader is told “there is a polished but moderate descent on the last clean section of rock before the ivy reaches up from the lawn…” Details such as these may seem small but they make a big difference when trying to ‘suss out’ the suitability of an approach. There’s also a dedicated Accessible Climbing Venues spread (p. 28) which, amongst other information, includes the approach distance, path surface and obstacles. These crags have been specially selected for those with supported mobility needs and for use by paraclimbing groups.
Visually, there are detailed maps for reaching crags and photographs clearly showing routes. Throughout, symbols are included to give information about hazards, climbing type, approach information, crag features and more. Symbols help to save on printing space but avoid scrimping on detail. I also have to mention the beautiful cover artwork of Dunbarton Rock by Christopher Smith-Duque.
Lowland Outcrops contains much greater diversity and representation throughout than previous guidebooks. For most crags, you can find a range of grades, with higher grades not being given disproportionately high attention. There is diversity in the images, with fantastic photography featured throughout by people such as Roxanna Berry, Fraser Harle, Elisah Tateno, Lia Guest, Ali Gray and more. Additionally, there are diverse climbers profiled across the sections of th ebook, including climbing instructors, writers, photographers and filmmakers. These profiles show that there is no one 'type' of climber, and everyone is welcome. The range of crags listed is impressive, from the coast to inner city, even some iconic bridge crack climbs are featured. The writers actively seek to showcase the diversity of climbing in the Lowland Outcrops.
Congratulations to Topher Dagg, the creators, writers, editors and team who worked on the new Lowland Outcrops. Let’s hope to see more new guidebooks following your lead in the coming years.
By Emily Ankers (she/her)
Co-Founder and Editor of Beta Magazine