This huge gloriously presented book is based on first hand experience plus detailed research into all aspects of Britain's highest mountain. It was in 1986 that the First Edition of `Ben Nevis' was received with great acclaim; authored by Ken Crocket, a leading pioneering climber who is joined as co-author of this 2009 Second Edition by Simon Richardson, current guidebook writer and eminent activist on modern extreme routes. It is unlikely there are another couple of climbers, on both rock and ice, to match their intimate and expert knowledge of Ben Nevis. As well as repeating previous `Foreword' and `Introduction' there are new contributions from renowned climbers Jimmy Marshall and Ian Parnell, and a glimpse at `Acknowledgements' demonstrates the wide scope and high quality of sources underpinning `Ben Nevis' as the ultimate definitive statement on what in global terms may be of diminutive stature but in climbing circles is a mountain magnet exerting powerful influence. The new edition is upgraded to take advantage of latest technology with obvious enhancements being increased number of magnificent photographs and welcome introduction of colour, but also larger size, use of margins, and easily read font. Early sections are similar to the First Edition but some text has been updated with more personal remarks, and metric measurements have replaced imperial other than apologising to traditionalists requiring the height of Ben Nevis to be expressed in feet. References are easier to use, being now included with each section rather than all together at the end.
Updates of original sections start with `Early Travellers 1585-1865' as commentary on origin of name, quotations from historical sources, details of first visits and summit successes, and the growth of tourism, ending with a warning that by the middle of the 19th century "the day of the climber was fast approaching". This is confirmed in the next section `The First Climbers 1866-1896' introducing pioneers like William Naismith, and recording the formation of The Scottish Mountaineering Club with reference to numerous "experienced alpinists". Not least was Norman Collie who joined the SMC in 1891 and whose name with others read like a roll of honour, including first reference to Harold Raeburn who commenced his illustrious contribution at the SMC Easter meet in 1896. Sandwiched between this and the section `Raeburn and Company 1896-1926' is `The Observatory 1883-1904' giving details of the observatory together with long gone summit hotel, which profit over the First Edition from colour diagrams. Following sections are self-explanatory and restate the First Edition but updates on issues like the CIC hut and climbing grades. A similar approach is taken for sections `A New Hut, New Clubs 1924-1933', `The 1930s', `Constellations 1940-1949', `Renaissance 1950-1958', and `The Pinnacle 1959-1960'. Again a non-mountaineering section is fitted in as `Of Whisky & Other Matters' with the latest on whisky including Japanese input, extended lists and records for the Ben Nevis Foot Race, and in addition to noting previous car ascents there are bedstead, piano and other bizarre ascents. There is extended explanation on the aluminium works and an interesting new note on conservation and land management. Two further sections return to documentation of climbing achievements as `Consolidation 1961-1969' and `Revolutions 1970-1985' where the pace and standard of climbing increases relentlessly.
At this point where the First Edition left off, the Second Edition introduces 7 more sections, all making gripping reading of awesome feats by leading climbers, but in entertaining style encompassing individuals' observations. `Hard Route Consolidation 1986-1995' catalogues the breaking down of psychological barriers and development of "thin ice" face routes with such winter ascents as Centurion at VIII,8, and the impetus prompted by visiting foreign climbers as well as the likes of co-author Simon Richardson. `Mixed Revolution 1996-2000' commences with description of a lean season that spurred climbers towards mixed climbing, with due recognition to Pinnacle Buttress. `Summer Rock 1986-2007' notes how rock-climbing progress slowed but acknowledges how trained athletes with new styles, use of chalk, and improved protection pushed forward, and it reflects on Dave MacLeod's Anubis at E8,6c. `The End of an Era 2001-2002' tells of two brilliant weather seasons and the advantage taken by brilliant climbers, and `Mixed to the Future 2003-2006' goes further to take in Macleod's The Italian Job at VIII,9 though there are many other adventures at lower grades including a girdle of some 4,000m of cliff at V,4. `The New generation 2007' deals with transference to Ben Nevis of techniques and equipment from other areas of the world, and it refers to the finish of the BMC 2007 International Winter Meet as "probably the most active day ... ever to take place on Ben Nevis". `Full Confidence 2007-2008' starts with an on-sight ascent of much sought after The Secret VIII,9, and ends with Don't Die of Ignorance at XI,11, but a gratifying feature is repeats of the hardest routes by increasing numbers of climbers. The record draws to a close with a forecast that "without doubt the mountain will continue to inspire those that venture onto its flanks for many years to come".
At the end the previous `Glossary' is omitted but the `General Index' and `People Index' have been brought up to date. The section `Gaelic Place Names' is as the First Edition but `Geology' has been re-written by Noel Williams and is more technical. Graham Little updates his original contribution of `Mapping' with reference to latest maps including Harvey 1:40,000 map with summit insert 1:15,000. A completely revised `Natural History' is now in glorious colour and has been extended to include insects, but commentary on amphibians must wait for a Third Edition. It would have been nice if the First Edition rear end-paper diagram of The Ben could have been retained, but one wonders, if there is any update in future, what improvements there can possibly be to such a perfect book.