Top positive review
14 people found this helpful
An Excellent Book
on 7 September 2010
This is a wonderful book. I read it in one long sitting- a sleepless night, actually.
John Allen is a vastly experienced mountain rescuer, having been a member of the Cairngorm MRT for many years and latterly serving as its Leader. The book relates many accounts of rescues in the high Cairngorm and alongside them tells the tale of a developing team and its members.
Here I must admit a personal interest; I have a background in MR [not in Scotland] and may well be disposed to find enthralling many things written on the subject. There is actually quite a literature touching on MR in the UK- from Gwen Moffat and Hamish McInnes to Bob Maslen Jones and the somewhat less estimable work by John White. What Allen brings to the literature is a sense of the work of an MRT in the round- not only the high-profile rescues and searches, but the mundane fundraising and administration that necessarily accompany a proudly voluntary and unpaid organisation.
We learn much of the author's life outside MR and something of his upbringing in Glasgow. He clearly draws out the links between his professional life as a pharmacist and businessman and the ways he used protocols and procedures in the work of his Team. I admit to being a little amused by his emphasis on discipline within the Team: many people would say that trying to organise mountaineers, that most independent group of individuals, is like herding cats and I have respect for anyone who feels that discipline can be imposed on them.
So, you get a book full of adventures, some with happy endings but all too many involving loss of life and serious injury. You get a feel for how a busy Highland Team is run and how it works on the hill. But I think you also get a powerful sense of the man himself, his motivations, his triumphs and a few regrets. For all of these reasons I commend this book most highly- to lovers of the Highlands [and of mountains in general], to those with little or no knowledge of MR and to those with a background in it. Buy the book, enjoy it and remember some of its lessons.
On the negative side, I have only a couple of points. Firstly, the book has the feel of something written with assistance from a ghost writer; passages have quite different characteristics and phrasing which sometimes jars a little. Allied to that is some lousy copy-editing: Cumbrians will be interested to note that one of our villages is called Pattadale, for example.
But the final point is one of phrasing and philosophy. John Allen makes frequent reference to the amateur status of MRTs in the UK, albeit with professional standards at all times. Many would prefer to escape the amateur/professional dichotomy altogether and refer to MR as an unpaid professional service. But maybe that's for debate elsewhere.
A great read. I hope you enjoy it as much as did I.