Cicerone – The Swiss Alps [book]

This is a review by Dave Beattie.

Front Cover

Published as part of Cicerone’s World Mountain Ranges series, this lavishly illustrated new resource from the prolific Kev Reynolds is intended to be ‘the essential guide for all active visitors to one of Europe’s most mountainous and beautiful countries’. Covering the 7 main regions in the Swiss Alps, and including 48 chapter sections devoted to individual valleys with their mountains, the author gives detailed recommendations for walks and multi-day tours, climbs, via ferrata/Klettersteig routes, ski tours, summits for all, and routes of special appeal.

In his Introduction Kev states up front that he has not set out here to give step-by-step route directions. His avowed intention is rather ‘to inspire, to entertain and to inform’, with the emphasis very much on activity. Almost 50 pages of preliminaries deal with practicalities (travel, climate, accommodation, maps, guidebooks), and mountain activities (safety, flora and fauna, environmental ethics). The main chapters on each of the 7 Swiss Alpine regions conclude with a specific 1- or 2-page summary, distilling the low-down on access, bases, maps, huts/bivouacs and walking/climbing guides.

It would be virtually impossible for any reviewer to rival Kev Reynolds’ in-depth and encyclopaedic knowledge of the Swiss Alps, and so I took the honest decision to base this assessment on the author’s account of two areas (the Lauterbrunnen Valley and Grindelwald/Lütschental) that I know intimately, having walked and climbed there annually for almost 15 years.

I was unable to fault those sections: the information presented there is unfailingly accurate and up-to-date.  Tellingly for me, the photograph of the Rottal Hut (2755m), tucked in its amphitheatre of surrounding peaks, has re-kindled memories of 2011 and has already got me poring over my maps and planning a new high-level excursion to the Silberhorn Hut.  And for me that is the essence of this book.  Weighing in at a hefty 464 pages, it is probably not going to be the one I carry in my rucksack on a daily basis, even when I’m in Switzerland. However, it will certainly prompt me to savour the finer details of these mountain routes by drilling down further into my collection of maps and guide books – many also written by the indefatigable Mr. Reynolds!

I have no reason to doubt that the other sections in the book are equally reliable and informative.  In fact – had I but world enough and time – there is a grave danger that I might be spurred on in my declining years to broaden my first-hand experience of other regions in the Swiss Alps.

Summary: This highly recommended book is a labour of love that has been six years in the writing.  The Swiss Alps will be enthusiastically welcomed by the relative novice and by the experienced walker/trekker/climber.  Cicerone is to be congratulated on its exceptionally high production standards: the text is clearly laid out, the maps are well drawn, and the photographs are achingly beautiful.  As you would expect from a book published in 2012, website contact details are provided for everything from airlines to mountain huts.  And finally, for those ‘armchair’ times when circumstances prevent us from actually being there, some compensation is to be found in the extensive guide book list and the selective bibliography.  Silberhorn Hut here I come!

 Price: £25
 More:  Cicerone    ISBN: 978-1-85284-465-3