The Great Outdoors (UK)

The Vanishing Ice

- by Iain Cameron Published by Vertebrate £20 (hardback)

FOR YEARS, Iain Cameron has been recording snow patches in the Scottish hills that last into summer and sometimes right through the year. From noting patches for his own interest he has become an expert researcher, writing regular reports for the Royal Meteorolog­ical Society and co-ordinating other snow researcher­s.

The Vanishing Ice is an extraordin­ary book about an extraordin­ary subject. Why would someone take a tape measure on a risky walk into remote mountains to measure a shrinking patch of old snow? This book gives the answer, and will I’m sure inspire many others to join the author’s band of snow patch aficionado­s, of which I confess I am one – though without his dedication or expertise.

A book on snow patches might appear to have a narrow focus, but not so –it is wide-ranging and full of interest. The story of how Cameron became intrigued by snow patches and how he began to record them is fascinatin­g. Laced throughout the volume are many exciting and often hazardous adventures in the hills visiting snow remnants located high in hard-to-reach gullies and lying on steep, icy slabs. It is not easy work but it does take the author into spectacula­r, rarely visited places and his love of these shines through.

Inevitably in a book on snow, climate change rears its head and Cameron covers the decline in the survival of snow patches, showing how the data demonstrat­es this clearly. This is a sad, reflective section. Overall, though, the book’s tone is life-affirming and positive. He is someone doing what he loves in the mountains and making a contributi­on to knowledge as he does so. This particular­ly comes out in the chapters on the areas where snow lies late, in Scotland and south of the border. From Aonach Mor to a cave in the Peak District (yes, really!) the author takes us on a grand tour of snow patches, with much geographic­al informatio­n and historical research thrown in.

The book features excellent photograph­s showing snow patches and the remote, awkwardto-reach places many are found. Especially dramatic and beautiful are those of snow tunnels.

The Vanishing Ice is an outstandin­g book that I really enjoyed. It’s highly recommende­d for anyone interested in the hills and in snow.

Chris Townsend

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