Valais Alps West ; Selected Climbs

Review by Review
Friday 1st January 1999
This is a long awaited and much needed guidebook. Valais Alps West published by the Alpine Club is the sixth in the new series covering the major Alpine areas. For my money this is the best yet.

This volume and another yet to be produced volume for Valais Alps East will replace the now out of date trilogy of Pennine Alps West, Central and East that were published between 1975 and 1979. The new duo will cover many important Alpine peaks and together will contain the greatest plexus of 4,000ers in Europe although the bulk will be in Valais Alps East.

Valais Alps West comprises a selection of the finest routes on peaks contained between the Rhone and Aosta valleys in the chain east of the Col du Grand St Bernard and extending as far as the Zinal Valley then south through the Col Durand to the Theodulpass. A careful dissection that fortunately includes the Matterhorn.

This volume is no Alpine lightweight. Instead it is an action packed, plastic-covered book-of-ambition with 448 pages of text and more than 100 pages of high quality photographs. The result, a mammoth task well-executed by editor Lindsay Griffin and the Alpine Club’s General Guidebook Editor, Les Swindin.

But what of the detail? Firstly the content is the best and most comprehensive route information that has ever been available to English only speaking climbers. The General Information pages are detailed, useful and accurate, although some of it (local transport and telephone numbers) will inevitably date during the life of this guide. What is unlikely to change much is the route information, although with conditions as they are, many of the classic ice routes need to be climbed early, if at all.

This is a more user friendly book than some of the recent guides produced by the Alpine Club. The numbering of routes and pictures is relatively straightforward and it helps to have the valley base included at the start of the route descriptions. It also includes, most usefully, details of multi-day walking tours and a little of the valley-based cragging although those in search of sport climbing crags should look elsewhere as few are mentioned or located.

What is apparent is that the Valais Alps West is a novice and middle grade climbers paradise. All the classics on the big ticks are in, but the real joy of this guidebook is that it points the way to some hidden gems on lesser tramped summits, for instance Pointe de Vouasson North Face (58d), the East Spur of the Point Jean Charey (69a) or the East Ridge of the Punta di Cian (165b).

This is a good guidebook that will give tiro and tiger plenty to go at. Even the ageing Alpinist well-acquainted with Arolla, Zermatt and Zinal will discover many hidden delights.

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