The subtitle preposition is slightly misleading and so, perhaps, is the use of 'view', for this is a view from the mountains, and from the viewpoint of a climber rather than someone who admires through binoculars from a convenient lay-by or simply buys a Colin Prior enlargement for the lounge wall.

The difference, which is all the difference in the whole high world, is that someone who admires a view may well appreciate its beauty, its grandeur and, on a more philosophical day, its sublimity, but only someone who climbs can understand that the high hills and even the not-so-high are suffused with fear and dread.

It's widely understood that before the Romantic era began to turn into the Early Modern, the standard view of high mountains was that they were regrettable left-overs from the Creation, burrs, shards and waste-heaps pushed aside from the more sylvan and bucolic regions. Poets closed the blinds on their coaches, or flinched and looked away. That changed, or rather flip-flopped into a view of the mountains as close to God and climbing them as representative of man's soaring ambition, but those are still armchair and study-desk views. For climbers, the fear is an unshakeable aspect of the experience.

Ingram doesn't lean too heavily on poets for his insights. The two Normans, MacCaig and Nicolson, are the main recent sources, with Coleridge, Wordsworth and Keats cited in appropriate but sometimes surprising places. He doesn't take a painterly view, either, and yet a key moment in his book is an encounter with Julian Cooper, a third-generation painter of the Lake District encountered in a chapter headed 'Art' and concerned with Loughrig Fell, who has exchanged his grandfather Alfred Heaton Cooper's pioneering open-air impressionism and his father William Heaton Cooper's vivid mass production of mountain imagery for canvases that don't deliver 'views' but close-ups of the stuff of hills, their grain and texture of threat.

Though 'Terror' is reserved for the penultimate chapter on Scotland's second highest mountain, Ben Macdui, it is the guiding principle of the book. Macdui is the source of an astonishing array of haunting legends, from sightings of the Fear Liath Mòr or 'Big Grey Man', to sinister crunching in the snow behind you (steps in time with your own, but only half the number!) to Gaelic voices in the ground. Mountain panic is a whole branch of psychology on its own, an uneasy mixture of rational risk-calculation, physical exhaustion and existential dread. Sometimes, it's a purely physical thing.

The only moment in my own climbing life when I came close to being 'cragfast', unable to go forward or back, up or - gulp - down was on Crib Goch (subject of the 'Danger' chapter), a knife-edge arête in Snowdonia which in 1960 claimed the lives of three young men and prompted a long and fascinating media debate about what constituted acceptable risk and minimum safeguarding. Our hills are small, mere bumps by world standards, but their kill-rate is astonishing. Cold alone presents problems, but cold and wet is a deadlier combination, and in our infolded landscape there are a thousand places where anomalous air, like the savage 'Helm Wind' on Cross Fell in the Pennines, makes the going perilous to fatal.

Ingram's interpretation of derring-do extends beyond climbing, though. He recounts the astonishing 19th-century experiment conducted on the conveniently cone-shaped Schiehallion to "weigh the world" (determine its mass) and he finds mining archaeology startlingly high in the Welsh hills. Inevitably, though, most of his examples come from north of the border. In addition those above, he visits the overlooked Beinn Dearg, Ben Loyal, the strange fallen-giant conclave of the Assynt Hills in the north west who seem to watch you as you drive admiring by, Askival on Rhum and, inevitably, our highest mountain, short of leg by Alpine or Himalayan standards but huge in bulk and perpetually threatening.

The offered derivations of Ben Nevis include 'bitterness', 'dread' ('umhais'), 'evil', 'no beauty' ('ni-mhaise'), 'terrible' and, to be fair, 'heaven'. It's a place that annually despatches experienced climbers and affords dramatic rescues to lagery boys in trainers and football shirts with ALBERTZ or LARSSON on the back (ie boys old enough to know better). It was for a time the site of a hellish observatory designed to catch our weather at its fiercest; rock band Cream went up to have a photo taken for the inside cover of Disraeli Gears.

Ingram and his climbing friend Jim plan to climb it in the worst possible weather. The title of the final chapter is not surprisingly 'Summit'. The ironic pay-off is that they don't make it to the top, but exercise the better part of valour and call it a day just as the curve is flattening towards the top. This is key: for all the clichés about why we climb mountains, whether they are attributed to George Mallory or Sir Edmund Hillary, the point is not to get to the top but to do what Mallory failed to do, and get back down again.