Rock climbing as a sport is on the rise the world over. More people are now
seeking adventure in the mountains and on cliff faces than ever before. What
was once an elitist, rich man's pursuit has now become merely another good
time to be had by the masses. But while these adrenaline sports can
definitely be a good time, there are very real risks associated with them, and
they can be very dangerous if you are not experienced and well versed in
mountian travel. While nothing can take the place of proper instruction and
guidance, a good reference manual is an invaluable tool for anyone wanting
to begin exploring the mountains.
Freedom of the Hills is the most
widely used text on mountaineering in North America. It gives detailed
descriptions of techniques, history, rescue, orienteering, equipment, safety,
and etiquette of all mountaineering activities. Rock climbing, ice climbing,
hiking, snow travel, crevasse rescue, navigation, first aid, and even geology
and weather are included within it's covers. It is an excellent book for
beginners; it's concise descriptions are designed to translate readily into
hands-on experience. Much of what I know about mountain travel has been
gleaned from this book. The techniques discussed are tried, tested, and true,
and new editions are always forthcoming, which keep up with the rapid
advances in mountaineering gear and technology.
It is also an excellent
reference manual for experienced mountaineers and guides, and my own
copy is dog-eared and split from the countless hours I have spent inside it's
pages. Many are the times I've came back from a close call in the mountains,
and referred to Freedom of the Hills, only to find that the mistake I had made
was all-too-common, clearly explained in it's proper place in the book.
There are also hundreds of clearly illustrated diagrams that explain
some of the more complex techniques involved in mountaineering. Placing
protection, for example, is an integral part of travel in the vertical world, as is
the proper use of a rope. Both are explained in great detail through
hundreds of excellent diagrams. While not a substitute for legitimate
instruction, it is an excellent aid, as techniques can be learned and practiced
indoors in safe situations before being attempted under the sometimes
stressful and dangerous conditions on the side of a mountain.
If you are going to own one book about mountaineering skills, it should
be this one. It is the mountaineer's bible.