• Jeannette McGill

From my bookshelf: Mountaineering 101

Updated: Aug 29

In all honesty the best way to learn about, and improve in mountaineering is to be right there in the outdoors experiencing the various terrains first hand. Immersing yourself in a variety of environments, in different conditions, will always be important.


But.... that said, many people ask me what resources are out there to assist in the skills journey. A good mountain mentor will be able to steer you towards the specific resources appropriate for your goals. Here are some of my recommended options:



The technical "bible" is Mountaineering - Freedom of the Hills. Now in it's 9th Edition, having first being printed in 1960. What began as climbing course notes has developed into a weighty textbook covering all facets of mountaineering. This book is where everyone should begin.


That said, back in the day such material was not readily available in South Africa, so as my skills grew and I began leading, The South African Mountain Leadership Guide became my trusted companion as I gained experience across the Eastern Cape and Drakensburg.


While adequate skills is one component to outdoor proficiency, the science behind adequate training has also matured. Previously the sole domain of sports teams intentional fitness coaching and training regimes has now become crucial for mountain success. Consistency and training accumulation are just some of the modern keys unlocked in Training for the New Alpinism.


These books and guides aren't practical away from home. A variety of skills specific pocket sized handbooks exist. A Climbers Guide provided by Adventure Consultants on their New Zealand training courses is one example loaded with climbing tricks and tips from experts like Guy Cotter. Avalanche Essentials is a handy reminder as to the evaluation system for snow loaded slopes. Symptoms of altitude illness can impact anyone and in a variety of ways, so Altitude Illness: Prevention and Treatment often joins me on an international flight where I can reread and refresh the salient information before embarking on an expedition. One pocket guide that goes with me all the way to base camp is First Aid and Wilderness Medicine. This excellent pocket guide is a valuable addition to any first aid kit.


Finally, plenty can be understood using other expeditions as inspiration. The American Alpine Club and the Alpine Club (UK) are a treasure trove (their Covid global friendly material is on YouTube), as are the periodicals of South Africa The Journal of the Mountain Club of South Africa; and the New Zealand Alpine Journal.


With the pivot to streaming and online discussion Facebook is awash with groups and gathering from across the globe that will also add to you information and skills improvement pathway. Enter your search terms into YouTube or Facebook and enjoy!


BTW: This blog is an affiliate of Booktopia. When you click on some book titles you will be directed to a website where you can purchase the pictured item. Should you choose to purchase the item I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. All my opinions and suggestions are unbiased & based on my own extensive experience.


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