Shortly after I graduated high school back in 1999, I drove from my Wyoming hometown to Oregon. Along the way, I stayed with my cousin, who at the time was living with his partner and daughter in a caretaker’s apartment in an abandoned brewery. It was an awesome, brick building, with a massive open area that my cousin and others used for an art space. I have good memories of that trip.

As an impromptu graduation gift, my cousin gave me a third-edition copy of Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, and I’ve had it on the bookshelf ever since.

Mountaineering Freedom of the Hills book, with aqua and cream colored cover with mountaineers ascending a snow-covered peak

Now in its ninth edition (it had already seen a sixth edition by 1999), it is considered the classic text for mountaineers and climbers all over the world. More than that, portions of the book are often cited for general outdoor safety and preparedness, including the “ten essentials” adopted by the National Park Service.

But do you even mountaineer, bro?

I…do not, bro. Well, not anymore, or at least, not recreationally. I used to rock and ice climb in Wyoming and Montana, along with extensive high altitude trekking, but I don’t have much interest in “conquering mountains”. That said, many (if not all) of the techniques in this book are relevant for, if not adopted by, search and rescue teams, and consequently indispensable. And, as mentioned, much of the book is relevant and useful for any outdoor pursuit.

Page of book showing how to tie a prusik knot, which is a girth hitch repeated three times

Prusik knot, used extensively in search and rescue

Search and rescue volunteers training in rope rescue, with members wearing orange shirts and helmets holding ropes extending over a creek

My SAR team's rope rescue training in July, 2022

I’ve even used a rope-only rappel technique from the book when my dog (Sam) was swept down a creek during a flood and needed to be rescued (back in 2010). I wrapped a rope around a tree and descended a cliff into rushing water to retrieve my beloved retriever.

Page of book showing a cartoon mountaineer in a helmet in three illustrations, the first where he wraps a rope that is itself wrapped around a boulder under his right leg, then wraps the rope around his torso and over his left shoulder, then descending with his left hand on the top of the rope, and his right hand braking n the downhill side of the rope

The Dülfersitz rappel

Which reminds me; the cartoonish illustrations in this book are wonderful. They’re admittedly goofy at times, but they lend the early editions of the book a vintage, playful, and endearing quality, and the book just wouldn’t be the same without them.

It’s easy to find one of the many editions of this classic book, but if you happen to find one of the earlier editions, you should pick it up. Its charm and lasting relevance won’t disappoint.