Mountaineering – The Freedom of the Hills 5th Edition  (notes)

These notes were taken in order of appearance.

Many of these points I already knew but thought pertinent to remind

I did not include much technical rock climbing information, as I don’t
believe I’m ready for that yet.


P. 29 – the 10 essentials

  1. Map

  2. Compass

  3. Flashlight / headlamp with spare bulbs and

  4. Extra food

  5. Extra clothing

  6. Sunglasses

  7. First aid supplies

  8. Pocket knife

  9. Matches, in a waterproof container

  10. Fire starter


P. 60-61


P.77 – Good navigators are never truly lost – but having learned
humility through years of experience, they always carry enough food, clothing,
and bivouac gear to get them through hours of even days of temporary confusion.

P. 83 – walk in a single file to protect trail-side vegetation

P. 85 – Screeing – shuffling
your feet to start a minor slide of pebbles and riding it down, in a standing

P. 86 – When crossing a large stream / river, cross at the widest part,
as it will be the shallowest.

P. 92 – Rope Care:

  • A rope used daily should be retired within a

  • A rope used during most weekends should give
    about 2 years of service

  • An occasionally used rope should be retired
    after 4 years

  • After one very severe fall it may be wise to
    replace your rope.  New ropes are often
    certified to take 5 falls, but if your rope is not new, consider all the
    factors affecting its condition. 


P. 96 -97

P. 107


P. 119


P. 124 – Mϋnter Hitch – the only
traditional belay method that provides sufficient friction regardless of the
angle between the ropes entering and leaving


P. 125-126 –The Hip Wrap – It’s
main advantage is the speed with which you can belay a follower who is moving
rapidly over easy ground.
  It can be set
up quickly and requires no hardware.


P. 135 – The three factors a belayer can control are

  • Strength of hand grip

  • Choice of belay method

  • The angle of the ropes


P. 139 – Proper and improper positioning of gates on double carabiners


P. 147 – To gain stability while rappelling, your legs must be nearly perpendicular
to the slope.


P. 149 – Potential Problems – Shirttails, hair, chinstraps from a hard
hat, and just about anything else that can get caught in the braking
Keep a knife handy in case you
have to cut foreign material out of the system.


P. 162-167

  • Mantel
    Down-pressure technique.  Place both
    hands flat on a ledge at about chest height, palms down, with the fingers of
    each hand pointing toward the other hand. 
    Then raise your body up on stiffened arms. 

  • Counterforce
    – is the use of pressure in opposing directions to help keep you in

  • Stemming
    A counterforce technique that lets you support yourself between two spots on
    the rock that may be of little or no use alone. 

  • Undercling
    – The hands, palms up, push up beneath the lip of the rock while the body leans
    out and the feet push against the rock.

  • Lieback
    – Another form of counterforce, uses hands pulling and feet pushing in
    opposition as the climber moves upward in shuffling movements. 


P. 174 – Dihedrals (inside
corners) may be climbed by pure stemming.


P. 187 – Ethics –

  • Preservation of the rock is paramount

  • It’s almost never justified to add a bolt to an
    existing route.  If you feel you can’t
    safely climb the route as it is, don’t try it.

  • Keep other climbers in mind while climbing, both
    in your group and of other groups


P. 213 – Determining the fall
: dividing the length of a fall by the length of rope run out from
  The higher the fall factor, the
greater the force.

  • Fall factor is lower when the length of rope run
    out from belay is relatively great because a long rope stretches more and
    absorbs more energy than a short length.


P. 227 – Hauling packs – You may decide to shed your pack sometime
because you can’t fit inside a chimney with it or because the weight would make
a pitch too difficult. 
Then you’ll have
to haul the pack up after you.

  • Trail a rope behind you as you climb, tied to the
    pack down below.


P. 259 – All ropes should be different colors


P. 286 – Self Arrest

  • The hands hold the axe in a solid grip, one hand
    in the self-arrest grasp with thumb under the adze and fingers over the pick,
    the other hand on the shaft just above the spike

  • The pick is pressed into the snow just above
    your shoulder so that the adze is near the angle formed by neck and shoulder.

  • The Shaft crosses your chest diagonally and is
    held close to the opposite hip.  Gripping
    the shaft near the end prevents that hand from acting as a pivot around which
    the spike can swing to jab the thigh.

  • The chest and shoulder are pressed strongly down
    on the ice-axe shaft

  • The spine is arched slightly away from the
    snow.  This arch is crucial:  it places the bulk of your weight on the axe
    head and on your toes or knees, the points that dig into the sow to force a stop.  Pull up on the end of the shaft, which starts
    the arch and rolls weight toward the shoulder by the axe head.

  • The knees are against the surface, helping slow
    the fall in soft snow.  On harder
    surfaces, where they have little stopping power, they help stabilize your body

  • The left are stiff and spread apart, toes digging
    in, but if you have crampons on keep them above the snow until you’ve nearly
    come to a halt.  A crampon point could
    catch on hard snow or ice and flip you over backward.


P. 301 – Couloirs – Safe passage
through a couloir
is usually depends on time of day.  They can be safe in early morning when the
snow is solid and rocks and ice are frozen in place.
  It’s often a different story later in the day,
when they can turn deadly.
  Gullies are
the garbage chutes of mountains and with the arrival of the sun they begin to
carry down such rubbish as well as avalanching snow, rocks loosened y
frost0wedgin, and ice blocks weakened by melting.
  Most of the debris comes down the
  But even if you keep to the
sides, listen for suspicious sounds from above and keep an eye out for quiet
slides and silent falling rock.


P. 303 –


P. 306 – Four out of five avalanches strike during or just after a storm. 


P. 312 – Traversing snowy slopes
– After you’ve checked your avalanche beacon, put o mittens and warm
  Get set to jettison your gear
so it can’t drag you down in the event of an avalanche.
the shoulder straps and undo the waist and chest bands on your pack.

When the route lies up a slope, head straight up the fall line instead
of switchbacking (which undercuts the snow). 
Only one person moves at a time, and everyone else watches from safe
places, ready to should if a slide starts.
If the climber is on belay, don’t tie the rope directly to the belayer,
who would risk being pulled in if it proves impossible to stop a climber hit by
a wet, heavy avalanche.


Avalanche Rescue:  The rescue effort starts even before the
avalanche has stopped.

  • Someone must pay attention to where a victim is
    first caught, where the person disappears beneath the snow, and where the point
    of disappearance on the moving surface of the avalanche finally stops, and be
    able to relate these three points to fixed objects, such as trees or
    rocks.  With this information, the search
    area is immediately reduced in size. 

  • Then mark these three points and search. DO NOT
    GO FOR HELP.  This is a critical
    principle of avalanche rescue.  The
    chance of a person surviving depends on everyone staying put, searching efficiently,
    and digging the victim from the snow.  You
    can go for help after all search efforts prove to be futile.

  • Select a search leader so the operation will be
    thorough and methodical.  Approach the
    scene carefully, posting an avalanche lookout in case of another slide.  Start with a quick scruff search of the snow
    surface, looking for someone partially buried, castoff equipment, or any
    logical spot the victim might have come to a stop against a tree or rock. 

  • The next step is a thorough search with avalanche
    beacons, or snow probes.

  • A probe is anything you can use to pole into the
    snow in hopes of finding the victims’ body. 
    Set up a probe line, probing at every step. 


P. 323 – Crevasse Rescue –When
the climber in front of you suddenly disappears beneath the snow,
 Do not stop and think.  Your immediate reflex must be to drop into
self-arrest (facing away from the direction of the pull)in the snow and hold
the fall.


P. 397 – Expedition Philosophy
– Members of an expedition need a common code to live by during the weeks they
struggle together.
  A good one is summed
up in three promises you and your teammates make:

  • To respect the land

  • To take care of yourselves

  • To come home again


P. 403 – Leadership
Leadership starts with each individual.

  • Individual leadership means being aware of the
    group and its progress, whether or not you’re the formal climb leader. 

  • The complexities of leadership grow as a party
    size and trip length increase. 

  • The leader cannot do everything, nor is that desirable.

  • A leader is also a teacher.

  • Leaders prepare carefully to meet any major
    disaster that could befall their party. 


P. 427 –


P. 438 – Lightning facts:  Current flows because of a voltage difference
between two points along its path. A person bridging two such points with some
part of his or her body presents a second and probably better path for the

  • Avoid moist areas, including crevices and

  • Span a small distance (occupy as little area) as
    possible.  Keep the feet close together;
    keep the hands off the ground

  • Sit, crouch, or stand on insulating objects if
    possible – a coiled rope or sleeping bag, preferably dry.

  • Stay out of small depressions; choose instead a
    narrow slight rise.  A small detached
    rock on a scree slope is excellent.

  • Stay away from overhangs and out of small
    caves.  Large caves are very good if one
    keeps clear of the walls and entrance. 
    However, a cave might well be the lower terminus of a drainage crevice,
    and should be avoided. 

  • When on a ledge, crouch at the outer edge, at
    least 4 feet from the rock wall if possible. 
    If there is danger of falling off in event of a shock, tie in crosswise
    to the prospective flow of current.  Make
    the tie short and avoid placing the rope under the armpits.

  • Rappelling when lightning is imminent should be
    avoided, but may be a valid calculated risk if it is the quickest way to escape
    a danger zone.  Dry synthetic rope
    presents the minimum hazard.

  • Contrary to popular belief, metal objects do not
    attract lightening as such.  However, in
    the immediate vicinity of a strike, metals in contact with one’s person may
    augment the hazard from induced currents. 
    Induced currents usually are quite small, but when added to ground
    currents may mean the difference between life and death.  Thus it is best to set aside all metals, but
    to keep them close by (don’t worry about an article buried in the pack).  A metal pack frame might well be positioned
    to provide a more attractive path for ground currents beside and past one’s
    body.  At distances greater than 100 feet
    from a possible strike there is no need to divest oneself of metal

Author: Laura M Clark

Laura has summited over 500 peaks above 13,000' solo, including being the first woman to solo summit all of the Colorado 14ers, as well as the centennials. After each hike, she writes trip reports for each one and publishes them on her blog, which is read by fans all over the world. Author of Wild Wanderer: Summiting Colorado’s 200 Highest Peaks, which is available to purchase on Amazon.

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