Friday, August 12, 2011

words of wisdom from the elders

The quest of the mountaineer, in simplest terms, is for the freedom of the hills, to be fully at home in the high wilderness with no barriers he cannot pass, no dangers he cannot avoid.  A fine, fair country it is to call home, but the life is not always calm and easy; even the wisest and most skillful citizen suffers rough and dirty times, violent and miserable.
   This is the first paragraph of the first edition of The Freedom of the Hills, published in 1960.  I was lucky enough to come across a copy in the Sierra Club cabin at horse camp on Mt. Shasta.  It was tons of fun thumbing through a piece of mountaineering history, and often chuckling at the old-fashioned techniques which were cutting edge back in the 60s.  But the poetry of the first paragraph struck me so much that I copied it into my notebook and am sharing it here.
   Now in its 8th edition, Freedom of the Hills has been the standard mountaineering reference since its initial publication.  Lots has changed since the first publication and the 7th edition on my bookshelf that I've read through so many times.  I'm sure a bit more in the new, 8th edition.  It was a total blast reading the chapters about cutting steps (in case it's too steep for crampons!  high end climbers now scale vertical ice and overhanging rock in crampons . . . ), using mineral oil as sunscreen, and choosing the appropriate wood for an alpenstock shaft.  Also in the Sierra Club hut library are original versions of 50 Classic Climbs of North America and many other awesome, historic books.  Definitely worth checking out if you're in northern California!

Cover of the 1st ed.  Image courtesy of
   I found the following link while searching for the cover image above, lots of old books worth reading. Mountaineering history is so cool!

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