Top Ten Climbing Instruction Books

I recently saw a fellow guide post a picture of his climbing book library and thought it might be helpful to share some of my favorite books in my own personal collection. Early on in my climbing career I simply could not read enough about climbing. Not only did I read every book I could find on the subject I also read the two popular climbing magazines of the day religiously. Here’s a quick run-down of my top 10 climbing books.

Top Ten Climbing Instruction Books


Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills 8th Edition

Climbing Books
Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills 8th Edition

One of the first two books I purchased when I started climbing in 1994. Since then it has been updated 5 times and is currently in its 8th Edition. This book is often referred to as “the Bible of climbing” and while it is not the only book you’ll ever want it is encyclopedic in nature. The scope of the book is massive and it’s an excellent resource to start building your basic skills. This one belongs in every climber’s collection!


How to Rock Climb!

How to Rock Climb!
How to Rock Climb!

The second book that set me on a direct path to becoming a climber was this iconic piece by John Long, an author I would go on to read just about every book he ever published. John’s way of mixing humor with instruction made reading this book cover to cover multiple times really enjoyable.


Climbing Anchors

Climbing Anchors
Climbing Anchors

An essential skill that tends to mystify many new climbers is that of building quality anchors for climbing. This greatly illustrated book came in clutch during my formative years and helped lay a foundation for advanced understanding during further training and practice.


Advanced Rock Climbing: Expert Skills and Techniques

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The first book I am mentioning that is targeted to an intermediate to advanced audience. This book assumes you’ve been climbing for awhile and have the types of skills covered in the first three books pretty dialed. Great prose and inspirational photography in this one!


Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher

Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher
Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher

This was the first book that really started improving my efficiency in the mountains. While the first three books I’ve listed laid the foundation this work started me thinking more about optimizing systems and streamlining concepts to move farther and faster in the mountains.


Extreme Alpinism: Climbing Light, High, and Fast

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Another eye-opener that challenged a lot of conventional wisdom from previous works I still remember how this book really helped me update my clothing systems and speed up my transitions allowing to move more quickly and more comfortably in all types of winter conditions.


Climbing Self Rescue: Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations

Climbing Self Rescue: Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations
Climbing Self Rescue: Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations

Another essential skill that can seem over-whelming to learn, this book is one of the best on the topic I have read. Many of the systems described can be quite complicated and occasionally there is a newer and often simpler way to execute some of techniques described in this book so I’d strongly encourage newer climbers combine a day or three of qualified instruction from a certified guide to go along with this book.


Glacier Mountaineering: An Illustrated Guide To Glacier Travel And Crevasse Rescue

Glacier Mountaineering: An Illustrated Guide To Glacier Travel And Crevasse Rescue
Glacier Mountaineering: An Illustrated Guide To Glacier Travel And Crevasse Rescue

The authors take a complex topic then gracefully break it down with easy to follow explanations and light-hearted illustrations. A great primer before or after taking a glacier skills course.


Rock Climbing: The AMGA Single Pitch Manual

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For those contemplating getting into the guiding world this is a must have before you take your AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course. Studying this text before the course will really help you get the most out of the program and having it for reference after will help commit skills learned to long-term memory.


The Mountain Guide Manual: The Comprehensive Reference–From Belaying to Rope Systems and Self-Rescue

The Mountain Guide Manual: The Comprehensive Reference--From Belaying to Rope Systems and Self-Rescue
The Mountain Guide Manual: The Comprehensive Reference–From Belaying to Rope Systems and Self-Rescue

The newest and arguably the most relevant addition to my library, this book is absolutely a must-have for aspiring and current guides and instructors. The authors assume the reader already has a fair amount of understanding (likely gleamed from the above books, previous instruction, and experience) but any climber will find skills in this book that can improve their climbing even if guiding is not the end-goal.


Did I miss one that would be in your top-ten? Let me know in the comments below! You can also purchase any of these books on Amazon by clicking the book below!


Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills 8th Edition

How to Rock Climb!

Climbing Anchors

Advanced Rock Climbing: Expert Skills and Techniques

Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher

Extreme Alpinism: Climbing Light, High, and Fast

Climbing Self Rescue: Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations

Glacier Mountaineering: An Illustrated Guide To Glacier Travel And Crevasse Rescue

Rock Climbing: The AMGA Single Pitch Manual

The Mountain Guide Manual: The Comprehensive Reference–From Belaying to Rope Systems and Self-Rescue

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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Two Parties Rescued off Mount Washington

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of summiting Washington with 4 hardy climbers in very pleasant Spring weather while guiding for Northeast Mountaineering. This really is a cool time to climb Mount Washington as you start out in summer-like conditions but soon discover above treeline it is still winter. There is a lot of snow still up there and aspiring hikers should be aware that crampons and ice axe are still needed along with proper clothing.

We passed a group heading up the mountain while we were descending around 2 pm and they were crawling up the snowfields in sneakers with bare hands grasping at the snow while clad in sweatpants and flannel shirts. I considered chatting with them about their level of preparation for what lay ahead but allowed the “Tuckerman Spring Effect” to hold my tongue and we continued our descent. I regret not attempting the conversation. They ended up requiring some assistance to get off the mountain along with another party who needed a rescue off the auto road.

Make good choices folks! Three websites every White Mountain Hiker should be familiar with:

HikeSafe

Mount Washington Observatory Higher Summits Forecast

Mount Washington Avalanche Center

And if you’re new to above tree-line hiking consider hiring a guide for your first time. It is probably much cheaper than a rescue.

Anyways, our hike was great. Here’s a quick video of the trip and a photo gallery:

Next up I started my rock climbing season yesterday while guiding on Whitehorse and Cathedral Ledge, trip report tomorrow, along with a review of the Ortovox Tour Rider 30 Backpack I skied with for most of the winter. Thanks for reading!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: Affiliate links help support this blog.

AIARE 1 Avalanche Course and hello Spring!

The last weekend of winter provided one of the most spectacular 3 days of higher summits weather I have ever seen in March! Blue skis and almost non-existent wind led to some really enjoyable ski touring on Mount Washington during our second-to-last American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) course.

Day One

We kicked off the course on Friday with some lively classroom sessions and small group exercises.

AIARE Avalanche Course
Benny discusses identifying avalanche terrain on day 1.
AIARE Avalanche Course
Small groups learn vicariously while discussing a local case study

Day Two

We met early to learn some advanced trip planning skills using CalTopo.com and the Avenza App. The Higher Summits Forecast called for southeast winds around 10-15 mph so we planned a tour on the west side of Mount Washington.

AIARE Avalanche Course
Powerful trip planning software that is 100% free!
AIARE Avalanche Course
Adjusting layers while skinning up the Cog
AIARE Avalanche Course
Small pockets of 2-3 mm Surface Hoar were found on sheltered north aspects above Waumbek Tank but below tree line
AIARE Avalanche Course
Benny demonstrates some snow pit observations near Jacob’s Ladder
AIARE Avalanche Course
Some cool wind effect and cornices nearby
AIARE Avalanche Course
We contoured around the rim of Ammonoosuc Ravine until we could drop the main gully or “Center Ammo”.

We concluded our tour with a debrief at the trail-head before calling it a day.

Day Three

AIARE Avalanche Course
Student led trip-planning session at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
AIARE Avalanche Course
Skinning up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail
AIARE Avalanche Course
Hermit Lake Snow Study Plot
AIARE Avalanche Course
Skinning up between Lobster Claw Gully and Right Gully
AIARE Avalanche Course
Snow-pack Observations

Avalanche danger was LOW and we had plenty of time to spare so we booted up Lobster Claw and traversed over to the top of Right Gully.

AIARE Avalanche Course
Ready to boot up Lobster Claw
AIARE Avalanche Course
Bluebird!
AIARE Avalanche Course
Sherika after descending from pit location
AIARE Avalanche Course
300 pound block of ice came from somewhere

Some video of our descent:

AIARE Avalanche Course
All smiles after a good run!

We wrapped up the course back in the pack room with discussions about continuing to learn about traveling in the back-country. It was a real pleasure having each of you in this course. Thank you all for staying engaged and contributing through out our three days!

Tomorrow, and beyond!

Only one more avalanche course next weekend after a Mountain Skills Course tomorrow and Washington Climb on Thursday. It might seem like the winter season is winding down a little but we are set up for a fantastic Spring ski season! The warm rock climbing can wait this year… I still have a lot of skiing goals to accomplish including reviewing some new ski mountaineering gear from CAMP/Cassin, Ortovox, Petzl, and DPS. Expect a lot of gear reviews to be landing April/May after I get back from Iceland.

Yup, Iceland!  Been awhile since I’ve been out of country so I am SUPER amp’d about this upcoming trip.

Want to try backcountry skiing?

Maybe you just bought a setup or still need to rent a touring package (a few places in town rent touring gear). Maybe you’d like to avoid the maddening crowds in Tuckerman Ravine and check out some new to you terrain ? Consider learning about the joys of back-country skiing with me. The snow-pack we have in the alpine right now combined with more stable Spring weather is a GREAT time to book a back-country ski day!

You can read a bit about the program here but reach out to me directly at nealpinestart@gmail.com to check on available dates before trying to book!

Did you get out this weekend? Whatcha do? Let me know in the comments below!

Well thanks for reading, and welcome Spring!

See you in the mountains!

Repentance, Black Dike, Ice Fest, Avy Course!

What a week it has been! This time last Wednesday I was just topping out the classic hard line Repentance on Cathedral Ledge with my old friend Tom and new friend and fellow Northeast Mountaineering guide Jordan. The route was in excellent shape and felt a few degrees easier than when I first climbed it a few years ago with Bob & Ryan.

Thursday I got to guide NEM regular guest Nick up an equally fantastic Black Dike on Cannon Cliff. It had been years since I’d climbed this route and it was in great shape. We did have to wait for a party ahead of us but completed the climb in 6 hours car to car with some of the best glissading I have ever seen on the descent trail!

Friday we started our 4th avalanche course of the season and students and instructors alike partook in evening social hours upstairs at International Mountain Equipment and watched presentations at the Theatre in the Woods.

AIARE Avalanche Course
Skinning out in Crawford Notch during our Observational Outing during day 2 of our AIARE Avalanche Course

On Monday I started a 2 Day Ice Climbing Course and had the pleasure of introducing father & son team Andy and Peter to ice climbing at Cathedral Ledge and in Crawford Notch. The snow was fantastic and I geeked out a bit over some of the snappy wind slabs we found along our route.

Later that night I heard of a climbing accident on the Black Dike. A climber had fallen during the final moves and severely broke his ankle in the 50-60 foot fall. I spoke briefly with Nick last night and he is in good spirits and incredibly grateful for all of those who assisted him off the cliff.

That brings us to today, a chance for me to do some laundry, get to the dump, and attend to other household errands that have been put off for a bit too long. Another round of snow inbound for tonight so I’ll probably find myself skiing tomorrow before our next avalanche course starts on Friday.

What an absolutely fantastic winter we are having! Hope you are getting out there and enjoying it!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

This winter so far…

What a winter this is shaping up to be! Finding time to blog about any of it is starting to get tricky as I balance 5-6 days a week of guiding with getting my kiddo out on the slopes, driveway cleared, lunches made, dinner cooked, laundry done, say hello and good night to my wife, and wake up and do it all again.

I’m not complaining! This is absolutely my favorite time of the year and for good reason. Skiing and ice climbing conditions have been quite far above par. The transition to a new guide service has been almost seamless and the stoke level is at an all time high!

I’m keeping this post quite short as I have a little more prep to do for tomorrow’s 3rd avalanche class with Northeast Mountaineering but I want to share a couple of my favorite moments this season so far!

Ortovox, DPS Skis, and Revo Ambassadorship

Avalanche Course
Photo by Brent Doscher Photography

Definitely the coolest thing that has happened to me since fatherhood is having these companies support me. A huge shout out to Matt Murphy of Life Style Sales for connecting me with DPS skis, the makers of some seriously legit back-country sliding pro-tech, and Revo Sunglasses, high-end goggles and sunglasses I’ve been sporting for everything from whiteout flat light Tuckerman turns to blue-bird sunny day ice climbing. And finally I somehow ended up on Ortovox’s Athlete Team. I’ve been using their avalanche gear for years and now I have the opportunity to test and promote their incredible clothing and pack line. I am humbled and motivated by this opportunity. Expect to hear a lot more about what they are doing with high-end technical clothing when the dust (snow) settles.

Ice Climbing

ice climbing
Photo by Brent Doscher Photography

I haven’t kept hard numbers the last few years since fatherhood but I can say without a doubt I’ve climbed more ice in the last two months than I remember climbing the last few years, including the first Grade 5 in probably 5 years. I feel strong and look forward to ticking off some routes that have long been on my wish list this season.

Avalanche Courses

avalanche courses
Photo by Matt Baldelli Photography

I love being in the classroom as much as the field when it comes to avalanche education. It’s hard to describe how stoked I can get the minutes before another 3 day avalanche course starts. The excitement of getting ready to engage another group of back-country adventurers and start them on their journey of life-long snow-study and critical decision making produces a natural high to me. Or it could be the triple shot Americano. Either way I love teaching these courses.

Speaking of which I have case studies and agendas to print out for tomorrows course so that’s it for today. Stay tuned for a ton of gear reviews from Outdoor Research, Black Diamond, CAMP/Cassin, Patagonia, Ortovox, DPS, G3, and more.

Oh, and if you book an avalanche course, or any course with us at Northeast Mountaineering, use promo code “DavidNEM” for a chance to win a free guided day.

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

 

 

 

AIARE Avalanche Course 1-6-17 to 1-8-17

Here we go! While some providers have run a couple courses already we just completed our very first one of the season yesterday and it was epic! A new venue, classroom tech, on-site lodging, awesome students, and great snow all led to a fantastic 3 days!

Having a professional photographer along for our Ski Tour was also a nice bonus. Here’s a quick recap and some info on how Northeast Mountaineering is diving head first into the field of avalanche education!

First, our new classroom space!

Avalanche Course
Our cozy classroom

Our classroom sessions were held in “The Bunkhouse” living area in Bartlett, NH. This was extremely convenient for the students as 2 nights of lodging are included in the course tuition. All seven participants stayed in the bunkhouse which led to a pretty immersive course and some new friendships and touring partners.

Another big classroom change is the use of iPads pre-loaded with the AIARE Student Manual. The “Notability” app allows custom note-taking and the ability to email yourself the manual with notes throughout the course. I’ll be adding some CalTopo style mapping options on them to help with our trip planning sessions. For those who prefer a paper copy of the manual we do have them for sale with a portion of the proceeds going to non-profit conservation groups! Hats off to NEM co-owner Brett Fitzgerald for spearheading this unique initiative!

After two days of mixing up classroom and field exercises we headed up into Tuckerman Ravine for a ski tour designed to re-enforce the knowledge and skills we had gained the days prior.

Avalanche Course
Trail-head Beacon Function Check
Avalanche Course
A student sees something in the ravine
Avalanche Course
After the steeper section of the ravine approach
Avalanche Course
Skinning up towards Right Gully
Avalanche Course
Following the skin-track and learning how to kick turn
Avalanche Course
Investigating the melt-freeze crusts and faceted layers 30-40cm down
Avalanche Course
CTE Q2 SC (easy to collapse) but ECTN7 (not so easy to propagate)
Avalanche Course
A student checks out some of the facets that have been forming from our prolonged cold temps and high gradients
Avalanche Course
Getting ready to drop from our pit location on my new DPS Wailer 112PRC skis!

A bit of GoPro footage from the day

Avalanche Course
And a fun run down the Sherburne ski trail
Avalanche Course
Group shot after our course debrief at the Bunkhouse

A huge thank you to the first seven students of my 2017 avalanche course season! Each one of you brought something to the course with your engaging questions, camaraderie, early morning shenanigans, and cold weather endurance.

Our next course starts Friday but is sold out. We have a few more spots left in our Jan 20th course. We are also working hard at bringing on another course instructor so we may be able to open more seats soon. If you want to get into a course this season with me check the dates here:

http://www.nemountaineering.com/courses/avalanche/

Use promo code “DavidNEM” when you reserve for a chance to win a free guided day.

See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review

This Spring & Summer I climbed almost exclusively in the Petzl Hirundos and would like to share my opinion on this well received harness by Petzl. The Hirundos is a solid option for any climber looking to shed a couple ounces and gain a bit of comfort. Let’s have a look.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
Stock photo from Petzl.com
Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
Exploring Middle Sugarloaf whilst wearing the Petzl Hirundos harness- May 2016

WEIGHT/PACK-ABILITY:

I prefer lightweight weight harnesses that pack up small. My home scale weighs my size XL Hirundos in at just over 11 ounces.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
11 1/4 ounces

This is a full pound lighter than my Petzl Corax that I used last winter and if there is a slight loss of comfort in the design I have not noticed. I also prefer harnesses that collapse neatly and fit easily inside my climbing helmet as I usually pack my helmet towards the top of my climbing pack. Since I usually don my helmet as soon as I get to the cliff it is most convenient to pack my harness with it.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
Efficient use of space

SIZING:

According to the official size chart I would have fit a large with 6 cms to spare but a similarly built co-worker suggested I purchase an XL and his advice was spot on.  My 5’9″ 180 lb frame with a 34 inch waist and thicker thighs definitely needed the XL despite the Petzl size chart.

References C36AO XS C36AO S C36AO M C36AO L C36AO XL
Color(s) orange orange orange orange orange
Size XS S M L XL
Waist belt 65-71 cm 71-77 cm 77-84 cm 84-92 cm 92-100 cm
Leg loops 48-53 cm 48-53 cm 52-57 cm 55-60 cm 57-62 cm
Weight 250 g 270 g 280 g 300 g 315 g

While this harness is marketed towards sport climbing (and alpine climbing) I would suggest anyone that has muscular thighs to consider sizing up if you can’t get to a gear shop to try it on. If you have more than a 36 inch waist you will want to look at other options.

COMFORT:

The Hirundos uses something called “Fuseframe” technology. A fancy word for a pretty straight forward idea. Instead of just adding padding around the structural strength of the waist belt Petzl splits the support with “thermo-formed foam” in a way that reduces pressure points and aids in weight distribution. It is extremely comfortable for a harness that weighs less than a pound! I also found the mesh to be breathable and quick drying even when the humidity was high.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
A day in July on Cathedral Ledge

The stretchy fitted leg loop material is more comfortable to me than any “adjustable” metal buckled leg loops I have ever used, and has enough range of movement that I have no concerns about adding some long underwear and some soft-shell ice climbing pants to this outfit for some ice climbing this winter (is it winter yet?).

Features:

The “DoubleBack HD” buckle provides quick secure on/off adjustment of the harness. While double-back  buckles have become standard in this category this small profile buckle adjusts more smoothly than larger style buckles that are in common use.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
Slim buckle- stock photo from Petzl.com

As typical of this style harness there are 4 gear loops but Petzl has put more thought into them then just adding 4 loops. The front two are rigid, allowing easier clipping and un-clipping of quick-draws and protection. The rear two are flexible and soft which makes wearing a full size backpack a bit more comfortable (and aids in the compress-ability of the harness for packing).

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
Well designed gear loops- photo from Petzl.com

There are two integrated CARITOOL screw/tool holder slots so I’ll definitely be using this harness once the ice season starts (is it here yet?) If you ice climb you should definitely pick a couple of these up:

Rounding out the features are detachable rear buckles that can help with sorting a tangled harness (and answering nature’s call) and the inclusion of high-tenacity polyethylene (instead of just regular nylon) at the tie-in points that helps reduce abrasion and wear at a high stress point.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
Detachable butt straps- photo from Petzl.com

 

CONCLUSION:

After 4 months of climbing sport, trad, and alpine I can give this harness a hearty endorsement. It’s light, pack-able, comfortable, and well thought out. If you’re looking for a new rig check this harness out on Amazon here!

 

If you liked this review or want to plug YOUR favorite harness please do so in the comments below!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: David Lottmann bought this harness with his own money. This post contains affiliate links.

Petzl Hirundos Harness Review
Cannon Cliff