If you could only have one book on mountaineering, it's an easy choice: Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills (2017) has been the go-to reference for generations of aspiring and practicing mountaineers since 1960. It has its own Wikipedia page,and the organization that started the book is even older: the Seattle Mountaineers date their founding to 1906, so they are well into their second century. Tl;dr is, they know their stuff, and you can too! Just RTFM…
MFH is the bible for mountaineers, a fitting companion to the famous quote by John Muir: "I'd rather be in the mountains thinking of god, than in church thinking about the mountains." And if you're going to spend quality time in the mountains, it pays to know your way around. The 9th edition makes a few small changes, perhaps the most important one being a separate chapter for avalanche safety, something that has gotten a lot more attention in the past decade, and where methods of risk mitigation are evolving.
Other than that, it's the same six section format from prior editions:
- outdoor fundamentals
- climbing fundamentals
- rock climbing
- snow, ice and alpine climbing
- leadership, safety and rescue
- the mountain environment
You really can't go wrong with any of the Mountaineers Books, but MFH should be your first and longest relationship. For different takes on the same subjects, we recommend The Mountaineering Handbook by Craig Connally (2004), and Glacier Mountaineering (2009) by the always excellent writer/illustrator team of Andy Tyson and Mike Clelland. Both are anchor titles on our Backcountry Bookshelf.