A brief introduction

Robin McNeill in Fiordland

The first, 1937 edition of Safety in the Mountains, subtitled, A Handbook for Trampers and Mountaineers, comprehensively set out for the first time techniques for recreationalists to safely enjoy our outdoors. It was intended as a reference to be carried in the ‘ruc-sac’ for use in the field. The content in subsequent editions expanded to include ski mountaineering in more detail and hunting, and refined the earlier described techniques until 1978 when the size shrunk, lovable cartoon characters were introduced and the information condensed. 75 years after the first edition was published, it was felt timely to again thoroughly revise the content and format, while remaining faithful to the original precepts. The current edition was duly published in 2012 and continues to be sold at a near giveaway price.

Given the many books, Internet resources and outdoor skills courses now widely available, it is fair to ask if there is still a need for Safety in the Mountains. Notwithstanding its somewhat foreboding title, at FMC we believe, yes, there remains the need for our flagship booklet to encourage trampers and others to develop their skills in the true spirit of amateurism, and to enjoy our backcountry with and without the assistance of huts and tracks. But right from the first drafting of Safety in the Mountains we also felt that we needed an on-line version so that everyone, everywhere could find the information contained in it. This section of the Wilderlife website is the result.

Like the booklet, the web version makes no claims to be definitive; indeed, concerning the Hills, nothing can, for techniques and equipment continually evolve and to a large extent the freedom to be found in the Hills is part of its attraction. At any rate, even a half-definitive book would be so heavy-weight that it wouldn’t find its way into any pack and we don’t want to replicate Wikipedia here. So, we unashamedly present a mildly technical introduction to snow and alpine techniques on the basis that sooner, or later most of us will want to venture into that wonderful environment and, after all, the title does call for it. That material can be little more than a list of reminders, for a fuller discourse is worthy of a book in its own right. The techniques described are sufficient for crossing alpine passes, but not serious mountain climbing. That said, we want this site to be interactive—we want you to contribute, too—and if that means more and more technical information gets included, so be it.

The Safety in the Mountains booklet was written for those who have a little outdoors experience, who wish to expand their boundaries and have some time to spare in a hut to catch up on their reading. In this respect, both the website and the booklet are anticipated to be as much inspirational as informative. In short, Safety in the Mountains is the book I wanted to read when I started out tramping and this website is somewhere I would have loved to have visited had the Internet been invented back then. If these resources can help you feel at home in the Hills and enjoy yourself there, then they will have served their purpose.

See you in the Hills,

Robin McNeill
Invercargill, March 2017

Uncle Jacko

Credits for Safety in the Mountains 2012 edition:

Author – Robin McNeill

Illustrator – Adele Jackson