Alpine Guides Technical Manual: a resource for Alpinists (2009 edition).

Despite a rather uninspiring front cover, this book is a very tidy little package and bound to stand any budding mountaineer in good stead.
Alpine Guides (Aoraki) Ltd have revised their technical manual several times since the first edition came out in 1995 and each reincarnation has been an improvement on the last. This edition is fresh, concise and, as it claims, an ?accumulation of state of the art New Zealand mountaineering techniques and information, developed over many years by New Zealand mountain guides based predominantly at Aoraki/Mt Cook.?
The chapters? particularly well done are those on ?Snowcraft,? which gives a definitive description of soft snow anchors, the construction of which is often a trouble point for new climbers; ? Mountain Weather,? which can be difficult to pr?cis at the best of times, and ?Navigation,? for the same reason.
The section on soft snow anchors gives an excellent description of the relatively recently approved ?upright mid-clip? system for snow stakes. It?s interesting comparing this edition?s recommendation for compressing the snow at the front of the stake versus the 1995 edition where it says, ?Care should be taken not to disturb the snow in front of the trench.? The new edition also says to compress the snow inside a snow bollard rather than leave it undisturbed, which is new to this reader!
One small gripe is the lack of conviction the writer has in describing the hard snow ?upright top clip? for a snow stake. ?If it can be driven in with less that 15 solid hammer blows,? it says, ?the snow is probably not hard enough.? Why not have courage of conviction, Alpine Guides, and say ?is not hard enough!?
The chapter on ?Mountain Weather? is a terrific summation of vagaries of New Zealand meteorology. It even manages to explain wet and dry air lapse rates and freezing levels in plain English and has some little gems in the section on forecasting tips, like ?If the forecast weather map shows three isobar lines (at 4 MB spacing) across the South Island it?s probably going to be too windy to climb in the high mountains,? and, ?if you look into the (upper level) wind the Low is on your Left.?
It can take years for a mountaineer to pick up this type of knowledge, or they can read it in this book and be applying from the start of their climbing career.
Believe it or not, some mountaineers go a lifetime without having a good grasp of the basics of navigation. Maybe they?ve never had to use a compass in earnest, maybe they rely on others to make the decisions. The ?Navigation? chapter in the book pares navigation back to the basics but again gives succinct tips like ?when following a bearing with two or more people on a rope its best for the rear person to have the compass,? and ?if it all goes wrong return to your last known location if possible. Otherwise, refer to Chapter 10, ?Snow Shelters!?
Small enough to go carry in a pack, sturdily bound and well thought out, this small publication is true value for money!