Scared Silly: AMC’s First Mountain Safety Campaign

August 29, 2016
mountain safety



When AMC’s Mountain Leadership Committee (MLC) was established in 1958, it came with a clear agenda: a multifaceted campaign “in response to the growing need for action in the field of mountain safety,” as announced in Appalachia.

Although the backpacking boom wouldn’t fully hit for another decade, MLC gave AMC a platform for its role as an outdoor safety leader and educator.The committee began developing a leadership manual, published requirements for a new clubwide leader certification program, and within a year had established the Mountain Leadership Workshop (now known as the Mountain Leadership School). MLC also launched a memorable series of educational posters for displaying the club’s huts and shelters.

Relying on equal parts whimsy and fear, the posters portrayed the dire consequences of entering the mountains unprepared. This pairing of catchy rhymes and silly, if sometimes graphic, cartoons became an annual tradition. “Are you really highly skilled or on your way out to be killed?” the 1959 poster asked. The following year’s edition bore the blunt title “How to Die in the Mountains” and pictured an under-dressed man eschewing an AMC guidebook while carelessly striding over a stream.

A 1962 Appalachia report noted the posters’ use had spread well beyond AMC, throughout North America and even to the Army Mountain School in Darjeeling, India. Delivering the highest praise, the report credited the posters with“reducing the incidence of foolishness in the hills.

Images seen here appear courtesy of the AMC Library & Archives. Duplicates can be ordered for a fee. Funds support efforts to preserve the club’s historical collections. Call 617-391-6629, visit, or e-mail for details.


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Marc Chalufour

Marc Chalufour, a former senior editor of AMC Outdoors, contributes to the trail-running blog Running Wild.