If you have asked yourself – How do I get into mountaineering? Then here’s the good news for you. You are already into mountaineering. Remember, every experienced mountaineer was a beginner. They have asked the same question and started from the basics.
Every mountaineer started as hikers and backpackers. Once getting the knack of mountain adventures, they accepted the challenge of mountain climbing and got hooked.
The thrill of reaching the summit provides the courage to hike through the snow, ice, and steep slopes. And if you want to feel this emotion, then this article is for you.
First of all, What is Mountaineering?
Mountaineering or mountain climbing is the set of activities required to climb a mountain. In Europe, mountaineering is also referred to as Alpinism.
Some mountaineering expedition requires a few hours to complete while others can be weeks long. Such long expeditions are physically demanding than the more comfortable and shorter hikes.
Mountains offer mixed terrains. To climb such varying, demanding, and challenging terrain, you will need to be equipped with a different set of skills. Expertise in scrambling, climbing, glacier travel, ice climbing, or mixed climbing involves using technical equipment. Be mentally prepared to climb terrains that are rocky, icy, or snowy.
Overall, mountaineering requires summiting a mountain using various climbing skills and equipment to overcome the hazards of the route and descending back safely.
Reaching the summit will be one of the best feelings you will ever have. Cherish every moment of your climb.
Now, let’s discuss how to get into mountaineering.
Educate Yourself About Mountaineering
Getting educated about mountaineering is to be familiar with the mountains. The best way, always is, to get a mentor or join a mountaineering school.
Mountaineering schools have experienced climbers who will have plenty of advice to offer to new and amateur climbers. Such schools also take you to mountain climbing. You will feel safer knowing that an experienced climber has got your back whenever you find yourself in a difficult situation during your excursion.
Also, read books about mountaineering and blogs written by experienced mountaineers. If you have trained yourself and are ready to climb a mountain, get as much information as possible about that particular mountain. This will prepare you beforehand from the potential difficulties and hazards of the route.
Know the Dangers of Getting into Mountaineering
Climbing a mountain without understanding its terrain and challenges of the route can be fatal. Remarkably, what makes mountaineering rewarding is overcoming these challenges and dangers.
Some of the common risks to consider before getting into mountaineering are –
Any hazard that you face while climbing a mountain on which you have little or no control are objective hazards.
At high altitudes, weather changes rapidly. The mountains you will climb will have a cold temperature. If neglected, you might suffer from hypothermia or frostbite.
Heavy rainfall can disrupt your hike and make you drop your expedition. Routes may be covered with thick snow, or white-outs and blizzards may disorient you.
Since mountains see frequent lightning, it is better to be off the mountain before the afternoon.
If the day is sunny, you have to take care of yourself from sunburn. Hot days can cause avalanches and ice or rockfall.
If there is snow in the mountains, chances of avalanches are present. You can avoid avalanches if you are smart enough to figure out the risk factor depending on the slope angle, aspect, temperature, etc.
Warm temperatures and direct sunlight melt the ice that is holding the rocks. Once the ice is melted, the rocks come tumbling down and can cause accidents. Even the falling chunks of ice have enough force to smash your skull.
To prevent yourself from such accidents, always wear helmets. Also, place the belay in a protected location. Whenever possible, flip your bag over the head for more protection.
Altitude sickness is one of the primary concerns for every alpinist. Once you climb higher into the mountains, the oxygen level gets thinner and as a result, breathing becomes difficult.
The best way to overcome altitude sickness is by getting acclimated to the climate. You need to spend more time in the mountains before ascending to higher ground.
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) are caused by rapid exposure to low amounts of oxygen at high elevation.
AMS is a mild form of altitude sickness where the victim may suffer from headaches, vomiting, tiredness, or dizziness. Symptoms of HAPE include dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath even when resting. HACE includes increased nausea and vomiting, retinal hemorrhage, and gradual loss of consciousness.
Both HACE and HAPE conditions are life-threatening. The best way to prevent added damage to the body due to altitude sickness is to descend to lower altitudes. Carrying proper medication for such cases also decreases the chance of any mishap.
Crevasses are deep crack formed in glaciers. They pose a serious threat even to seasoned climbers. During winters, snow covers these crevasses and can suck in the climbers.
To prevent oneself from such accidents, climbers tie each other with rope so that if a climber falls in the crack, others can fall arrest and avoid potential hazards.
Seracs are a block of glacial ice. They can topple over easily and are one of the most dangerous challenges you can face as a mountaineer.
The best way to avoid seracs is to move past them as quickly as possible without disturbing their stance.
Get in Shape
Climbing a mountain is a tedious activity that stretches your muscles and twists your joints. Most climbers workout in the gym, jog for hours to strengthen the legs and swim to train their lungs. All these activities prepare you for long walks at high altitude.
It will be easier for you to climb mountains with a physically fit body. Mountaineering requires strength, power, speed, and endurance. Many people climb mountains on vacations. But if you want to be a dedicated to mountaineer, train whenever possible. Climb the hills whenever possible or continue training in the gym.
Some of the basic physical training required for mountaineering includes –
- Cardiovascular training
- Slow Long Distance running
- Resistance workouts
- Legs, core, and upper exercise
Consult with your physician before starting any exercise routine.
Join a Mountaineering Club
Mountaineering clubs have devised courses to teach novice climbers A to Z of mountaineering. Getting your basics right will come handy while facing tricky challenges of mountain climbing.
All mountaineering clubs have expert climbers whose experience will provide you with most of the information about mountain climbing. They also take you on excursions so that you get the first-hand experience of mountaineering.
Mountaineering is a sport that requires a lot of physical activities. Whatever you learn, make sure to apply them into practice.
Find out Which Mountains are Easier to Climb for Beginners
I know when you think about mountaineering, you dream about scaling the tallest mountain in the world, Mt. Everest. But hold your gears. Even though it is good to keep your sights clear on your objective, you need to get habituated to mountaineering by climbing more friendly mountains in the beginning.
Start with smaller mountains to test your fitness. Slowly upgrade to more difficult mountains and get more experience.
There are hordes of easy mountains to climb. Although these mountains are relatively easier to climb, they do provide you with ample challenges that you will face while scaling challenging peaks.
Know the Ideal Seasons for Mountaineering
All mountains cannot be scaled during every season. For novice climbers, it is even more important to figure out the best season for mountaineering.
The ideal seasons considered best for mountaineering are Spring, Autumn, and Summer. Winter and rainy days, when unstable weather conditions like heavy snowfalls, frigid temperatures, and strong winds occur, are avoided even by the experts.
Many mountains are climbed during peak seasons. During such times, different services, including mountain huts, are functional.
Know Your Mountaineering Gears
There are various equipment you need to carry with you while mountaineering. These gear will make your ascent comfortable and protect you from unseen hazards or accidents.
Warm clothing with waterproof outer layers will ease your travel if it rains. Carry camping equipment if you are going for a multi-day hike.
Some of the basic and essential equipment you need for mountaineering are:
- Mountaineering rope
- Belay device
- Tent and sleeping bag
- Ice axes
- Flashlight, matches, fuel, pot, bowl
- First aid kit
- Water bottle
- Map and compass
You might need more equipment or sometimes less than the ones listed above. Always consult with your mentor or guide what gear to bring along. Get proper knowledge on how and when to use your different types of equipment.
Double-check your equipment before you leave.
Understand Mountaineering Terminologies
Similar to any activity, mountaineering has its own terminology. Knowledge of such vocabulary will help you have better communication with your climbing team. Although this looks like a minor thing for beginner mountaineers, understanding what your fellow climber is talking about can keep you more alert when faced with difficult situations.
Mountaineering is a highly demanding technical sport. The skills you require will be gained only after multiple trekkings into the wilderness of mountains. Always acquire knowledge about the mountain you are going to ascend. The climate conditions can be way too grim than you face every day back home.
Pick your climbing dates during suitable seasons. Do not take it lightly since mountaineering is not as simple as hiking or trekking. Don’t get disheartened if you encounter rough weather and have to drop your climb halfway.
Your new skill sets will always push you to dare for more difficult mountains. Keep your body fit for such challenges.
Make sure to drink plenty of water and remain hydrated, no matter how cold the weather is.
And, when you get into mountaineering, get trained, find a mentor, and start with easier mountains.
Bottomline of mountaineering is – it is one of the most beautiful feelings you will ever have, and, be prepared for the unexpected. Get out there and enjoy the freedom.
Table of Content
- First of all, What is Mountaineering?
- Educate Yourself About Mountaineering
- Know the Dangers of Getting into Mountaineering
- Get in Shape
- Join a Mountaineering Club
- Find out Which Mountains are Easier to Climb for Beginners
- Know the Ideal Seasons for Mountaineering
- Know Your Mountaineering Gears
- Understand Mountaineering Terminologies
- Final Advice