Humans have long been awed by the towering heights of mountains, and in the past, they had tried to scale lofty mountains for various reasons. The discovery of Ötzi’s remains in a glacier in the Ötztal Alps is proof that humans had been climbing mountains long before mountain climbing became a sport.
Many people engage in mountaineering either as a sport or a recreational activity, and mountaineers generally adhere to different techniques and climbing methods. Moreover, as an activity, mountain climbing is symbolic of persistence, endurance, and the tenacity to reach one’s goals.
Moreover, it brings in many benefits, either tangible or intangible, to the one who engages in it. If you are contemplating climbing mountains, it will be useful to know some tips and techniques on how to start climbing mountains.
Steps and Preparation for Mountain Climbing
Mountaineering may not be so much different from backpacking, though the goal of mountaineering is to reach the summit of the mountain, while backpacking is a low-cost journey with all your necessary things in your backpack. Mountaineering can be very demanding physically and mentally, and it would require you to spend long hours inching your way up and down the mountain while loaded with a heavy backpack. Thus, you need to know the following steps on how to prepare for a challenging ascent to a mountain:
Step 1: Train and Condition Yourself
Mountain climbing requires incredible stamina and endurance. As such, you need to condition your mind and body days or weeks before your scheduled climb. Get yourself fit physically and include walking and stair climbing exercises in your daily routine.
You can add cycling and running to your daily routine to build essential stamina and endurance. You can also do weights to enhance your upper-body strength. It will be useful if you enroll in a climbing gym to know the necessary climbing techniques like using a harness, belaying, and tying rope.
You can also engage in multi-day backpacking adventures to practice and test your skills and endurance and gain confidence in mountain climbing. Remember that you would need to be in top-notch condition when summiting a mountain.
Step 2: Enroll in Mountain Climbing Course
Enroll in a mountain climbing club or course to get to know other guys interested in mountaineering. With their help and association, you can be properly guided on the rudiments of mountain climbing. Of course, mountain climbing courses let you go out with a guide to give you feedback on the spot, set you on the right course, or vouch for your climbing techniques’ correctness.
Climbing courses may take up to six days and cover route planning, safe travel, navigation, rock climbing, and even logistics. They may also include sessions on self-arrest techniques and glacier hiking. With ample knowledge provided by these courses, you can become more confident and independent in your mountain climbing decisions.
Step 3: Master Your Maps and Route Navigation Knowledge
One skill you should develop is that of map reading. The more remarkable navigation skill you have, the better it will be for you. Of course, you will be in a group or a team when you go on summiting a mountain. So, your team will be there to back you up and corroborate your map plotting. Yet, it will be useful if you also develop excellent map-plotting skills.
The good thing about modern-day mountaineering is that you got many navigational tools at your disposal. You can use GPS, altimeter, compass, map contours, bearings and sightings, and triangulation.
Once you are already confident, you will be able to find your way once you get lost. Moreover, your ability to plot your course and route is crucial to your climbing pace, allowing you to get a more exact estimate of your speed.
Step 4: Further Enhance Your Mountain Climbing Techniques Before Engaging in More Challenging Routes
After learning the rudiments of mountain climbing, you should never rest on your laurels. Learning how to read a topo map or developing an emergency plan are just some of the basics that you should know when mountain climbing. Yet, mountaineering involves more than basic knowledge.
Mountaineering would take you to the most awkward and challenging places, replete with expected and unexpected danger. Moreover, the courses you would undertake only approximate the actual scenarios you would find in the wild. So, you must get your hands dirty and engage in hiking and backpacking to familiarize yourself with the wild.
One of the best ways to learn rudiments of mountain climbing is by engaging in backpacking and hiking. Learn how to trek for hours while loaded with a heavy pack. In this way, you can build endurance and tolerance for discomfort. It also makes you more patience, which is a characteristic required of a mountaineer.
Backpacking and trekking get you acquainted and habituated to the cadence of mountain climbing. They also let you experience sleeping, cleaning, and cooking in the wild, allowing you to get the hang of living off-the-grid.
Another good preliminary activity is scrambling, which is an extension of hiking. You can extend your hiking for several days to apply what you’ve learned in climbing courses. Additionally, you will intuitively know that you are all set for summiting a lofty mountain if you have already undergone the following experiences:
- You were able to trek while loaded with a heavy pack for 8 hours or more.
- You have gotten lost in your route. You have gotten drenched in the rain. You have experienced several cold weathers in the wild.
- You’ve experienced backpacking wherein everything seemed to be going wrong.
- You have scrambled some peaks wherein a fall would be disastrous and fatal.
- You had two backpacking trips for several days.
- You have known belaying and the essential knots for tying rope.
Step 5: Acquire the Necessary Gear & Equipment for Mountaineering
Unless you are like Tarzan or Edward Cullen, you would surely need to avail yourself of the essential gear for mountaineering. If you’re serious about becoming a professional mountaineer, you need to ensure that you have the following essential items:
a) Climbing Harness
As a mountain climber, you would surely want the best Harness for your climbing job. Harnesses feature varying levels of adjustment, comfort, weight, and organization. It will be helpful to choose the best and most suited ones for the climbing you would engage in.
b) Mountaineering Boots
Since mountain climbing would require you to walk several miles on varying surfaces, you will need a sturdy yet comfortable pair of boots. Mountaineering boots are often stiffer than those of backpacking boots. So, make sure that you get one excellent pair of boots for mountain climbing.
c) Ice Axe
You will need an ice axe, designed for mountaineering. You can use this ice axe when ascending steep slopes. Moreover, it will help you self-arrest if ever you slip. Nevertheless, if you are tackling more technical routes, you may need two ice tools.
d) Climbing Helmet
You will need a climbing helmet to protect your head from falling debris and bumps. It will be useful to have a helmet with clips for a headlamp.
When you are walking on steep ice or snow, you will need an aluminum or steel crampon. Steel crampons are durable, but aluminum crampons are light.
Step 6: Choose Your Mountaineering Route & Plan
Your guide will help you plan your route, and if it is your first time, it will be useful to have your guide along with you when you plan your route. With your guide’s wise advice, you can figure out the best mountain to summit based on your level of expertise.
The world is replete with many mountains to summit. If you are a beginner, settle for those mountains that are perfect for beginners. Moreover, when summiting a peak, you will discover that many routes are leading to the summit. Thus, you should choose a trail that best suits your level of expertise.
Step 7: Make Sure that You Have a Climbing Buddy
Finding a climbing partner may be difficult, but if you have joined clubs like Alpine Club or American Alpine Club, you would surely find someone who could partner with you and serve as your climbing buddy. You can also search online and make a quick Google search to find mountaineers within your area.
You can also find someone you’ve known in the climbing class that you have joined. Moreover, you can encourage a friend to join you in your crash courses on mountain climbing to ensure that you will have a climbing buddy after the end of the course.
As a caveat, you should always have a more experienced climber with you when you engage in mountain climbing unless you are already an experienced climber.
Additional Tips for Mountaineers
Aside from the abovementioned primary steps that you should follow, it will be helpful to be cognizant of these additional tips:
Plan Well and Prepare Well
Everything is created twice, first in mind, then in reality. This means that you should plan everything to ensure that everything will go well. With proper planning, you can reduce the risks involved in your ascent. With minimal risks, you can enjoy the climb, likewise.
So, make sure that you plan well. Figure out the best route to tackle to reach the summit and prepare the vital kit. Always remember that careful planning can really make so much difference. Double-check your essential gear and ensure that you leave nothing to chance.
Learn Weather Watching
One factor that you should carefully consider before engaging in mountain climbing is the weather. Ensure that you are aware of the local weather forecast and schedule your ascent during the day with favorable weather conditions.
It will also be useful to select the best time for ascending the route that you have chosen. In this way, you can prevent the problems concomitant with bad weather.
Waterproof Your Things
When packing your things, you should ensure that your things and gear are waterproofed even if it doesn’t rain. Along the way, you may encounter a puddle or stream which you need to cross. So, aside from protecting yourself, you should protect your things by waterproofing them using waterproofing materials.
The path to the summit of a mountain is usually fraught with risks and dangers. As such, mountain climbing is not an undertaking for the weak of heart, mind, and body. Yet, you can mitigate all these risks if you carefully plan everything. It will help if you start locally and ascend those mountains within your locality.
Don’t be too ambitious beyond your level of expertise. Moreover, always have a plan B if your plan A is not feasible. Move before sunrise and descend by early afternoon, especially if you are in an icy region where the sun usually melts the ice. Be flexible and always learn to adapt.