Getting on top of a mountain is an experience every backpacker desire. But there’s always one deal-breaker, how to get there.
But your loftier goals are not to be diminished yet. Maybe it’s time for you to crack out mountaineering and learn how to start mountain climbing.
What Is Mountain Climbing?
Mountaineering is somewhat similar to backpacking. As such, one chooses a trail that they know properly, and they carry all the vital climbing gears and supplies.
However, the target of backpacking is to complete a scenic round, hence the variation with mountaineering. Mountaineering aims is to get to the peak of the mountain. You get here by navigating through glaciers, snow, or even ice.
It, therefore, needs physical and mental preparedness. There are hours of cracking your way up to the mountain peak and getting done. All this time, heavy backpacking is situated on your back.
Also, you need to have skills such as using an ice ax, rescuing a fellow from a crevasse. But in the long run, the reward of getting to the targeted designation is worth it. So how do you prepare for mountain climbing?
These are some of the easiest steps to take if you want to learn how to start mountain climbing. Often, people wonder if there are differences between mountaineering and alpine climbing, which we have answered in detail.
Get your body fit
Shaky and weak hands will get you in trouble when climbing. Thus, the primary step is to get yourself fit. You can start by regular jogging or cycling. Jumping with weights will also strengthen your base.
On the upper body, you have to do weights, preferably a compound exercise such as bench-pressing. Apart from fitness, you can use the gym to learn other basics, such as using harnesses and ropes.
Then don a bulky backpack and go uphill. Make multi-day hiking excursions, practice scrambling, and develop your confidence climbing cliff edges, both by yourself and with a teammate. Mountaineering may be extremely cold, so to brace up for it, train in winter.
How to Learn Mountain Climbing?
1) Pick a mountaineering site and take a course
You have to choose a terrain that suits you, be it a technical route, icy mountains, or granite faces. Thereafter set your goals and a start plan. Terrains are classified by height, with clusters of 1km within 4,000 feet to 8,000 feet.
Classes range from 1-5, with the first one being regarded as threat-free with an almost leveled terrain. On the other hand, classes 2 and 3 are somewhat difficult due to increasing gradients and barriers, while 4 requires all-fours scrambling.
Finally, class 5 requires advanced rock-climbing abilities. In the mountains, grades range from F (Facile) to ED (Extreme Difficult), with PD, AD, D, and TD comparable.
Further, you can get your friends to teach you the basic mountaineering steps. However, it won’t be as much as taking a course. Also, using a guide means you will get instant feedback on what you are doing.
This six-day program covers everything from route design to navigation to rock hiking and statistics such as weather analysis.
There are also lessons on snow and ice, which entail self-arrest and glacial trekking methods. You’ll be more self-sufficient in the mountains if you have all of these lessons stashed away in your brain.
Don’t set your goals too high. Be proud of your accomplishments than be frustrated because you didn’t meet your goals.
2) Know the map of your terrain
You will be more successful if you have navigational experience. On a map, plot a route between two nearby points. Create possible courses and locate points of interest (POIs) where you can go to.
The best way to find anything is to use every tool at your disposal. Once you’ve gained some confidence, venture out on your own and see if you can find your way back.
An accurate estimate of your speed is essential for planning since it aids in preventing overdoing days and tiring oneself. Make sure that your calculations are correct.
Precisely how far you’ll be walking, but also at what speed you’ll be walking it. This way, you can tell the variations when the terrain inclines, or you become increasingly fatigued.
How to Prepare for Mountain Climbing
1) Get yourself mountaineering gear
Invest in woolen socks and mountaineering boots with a waterproof outer shell (read how to waterproof your boot) and a detachable soft inner liner. This will help you keep warm and dry during the winter or cold mountain temperatures. Your backpack should also be small but enough to hold the bare essentials.
As a climber, you’ll need harnesses, a sturdy helmet, a long enough strong rope. Should you have intentions to trek on ice, then ensure you have 12-point sub-rigid crampons along with a 78cm curved piolet ax.
Since mountaineering starts early in the morning, you will need a headlamp to prevent being lost. Lastly, never skimp on budget-friendly tents, as storms with 120kph windspeeds are pretty unfriendly. And always keep a first aid kit in your climbing bag in case of emergencies.
2) Get ready for the unfriendly attitude
If you are 3000 feet or higher, you’re going to feel the effects of altitude. Please don’t be naive about it. Even in its least severe form, it can lead to restless sleep, a decreased appetite, and vomiting.
Thus, your exercise efforts can be impacted. When it’s at its worst, it can cause life-threatening pulmonary edema when fluid fills your lungs.
It’s critical to adjust to your surroundings. Please get to the top slowly, camping high, and let your body sort itself out. Avoid dehydrating yourself or skipping meals because you’re not hungry.
Reduce your pace on the path and take deliberate, rhythmic strides while using mouth breathing to maintain blood oxygen levels. If you become dizzy or get a fever, you should descend immediately.
3) Come up with different plans
Start mountain climbing close to home or in a prominent location where information is readily available and routes are well. Don’t get overly ambitious. Also, make sure you plan your days so you can move quickly.
A pitched or sharp climb that appears straightforward on paper is much more difficult to do after a long day of hiking, especially if you’re doing it at a high altitude. Be prepared for weather variations and always have a backup plan.
If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll need to plan for permits, and passports, which may be complicated when dealing with people from other countries. If you’re hiking over ice terrain where sun melt increases rock falls, take the path early in the morning and finish by noon.
Be open to new ideas and be willing to adjust. Remember overdoing it may force you to spend the night in a windproof jacket on the mountaintop without any preparation.
A thousand-mile journey starts with one step. You have to build up slowly and learn in every step you make. Also, avoid experimenting with new skills on challenging trips. If you are serious about mountain climbing, you may learn more about what is aid climbing.
Anything you feel is worth trying while mountaineering but must be practiced first in safe zones. A crevasse rescue in your backyard is just as effective as an ice-ax arrest on a muddy bank in the mountains.
It would be best if you went on many hikes to understand how to analyze the weather patterns. It will take you some time to know how to find a climbing partner, to work with partners, shift from pitched to short roped climbing, and how to move together swiftly.
Don’t be ashamed to engage a guide when you find yourself pressed against the wall. They can assist you to go forward. It’s better to learn from a professional than to risk alone.
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