Mountaineering is the aspiration for most avid hikers, but most people think it is too difficult to even attempt. I'm here to tell you that that is false! Mountaineering may seem daunting, but it is not as difficult as it seems. There is a lot that goes into climbing mountains that when handled step by step can be a breeze.
Last summer I decided that I wanted to take the leap and start mountaineering. I went from only going on hikes and one night backpacking trips, to climbing Mount Adams and Mount Hood; local mountains in the Pacific Northwest.
Climbing a mountain takes a lot of physical ability. It takes both endurance and strength. Start out slowly with a workout routine and build your way up until you feel comfortable enough to climb a steep slope with a heavy backpack for 8-12 miles.
A great strength training routine could consist of weight lifting and/or exercises that focus on specific muscles such as push-ups, pull-ups, and squats. To improve endurance, incorporate cardio workouts such as swimming, running, or hiking. Aim for doing both strength and endurance exercises about 6 days a week.
A great way of judging your climbing capabilities is just to start going on hikes with a backpack. Start with easier hikes and work your way up; using a heavier backpack each time. You will feel more and more prepared after each excursion!
In order to climb a mountain you need to know all about it. Do extensive research on the mountain you're planning to climbing to see if it is the right fit for you. Start out easier and work your way up to more difficult summits.
The first mountain I ever climbed, Mount Adams, was a non-technical climb. This means I did not need to know how to use rope, belays, or other similar gear. It was a relatively easy climb to do and I would recommend starting out on a mountain like this if you have no prior experience.
When taking on a more difficult climb, you will need to learn how to use some essential gear such as an ice axe for self-arresting and how to implement hiking techniques such as a rest step. If you are ever in doubt, hire a guide! They can help you learn the skills you need and safely guide you up the mountain.
Bring a Partner
Always climb with someone else because anything can happen when climbing a mountain. Oftentimes you are miles away from civilization and without cell service for hours. Having a climbing partner will ensure your safety in the case of an emergency.
Climbing with a partner can also boost your moral and knowledge. You can both take a class together prior to your excursion, and if they have climbed before, they can be a good mentor to you as you climb.
Having someone climb with you can also help you keep pushing on when things get tough. You know they have your back and the same goal as you: to get to the top!
Go Off Route
Going off route without proper knowledge of the terrain is extremely dangerous. The route follows a certain way for a reason. It is the easiest, and safest way to get up a mountain. Generally, going off route can go by deep crevices, or dangerous avalanche terrain. Navigation off trail can also be more difficult, with less people around you are more likely to get lost.
Feel the Need to Finish
Getting down safely is more important than anything. Turning around is the easiest way to ensure your safety. Countless things could happen that might make turning around a necessity such as: extreme weather, a rock fall or an avalanche. Proper knowledge of when to keep going and when to turn around is key when climbing.
Many people set a turn around time. Whatever time this is, no matter how close you are to the summit, you should turn around. It ensures your safety and avoids any precarious situations that usually happen later in the day, whether its lack of food, exhaustion, or loss of daylight.
Leave no trace. Pack out exactly what you pack in, meaning: take everything you brought up there, back down with you. It is important to keep the mountain just the way it is for everyone to enjoy. Nobody wants to look at trash when climbing or enjoying a view. Leaving trash can disturb the wildlife and leave an impact on the ecosystem.
Have fun out there!
Climbing a mountain is difficult, it's one of the hardest things I've ever done. But standing there at the top is unbelievable. There is no other feeling than the one you get from standing taller than anyone else on that summit.