7 Tips to getting started mountaineering

Marion Fernandez

Getting a view from the top of the world is something you would never forget. But to get up to the top of the world, you are going to have to climb some mountains. Mountaineering is one of the oldest extreme sports out there, putting you up against nature in one of the toughest ways possible. And contrary to what you might think, getting into mountaineering can be easier than it would seem at first glance.

1. Begin with backpacking

Taking baby steps to becoming a great mountaineer means starting off with the basics – backpacking.

If your ultimate goal is to be able to climb some of the tallest mountains in the world, you can’t just start by climbing a mountain. The first thing you need to do is begin backpacking. Backpacking is where you hike to a destination, but do it for days, meaning you will have to camp out in the outdoors. Mountaineering is just like backpacking, only you are doing it at extreme elevations in extreme weather. Become familiar with how backpacking works by going on short trips first, then you can aim higher.

2. Go camping

While you might be an avid camper already, if you want to be a mountaineer you need to be camping all year round. No weather conditions should deter you from going camping, as they’ll give you the experience in setting up a tent and camp whether it is rain, snow, or shine. Regardless of the mountain that you are aiming to climb, they are all at high elevations, which means that it is going to be extremely cold at night. If you are not acclimatized to sleeping outside in the cold, you might find yourself miserable or in trouble camping up on a mountain. If you practice your cold-weather camping skills, including how to prepare food, in a less life-threatening environment, you will have a better chance of success as a mountaineer when you set out for the mountain.

3. Join a rock climbing gym

You should be prepared for the mountain. This means apart from being fit, you should also know rock climbing to a certain extent.

Perhaps the mountain that you are hoping to climb is relatively easy and has cut trails. But even if that is the case, you need to know what to do if things do not go your way like a trail has been covered, you get lost, or something has broken the path, and you have to forge a new one. You will need to know the basics of rock climbing to keep yourself safe. At a climbing gym, you will get practice in a controlled and safe environment, learning how to use a harness, belay, and even know how to tie a rope to support yourself or a companion. You will also learn what type of rocks you can grip with your hands and feet and how to hoist yourself over a rock when you need to.

4. Take a mountaineering class

Classes are not offered everywhere you go, but they are offered in larger cities and at outdoor stores. In these classes, you will have the opportunity to learn what skills you need to climb a real mountain. They will instruct you on proper gear, techniques, and even survival skills. You should never forget that mountaineering is considered an extreme sport for a reason. The frozen bodies lying on top of Mount Everest should be a good indicator that it is not the safest activity you can do, but train right and you should be able to do it successfully, without killing yourself. The instructors in a class will be able to go over the dangers of mountaineering, not to deter you, but in order to prepare you so you know what to do if the worst-case scenario comes to pass.

5. Hire a guide

If you are not familiar with a particular mountain, hiring a guide for the journey may be a great idea – this helps you avoid any pitfalls, dangerous routes, and allows you to summit a mountain successfully with no injuries.

Maybe climbing a mountain on your own is a bit beyond your reach at the moment. If you do not have a lot of experience backpacking or camping, you might want to start with hiring a guide to take you up a particular mountain. A guide is a professional mountaineer who has had plenty of experience in climbing and what you are supposed to proceed. A pro will keep you safe and ensure that you are doing all of the things that you should be doing to reach the summit safely and descend without any issue or concern. Your local outdoor store should have some ideas on what guides are out there, but if you are looking at a specific mountain, you should be able to find someone who has already climbed the mountain in question from a basic online search. However, do your research as you do not want to wind up with someone who claims to know more than they do.

6. Acquire all of the gear that you need

Your gear is what will keep you safe on your mountaineering journey – so check and double check all your gear as well as make sure it’s up to the task.

Now you do not want to just go out and buy all of the gear that you see when it comes to mountaineering. Any gear that you have is going to have to be hauled up the mountain on your back, so you are not going to want to be over-burdened by your pack. That said, you also need to be prepared. Your clothing will need to be the warmest possible, ensuring that the cold will not be able to reach your skin. You will also need a mountaineering harness, helmet, crampons, good mountain boots, ice ax, and a small tent to protect you from the elements at night. There are a lot of mountaineering books out on the market that should be able to steer you to purchasing the right gear you need.

7. Remember safety

The most important thing to remember when it comes to mountaineering, is that you need to be safe above all else. Do not set out unprepared or without proper research. It is too easy to get altitude sickness, fall off a mountain, fall into a crevice, fall victim to an avalanche, or find yourself suffering from frostbite. You should not climb a mountain on a whim or you could find yourself in a world of trouble. Take all necessary precautions, tell people where you are going, and if possible, take a tracking beacon with you. Once you are safe and prepared, then you are ready to go on the adventure of a lifetime.

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