How to Start Mountain Climbing

How to Start Mountain Climbing
Topping out on a mountain, big or small, rewards you with a deep sense of satisfaction and a panoramic view. Getting started as a mountain climber can be as easy as walking up a trail or involve the use of technical equipment. Here you'll be introduced to essential concepts and gear that will take you, at your own pace, into high places across rock and snow, and back down safely for your next peak experience.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Boots First aid kit Map and compass, or GPS Day pack Food and water Versatile clothing Sunglasses Sunscreen Ice axe Crampons
  • Boots
  • First aid kit
  • Map and compass, or GPS
  • Day pack
  • Food and water
  • Versatile clothing
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons
Step 1
Assess your physical condition and capabilities. If you haven't tested yourself lately, take some short uphill hikes to get acquainted with your endurance level and to increase your stamina.
Step 2
Research guidebooks for your targeted region. Choose a climb beneath your perceived optimum skills that will favor success and inspire further climbs. Familiarize yourself with the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) that rates climbs, used in most U.S. climbing guides. Start with a mountain rated Class 1 or 2, hiking or scrambling, and further rated Grade I to III, requiring 1 or 2 hours to less than a full day.
Step 3
Wear well-broken-in boots that supply ankle support. A day pack to carry food and water including enough for an emergency overnight is a must. Take versatile clothing that can be removed or added in layers, or slept in during a forced bivouac. Thinner atmosphere at higher elevations increases exposure to the sun, so bring sunscreen and sunglasses. If you're climbing up through snow fields, take crampons and an ice axe to practice "self belay" and "self-arrest" on safe slopes as a part of your introduction. But don't make that activity required in order to attain the summit.
Step 4
Climb only with a partner, someone possessing similar abilities and interests. Each of you should inform one other person of your itinerary, including possible alternative routes and all contact information in case of emergency.
Step 5
Check the weather prior to departure. Adjust accordingly.
Step 6
Monitor potential hazards constantly. Climbing hazards are categorized as subjective or objective. Subjective refers to management of personal judgment and abilities such as exposing yourself to hypothermia or climbing in over your head. Objective hazards are such things as rocks falling, lightning and avalanche. To keep your awareness sharp, take numerous short breaks rather than fewer long breaks.
Step 7
Use extra caution when down-climbing, which is usually faster but can be awkward, and is fraught with accounts of mishaps due to fatigue and the rush to finish. Easier routes for descent should be an option. But if you're up to it, and a safe low-angle snow field with a flat runout at the bottom lies along the way, try glissading, which is basically skiing on your boot soles, sometimes squatting or using your hands or ice axe for balance. It's a thrill, though snow can get mushy and wet in the afternoon.

Tips & Warnings

 
Avoid dehydration by drinking double the water you think you need, and by tuning in to an often-unrecognized symptom of dehydration--headache. Take a day or two to acclimate to higher elevations. Rarefied oxygen at altitudes above 8,000 feet can cause altitude or mountain sickness. Symptoms include severe headache, body ache, nausea, dizziness and impaired mental functioning. Use the buddy system. The only sure cure is to descend to lower elevations, but try an extended rest and rehydrating first.
 
Avoid dehydration by drinking double the water you think you need, and by tuning in to an often-unrecognized symptom of dehydration--headache.
 
Take a day or two to acclimate to higher elevations. Rarefied oxygen at altitudes above 8,000 feet can cause altitude or mountain sickness. Symptoms include severe headache, body ache, nausea, dizziness and impaired mental functioning. Use the buddy system. The only sure cure is to descend to lower elevations, but try an extended rest and rehydrating first.
 
Never travel into worsening weather, especially lightning. If caught in a thunderstorm, stay off summits and ridges to avoid being struck. Don't let your ego override the adage to "error on the side of safety." Respect the mountain, and live to climb another day.

Article Written By Vaughn Clark

Living in Boise, Idaho, Vaughn Clark has been a freelance writer for 18 years. His articles have appeared in "Backpacker" magazine, "The New Times," the "Ventura County Star," and "Santa Barbara News-Press." He has also published poetry and written three full-length adventure screenplays.

Keep Me Informed

Weekly newsletters, announcements and offers from Trails.com to your inbox.

Sign me up!

We HATE spam and promise to keep your email addresses safe and secure.