Mountain climbing or mountaineering is a hobby/sport that involves ascending mountains and ranges. Most places in Europe refer to this activity as Alpinism. Other related activities to mountain climbing include traditional climbing, skiing, and traversing through ferratas. Most mountaineering activities are done outdoor. However, some people prefer indoor climbing and bouldering to the mountaineer.
Mountain climbing may not be a typical sport since it lacks formal rules and regulations. Nonetheless, some regard it as a sport because of its competitiveness in some cases. Moreover, some organizations have been set to formalize mountain climbing into a sport. One of these organizations is the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation. The body is part of the International Olympic Committee, and it is recognized as a world organization for mountaineering and climbing. Mountaineering is more demanding than other activities, like hiking.
Furthermore, the epitome of success in mountain climbing is reaching the summit after successfully traversing through the specified route and overcoming hazards that may come along. In a nutshell, mountain climbing involves hiking, rock climbing, and crossing glaciers. Besides, the person that climbs mountains is known as a mountaineer or mountain climber.
Mountaineering is divided into the following types depending on the complexity of the activity.
- Trail climbing – The easiest (Recommended for beginners)
- Rock climbing
- Ice climbing
History of mountain climbing
Mountain climbing was a common practice long before even documentation. Communities around the globe used to do mountain climbing for different reasons. For instance, some climbed to the peak of the mountain for spiritual reasons and others for hunting. It only became a sport around the 1860s. And as history suggests, Sir Alfred Wills is the father of mountain climbing as a sport. Some scholars asserted that mountain climbing is a lifelong philosophy and not just a meager activity. There is some truth in this assertion since mountain climbing comes along as lifelong activity and not just a one-time experience. Climbing new mountains also give one a feeling of accomplishment. Until the 20th century, the world altitude record was reached, and the reference points were the Himalayas and Karakoram ranges. However, this record was surpassed when climbers reached the peak of Mount Everest.
Highest unclimbed mountain
As of 2020, Muchu Chhish is the only highest peak on the planet that has not been climbed though it is not off-limits. However, determining the highest unclimbed mountain can be hard because surveying parts may not be possible. Also, getting reliable records from routes that local climbers and explorers use is quite hard. Other sources claim that Gangkhar Puensum (approx; 24,840 ft)) on the Bhutan-China boundary is the tallest unclimbed mountain on earth. The reason why mountaineering on Gangkhar Puensum is not done past 20000ft high is because of religious beliefs. There are other unclimbed mountains or virgin peaks that have not been submitted because of their geographic location or political volatility.
Preparing for mountain climbing
The following are the general steps to follow when preparing for mountaineering.
Evaluate how fit you are: Make sure you consult your doctor for professional health evaluation. They will recommend if you are fit to go for mountain climbing or not. If you are asthmatic, you need to be aware of the conditions that you will face on the mountain. Also, consult an instructor to let you know if you are physically fit to go for mountaineering.
Physical requirements: Ensure you meet the physical needs because mountaineering is an intense exercise that requires you to be fit. Also, note that you will be carrying some items on your back. If you have not met the physical requirements, you might not accomplish your mountain climbing goals.
Training: Training is an important step in mountain climbing preparation. Make sure you prepare your body psychologically and physically for the activities ahead. Always ensure that you do the following things before climbing a mountain:
- Doing cardio exercises will keep your body ready for the exertion. Cardio workouts can improve your overall fitness and lung capacity. It can also help your body in building your stamina before the intense mountain climbing.
- Interval sessions will boost your oxygen retaining on every breath you take.
- Training your balancing and reflexes for mountaineering.
- Study the mountain properly before you go for mountaineering.
- Finally, gather everything you will need during mountain climbing.
Mountain climbing starter pack
Although weight is a primary concern for mountaineers, it is imperative to carry with you some equipment to enable you to traverse the mountain routes safely and efficiently. Also, bear in mind that mountain climbing is not a light activity. Pack the following items depending on the route you are going to take. You have to be prepared to carry the following items when necessary:
- Regular equipment climbing pack
- Ice axe (with leash)
- Pulley Harness with adjustable loops)
- Extra batteries
- Avalanche transceiver
- Snow protection gear
- Locking carabiners and non-locking carabiners
- Ice screws
- Nut extraction tool
- Ice tools
- Snow picket
Tools better navigation
Navigation is very important, especially when you are climbing a mountain for the first time. Essentials to consider carrying for better navigation include:
- A GPS or a phone with a GPS app
- A map
- Mountaineering tent
- Neck gaiter
- Signaling mirror
- Toilet paper
- Sleeping bag
- Prescription medications
- Mountain kitchen and cook set
- Energy food and drinks
- Sleeping pads
- Emergency and first aid
- Most of the items above are optional. Make sure you carry only the necessary items.
Climbing without training
Apart from physical exercises, it would help if you had the mental strength to endure mountaineering challenges. If you get involved in intense workouts a few days before the main day, you might not enjoy your mountaineering experience since you will be exhausted. If you have less time to train, you don’t have to work intensively. Just work out lightly to gain lung capacity. You can achieve your mountain climbing goals by taking nature walks around your area.
Activities to partake in mountain climbing
There are many activities that you can partake in during mountain climbing. Here are the different types of mountaineering that you can get involved with:
Traditional mountaineering – involves aid climbing and free climbing. You identify a mountain and take part. In the mountains covered by glaciers, carry an ice axe and crampons to traverse the terrain easily.
- Ski mountaineering – involves skiing on rugged terrains routes here are less defined.
- Peak bagging – this is a popular activity for climbers that are ascending high peaks.
- Enchainment – ascending multiple summits in a single outing.
Best time for mountain climbing
This depends on the time of the year and route you are supposed to take on the trip. The ideal time for mountaineering is during spring, summer, or early autumn. Always prepare well for a successful mountaineering experience.
What about the winter
Winter mountaineering may not be the ideal time for the climber to enjoy their outdoor adventure. This time is difficult and risky. However, it can be rewarding because sometimes it’s all about beating the activity’s challenges. Make sure you choose a mountain that does not involves extreme occurrences during this period. If you want to climb and have a great ski vacation on the mountain slope, choose the winter period.
Mountain climbing can be hazardous at times. These are the risks associated with mountaineering:
- Avalanche of snow
- Falling ice
- Falling Rocks
- Insect and animal bites.
You can avoid all these risks by going mountaineering during the ideal time of the year. Also, wear protective clothing to protect you from harsh conditions and animals.
Benefits of mountain climbing
You can benefit physically, mentally, and socially from mountain climbing. Here are the gains you get from climbing mountains.
- Climbing helps to boost muscle endurance.
- Less strenuous aerobic workout
- Works out your cardiovascular system
- Mental benefits
- Improves your decision-making ability
- Goal setting and determination.
- Stress relief
- Spatial awareness
- Social benefits
- Networking and friendship
- Communication and listening skills
Mountain climbing comes with numerous health benefits. If you make it your habit to engage in mountain climbing, there is a possibility that you will never think of going to the gym. This is because mountain climbing can offer you all the benefits that are associated with regular exercise.