How to Start Mountaineering UK
Mountaineering is an outdoor adventure sport that involves ascending mountain peaks. It is a multi-disciplinary activity that utilises skills from hiking, scrambling, rock climbing, and ice climbing. Also known as alpinism, this hobby can be combined with skiing and via ferrata routes to create one epic adventure. The main goal of an alpinist is to utilise all these skills to reach the summit of a high point, peak, or ridge.
As mountaineering generally takes place in alpine regions, the weather and landscape are key components of this sport. Snow and ice are powerful contenders alongside extreme cold, steep inclines, clouds, storms, rain, sheer rock faces, and many other natural barriers. Extreme conditions are one of the most challenging aspects of mountaineering.
Therefore, the question of how to start mountaineering is an important one. You can’t simply jump in at the deep end with no training. It takes years of experience to become competent at mountaineering. To give you an idea of where to begin, here’s how to start mountaineering.
History of Mountaineering
The history of mountaineering is a complex one. Given that it is a loosely defined sport without official competitions or unified governing bodies, the genesis of this sport is a grey area. For hundreds of years, monks, priests, and religious figures climbed mountains for prayer or ritual.
Soldiers and warriors also scaled challenging routes to showcase their strength and bravery or to gain an advantage over their enemies. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that mountains in the European Alps began to be systematically climbed and logged.
In 1854, the Golden Age of Alpinism began, spurred on by the British judge Sir Alfred Willis. Although many of these early ascents proved fatal, alpinism began to take form as equipment and climbing techniques continued to develop. Mountaineering then spread across the globe before culminating in a successful ascent of the world’s highest mountain, Everest (8,849 metres) in 1953.
Why Start Mountaineering?
There is a lot to be said about pushing the limits of human endurance. Not every mountain climb needs to be a first ascent up an 8,000 metre peak, but it should be a challenging experience. For many hikers, rock climbers, and hill walkers in the UK, mountaineering is the logical next step. A new hobby that takes your current knowledge and demands more from you in increasingly difficult situations.
To know how to start mountaineering, you must be physically fit. You should be athletic and flexible with good cardiovascular and muscular strength. To go mountaineering in the UK, you must make difficult decisions under pressure. You need to be a competent navigator and should learn the ways of the natural world.
Starting mountaineering allows you to focus on a new challenge which will provide you with a great sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. Mountaineering will make you methodical in your planning and persistent in fighting against adversity. You will learn independence and gain confidence in your own abilities.
Where to Go Mountaineering?
If you want to know how to start mountaineering, you need to consider where to go. There are hotspots around the world that have the ideal landscape for mountaineering. Places like the Peruvian Andes, the Himalayas, and the European Alps are all top-tier mountaineering destinations. However, the UK also has some great mountaineering spots! Of course, let’s not forget that Edmund Hillary trained in the peaks of Snowdonia before successfully summiting Mount Everest!
In the UK, knowing how to start mountaineering begins by attempting warm weather summits. This allows you to get familiar with alpine climbing techniques, technical equipment, route finding, and other essential skills. After getting confident in these conditions, you can attempt winter camping and mountaineering.
In the summer, Snowdonia National Park is a fantastic place to practice your technical skills while identifying alpine features. The Peak District is another great area for rock climbing and bouldering. During the winter, there are few better places in the UK for mountaineering than Scotland. Ice climbing, snowfield navigating, and summit bagging are all possible throughout the Munros of the highlands.
Training for Mountaineering
If you want to know how to start mountaineering, you should already be a competent hiker. Perhaps you have attempted some scrambles in the Lake District, and you also enjoy bouldering or rock climbing. At this stage, you should have some idea about how to read the landscape, and your outdoor knowledge should be strong. If not, then get training in these areas before considering anything else.
Next, you need to hone these skills and work on your fitness. Start going to the gym 2-3 times a week and work on compound movements. Incorporate some aerobic training into your weekly routine and continue to hike, wild camp, and enjoy outdoor adventures regularly. Lastly, do a mountaineering course or join a guide on an alpine trip to gain some valuable knowledge and experience on how to start mountaineering.
Equipment for Mountaineering
The last tip on how to start mountaineering is to build your kit list. As mentioned, you should already be a confident outdoorsman. That means knowing how to use a tent and pack a backpack. Understanding how to layer clothing, avoid blisters, and wear waterproofs are crucial. You need to invest in a few bits of climbing equipment including: a harness, ropes, a helmet, gaiters, crampons, and an ice axe.
After purchasing this basic set of equipment, you can continue to build your kit list with more specialised equipment such as ice screws, mountaineering boots, snow shoes, climbing glasses, and anything else that is required for your expedition.
Knowing how to start mountaineering is a difficult thing. It is a sport that requires technical equipment and heaps of knowledge to attempt safely. This skill set may have to be developed over many years. A key bit of advice is to not rush the process. Gradually grow into mountaineering and build confidence over time. Eventually, after enough experience, you will have an intuitive idea of how to start mountaineering and that’s the best place to begin your adventures from.