What do I Need to Go Mountaineering?
Have you ever looked up at a mountain peak and wondered: what do I need to go mountaineering? If so, this article should provide some help for you. Mountaineering requires technical skill, cool decision-making, and heaps of multi-disciplinary experience in the outdoors.
There is no one answer to the question “what do I need to go mountaineering?”. Like many challenges, it must be worked at over time, by building experience and knowledge. Having the right equipment is the bread and butter of your adventures, but gaining good judgement and insight takes time to hone. In any case, everyone has to start somewhere! So here are the key things you need to go mountaineering.
1 . Good Hiking & Outdoor Experience
To begin the list of “what do I need to go mountaineering?”, you must be a strong hiker. Preferably across numerous terrains with experience traversing a variety of morphologies and elevations. You should be a competent wild camper and comfortable with living and travelling outdoors. Both these skills will allow you to read and understand the landscape while knowing how to handle different weather conditions too.
You should be able to identify dangers and know how to handle yourself when things don’t go to plan. These skills will be built upon when you start mountaineering but having a strong foundation is important. Wilderness and expedition first aid courses are another valuable skill set to work on when expanding your mountaineering qualifications.
2 . A Means of Navigation
Navigation is a complex beast when you start mountaineering. You’re not simply following a trail from A to B. Often, you’re ascending or descending steep faces where the altitude is a more accurate representation than geographical distance. Not to mention that visibility can be abysmal with few markers to orientate yourself.
So, what do I need to go mountaineering without getting lost? An altimeter is a good place to start. In low visibility, an altimeter watch uses barometric pressure to provide you with an accurate altitude reading. Bringing a map and compass will also help you when navigating. Maps should be studied before you begin your expedition so you can follow a planned route.
A GPS device is now the most common navigation tool for mountaineers. You can pre-plot your route and get plenty of extra information such as directionality, wind speed, and temperature. GPS devices run on batteries which deplete when cold so make sure you keep any electronics in a warm jacket pocket. A good quality GPS device should also have a personal locator beacon for use in case of emergencies.
3 . A Competent Team
Mountaineering is best done in a climbing party of three. This can be with a hired guide, group tour, or training course. Teams can work together in decision-making. They also share the burden of the challenges. Once you are more experienced, you can climb alongside a couple of trusted friends.
There are many dangers on the mountains. Rotating the lead climber or roping up across glaciers and exposed faces lowers the risk of mountaineering. Climbing and abseiling also require rappelling and belaying teams to accomplish safely. Hence why a competent and trusted team are one of the key things you should develop when considering “what do I need to go mountaineering?”.
4 . Suitable Equipment
If you’re wondering “what do I need to go mountaineering?”, suitable equipment such as clothing, technical gear, and camping food is a good place to start. Climbing equipment should be extended to cover belaying, rappelling, ice climbing, and rock climbing – alongside general hiking gear.
Your equipment will vary depending on the terrain you face on each expedition. Rock, snow, mud, ice, soil, and glaciers, all require different skill sets and a variety of equipment to tackle safely. Minimising risks is always the name of the game when mountaineering, and carrying suitable equipment is a key to achieving that.
If you are planning on crossing a glacier, you need to have equipment for handling a crevasse rescue. A fundamental crevasse rescue kit will include a snow picket, slings, accessory cords, and pulleys. Collectively, this allows you to haul a fallen climber out of a crevasse to safety.
5 . A Strong Mindset
As with many adventure sports, mountaineers follow a strong outdoor code. It takes time to gain “freedom of the hills”. This is a concept which states that the joy of mountaineering comes through skill and experience. The aim being to move safely through an environment without harming the landscape or yourself. This is not a concept that is given wantonly by nature. It must be earned, through hard work and many days of dedicated training.
The mountaineering code is a bedrock that provides guidance and judgement to new climbers. It includes being physically strong and persevering through adversity. However, it also advises climbers to be sensible with pointers such as never climbing beyond your ability or letting your will and desire overrule a decision to turn back.
Many mountaineers claim that the mental aspect of climbing is the hardest. An overly zealous attitude can get you in trouble if you don’t correctly evaluate the risks or your current circumstance. Of course, the ability to solve problems and make good decisions are prized skills for mountaineers that take time to acquire.
With all this preparation, it can be easy to lose sight of why you’re going mountaineering in the first place. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the moment. Appreciate the power and scale of the natural world and give yourself time to revel in the challenge. Mountaineering is meant to be fulfilling and exciting, not merely nerve-racking and waylaid by planning.
If you’re sitting pondering, “what do I need to go mountaineering?” then you’re already on the right path. You know that this next step requires some thought and preparation to navigate appropriately. It’s getting this mindset that’s half the battle. Now armed with this information, you should be that bit closer to conquering the mountains of your dreams!