Climbing a Mountain for the first time? Here are 17 valuable tips to help you make it all the way to the top!
Mountain Climbing is an extreme outdoor activity enjoyed all around the world. Whether you view climbing a mountain as a sport, personal challenge, or part of something more significant. It is a highly exhilarating and rewarding experience, to say the least. Climbing a mountain is no task for the unprepared either. Indeed, mountaineering is a difficult pastime and requires a certain level of dedication and perseverance.
Whether discovering mountain climbing for the first time, or an avid mountaineer, our list will guide you reach the top. From lacing your boots properly to what you should pack in your bag, these 17 tips will have you transforming into a genuine mountaineer in no time.
1. Do Your Homework
As with most worthwhile things, digging in and doing your homework is the very first step. Climbing a mountain is a respectable goal and a gratifying experience in general. However, it is crucial first to understand the tremendous mental effort required for climbing a mountain a successfully. Consider picking up a few books on mountaineering as well as striking up a conversation with any experienced mountain climbers that you know. The amount of information that there is to learn about mountaineering is vast.
You will need to become familiar with everything from basic mountain climbing safety to how to react in severe situations while hoisting yourself up or down an exposed mountainside. If you are considering climbing a mountain in a foreign country, you will need to first learn about the best times of year to climb mountains in that specific region. You will also need to consider whether hiring a local guide is something that would benefit you as well.
2. Start Training Right Away
Climbing a mountain is possibly for practically anyone to achieve if they set their mind to it. However, that does not mean that it is something easy to do. Safely climbing a mountain requires one to be of good overall fitness as well as to have a high level of endurance. So, as soon as you start doing your homework on mountain climbing, you’ll need to start training right away. That doesn’t mean you have to start training at the gym seven days a week, or at all for that matter. Jogging, running, hiking, and long distance walking are just a few examples of the best exercises for training to climb a mountain. Furthermore, if you can afford it, consider a trip to a rock climbing park for a bout of training from a professional climber.
3. Get Mentally Fit for the Climb
Training for climbing a mountain does not strictly consist of preparing physically. Mental fitness is essential when it comes to getting ready for the climb. As you continue looking into mountaineering, possible mountains to climb, and begin your training, test your mental strength as well. A considerable portion of the skills and energy that it takes to propel yourself to the top are arguably more mental than physical. That is why even those who are in poor physical condition can make it climbing a mountain if they are of a healthy and sound mind. Before attempting the undertaking of climbing a mountain be sure to assess and sharpen your mental abilities. That includes problem-solving skills, the overall level of mountaineering knowledge, the amount of stress you are capable of standing and much more.
4. Build Your Mountaineering Education
As the old saying goes, knowledge indeed is power. In the case of climbing a mountain, your mountaineering education will go further to help you to the top than anything other than your mental attitude and perseverance. The closer you get to climbing a mountain for the first time, you will need a fuller understanding of mountaineering ethics, the leave no trace principles, and relevant information about the specific mountain you aim to climb. Consider browsing mountaineering forums online, watching documentaries about famous mountains, and otherwise studying anything that concerns your mountain climbing goals.
5. Gather the Proper Gear for Climbing a Mountain
One of the most crucial aspects of safely and adequately climbing a mountain is having the right gear. If you are just now discovering mountain climbing, you will have quite a list of equipment to gather. However, if you are already an avid hiker, you may have some of the basics covered. Clothes include boots, hat, gloves, and gaiters at the very least. Additional gear that you’ll want to have consists of a decent backpack, a map and compass, a headlight, a whistle, water, plastic bags, and a first aid kit. Depending on where you plan on climbing a mountain, you may need to pack an ice ax, a GPS, sunglasses, and more. Pack as light as possible. Go with ultra-lightweight gear if possible, but whatever you do, make sure you have all the essentials before even considering hitting the mountain.
6. Build the Skills Required for Climbing a Mountain
The skills required for climbing a mountain are vast. If you’re a hiker or nature lover, you may already possess some skills necessary for mountaineering. You will need to know how to read a map, how to use a compass, and much more. Professional training courses are available for mountain climbing techniques including glacier walking, crevasse and snow bridge crossing, descending and how to properly use an ice ax. Climbing techniques, knowledge of knots and rope, and what to do in emergency situations are just a few additional aspects of training you will need. Depending on the mountain that you are going to be climbing, you should consider professional first aid and avalanche safety at the very least.
7. Consider Finding a Trainer or Guide
Before tackling a large mountain, regarding finding a trainer or guide to work with in your region. There are also mountain climbing clubs that are well worth looking into. Either way, trainer, guide, or club, you will begin to gain much-needed mountaineering experience right away. Perhaps the most valuable part of working with a trainer or club is all the random mountain climbing information you will obtain from conversations. Studying and reading are great. However, there is no replacement for directly exchanging information amongst experienced mountaineers. Another great aspect of joining a mountain climbing club is that you can sometimes find some great used gear for low prices. You may even connect with a mountain climbing partner if you decide to join a mountain climbing club.
8. Carefully Plan Your First Expedition
Planning your first mountain climbing expedition is a big deal. Reaching the top will be extremely rewarding. However, you must first dedicate enough time and energy into a detailed plan on exactly how you will be climbing the mountain. You’ll need to prepare for every foreseeable aspect of the mountain in question. How many pitches does the hike consist of? Will, there be snow and ice, and if so, how much? How many days will it take to reach the top, and for that matter, how long will it take you to travel to the mountain in the first place?
The areas of careful consideration to make while planning your first expedition are quite numerous. Since this will be your first time climbing a mountain, you should stick with the easy route, as well as bringing along a hiking buddy. Climbing a mountain alone is never really a great idea. There will be many more mountaintops to conquer after this one. Also, before you even think about taking off, check the weather forecast and always make sure to let someone know where you’ll be climbing and for how long you expect to be gone.
9. Get Advice from Experienced Mountaineers
In the case that you decide you don’t need, or don’t have time, for working with a guide or joining a club, remain open for advice from experienced mountaineers. Whether it is an easier route for a specific span of a mountain or some gear-related advice that could make your next trek easier. Great information is priceless. Avoid costly rookie mistakes by remaining open and attentive to advice from those who’ve already climbed a mountain.
10. Set Up a Proper Base Camp and Prepare for Ascending
Once you’ve gained enough general mountaineering knowledge, as well as prepared in other ways including researching the particular mountain you’ll be climbing, it’s time to claim your first mountaintop. When you arrive at the mountain, set up a base camp before embarking on the actual climb. Double check your gear and recalculate how much food supplies and water you need. Check in with the locals, or sign in to the register for climbing the mountain, touch bases with your contacts back home, and purchase any gears or supplies that you may still need.
In the event that weather conditions are questionable, a proper base camp will give you a place to comfortable wait for hazardous conditions to clear up before heading out. It will also give you a place to meet up with members of your mountain climbing party. You’ll not want to forget to acquire a permit when necessary, some mountains require them, and some don’t. Before breaking camp and heading out, take the time to have a nice hot meal and get in some exercises.
11. Begin The Climb with Confidence
As you being the climb, all of the time invested in reading, training, and otherwise preparing will come into account. Typically, you will want to sleep overnight at base camp and start the trek as early as possible in the morning. The reason for starting so soon is so that you have proper time to set up an overnight camp after hiking most of the day away. If your mountain is a day hike, starting in the morning will also allow you enough time to make it back down to base camp before darkness falls. Triple check that you have all the necessary gear eat a healthy breakfast, drink plenty of water, and head for the top. If you are climbing in a group, make sure that you don’t stray too far behind when you stop to enjoy the view or snap a few photos along the way.
12. Beware of the Dangers Involved with Climbing a Mountain
Climbing a mountain is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding outdoors activities that I have personally experienced. However, it is also a pretty dangerous hobby at times. From lacking the proper cold weather gear to not knowing how to react in harsh weather and emergency conditions, even the most basic dangers may become fatal. When climbing a mountain, it is vital to track certain aspects of the trek to stay aware of the various levels of risk. Temperatures, weather conditions, elevation, falling rock (even falling people), cliffs, sharp slopes, and crossing crevasses are just a few of the most dangerous aspects to climbing a mountain.
13. Take Your Time Along the Way
One of the most crucial pieces of advice that anyone can give you about climbing a mountain is to take your time along the way. Climbing a mountain is not running a race, it is somewhat relatable to a marathon, but only in the mindset of going the distance. Mountain climbing is a fun and exciting hobby, it can be pretty easy to get carried away. Make sure that you are pacing yourself and resting periodically along the way. Give yourself proper time to move through the more dangerous terrain at a slower and more cautious speed. Once you’ve climbed a few mountains, you will see that taking your time is one of the biggest and simplest keys to making it to the top.
14. Pack Your Trash With You
Speaking of taking your time along the way, make sure that you are taking the time to follow the Leave No Trace policy. You will need to pack all of your trash back down the mountain. Bringing along a few plastic bags, for this reason, is a good idea. Respecting the mountain means a lot to most mountaineers, and you will not receive a friendly welcome from fellow mountain climbers if they catch you purposely littering.
15. Utilize Proper Hygiene
Along with leaving no trace and packing out your trash, you will also need to utilize proper hygiene throughout the climb. If your mountain only takes a day to climb up and back down, It may not be such a big deal; otherwise, when nature calls, you will need a small shovel and toilet paper. Make sure to dig your hole well off of any trail and to adequately cover it back over when finished. Packing an umbrella also helps when it comes to nature calling during the rain or snow.
16. Conquer Your First Mountaintop and Repeat
Improving your skills and knowledge as a mountain climber is limited to the amount of time spent studying as well as it is the number of mountains you climb. There are many different types of mountains to climb, each one as challenging as it is rewarding in its own individual way; From rolling green ridges thousands of feet above sea level, to volcanoes, glaciated peaks, and snow-capped mountains of mostly rock. A few of the most iconic mountain ranges to conquer in the U.S. include the Grand Tetons, the Rockies, and the Olympics. The more types of mountains you climb, the higher your skill level will grow and the more gear you will collect.
17. Safely and Slowly Descend
One of the most critical aspects climbing a mountain that gets overlooked quite often is that act of safely descending after reaching the peak. The descent is often times harder and more dangerous than the climb itself. Most mountain climbing accidents tend to occur during the descent. That is why it is extra important to take your time, be safe, and descend back down the mountain at a comfortable and cautious pace. Make sure you remain roped-up throughout the entire descent and stay aware of the possibility of avalanches and falling rocks. Consider creating a base camp near the peak and resting for a day or two before making the descent. Especially if ascension required multiple days.
Here are a few key things to remember about climbing a mountain!
Climbing a mountain is a super cool thing to do. It even gives way to certain bragging rights. However, it is not strictly fun and games and is an extremely serious undertaking. There are several key things to keep in mind about mountain climbing. Never attempt to climb without a partner or group, it is simply too dangerous, period. Always practice caution, not ego, while climbing. Stay fit mentally, it is just as important as physical training. When you’re out there climbing a mountain, be on the lookout for signs of exhaustion, hypothermia, and oxygen deprivation amongst your climbing party. Especially when hiking in extreme elevations and weather conditions. Also, remember to take your time and rest along the way.
Have you climbed a mountain recently? What tip would you suggest to our readers for climbing a mountain? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments section below!
Related article: 7 Best Climbing Harnesses for Your Next Adventure