Expert advice for people starting out in mountaineering
Mountaineering is a great outdoor activity for getting your body fit and healthy through challenging yet fun exercise.
Whether looking to climb mountains in this country or overseas, your body is sure to face some key fitness battles, so read our our top tips before starting out.
Top tips for successful mountaineering include:
Training for mountaineering
Mountaineering is a pursuit that should never be undertaken without a good understanding of the many different aspects involved, ranging from map reading and navigation skills to rope work and understanding mountain weather. You should definitely consider booking up with a reputable organisation offering expert advice.
Preparation and planning for mountaineering
Take time to plan and prepare for your ascent. This will be time well spent and the chances of your having a successful and enjoyable ascent will be far higher if you have prepared well. Take time to plan your route and prepare your kit regardless of whether you're going for a short climb or a two month expedition, some careful planning can make all the difference.
As well as careful planning, always check your kit before you leave … it is no good being out on the mountain only to find you left your ice-axe at home.
Footwear for mountaineering exercise
Make sure you invest in a good pair of rugged mountaineering boots. For summer mountaineering you can get away with a stiff pair of walking boots, but for winter mountaineering a crampon rated boot will be needed.
Visit a reputable outdoor retailer who will offer good advice on the best mountaineering boot to suit your needs.
Food for mountaineering
Make sure to carry plenty of food (and water) on any mountaineering trip. Food needs to be high in energy and lightweight. Many high-energy bars and pre-packaged meals are now available.
Food can make or break longer expeditions so make sure the food you carry is something tasty and enjoyable too! It is essential on any mountaineering trip to carry emergency rations in case you are on the mountain for longer than anticipated.
Weather watching before mountaineering
Before embarking on any mountaineering trip make sure you get a local weather forecast. You can always postpone a summit attempt for another day, with more favourable weather conditions.
However, once you are on a mountaineering route you will often be committed with little options for retreat so checking the weather in advance is a must!
Emergency shelter when mountaineering
Too many completely avoidable accidents and injuries occur in mountaineering because people simply underestimate the awesome forces of mountain weather.
Always carry an emergency shelter, they are small and lightweight but can be life savers, protecting you from the elements should the weather suddenly turn.
There are many shelters available from two-person to large group shelters. Some of the best available are Terra Novas Bothy Bags.
Actions for an emergency Nobody wants to think that an accident will ever happen to them but it would be foolhardy to think that this will always be the case. Take some time to prepare for, and practice actions on different types of emergencies.
High levels of training mean you will react without having to think, which is beneficial since decision-making abilities are severely impaired in stressful conditions.
In a mountaineering emergency:
Don't rush and remain calm. Otherwise a minor mishap could escalate into a major incident.
Quickly assess the casualty's condition.
Determine if they can be treated and evacuated by the party or if external assistance is required.
Call for external assistance if it is needed using your phone. If you have no signal then someone needs to leave to get help.
Never leave a casualty unattended unless it is completely unavoidable i.e. if climbing as a pair. At least two fit and reliable members of the party should be sent. Write down the grid-reference and a description of the location as well as the casualty's injuries to take to the rescue services. (A GPS receiver can prove invaluable in determining your exact location to give to rescue teams.)
Move the casualty to shelter and keep them warm, hydrated and reassured. However, NEVER move a casualty if you suspect any spinal injuries.
Never move far from your ascent route as this is where mountain rescue teams will focus their search. If you need to find shelter then leave a sign indicating your direction to the rescue team.
Always take your phone with you (sealed in a waterproof bag) when you are mountaineering. In the event of an emergency it will save valuable time if you are able to contact the emergency services immediately.
Be aware that network signal strength can be non-existent in some remote areas. For such expeditions radios are essential as they enable party members to communicate when out of sight of each other on the mountain, but also to radio for assistance if it is needed.
Be safe ...
Mountaineering is an enjoyable pastime but there are inevitable dangers involved.
The risk of accident or injury will be severely reduced if you start off by planning short, easy ascents and then gradually increase your route severity as your experience and confidence grow.
If you push too hard too soon, this is how accidents inevitably happen, putting yourself, rescue teams and other climbers all at risk. Plan according to your ability and always to the ability of the weakest member in a group.
It is well worth taking the time to invest in some basic first aid training as this is useful knowledge to have (not only for mountaineering but for every day occurrences).
Courses are very affordable, easy to learn and short in duration, but can prove invaluable out on the hill or at any other time.
Always carry a personal first aid kit (mountain leaders will always carry a more comprehensive kit)