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Five basic questions about climbing mountains

Thanks for asking your five questions about climbing mountains. All of your questions are related so I will try to give you answers that all together will help you do some mountaineering. I can see that you already are interested in the sport.

Remember, Traditional (Alpine) Mountaineering includes on and off trail hiking, scrambling, light weight wilderness backpacking, Leave-No-Trace camping and bivouacking, as well as technical travel and mountaineering on snow, rock and ice, glacier travel and technical rock climbing as well as summitting peaks. 

First, I suggest you read our essays about The Sport of Alpine Mountaineering, Climbing Together, Leading, Following, The Mountaineers' Rope, the Ten Essentials, and the Four Basic Responsibilities of anyone hiking the hills or climbing to the summits. Look at the photos. Read the Information page about dangers hidden to the uninformed and the mitigation of risks by knowledge, gear and learning from the experiences of others. Check out the Links. Read everything you can.

“How can you climb a mountain without any training?” Let’s use the word “knowledge” instead of “training”. Well, you can hike or climb to a summit without any idea of what you are doing, but it can be dangerous to do so and it is not nearly as fun or rewarding as knowing what you must do as you gain elevation to the top.

OK. How do you gain knowledge? You are doing it right now. Read and understand everything in TraditionalMountaineering and in “Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills”. Not all at once, but bit by bit, as you get more interested and experienced.

“Training” implies having a teacher to show you how to do things. This is not always possible. A good education will teach you to find out how to do things yourself. Books (“Freedom”), webs (, free catalogs (Petzl) are a rich sources of knowledge. Mentors are knowledgeable folks who will act as a teacher and Companions are friends who want learn to climb with you. Seek out Companions and Mentors.

“What is the best way to climb a mountain?”, you ask. First, pick a very small butte or hill or peak that will not take a very long time to summit. Find a Companion. Follow the Basic Responsibilities. Try to do it within the reasonable time limit you have set with your Responsible Person. If you can not, retreat and try again. No one climbs the big peaks without climbing lots of little ones, gaining knowledge along the way. Never stop learning.

“How can you climb a mountain without equipment?” It depends on what you mean by “equipment”. Good shoes or boots appropriate to you adventure, pants and shirt that won’t get wet and kill you from hypothermia, and a day pack to carry your Ten Essentials are all “equipment”. Forget the ropes and technical gear for a while. The lower peaks usually do not require “technical equipment”. 

“How do you climb a mountain in snow?” Gain knowledge from the TraditionalMountaineering Seminar Handout Snow Climbing. Climbing snow requires proper boots, clothing and an ice axe and more than basic knowledge. Remember, climbing or crossing a steep snow slope is like walking on the edge of a cliff. Read the TraditionalMountaineering Experience Reports relating to snow climbing accidents.

“What’s the best way to climb a mountain when its raining?” I’m glad you asked that, Logan. In a nut shell, don’t get wet! You can not hold your hand in a 50 degree trout stream for more than a few moments; you can die in wet clothing on a 50 degree day in the backcountry (or the city). You must stay dry. Hypothermia is the number one killer of folks outdoors. Read our Seminar Handout on Hypothermia to see what causes this condition and how to avoid it.
--On Belay, Bob Speik




Mountain climbing has inherent dangers that can in part, be mitigated


  About Alpine Mountaineering:
  The Sport of Alpine Mountaineering
  Climbing Together
  Following the Leader
  The Mountaineers' Rope
  Basic Responsibilities       Cuatro Responsabiliades Basicas de Quienes Salen al Campo
  The Ten Essential Systems        
Los Diez Sistemas Esenciales

  Suggested Leader's Guidelines and Needed Information:
  Suggested Leader Guidelines    Suggested information you should receive from your organized Leaders
Sign-in Agreements, Waivers and Prospectus     This pdf form will need to be signed by you at the trail head
Sample Prospectus    Make sure every leader tells you what the group is going to do; print a copy for your "responsible person"
Participant Information Form    This pdf form can be printed and mailed or handed to the Leader if requested or required
Emergency and Incident Report Form    Copy and print this form. Carry two copies with your Essentials 
Participant and Group First Aid Kit   
Print this form. Make up your own first aid essentials (kits) 

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The Three Sisters and Broken Top
South Sister, Middle Sister, North Sister (the sinister sister) and Broken Top in the Three Sisters Wilderness near Bend, Oregon USA
Copyright© 2004 - 2007 by Robert Speik. All Rights Reserved.