What is mountaineering and should you try it?

There are guides on hiking for beginners. There are guides on mountaineering for beginners. Or experts. Or… perhaps something in between. When it comes to hiking, mountain climbing, or any other mountain-related activity, the vocabulary used to describe such sports can get a little confusing for those unfamiliar. So, what is mountaineering? What is the difference is between that and hiking? To get it all sorted out, check out what exactly mountaineering is and if you should give it a go.

What exactly is mountaineering?

person climbing a mountain with sun in the background
Colin Moldenhauer/Unsplash

In the most simple terms, mountaineering is the act of climbing mountains. While the word “mountaineering” entails much more than that, it is a good start to understanding this sport. The ultimate goal of mountaineering is to get as high up a mountain as you can, with the peak being the main prize.

If you’re wondering what mountaineers do exactly to get up the mountain, there are a lot of different answers. The main ways include:

  • Hiking
  • Snowshoeing
  • Skiing
  • Climbing
  • Abseiling or repelling
  • Trekking
  • Camping

Essentially, mountaineers will do whatever they need to reach the peak. Because of this, being prepared for anything is of the utmost importance when it comes to this challenging sport. Knowing the mountain, the trails, and the weather is the best way for mountaineers to be ready for anything nature has to offer.

Mountaineering also typically entails staying out in harsh environments for extended periods of time. These trips can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. So, it is easy to see why training and preparing for a mountaineering excursion is so important.

Should you try mountaineering?

man in blue jacket standing on top of mountain
David Billings/Unsplash

While mountaineering is not for everyone, it can be a great experience for some. Whether you think you would like mountaineering or not, you cannot just simply go out on a mountaineering excursion tomorrow. Mountaineering requires a lot of expensive gear, weeks of planning, and months, if not years, of training. While you’re deciding if mountaineering is right for you, try answering these questions:

  • Do you enjoy nature?
  • Are you willing to sleep in tents or out in the open wilderness?
  • Are you physically able to walk and/or climb upward of 10 miles each day on rocky, unstable surfaces?
  • Can you afford/ are you willing to spend thousands of dollars on mountaineering equipment?
  • Do you suffer from a medical condition that would prohibit you from exploring mountainous terrain for days or weeks at a time?

While these questions don’t cover all that mountaineering has to offer, they can help you determine if it is the right activity for you. If you answered no to any of these questions, mountaineering is probably not something you would enjoy.

Obviously, if you have a passion and determination to become a mountaineer, then you can accomplish it. It comes down to being motivated to follow the steps for a successful trip each and every time. As with any sport, there are numerous levels of difficulty. So, with mountaineering, some great ways to get started include:

  • Mountaineering during warm months only.
  • Limit yourself to a small, easy mountain that can be accomplished in a day or two.
  • Always go with a group.
  • Try out hiking or climbing first.
  • Keep your excursions to one to two days.

Pros and cons of mountaineering

two guys sitting on mountain and talking
Falaq Lazuardi/Unsplash

If you still feel on the fence about mountaineering, a list of pros and cons can really help solidify your decision.

Pros of mountaineering include:

  • It is a great form of exercise.
  • It develops skills related to planning, patience, and critical thinking.
  • It is a challenging sport for anyone who loves a challenge.
  • It involves numerous methods of transport from hiking, to skiing, to climbing.
  • You’ll learn a lot about nature, equipment, survival, and more.
  • It can be a great way to bond with friends and other mountaineers.
  • You can constantly set new goals.

Cons of mountaineering include:

  • It can be dangerous.
  • It requires a lot of expensive gear.
  • Extensive preparation can be tiresome.
  • It may be a little too challenging.
  • The weather can be unpredictable.

When it comes to trying out mountaineering, the answer is really up in the air. If you are an individual who is tough, loves a good challenge, enjoys being in nature or harsh climates, and is willing to prepare for an excursion, then this sport may be perfect for you. All you need is a good group of mountaineers to help you tackle the mountain. Mountaineering, however, is a bit extreme for most, and understandably so. It is an activity that requires a lot of dedication, so if it isn’t the sport for you, there are still plenty of other activities to get you out and about in nature.

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