So you want to be a mountain climber. You want to be a mountaineer, do you? Alright then. Here are the very basics. Mountaineering is the act of hiking, climbing and camping up mountains. To most of us it is a sport, a hobby. But to those for which mountaineering is like breathing, it is a true profession. You must be athletically fit and have the technical ability for it. One more thing many people don’t realize: you’ve got to have the mental capacity for it. It’s challenging for the mind and the spirit. You need every part of yourself.

There are three typical terrains encompassed by mountaineering. They are snow, glaciers and iceeach requiring its own specific equipment. Snow shoes are very useful for deep snow, such as what you may find in long fields of snow or on inferior slopes of a mountain where snow will pile up. Glaciers pose no problem by themselves. The greatest danger is in the common occurrence of a crevasse while crossing one. These deep chasms are often well hidden from sight by a snowbridge that is often just a few inches thick. A wrong step and it could be all over for you. In glacial travel, a system of ropes is used, binding climbers to each other. If necessary, a crevasse rescue to the rescue! Remember that you’ve only got three basics for glacial gear: crampons, an ice axe and rope. This will also be your basic gear for travelling over ice. If you’re travelling over steep ice, however, you’ll also need ice screws (aka pickets) and an extra axe. Now, if the ice is a vertical wall, you’ll need ice climbing skills to get up there. Be ready for it.

An exceptional mountain needs more than a day just to reach the top. Time is needed acclimatize to the high altitude conditions. It often requires more than a day to descend to the base of the mountain once you’ve reached the top. You’ve got a few choices for shelter on those forbidding slopes. Base camps may be found on many popular, usually very dangerous summits. These camps give you time to prepare for an attempt to reach the summit. Additional camps may be found further up the mountain where the summit cannot be reached from base camp in a single day. Mountain huts, with varying names based on location, have basic eating and sleeping facilities. Some are abandoned during certain times of the year but, at favorable times, are fully manned and stocked. Some huts offer booking in advance and, in these cases, cancellations are advised. If cancellations aren’t given and the party doesn’t show, it could indicate that someone is stuck on a mountain and needs help.

There are fast temporary shelters you can use while camping on a mountain. The most common shelter on a mountain is a tent. They’re easy to pick up, easy to take down. If weather threatens, outcroppings of snow or rock are readily used to fortify them. A bivouac (bivy) is an open encampment that can give you a rough-and-ready resting and sleeping arrangement. Handmade shelters, such as a snow cave, may be dug out of the ground in at least four feet of snowa very compact fit. A quinzee, on the other hand, is carved out of a pile of snow above ground. While these handmade shelters may not seem like much, they are so much warmer than being outside in the open freezing air. Igloos are surely a possibility, but it takes quite some time to build one. Time, while climbing a mountain, is always something you wish you had more of.

By Haadi