The Basics of Mountaineering and Climbing

Mountaineering is the sport of hiking and / or climbing to the top of mountains. In America the terms used are usually mountaineering or mountain climbing, while in Europe the term alpinism is also commonly used. While vertical rock climbing and vertical ice climbing may be required to reach the top of a mountain, not all mountains require the same kind of climbing techniques to get to the summit. However, mountain climbing takes advantage of some of the safety techniques that are used for vertical rock climbing and ice climbing, most notably rope harness systems with multiple connection points for holding the weight of the climber in case there is a situation where the ground gives way (or if one of the harness points fails).

There are three basic divisions of the craft of mountain climbing, depending on whether the climber is traveling over rock, snow or ice. Different equipment is used for each of these environments and special techniques have to be used to ensure the safety of the climber and the group. When walking over rock, conditions are usually the safest, although one must be careful of the hazards of falling rocks (caused by the gradual process of erosion of the mountains and the recent weather conditions) and loose rocks or rotten rocks which may give way if the climber is not careful. To survive while climbing over rock, the climber must pay close attention to the condition of any of his / her handholds and footholds, and make sure to transfer weight from one outcropping of stone to another gradually while maintaining multiple connection points.

To walk or climb over parts of a mountain which are covered in ice and snow requires more special equipment than standard rock climbing, most notably crampons: ten or twelve point spikes which are attached to one’s boots for increased traction, or snowshoes for gentle snowy slopes. The kind of crampons which are used to walk over icy surfaces are different from those that are used for climbing a sheer vertical surface of ice, as vertical crampons will have spikes on the toes pointing forwards. The ice axe is also used in the process of ascending a snowy / icy area of the peak ‘ in the beginning stages of climbing a mountain the ice axe can be used as a staff or walking stick, as you move upwards the point of the pick can be used as a dagger or the ice axe can be swung over the head to dig into ice above the user, making it easier to ascend.

It is often safer to climb a mountain as a team. When you climb as a team your entire group can be attached to each other by a single rope line. If one member of the group falls or has an accident the others can come to that person’s aid and perform a rescue operation. This is particularly important when climbing on glacial deposits which often contain hidden crevasses. If proper safety precautions are studied, mountain climbing is one of the most exhilarating sports that one can enjoy.