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Mountaineering

 

By:   M arty L amb

REI Lecture on January 22, 2001

M ountaineering is a dangerous sport. You can do everything right and still things can go very wrong. I recommend that you go with either a guide, a school, or an experienced friend/mountaineer that will look after you on your first visits to the mountains. Just keep in mind, that mountaineering can be dangerous if you are guided by Reinhold Messner or your aunt from Florida who has never been to the mountains but makes great pancakes. To become a seasoned mountaineer, you must put in the seasons. The learning curve is steep and difficult and the consequences of failure severe; but the rewards come to those who persevere. So be careful out there!

There are environmental ethics that also govern our actions in the wilderness. Everything we take to the mountains should come out with us. Be sure to know and at least meet the criteria for every area you visit. Make sure that everyone in your group knows the rules....

deciding on where to go Denver is 1200 miles away, Jackson is 1750 miles, and Seattle is 2400 miles. You can drive to the Rockies in 18 hours if you don’t stop at every Stuckey’s along the way. You have to fly to all the other areas, unless you have all summer off like teachers or students. Advantages of Flying - maybe quicker and you don’t have to drive. Advantages of Driving - more comfortable, (if you have a reliable vehicle) more reliable, easier to adapt scheduling, easier packing, maybe cheaper, it’s a road trip, and you don’t have to fly. If you drive, remember to time the drive to miss the heavy traffic of St. Lo., KC, and Denver. Driving across Kansas is not as bad as some say. It is big, flat, and open, but the skies can be magnificent and you can dream of the Native Americans, wagon trains, and of course the buffalo. Ok, it might not be that good, but at least it’s bearable.

deciding when to go whenever the area has the best weather and preferably not on a holiday weekend. Check guidebooks and the internet. A sk folks who go to the area fre quently. For example, July and August are the best months to climb in RMNP, but i have found the weather to be best in mid-July. NOTE: When you go to the mountains for vacation, whatever weather the area is having when you get there, is what you get. You may have to adjust your plans for the good or bad weather. It might not ever rain (ha), or it might rain every day with Thor booming as he chases you out of the mountains with huge bolts of lighting.

deciding on a guide or not -what are you going to the mountains for? to learn skills, just to summit, or just a thrill. If you are inexperienced, and want to learn quickly, spend the bucks and take a class. If you don’t want to learn anything but just want to climb to the top of something, get a guide. If you don’t have a climbing partner and can afford to

hire one, a guide is a good way to do a lot of climbing, they should be fit and know the routes, but make sure that they will let you lead if you so desire - some will not. If you don’t use a guide what are your options, there are clubs that you can join and attend their classes or outings - two big ones are the CMC and Mountaineers. You can also find an experienced friend/mountaineer and learn from them or you can go alone and try to wing it. This isn’t really recommended, but we do live in America.

how long - at least 10 days in the mountains (plus travel days = about two weeks) any less and you will not have time to acclimate and climb.

what kind of shape do you need to be in - you don’t need to be a superhuman, though it wouldn’t hurt! You do need to be in good overall fitness. If you are planning on climbing 2,500’ in a morning while carrying a pack, try to simulate the conditions at home - just make it harder. Aerobic fit-ness generally makes the hills easier, but keep in mind it doesn’t help you acclimate. Trail running makes you a stronger, better hiker. If for some reason you can’t run, then ride or walk but still emphasize the hills. Riding downhill is fun, but it might not help as cross training for climbing. We have great trail running parks at the Warner’s.

what do you need to practice - rock climbing trip -you basically need to be doing long gear routes at a higher level of difficulty than you are planning on climbing in the mountains. If you are planning on climbing a 5.5 route in the mountains, prepare for it by climbing at least 5.7. Also, make sure that you are climbing with a pack and similar gear - such as, the shoes you will be using in the mountains (boots, five teenies, etc.) and the gear you will we using. If you are planning on a ten pitch route, you better be doing ten pitch days on the cliffs. Check your time to see how fast you are doing the practice pitches, work on speed. You also have to be great at knots, rope work, belaying, etc.

what do you need to practice - snow and ice climbing trip - well, that’s a little hard-er, but you can practice parts of crevasse rescue on cliffs, (you can’t self-arrest.) The z-system lift and your ascending system can be practiced, just be sure to use a separate belay system as a back-up. Then well, you can climb some more hills and just make sure that you are doing them wearing a pack, in fact a heavy pack.

practice camping and backpacking - make sure your body is ready for the pack and the hills! Use everything you are going to take with you on your trip. Weigh the pack, pack it again. Think how far you will be carrying it.... if you are having trouble in TN, it’s not going to be any easier in the mountains.

hints

* the most comprehensive books are Mountaineering, Freedom of the Hills and Twight’s Extreme Alpinism. another interesting read is Accidents in North America. almost every accident is attributed to either poor judgment or user errors. see what they did wrong. learn from their mistakes.

* it takes at least twice as much energy to do anything above 10,000’.

* it takes at least twice as much time to do anything above 10,000’

* every task is at least twice as difficult above 10,000’.

* the lighter your pack is, the easier your day will be. the faster you will travel, the more your dogs will like you, the more fun you will have, etc.

* light gear costs lots of money, but light can also mean minimalist.

* even with the most expensive, lightest gear, your pack can still weigh a ton, if you pack too much stuff. e.g., a ton of the lightest feathers still weighs 2000 pounds.

* it’s impossible to pack all the clothing and sleeping gear for all conditions you may encounter and still be light. are you willing to be uncomfortable?

* pack together as a group. question each others packing. think light, buy scales, don’t duplicate.

* i watched vertical limits, don’t climb with anybody who has seen that movie and carries a knife!

* wear a watch, know how to tell time.

* you are always battling time/distance and how they effect your strength. how far, how long. how hard.

* remember that getting to the top is only half the game, you also have to figure out how to get back home safe. there is nothing wrong with turning around, there are some big problems with not coming back.

* before i climb an unfamiliar route, i want to know with-out a doubt, how i am going to get down. if i am unsure, i will often climb an easier route or even climb the descent first, then come back and do the desired route.

* waking is hard! 11p to 3a alarms are common. you will not get a lot of sleep on those nights. everyone should set an alarm clock. as soon as someone wakes near the appointed time, everyone gets up and starts moving.

* don’t rely on anyone else to wake you up.

* hydrate the night before a climb. you probably will not drink enough on the climb, especially if it is a long rock route, so drink all you can on the eve. the extra water also works as a natural alarm clock.

* plan your food so that you don’t have to cook breakfast on a summit day.

* have everything ready so that as soon as you get up, you can get dressed and start quickly. you can eat and drink as you are walking.

* lunch begins about an hour after breakfast. eat and drink often.

* if you don’t like walking, stay out of the mountains.

* carry your load, do your share. don’t offer to carry anybody else’s anything until it is necessary. everyone will probably be sore, tired and possibly irritable.

* the summit is just a piece of rock.

* everyone has fears, try to decide if the fear is rational or not. is it that nervous/afraid feeling that you have to fight, or is there a good reason for you to be afraid? if there is, get down.

* carry a first aid (and know how to use it) and emergency kit - basically, the ten essentials.

* if you are going light, this is not one of the things to leave behind, mine stays in the bottom of any pack that i am carrying.

* watch the weather, know the weather patterns, watch the time, turn around.

* i have never been warm in the mountains for very long.

* i have never sat on the summit of a technical route and pondered the world’s events, wrote notes, made phone calls, etc.

* it rains every day in the Rockies. when it doesn’t, mark it on the calendar as a special day.

* lightening always accompanies the rain.

* the other companion is wind. the winds always blow in the mountains.

* you grow as tired of the wind, as of mosquitoes when camping in a swamp with no netting.

* stoves don’t work well in the wind.

* windproof gear helps off set the wind chill, but the wind still blows. it causes everything to flap, unrelenting noise, communications are impossible, you begin to hate your partner, next you hate your mother, then your spouse, etc.

* be ready to hunker down in foul weather.

* be ready to say, not today, but know you are making the right decision.

* be patient. look for the window in the weather.

* always carry rain gear. not necessarily gore-tex unless it is really light or you are doing a plodder, just rain gear.

* fight inertia, keep moving.

* set a pace that you can maintain all day.

* avoid lengthy stops. try standing eight counts.

* when you stop, put on a jacket, don’t wait until you get cold before trying to get warm.

* lot’s of things can go wrong, be prepared mentally and physically to prevent problems or to be able to solve them. carry your first aid and emergency kits.

* watch for symptoms of AMS, be ready to turn around.

* i always get a headache in the mountains, i start the day on advil.

* acclimate! do some hikes, get high and get down. plan acclimation climbs into your trip. drink lots of water all that you can keep down.

* be honest with each other.

* don’t blame anyone else for you not making the top, you are a team. no stronger or weaker than the team, whether it is a team of two or eight, you are still together to share the joys and the disappointments.

* be ready to change plans. if you are planning a twelve mile approach, gaining 6,000’, carrying 60#’s, you will probably soon see that your dreams were bigger than your conditioning. if you are doing a route and are moving slowly, can you change routes?

* make sure that everything works before using it.

* make sure you know how to use it.

* make sure you know how to fix it.

* make sure you know what you are going to do, when you can’t fix it.

* carry tied runners, at least some.

* carry (cheaper) passive gear and a couple of old biners as part of your rack.

* rocks are hard in the mountains.

* wear a helmet, all the time.

* fight gravity, use a rope. don’t fall.

* have communication signals arranged when hearing is impossible. act predictable.

* if you don’t know how to do crevasse rescue, then stay off of glaciers!

* if you don’t know how to recognize avalanche danger and safe route selection, stay off the mountains during predicted avalanche danger.

* carry hand-wipes.

* don’t eat yellow, pink, red, brown, green, or black snow. try to limit your selection to white.

* water filters are filters, not miracle workers. try to use clean flowing water.

* carry a sealable water bag (such as a dromedary), then you can bring as much water as your back can carry.

* follow the rules. if bolts are not allowed, then don’t bolt. if bivouacs are not allowed then don’t bivouac. if parking is not allowed, then park somewhere else where it is allowed. if registration is required, then register. don’t muck up access because for some reason you are special and don’t need to follow the rules. i’m not disagreeing with the fact that you are special, just understand the use of public lands is a privilege.

* always stay on the trail, do not short-cut trails.

* pick up trash along the trail.

* you can’t depend on anyone other than your group for rescue. if your group is not strong enough, find some more folks to join the party, or find an area where your group would be strong enough.

* don’t think that just because you have a cellular telephone, that rescue is just a tele-phone call away.

* the mountains are not a good place to get hurt, but unfortunately, there are plenty of ways to sustain injuries.

* question and check each other religiously for blisters, especially if your wearing boots.

 

Gear for Mountaineering - Rock

Clothing

sun glasses w/strap

sun cap

balaclava

rain/wind jacket

insulation jacket/sweater

poly shirt (exp wgt.)

mid wgt zip t

lgt wgt t shirt

rain/wind pants

climbing pants

climbing shorts?

briefs

boot socks?

liner socks

boots?

approach shoes

short - gaiters?

liner gloves

glove shells

bandana

Kitchen

stove*

fuel*

water filter*?

dromedary

wide mouth quart bottle

coffee cup

kitchen kit

spoon, knife

pot holder*

scrubber*

lighter, matches

seasoning*

pot*

bowl

clean up towel*

food bag (plastic)

trash bag (plastic)

Camp

tent*

sleeping bag

pad

headlamp

batteries

mtn pack

pack biner & tag line

toilet kit

plastic collection bags

tp

wipeups - towelets

First Aid - small

aspirin

sinus & cold medicines

tums

band aids

tape & gauze

ointment, cleansers

special medications?

First Aid - group*

Personal

eye drops?

lip balm (sun screen)

sun screen

insect repellent?

tooth brush

alarm clock

vitamins, etc.?

foot powder?

camera?

batteries?

memory or film?

Navigation

maps*

guides*

compass*

altimeter*?, GPS*?, aneometer*?, weather

radio*?, two way radios*?

Emergency Kit

energy bar

light space blanket

whistle, compass

waterproof matches

replacement bulbs & batteries

chemical warmers

water purification tablets

Climbing

sticks

climbing pack

helmet, rock shoes

harness, atc w/locking, nut tool, cordelette

w/locking, anchor locking, 24” sling

ice axe?

crampons?

snow/ice pro - depending on route*

glacier travel - depending on route*

rope (s)*

rack*

wires - 1.5 sets

hexes - fill ins

tri-cams - for the needy

cams - 4 +

slings - 24”, 5 to 15

biners - 10 to ???

note - rack should definitely change depending

on the selected route

Other

sunglasses

road maps

guide books - reference

*denotes group equipment

 

Gear for Mountaineering - Snow

Clothing

goggles?

sun glasses w/strap

sun cap

balaclava

rain/wind jacket

insulation jacket

poly shirt (exp wgt.)

mid wgt zip t

lgt wgt t shirt

rain/wind pants

climbing pants

ltwt bottoms

briefs - 2

boot socks - 2

liner socks - 2

boots

gaiters

liner gloves

mitts

bandana

Kitchen

stove*

fuel*

grits - you can’t buy them everywhere

dromedary

wide mouth quart bottle, insulated

water filter*?

coffee cup

kitchen kit

spoon, knife

pot holder*

scrubber*

lighter, matches

seasoning*

pots*

bowl

clean up towel*

food bag

trash bag

Camp

tent*

sleeping bag

pad

headlamp

batteries

pack

pack biner & tag line

toilet kit

plastic collection bags

tp

wipeups - towelets

First Aid - small

aspirin

sinus & cold medicines

tums band aids

tape & gauze

ointment, cleansers

special medications?

First Aid - group *

Personal

eye drops?

lip balm (sun screen)

sun screen

tooth brush

alarm watch/clock

vitamins, etc.?

foot powder?

camera?

batteries?

film or memory?

Navigation

map

guide info

compass

altimeter*?, GPS*?, aneometer*?, weather

radio*?, two way radios*?

Emergency Kit

energy bar

light space blanket

whistle, compass

waterproof matches

replacement bulbs & batteries

chemical warmers

water purification tablets

Climbing

sticks?

helmet - depending on route

harness

atc

cordelette

locking-4

prussik-2

shoulder sling

ice axe

ice hammer -depending on route

crampons

shovel*

rope*

screws - depending on route*

pickets- depending on route*

deadmen- depending on route*

slings - depending on route*

biners - depending on route*

wands - depending on route*

Other

sunglasses

road maps

guide books - reference

   *denotes group equipment