A group of mountaineers heading toward a snow capped mountain

What is Mountaineering?

Discover mountaineering with Army Cadet Force.

What is Mountaineering?

3 July 2023

What is Mountaineering?

Mountaineering is an outdoor activity that involves hiking, rock climbing, ice climbing or otherwise climbing mountains and reaching high altitudes. Mountaineering typically involves climbing through difficult terrain; whether that’s hard technically or at a high altitude. Many mountaineers participate in the sport for personal challenge, exploration, adventure, and to gain a deeper appreciation of nature.

Mountaineers can face a variety of challenges – exposed ridges, unstable terrain or extreme weather conditions to name a few – but if you’re an adrenaline junkie, this sport could be the one for you.

What types of mountaineering are there?

There are several different types of mountaineering, each with their own unique challenges.

Alpine Mountaineering

Alpine Mountaineering often involves climbing in snowy or icy conditions. With this type of mountaineering, you may need an ice pick and you can expect lots of scrambling up slippery surfaces. Alpine mountaineering requires you to have skills and tools to snow climb, use ice picks, and be able to use other climbing techniques.

Expedition Mountaineering

Expedition mountaineering is the type of mountaineering you would do when climbing Everest, for example. This type is extremely taxing on the body, often involving several days of climbing followed by rest at different camps. With this method of climbing, you can climb the world’s highest peaks, or try your hand at less explored or remote mountains. You will be travelling with a pack, rather than just a day trip, so be sure to account for the added weight when training for this sort of climb.

Rock climbing

This is probably the easiest way to get into climbing and build on your techniques. For this type of climbing, you can scale heights using cracks or crags to work up the side of a cliff face, and you can use ropes to help. If you’re just starting out and need to build strength, you can boulder, which is a type of lower height climbing usually without ropes.

A group of people hiking up a mountain

Where can you go mountaineering?

Depending on the type of climb you want to do, there are different places you can go. For example, rock climbing takes place all over the UK and abroad, with the UK hotspots being places like the Peak District near Sheffield, or down on the Dorset coast. For Alpine climbing, you’d likely visit places like the Alps where there’s a community of climbers. For more expedition climbing, parts of South America are popular, and the Himalayas in Nepal are another popular spot because many people want to climb Everest.

Whichever form of climbing you decide to pursue, be sure to pack and train for the climb accordingly as they all have different challenges. If you’re new to climbing and want to train up to become a mountaineer, rock climbing is a fantastic place to start. You should also find out if you need any certifications or permits to climb, and check what the local restrictions are. You may be unable to climb in some areas if the local authorities believe it to be unsafe.

What to wear and pack for mountain climbing?

What to wear and pack will depend on where you’re going.

For alpine adventures, you’ll need to bring warm clothing and ice picks in order to cross the terrain, as well as snow boots or other long wearing shoe.

For rock climbing, you would need a harness – you can often borrow these – and a decent pair of rock climbing shoes.

For expedition missions, the list is a bit longer as you will need to pack several days’ worth of food, clothing, and camping essentials, unless you climb with amenities included in the rest points. You may also need to pack an all-weather tent, and depending on where you climb, you may need to pack suncream, hats and plenty of water. If you’re travelling to a remote place to climb, you need to be prepared to have everything you would need to hand, including any medical supplies.

How do you prepare for a climbing trip?

To be a mountaineer, you need to be physically strong, and have a knowledge of technical climbing skills, a knowledge of mountaineering equipment you would need for your climb, and an in-depth knowledge of proper safety techniques. This activity is a very physically demanding activity and can be very dangerous if you don’t prepare properly, so you will need to plan carefully, and know the inherent risks involved, before you embark on this adventure.

How to get started mountaineering

The Army Cadets offers amazing opportunities to get involved in a wide range of exciting and challenging activities. The Cadet Centre for Adventurous Training provides a unique regimen of skills and qualifications including Mountaineering Leader and Rock Climbing Instructor. Find out more today.

Hero image: Photo by Bisesh Gurung: https://www.pexels.com/photo/p...

Article body image: Photo by Ben Maxwell: https://www.pexels.com/photo/g...