Six of us wanted to hike alpine; six wanted to summit mountains. Essentially that was the difference between the mountaineers and the alpine ramblers in our group of 12 last week. That – and the amount of gear each had to carry!

Packing in for a weekend of outdoor adventures. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

While my hiking partners and I quickly set a route up to a col and down a moraine, the mountaineers poured over maps and route descriptions and carefully weighed the hazards of a late summer snowpack.

We hiked in sunshine with a little wind and a short sprinkle of sleet. They spent the day in snow – coming from above as well as below their crampons. We made our circuit; they were weathered off the summit attempt.

Mountaineering involves many skills. Beyond the proper equipment and clothing that everyone needed to carry, mountaineers need to have strong route-finding and navigational skills, avalanche awareness and training, and ice and snow travel skills (some of which includes knowing how to walk with crampons, using an ice axe for self-arrest, roping up for glacier travel, being proficient in crevasse rescue techniques…).

Learning these skills takes time and practice. It’s also something that can’t be safely done alone. Alpine and climbing clubs are perfect for finding like-minded adventurers.

Some of the extra gear required for mountaineering:

  • Rope
  • Harness
  • Helmet
  • Crampons
  • Ice axe

Mountaineering takes knowledge and skill. Build this by taking courses with certified instructors and putting your knowledge to practice before rambling out of the alpine to the mountain peaks above.

© 2011

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