Mountains come in all different sizes and shapes, but the general idea is always the same: they are big rocks jutting out of the ground and there are plenty of different ways you can reach the top. Much of the strategy and method you choose depends on the type of mountain, but each different way of ascending has its own challenges, advantages, rewards and exertions.
Here are five ways to climb a mountain.
The biggest mountains, such as the behemoths in Nepal and the Himalayas, require a method of climbing called mountaineering, which is more like hiking or traveling distance by foot than it technically is “climbing.” These peaks are so high that the distance covered involves days and miles, and the method includes setting up camp at various spots and alternating between snowshoeing, cramponing and then the occasional scaling of steep faces of the mountain. Much of the time, this adventure involves skis, a variation called ski mountaineering, and other times it requires connecting all of the mountaineers to each other with a rope to help them ascend the more treacherous landscapes they encounter. With peaks like Mt. Everest in the video above, climbing in a group eliminates some (emphasis on some) of the difficulty and danger.
The dangers involved in ice climbing, which means ascending near-vertical walls of rock covered in ice, barely even need to be spelled out. Ice is a voluble substance and needs to be respected and treated with great care because at any time it can melt, break off or slip. Highly important to ice climbing is using the right kind of boots as well as crampons, which help the climber stick his feet into the wall to help him ascend. Ice axes — often called ice tools in technical climbs — are carried in each hand and gradually inserted and reinserted into the ice face as the climber ascends. The type of ice makes a huge difference as well: water ice, such as frozen waterfalls, is considered very technically difficult, whereas alpine ice, or frozen precipitation on rock walls, is a little less difficult as a general rule.
Not all mountain faces are covered in ice, of course, and climbing them involves traditional rock techniques. Most rock climbing is achieved with ropes and aid weights for safety. If the climber slips or falls, his fellow climbers and the weights he’s placed along the route will be able to help him before he falls too far. As a sport and experience, rock climbing requires a huge amount of technical knowledge, strength, endurance and savvy thinking — taking the wrong route or choosing the wrong holds can be the difference between safely making it up the mountain and falling a long distance.
If you want to get really intense in terms of raw rock climbing, bouldering is the way to go. Bouldering involves actually hoisting yourself up a rock face without any support systems or safety gear of any kind. It’s just you, your shoes, your hands and the rock. That means that, if you fall, you’re hitting the ground. Bouldering any height that’s more than a few feet requires a tremendous amount of upper arm strength and knowledge of how to grip and hold the rock with your hands, often in holds that seem impossibly tiny and restrictive. It also means patience: bouldering is largely about poking around until you find those precise holds and then working your way slowly but deliberately up the rock. When bouldering becomes highly dangerous and involves great altitudes, it’s often known as free soloing.
Deep Water Climbing
To minimize the risk of climbing, particularly bouldering, climbers will often choose a location over a deep body of water. That way, if they fall, they can generally do so without injury. Also, if they stall out on the route or the climb proves more difficult than they expected, they aren’t stuck there — they have some way off the mountain other than just getting to the top.
Cover Photo Credit: NomadicEntrepreneur – flickr.com