The activity of mountaineering (often called Alpinism, especially in Europe) covers a few different areas of what might be deemed mountain climbing.
Whilst mountain walking or hiking is essentially a form of mountaineering it is usually taken to mean climbing a mountain where perhaps more than one discipline is involved, such as mountain walking, crossing snow and glaciers and basic rock climbing. Snow, glaciers, ice and rock are the principle terrains that the mountaineer must tackle with a variety of techniques. Ski-mountaineering can also be classified within mountaineering.
Travelling over snow and ice poses a number of dangers including crevasses. Similarly the mountaineer should be experienced in rock climbing and ice-climbing. Naturally there are opportunities for adventure at various skill and experience levels of mountaineering.
A short history of mountaineering.
Mountaineering was established as a “sport” in the mid 19th century in the Alps where it became popular to walk in the high mountains and attempt to reach the tops of mountains simply for the pleasure and challenge rather than as part of any pilgrimage or indeed as part of the daily life of a hunter, for example. In these early days this was largely down to British tourists who came to the Alps seeking this wild and inhospitable landscape.
Prior to this time mountaineering as a pastime was either linked to necessity, religion or the pursuit of scientific discovery. Science was often used as a justification for what appears on the surface to have been simply a desire to explore and to outdo fellow man.
Mt. Everest is the most famous and the highest mountain in the world and was long seen as the greatest mountaineering challenge. George Mallory was a pioneer of Himalayan mountaineering, prior to his death on Everest in 1924. It was eventually climbed by a British lead expedition in 1953.
- Read our Introduction to the Alps
- Read our Introduction to Mount Everest
- Who was the first man to climb Everest?
There was a backlash against mountaineering in after the first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865, by Edward Whymper, due to the deaths of a number of his climbing partners. By the time George Mallory was heading out to the Himalayas in the 1920s, mountaineering was again seen as a heroic and brave recreation.
However, this anti-mountaineering sentiment rears its head from time to time when there are some prominent casualties from can be a very dangerous activity. One other example is the death of Alison Hargreaves on K2, in 1995.
At the other end of the spectrum many people enjoy climbing or walking up mountains on a daily basis and do so without risking life and limb at every step. There is a mountain for everyone!
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