How to start mountaineering

The term mountaineering can be a little daunting. It sounds imposing and a little bit austere but in truth it is simply the act of climbingmountains and the likelihood is that if you are looking to get into mountaineering you are already doing it, to some degree. 

The moment you walk out of your door and start walking up your nearest hill you have started. Moving on to bigger things involves acquiring the right skills to tackle different terrains such as snow, glaciers and rock.

The basic experience you require to be safe outdoors, including things like navigation, clothing and equipment and fitness do not necessarily require any special courses and you can pick these up the more time you spend in the outdoors. 

Read How to Prepare for Adventure or What to Take on a Hike for a couple of basic articles with useful links. 

How to start Mountaineering:

Mountaineering sounds hard, but there are many levels of it as suggested above. 

In the Alps there are many peaks under 3500m which offer the possibility of starting your mountaineering experience without the need for technical gear, such as rope, ice axe and crampons - vital tools in glacier travel and dealing with the dangers of crevasses.

The same is true of many of the 14ers in the USA.

As you progress to higher mountains (over 4000m in Europe, or winter ascents in UK) you will need to be sure you can navigate in difficult conditions such as poor visibility and that you know how to use a rope, ice axe and crampons.

Perhaps the best and most authoritative book for learning a plethora of vital mountain skills is Mountaincraft and Leadership, by Eric Langmuir.

Mountaineering Clubs:

At this point it could be a good idea to join a mountaineering / climbing club. In the UK there are 300 clubs affiliated to the BMC (British Mountaineering Council). For the USA and the rest of the world you can find a list in the link below.

Mountaineering Courses:

It is worth while taking a course in mountain skills. Mountain Training and the American Alpine Club offer lists of reputable schools / courses:

Remember to enjoy yourself and that at some point or other each one of us has been learning so once you know your way around share the information and help others get as much out of the mountains and wilderness as you do!



I quit the rat-race to live a more adventurous life. This is my journey.