Beginner's Guide to Visiting a Mountain
Mountains provide a breathtaking and memorable experience whether you're an experienced climber or someone who visits simply for the spectacular views.
Here are a few basic terms you'll want to know:
Clawing: Using an ice axe to ascend a slope
Crampons: Metal devices attached to shoes to assist in walking on snow and ice
Rack: Equipment carried on a climb
To build your holiday surrounding a mountain visit, it's important to keep in mind your climbing skills, how active and challenging an experience are you looking for and the weather at that location at the time of year you want to visit. Many mountains are easier to visit in the summer months when the weather is not so harsh and snow is less of an issue
The type and quantity of equipment needed to visit a mountain varies on your degree of skill. To walk around the base of the mountain without doing too much climbing all you need is a pair of hiking boots. Keep in mind that you might want to invest some money in a decent pair: anyone who has walked long distances in stilettos knows just how painful shoes can be by the end of the day. Make sure your footwear is waterproof: If you're heading into wet territory, sopping wet shoes and socks will make your journey miserable – so find socks that are very absorbent and thick. Good footwear will reduce your chance of getting blisters and sweaty feet which can seriously hamper your appreciation of your majestic surroundings.
Dressing in layers is also a good idea. As the day wears on on the mountain the temperature can fluctuate dramatically so be prepared. Carry a waterproof jacket as well. Trekking poles can come in handy to help keep your balance on rocky terrain, or save money and go old school by finding a big stick.
Your most important piece of kit is a map of the region and a compass or a GPS to navigate so you don't get lost and have to call out Mountain Rescue.
More Serious Expeditions
The bigger the mountain challenge you set yourself the more equipment and preparation needed. Along with the boots, maps, waterproof gear and layers of clothing, serious mountaineers may need serious equipment, ice axes for example. Ice axes vary depending on the maker and have different uses depending on skill, but their main use is to grab hold of a rock or ice to climb further or to break a fall - a real life saver.
Higher elevations mean more varied temperatures and unexpected weather changes: light waterproof, thermal jackets are the best outer layer. When purchasing a jacket, make sure to note the temperatures at which the jacket is intended for. A durable backpack is also needed for longer trips. Be sure to check how comfortable the backpack is when its filled with equipment - you're going to be carrying it for an extended period of time.
Serious mountain climbing should only be done by people in excellent physical condition. Longer ventures can take months to prepare for, both physically and mentally. Short walks at the base of a mountain, however, can be completed by people who are in reasonable health and those who can get solid footing and balance on uneven, rocky surfaces. An important thing to keep in mind for all climbers is the possibility of Altitude Sickness. As you ascend the mountain, the atmospheric pressure and oxygen content in the air will decrease. This can lead to symptoms ranging from headache to nausea. Make sure to treat symptoms of Altitude Sickness right away.
If you are unsure of the terrain or would like another person to come along some Parks have ranger service employees who join walkers as guide. Check the Parks website for more information on this kind of service. They can provide great information and know the trails. Likewise, they'll be able to tell you what to look out for and avoid. If the ranger service can't help many of the larger mountains have guide services who can look after you.
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