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Where, how and when you should plan your first mountaineering adventure


Where to start?

 
 
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Here in the U.S we have lots of great opportunities to start our mountaineering journey. Theres tons of mountains to choose from, in all levels of difficulty, all year long. Don't over do it on your first trip and work your way up progressively, it will make your journey a lot more enjoyable. You build up your fitness and experience with every visit to the mountains, you learn what work for you and what doesn't and it leaves you better prepared for the next trip. 

On any one mountain you can have a wide array of difficulties depending on the route. Mt Rainier for example has the frequently traveled DC route which see's a majority of the summit attempts. It is amongst the easier routes on Rainier, that is not to say Rainer is easy in any way(Even the easier routes will require great effort from fit individuals). But there are also routes like the Kautz Route or the Liberty Ridge route which require more technical skill, route finding abilities and experience due to the hazards and dangers that they pose. My point is that you can climb one mountain, multiple times with a different experience and difficulty on each attempt. This all makes choosing your first few climbing objectives a bit confusing. So here I will lay out in my opinion, the best beginner climbs inside the U.S.

(Note: I highly recommend climbing with a guide, mountaineering is a very dangerous sport where people die every year. There are a lot of things to know before you even consider taking on a peak without an experienced guide. Prior to considering a mountaineering trip I recommend you have some experience hiking and back packing. Mountaineering is not a luxury event and you will have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.)

 

1. Mt.Adams 12,276' 

Mt Adams, is a great beginner peak. It offers everything you can want in order to get excited about mountaineering. Its a massive mountain, at 12,276' you are getting a taste of what that thinner air feels like and how your body reacts to it. Up the main route, South spur route you will have the opportunity to get familiar with using crampons for the first time as well as an ice axe. This route doesn't have the objective hazards of glaciers making it a perfect place to learn and practice self arrest which you will need to know for almost every other mountain as well as working on your rest stepping technique. Also with a guide service this will be a 2 day summit climb which allows you to spend a night on the mountain, an awesome experience. 

2. Mt.hood 11,249'

Mt Hood, Is another excellent beginner peak. This would be a great follow up climb to Adams due to the easiest Route (South Side) containing glaciers and having to navigate crevasses. This will add a new level of complexity being that you will have to be roped up on top of having to use your crampons and Ice axe. All of this will prepare you for the larger, more dangerous mountains to some. 

3. Mt. Shasta 14,179'

This is a massive mountain, and very impressive as you first approach it. You will have about 7,300' elevation gain up the popular avalanche gulch route. Shasta will test you at new heights of 14,000'+ and will be a tougher ascent and descent than the previous mountains mentioned. 

4. mt. whitney 14,505'

The tallest peak in the lower 48 states. Summiting Whitney while not overly technical will feel like a huge accomplishment. Its a totally diferent beast of a mountain with hardly any snow unlike the other peaks listed here. Unless your climbing in the winter or spring, its very unlikely that you will need an ice axe or crampons even up the mountaineers route. Whitney also provides an easier alternative being the Mt Whitney trail for hikers. 

5. mt. rainier 14,411'

The grandaddy of mountaineering in the U.S.. So many routes and options for climbers of all skill levels. Many professional climbers use Rainier as training grounds for the peaks in the Himalayas. It has so much to offer from crappy weather to tons of glaciers with huge crevasses, seracs, ice falls and about 9,000' of elevation gain from most of the routes. Climbing Mt. Rainier even up the popular DC route will prove to be the hardest thing you've ever done and prepare you to take your mountaineering experience else where to larges, colder and tougher peaks outside the continental U.S.

 

This is my advice, and a basic idea of where to start. your physical conditioning and experience will paint a better picture of where your journey will take you. I encourage you to read and do as much research as possible in order to get a better understanding of what your goals are and what you need to do to get there. 

 

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