Seven Must-Learn Mountaineering Skills Before Attempting Your First Summit
Viewing the summit-shots of successful mountaineers, we could be forgiven for thinking there’s not much to the art of mountaineering other than healthy levels of strength, stamina, fitness, courage and, of course, a good beard. Above, however, we have chosen our words very carefully, for mountaineering is indeed an ‘art’ and as such an exacting discipline that requires proficiency in far more technical and nuanced skills than first meet the eye and than many assume. Before conquering your first summit, most of these are likely to come into play at some point and others likely to be absolutely prerequisite to a successful and safely-completed climb. Below we take you through eight of the most important of these skills and how they can help you on your way to summiting that all-important first peak.
Depending on the season and where you are in the world, the type of glacier may vary, but the core skills required of the climber on each are essentially the same. Walking as part of a team on a rope, taking in coils, self-arrest and building a belay or ‘haul system’ for crevasse rescue are all absolutely imperative must-have mountaineering skills. Nevertheless, while much of the skill involved in glacier crossing falls under the classification of rope-work, gaining some familiarity with glacial terrain before tackling a big route which includes glacier crossings is also highly advisable.
The ability to identify ‘safe’ routes (and unsafe ones), weak snow ‘bridges’ and potential crevasse sites will all help to improve efficiency, speed and safety in the often labyrinth-like landscape of glacial terrain. Just as important as knowing how to cross a glacier is knowing when to not even bother trying. If a recent snowfall has made crevasses difficult to locate by covering them with a thin, weak layer of snow, or if temperatures have spiked suddenly and made the snowpack particularly fragile, it may well be best to save your climb for another day – the mountain, after all, will still be there when you return