Maybe you’ve enjoyed day hiking, or a little backpacking, and are feeling the urge to challenge yourself with something bigger. Or maybe you have a specific goal—an exciting peak, like Rainier, calling you from your bucket list. Whatever your motivation is, getting into mountaineering can be thrilling, but also intimidating. How do you learn what gear to take? How do you learn mountaineering skills like how to safely walk on steep snow? Here are six different kinds of resources that can help you build the skills you need to make your mountain dreams come true.
Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills
If you haven’t heard of this book before, we recommend you buy a copy of Freedom of the Hills for yourself—it’s something you’ll be able to refer to for the rest of your climbing life. People often call it the Bible of climbing. It’s big, it’s thorough, and it gives a broad background for countless climbing skills and techniques you’ll need, from rope skills to how to move over rock, ice and snow. It’s a great place to start, whether you want to learn the basics of climbing and mountaineering. And if you ever feel rusty, it’s a great resource to have on your shelf if you need to review things like climbing knots and systems.
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AMGA Tech Videos
The American Mountain Guide Association is the certifying body for American alpine, rock and ski mountaineering guides. And they’ve put together a series of online videos perfect for learning new skills or brushing up on ones you’ve forgotten. These are aimed more at technical rock climbing and ice climbing.
BMC Skills Videos
If you want to try mountaineering for the first time, these skills videos will address things you didn’t even know to ask about. They’re a bit more focused on snow travel, with helpful information about basics like wearing crampons and how to carry an ice axe.
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Reading and watching instructional videos can only go so far—real-life experience taking a course with a professional instructor or guide will help you apply what you’ve learned. Of course, you could sign on for something longer, like a semester-long Outward Bound course. But many regional mountain schools and guide companies—like the Colorado Mountain School, the American Alpine Institute or The Mountaineers—offer shorter and more accessible courses for people with full-time jobs. They’re the perfect way to get into mountaineering for the first time.
Whether you just need some inspiration for trip planning, or are looking for recent conditions on an upcoming objective, SummitPost.org is a great site to check out. From details about routes to personal trip reports, to forum discussions, SummitPost can help you dream—and then make your dream a reality.
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Local and Regional Climbers’ Clubs
One of the best ways to find partners or groups to learn from or to adventure with is through a local mountaineering club. Whether it’s a regional branch of the American Alpine Club, or another group specific to where you live, plugging in to your local community can help you connect with more experienced partners and find out about local learning opportunities. Here are a few awesome groups to check out. If you don't live nearby any of these, a Google search will likely turn up at least a local Meetup group of other people interested in mountaineering.