Mountaineering is the practice of climbing on rocky, snowy and icy terrain. Originally, the main aim of mountaineering was to reach the top of the mountain. However, the practice has evolved and times have changed.
Classic and modern mountaineering
Mountaineering was born in the Alps in 1786, when Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard reached the summit of Mont Blanc for the first time. Today, mountaineering is practised wherever there are mountains in the world. Although this first ascent was made for scientific reasons, it paved the way for other Alpine peaks to be climbed for the sheer pleasure of it.
Most of the high mountains in the Alps were climbed between 1854 and 1865, during the golden age of mountaineering. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, mountains such as Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Denali in North America were also climbed. In 1953, there was even the first successful expedition to the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest in Nepal.
In the meantime, the world's highest mountains have been climbed using the classic mountaineering method. This means that you generally find the easiest way to the top of the mountain. In modern mountaineering, reaching the summit is no longer the ultimate goal. Today's mountaineer looks for the most difficult and prettiest route to the summit. Sometimes, such a route does not even lead to the summit but to an antecima.
Good physical condition is essential for learning mountaineering. However, knowledge and mastery of very specific alpine techniques are also essential. For the safety of the group, you need to know the right reflexes and how to belay while on the move. You also need to know what you can and should do with your equipment and in what situations you need a carabiner, sling, prussik, etc. By taking part in a course, you'll be able to gain practical experience of this sport.
Your first steps as a mountaineer
A first course with a mountain guide is the first step in your mountaineering career. You'll practise hiking and climbing on rocky terrain, belaying on the move and walking with crampons on a glacier. You will spend the night in high mountain refuges or in bivouacs.
Ready to get started?
Is mountaineering for me?
Mountaineering is an endurance sport. This means that you need to be in good basic physical condition. You need to be able to run, cycle or swim long distances.
What you need for mountaineering
Ice climbing and rock climbing are two distinct forms of mountaineering. For both disciplines, you need different equipment, such as ice axes and crampons or cam sets and climbing shoes. A combination of these two forms of mountaineering is called mixed climbing. Alpine climbs often take in glaciers. Because of the risk of crevasses on glaciers that you can't see under the snow, climbing is done roped up.
Mountaineering in complete safety
As well as being physically demanding, climbing is also mentally demanding. Altitude, unclear routes, knowledge of alpine risks and how to minimise them are all variables to be taken into account. For example, it's important to keep a close eye on the weather forecasts and be able to assess how the weather will affect your mountaineering run. The same applies to avalanche conditions. A good sense of direction is also essential in the mountains. Do you always know where you are? Even when it's foggy and you've lost sight of the refuge?
On your own or with a guide?
In the past, it was customary to hire a local guide to climb a mountain. Nowadays, most people choose to go it alone, after appropriate training. That's fine, as long as you know what you're doing and leave yourself enough of a safety margin. If you have no mountaineering experience, it's a good idea to do your first alpine tour with a mountain guide. Follow a mountaineering course with DiscoveRent is a good first step towards self-sufficiency in the mountains.