10 Things You Should Know Before Becoming a Mountaineer

So you want to be a mountaineer. I bet you've seen amazing pictures of epic ascents of Himalayan peaks. You've probably watched a reality show or two starring a survival expert. Maybe you've even gone on some pretty sweet hikes yourself. But do you really know what it's like to be a mountaineer?

Here's 10 things you need to know before you commit to the lifestyle.


1. The weather will not always be perfect.

In your heart you already know this, but since most of the pictures and videos we see are of blue skies and just the right temperature it's easy to think it's always that way. Nope. If you wait for that weather you'll never get outside. Get ready for half your trips to be in lousy weather.

2. Climbing a mountain is not a walk in the park*.

Climbing mountains is hard. When you stand at the bottom you're going to look up and reconsider the decisions that brought you to that point in your life.

3. The summit is only half way.

At least once you'll use every reserve you have to get to the top only to realize you have to go back down.

4. You're going to be scared at some point in the trip or you're not trying hard enough.

Epic trips should have at least a hint of fear in them. Maybe you're kicking steps in the snow across a steep slope with a long, long runout. Fear should make you kick a little harder to ensure that step will hold.

5. There will be times you want to turn back.

When you realize you're standing on the false summit and the true summit is another 1,000 feet of climbing, you will think about how much nicer it would be to be at home.

6. You're going to get lost.

Your GPS will run out of batteries, your map will disintegrate in the rain, and the fog will roll in. Your best bet will be to retrace your steps or wait it out.

Two young mountaineers making their way through fog.

7. It's going to be painful.

Blisters, bruises, cuts, sunburns, and frostbite. And that can all be on one trip!

8. You're going to have to learn all kinds of new words and terms.

Adze. Arête. Cairn. Glissade. HAFE. Rime. (Yes, they're all real words.)

9. You're going to fight with your partners.

Good mountaineers have strong relationships with their partners because they have to trust them with their lives. Relationships like that are made during tough times.

10. And finally, it's probably too late.

If you're still reading this list you're probably already in love with the mountains and no amount of reality or warning is going to put you off. So grab your pack, grab your boots, and go climb your mountain.

* Technically, climbing Mount Rainier is a walk in the Park.

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