SKILLS & KNOWLEDGE
"By failing to prepare, we are preparing to fail." - Benjamin Franklin
Before learning about the basics of mountaineering and the skills you can learn to benefit for your health, it's best to get some background information about what mountaineering actually is? Here's my simple definition based on my personal experiences and research:
Source information: Britanica Article, published on October 15, 2019
Mountaineering, also known as mountain climbing, is a sport in which your traverse various terrain such as snow, grass, ice (glaciers) and utilize various components of hiking and climbing with equipment to reach your goal (to ascend and descend the mountain safely). When referring to the climbing aspect of “mountaineering”, we are referring to “aid climbing”, which is climbing with assistive assets such as equipment and fixed devices (ropes, climbing harness, carabiners) to reach the top of a mountain.
Aid climbing is often used to determine whether or not a route is safe to climb to the pieck and requires studying of the environment (where to add rock bolts). The term “free climbing” directly contrasts the idea of aid climbing, as it is climbing “free” of aid (hence the name). Free climbing is typically done between May-August when the weather is not cold (above 20 °C) and usually only requires casual, short sports clothing, a pair of light climbing shoes and maybe a bag of chalk to better grip strength.
Two Styles typically reffered to by the UK
Expedition Style: This style is a lot more extreme and intense lasting days to weeks. Expedition style is often used for higher mountains that require multiple ascents: 8,000 m range similar to mount everest. Nights are spent in between campsites, where supplies are always carried up to the next station. More equipment is needed for things such as apparatus and shelter: tents, oxygen tanks, sleeping bag, toilet paper, etc.
Alpine Style: Alpine style (the one that I've personally do) is the most common form of mountaineering and is the style used to climb the Matterhorn. It consists of a single climb to reach the summit and then safely descend from the mountain. Alpine style takes course over usually 6-8 hours maximum for a climb (2/4 upwards and about 2/4 downwards), for a climb above 3,000 m. Furthermore, this style usually includes mountains with a height between 2,000 m to 4,800 m. Supplemental oxygen is not required, since you will not be spending that much time at the highest altitude (when you make it to the summit). Less equipment is also required since you will only need essential equipment and as not much food compared to expedition style.
Benefits & Risks
What a contrast, right!?
Mountaineering is a fully body exercise that mainly utilizes the legs, core and cardiovascular system. It requires perserverence, muscular endurance, cadriosvascular endurance and muscular strength all in one; bringing together elements of both hiking and climbing (best of both worlds).
This not only makes mountaineering a full package of strenuous exercise, but it's also a discipline. It's more than just ascending and descending the mountain as effeciently and effectively as possible. It's how you ascend and descend off the mountain safely, through sheer grit, determination and awareness of both extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Mountaineering is no joke and I can list a multitude of deaths that occur in the alps of Swizerland, caused during alpine sport activities such as skiing, mountain biking or mountaineering. An average of about 12 deaths occur every year from people attempting to climb the Matterhorn, according to Benedikt Perren who was the former head of the Zermatt Mountain Guides Asscociation. You can look at my technique & safety page and my interview below this page to learn more about this.
When looking at what sets mountaineering apart from other sports, it would most likely be the cooperation and investment to the environment. When I was mountain climbing in Zermatt, I gained a range of different skills that benefited my life based on the different elements I obeserved climbing, for instance:
Awareness of safety, environment and preparation
Building better stamina and physical endurance
Respect and cooperation with the mountain guide
In my view, I believe all of these factors improved me as a person. Like all sports, they usually teach perserverience and teamwork. But what mountaineering does differently compared to regular sports, is that it takes things a step further and makes you anaylze the environment first (through planning) before starting, thus making you more mindful as a person and participent in the mountains. Factors such as meeting the mountain guide, optimizing routes, packing and getting taught how to operate with equipment is what really made me notice just how diverse this sport really is. On the bottom of this page, I have put up some interview questions I had when speaking to my mountain guide from the Bergführerverein Zermatt: Roman Haltinner. Please consider looking through the first few interview questions. The conversation that I had with him was really eye opening and you get to have first hand experience of the perspective of a true Swiss alpine mountaineer.
I was priviledged enough to have a mountain guide when I was mountaineering with my family in Zermatt, Switzerland (the location of the Matterhorn). My father and I would usually pair up and my two older brothers would pare up too (1 mountain guide per 2 guests). Humility and perservierence were the main things that I learned, along with respecting the environment (disposing of rubbish correctly). The mountain guides taught me everything I needed to know and did it safely. This gave me experience with the relationship between the guest ("Berggast") and the mountainguide ("Bergführer") who form a bond/team ("Seilschaft"). They're really good coaches and I was very lucky to have had those experiences in Zermatt.
Check out my equipment & packing page to get acquainted with the basics of mountaineering equipment and functions of certain parts of apparatus, along with packing and how the rucksack is used. If you want to go a bit more into the technical aspects of mountaineering, I have a few tips and videos in my technique and safety page for beginners, based on both advice and research that I have gathered over the years. This will educate you more on the safety and thought, put into an ascent.
My Interview with Roman Haltinner
From Mountaineer to Mountain Guide
Interview Conducted: September 20, 2019
The first mountain guide and coach I ever had when I started mountaineering in Zermatt four years ago was Roman Haltinner.
He has been a certified mountain guide from the Bergfühereverein Zermatt (mountain guides of Zermatt) since 2000 and a ski instructor since 2001. He has lived in Zermatt since 1990 and has instructed and assited doznes of people with their ascents in various mountains of the lower cantons of Swizerland (canton Graubünden).
He is passionate and offers a variety of experiences in the mountains so you can achieve your goals or have unique experiences in the mountains! Whether its skiing, mountaineering or mountain biking, winter or summer, he's open and ready ; )
Picture: Taken in Denali, Alaska
Patented Mountain Guide since: 2000, Bergfühereverein Zermatt
Be sure to check out his webpage and his bio on MyMountainGuide.com, to contact him for any activities you want to book to do in the winter or summer.
Without further a do, please check out the interview below, to deepen your understanding on the concept behind mountaineering and find out more about the process of how my website was made!
Interview Questions - Roman Haltinner
Why did you choose the career path as a mountain guide in Zermatt and why is it your passion?
What sets mountaineering apart from other climbing sports (rock climbing, free-solo climbing, bouldering, etc)?
Is rock climbing (in a sportshall) a good way to get started with mountain climbing and how should a beginner first approach mountaineering?
What is the proper and necessary physique of a mountain climber? What muscle groups are most used?
What diet and nutrition is best suited for alpine mountaineers and climbers in general?
Which workouts/exercises and sports are best suited to prepare for mountain climbing?
Would you describe mountain climbing to potentially be an extremsport and how does the ,,Bergführerverein Zermatt” overall determine safety?
"If you have a mountain guide with you that has studied the terrain and has experience, risks are minimized and controlled properly. That’s why I would not call it an extreme sport as it can be done in a controlled environment. Mountain guides try their best to optimize the route for their guests in correlation to their experience and the mountain guides of the “Bergfühereverein Zermatt” are very well coordinated as we can always communicate and report any safety hazards on mountain routes.