|On 20/11/2006 bigmike wrote:
>Will 11 days in a hut in the land of pointy mountains
>and flat vowels make me see the folly of my ways ... or just make it worse,
>and change my holidaying plans forever?
One summer long ago four friends and I went walking in the Arthur ranges in Tassie. I was hugely impressed by the dramatic terrain and thought that I would be back to Tasmania every summer. Then I took up rockclimbing and we went to Mt Cook. It is a sport that can change everything. The first time is so exciting, but so are all the others; I hope you have a good trip and find some of what mountaineering has given me.
I am guessing from your post that you are looking to try out mountaineering and develop some of the skills you need to do it on your own if you like it. My climbing partner and I taught ourselves, which was great but probably isnít that efficient. If you have a partner you will climb with, and some time to stay on afterwards to consolidate, then hire a guide to do some instruction privately. This way you have very good control of your trip, you can do a lot of climbs and the guide can capitalise on your preparation and fitness. Especially if you do not have much time to spend practising new skills after your time with a guide, the most effective way to try out alpine climbing is to go climbing. Head out one to one with a guide to travel over lots of varied mountain terrain and have him or her talk about the decisions being made while coaching you on techniques. Most people book themselves on the scheduled courses run by the bigger guiding companies, presumably because these are relatively cheap but, while you will have a great time on these courses, I often suggest to people that there is a difference between cost and practical value. Whatever your plan here is some general stuff you can do to maximise your preparation and the value of any time you spend with a guide.
Do some reading Ė you should try to know the concepts of cramponning, stepkicking & cutting, iceaxe use for self belay and self arrest, snow and ice anchors, weather forecasting, avalanche phenomena, glacier travel and crevasse formation.
Do some practise Ė you are already a climber so you probably have control of most things. Make sure you have an adequate supply of knots (incl. some form of ascending knot eg prussic or klemheist and a familiarity with Italian/munter hitch), can do some improvised rope rescue (escape the system, lower & raise), can place protection, arrange simple clean anchors, make efficient transitions between pitches and build and back up rappels. Climb some longer routes or days aiming to be efficient and secure while maintaining momentum.
Do some preparation because the fitter you are, the more you can do in the mountains, the more fun youíll have doing it and the safer it will be. Basic legs and lungs stuff, especially hill climbs and stair runs, do the job. Calf raises are particularly valuable as they prepare you for the stress of front pointing. When I had more holidays I use to like canyonning to get fit for the summer (lots of movement, lots of hill walking, lots of ropehandling, really good fun with great sportclimbing and cafes).
>"in the hills, it's a percentages game, and if the mountain or the weather conspire to >crush you, they will."
Mountains are inherently unstable environments but you can do lots of easy to moderate climbing, which youíll never forget, without taking particularly major risks. Then thereís lots more to do.
Iíd echo the earlier comments- get good boots, simple gear and light (but windproof) clothes and climb like the locals. Also, your parents do get use to it but they donít stop worrying (at least not yet) and my father still wonít look at my photos.