How To Plan A Mountaineering Trip

Photo by Daniel Eliashevsky

If you are getting into mountaineering, read through this article to learn the basics about what gear and skills you need to climb mountains.

Before packing your bags and heading out the door to climb a high mountain, putting a solid plan together is well worth the time and effort. By thinking through details, small and big, like what skills you have, how many days you have to climb, and what gear is required, you will be able to pick an appropriate objective and increase your chances of summiting and having an enjoyable time in the mountains.

The How-Tos In Planning A Mountaineering Trip

Narrow your trip choices. There are many peaks in the world to climb. It is helpful to think through trip parameters to narrow your options. Things like how many people you are going with, how many days you have, what skills you have, and the month of the year can narrow down your choices.

Research your routes. It is now time to dig into the details and pick a mountain and course to climb. If you have decided to hire a guide service, they will likely have pre-planned options you can choose from, but it is still worthwhile to research climbs to ensure you go on a trip that pumps you with excitement and has the perfect amount of challenge. You can also use guidebooks and online resources to select an objective. While doing your research, investigate the ideal size group for the type of climb, the skills needed for the route, and if permits are required.

Create a route plan. Before you pack up and head out, making a detailed route plan is wise. Doing so will force you to think through and plan details like how many miles you will hike, how many feet of elevation you intend to gain and lose each day, what the terrain will be like and what time you must start your trip to make it out before dark. Guidebooks, websites, and topographic maps are good resources to help you figure out miles, elevation gain/loss, and the time required. Make a day-by-day plan that includes information. You can also have details like where you will camp, how you will get water and what the terrain will be like.

Gather your gear and supplies. Now that you have nailed down where you are going and created your route plan, it is time to start thinking about what equipment and supplies you need. Grab your ice ax, boots, crampons, and other personal climbing gear. Things like tents, ropes, and stoves can be shared among the group. If you do not own particular items, you can rent them rather than buy them.

Do some final prep. Before you head out the door, there are a few last things to do:

  • Pack Your Bag – Pack your bag as you would for backpacking, with bulky items toward the bottom, dumb things in the middle, and essentials you want access to near the top. Any gear you put on the outside of your pack needs to be secured so it would not be a nuisance as it swings and bangs around, and more importantly, it would not fall off along the way. Carabiners are handy for clipping items to pack straps.
  • Check the weather – You may have done this while researching routes, but it always helps to have another look at the weather and route conditions.
  • Review the Leave No Trace principles – To protect our natural places, we must know how to limit our impact. There are seven Leave No Trace principles that all backcountry travelers should learn and live by. Part of that is having a plan for how to deal with human waste. 
  • Share your itinerary with a friend – Always leave a copy of your trip itinerary with someone back at home. The itinerary should include details about what mountain and route you are climbing, where your car will be parked, where you will be camping, and what time you expect to return home. (If the route plan you previously created has this info, then you can share that.) It is essential to discuss with the person who has the itinerary how long you are comfortable with them waiting before contacting authorities if you are overdue. When creating your route plan, be accurate with your time estimates, and build a buffer to account for delays.
  • Bring a book with you that helps you to be encouraged in climbing that peak – Alan V. Goldman’s Reflections on Mountaineering is an excellent book that inspires you to climb that mountain you have so ever long. The text is presented as eighty-one narrative-style poems, some rhyming and others in prose or blank verse. The book summarizes much of what the author learned in his more than thirty years of climbing. Many of the same moral issues that confront us in everyday life are present in the high mountains, only to a sharper degree. As Alan puts it, the quest of mountaineering, in simplest terms, is “for the freedom of the hills.”

In conclusion, climbing safely is your responsibility. No articles or videos can replace qualified instruction and experience.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s