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Old 01-15-2010, 04:33 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Beginner Alpine Climbing suggestions

So, i'm an avid hiker and i've done some very novice rock climbing, and nothing noteworthy. I really want to get into alpine climbing. I've just fallen completely in love with the mountain and i want to experience her in any way that she'll let me. Anyway, I'm planning on taking a 4-day rock climbing course in May in Joshua Tree to at least test my endurance level and gather the basic skills. I know the 2 disciplines are different, but I think it's a good jumping off point . While I am in really good shape, this is a completely different animal. I've started basic training stuff, increasing my cardio, etc. I also plan to start putting weights in my backpack when I hike to get used to carrying about 60-70 lbs of gear for longer periods of time.

I've been doing some research on guided tours and beginner climbing expeditions and there are a couple of companies that guide climbs for beginners that I've come across so far.

Questions:

1. Alpine Ascents Mountaineering School and Mountain Madness both offer guided instructional weekends for Mt. Baker - which would you recommend, or do you have another recommendation?
2. I'm planning this trip for the end of August, in terms of mountain conditions, generally is this a good/bad/other time for this climb
3. In terms of safety and my novice, is this overambitious of me?

And any other tidbits you guys wanna throw in

Thanks in advance!
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Old 01-15-2010, 04:45 PM   #2 (permalink)
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First thing you should do is buy this book. Read it cover to cover and then read it again.

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills.
Amazon.com: Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills (9780898868289): The Mountaineers, Steven M. Cox, Kris Fulsaas: Books
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Old 01-15-2010, 04:49 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Alpine climbing is such a mixed bag. You can be doing fairly easy slab routes to full on pump and lung fests like is found on the Diamond on Longs Peak.

I'd recommend getting out in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite for some great Alpine Style Climbing. Lot's of places in the Eastern Sierra that just have fantastic climbing. The Needles come to mind. The climbing school at Camp Curry would be a good place to start. Definitely learn the basics and then when you have the gear and are looking to strike out on your own, start small. I'd look at 5.6 and under for your first few routes. If you are fairly comfortable leading, up it to the 5.9 range and go from there. Alpine climbing will run the gamut on you. Well protected routes to hair raising sphincter tightening run out scare fests. Snow, weather, and other things can be a factor. It's a lot of fun for sure. Weather is generally my biggest worry and I plan the day according to that first off.
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Old 01-15-2010, 04:50 PM   #4 (permalink)
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FOTH is a great book. Not a bed rec at all.
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Old 01-15-2010, 05:36 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Thanks! I'll pick up the book for sure. Starting out smaller sounds like a much safer and smarter way to go about it, I don't want to endanger myself or anyone else due to lack of skill/experience. Tuolumne is super accessible for me. Planning on moving to Mammoth during the summer, so I'll have some time to really commit to learning.

There is a series of beginner and leading courses offered in Joshua Tree that I planned on taking in May, but I guess I should probably try to take them closer to the winter to get the full benefit to prepare me for the conditions, is that right? Or would it still be okay to take them in May to at least grasp the basic techniques?

Yeah, it ain't for the faint-hearted! I can only hope I have what it takes and I'm willing to put the work in to find out. Thanks again!
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Old 01-16-2010, 06:36 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I 've been climbing for 25 years and counting....I suggest you get some more practice, lots of it, possibly in a climbing gym, then get out and climb A LOT on real rock, and eventually move on into alpine territory. In about 2-3 years.
Getting to alpine climbing is like starting with heli-ski off Alaska...not exaclty the safest path? CLimbing is hard...Alpine climbing is harder...get there slow and safe man.

Good luck.






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Originally Posted by dharmashred View Post
So, i'm an avid hiker and i've done some very novice rock climbing, and nothing noteworthy. I really want to get into alpine climbing. I've just fallen completely in love with the mountain and i want to experience her in any way that she'll let me. Anyway, I'm planning on taking a 4-day rock climbing course in May in Joshua Tree to at least test my endurance level and gather the basic skills. I know the 2 disciplines are different, but I think it's a good jumping off point . While I am in really good shape, this is a completely different animal. I've started basic training stuff, increasing my cardio, etc. I also plan to start putting weights in my backpack when I hike to get used to carrying about 60-70 lbs of gear for longer periods of time.

I've been doing some research on guided tours and beginner climbing expeditions and there are a couple of companies that guide climbs for beginners that I've come across so far.

Questions:

1. Alpine Ascents Mountaineering School and Mountain Madness both offer guided instructional weekends for Mt. Baker - which would you recommend, or do you have another recommendation?
2. I'm planning this trip for the end of August, in terms of mountain conditions, generally is this a good/bad/other time for this climb
3. In terms of safety and my novice, is this overambitious of me?

And any other tidbits you guys wanna throw in

Thanks in advance!
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Old 01-17-2010, 12:15 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Thanks pawlo. it's not some shit you just wake up and say "oh today...i'm gonna "--"... "alpine climb".
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Old 01-17-2010, 03:06 AM   #8 (permalink)
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#1 rule in alpine climbing is don't fall, so probably not the best thing to start learning to climb on
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Old 01-17-2010, 01:54 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Sure Dharma..You mentioned you did only some very novice climbing..I was basing my reply on that...You can join a class, but climbing takes time to learn...I know first hand, you'll be better off if you get to that class after you master let's say a solid 5.9? Keep in mind that alpine climbing is TRAD ( for traditional) means you ahve to place protection yourself..wich his an art by itself.

Have fun and stay safe.



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Thanks pawlo. it's not some shit you just wake up and say "oh today...i'm gonna "--"... "alpine climb".
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Old 01-17-2010, 04:50 PM   #10 (permalink)
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If you've got a love affair with the mountains, Alpine climbing is what you need to feed the desire....

Climbing Mt Baker with one of the guided groups isn't a bad way to introduce yourself to glacier travel. If it's one of the 2 day trips the guide services offer, it's kind of a quick up the mountain and down safely kind deal. Still fun, but not focused on teaching/learning, it's up and down ASAP with minimal instruction. Keep in mind that August in the Cascades will see the snow bridges melting out, exposing some impressive crevasses. This can make it tougher (longer) to get up the mountain, particularly in lean snow years. Crossing a sketchy snowbridge will get your attention... You might consider mid June - early July for better snow conditions.. Keep in mind that most routes (if not all) on Mt Baker are glacier, snow and ice climbs. You're not going to find rock climbing, it's almost all snow and ice. You'll need to understand glacier travel, self arrest, self belay, crevasse rescue, roped travel, foot placement, etc. Almost all protection will be in the snow or ice using pickets, flukes, screws, ice axe, etc. Entirely different techniques from what you'll experience in Joshua, nevertheless all important stuff in learning how to Alpine climp. One of the coolest thing about Mt Baker is that you're in the middle of the North Cascades, anywhere you look you'll see more peaks that call you to climb them..

You might also consider a trip to the Tetons. Early summer will provide some outstanding mixed snow, ice and rock climbs. The Middle Teton has a very cool intermediate "mixed" Alpine route. This maybe a little advanced for a begginer, but probably good if you have a Mountain Guide there to teach and make sure you safe. You'll learn a bunch from the guides, it's there job and most of them really love to teach a friendly, capable, and willing student. As tempting as it is, I'd stay away from the Grand Teton for your first climb in the Tetons. Pickup the "Climbers Guide to the Teton Range" by Leigh Ortenburger and Reny Jackson. You'll dig it..

Freedom of the Hills is a must read. Like the guy above said, read it and read it again. Moreover, go get a rope, some webbing, cord and bieners. Practice what you've read and learn it. For the Pacific NW I'd also read Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue by Andy Selters. It's more focused on glacier techniques.

Whatever you decide to do you'll have fun.
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