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Mountaineering - 10 rules to start the right way

According to Gaston Rebuffat, the famous mountaineer from Marseille and the first man to have completed the ascent of the 6 great North faces of the Alps: ‘The mountaineer is a man who leads his body to where, one day, his eyes have looked...’. Although we have the broad strokes, in practice, this definition of mountaineering proves to be somewhat limited. Indeed, this sport, full of grace, overflowing with elegance, and the ultimate symbol of absolute freedom, is not one to be taken lightly or mastered overnight. So, if like other neo-adventurers you wish to discover mountaineering this summer, Glisshop provides you here with 10 golden rules to follow to do so under the best conditions. Crampons and ice axes are essential.
how to start mountaineering

Practicing endurance sports and/or mountain hiking

Firstly, and perhaps the only truly required rule (along with the 10th) before considering taking up the beautiful sport of mountaineering, is the prior practice of mountain hiking and an endurance sport. Indeed, while for many accessible summits, knowing climbing techniques is not necessary, having enough endurance is essential. Moreover, training at medium altitude will reduce your risks of suffering from mountain sickness once you reach higher elevations!

Setting yourself a goal

Finding a summit that matches your level will allow you to approach mountaineering on the right foot. Once firmly in your mind, you can implement all the rules that will follow in this article, and remain focused.

Understanding the risks associated with mountaineering

Mountaineering is a discipline that goes beyond the sport itself. Alpinists seek a success that goes beyond mere athletic achievement. However, as great as their desire to realize their dreams is, they remain fully aware of the risks associated with the mountains. As Reinhold Messner so aptly puts it, ‘The mountain is neither fair nor unfair. It is dangerous’. In your learning process, being aware of these risks will help you better confront them during ascents.

Relying on quality equipment

While ‘clothes do not make the man’ (this is not a mountaineer's quote), it could be said that equipment partly makes the mountaineer. Technical clothing specifically designed for mountaineering is essential so that the adventure does not turn into a nightmare. In short, accessories such as crampons, ice axes, helmets, ropes, and harnesses, along with your climbing partners, guarantee your safety. To not neglect this aspect, find all our mountaineering equipment on our online store. And do not hesitate to contact Glisshop experts by phone to ask for all the information you will need. We are here for you!
rules to discover mountaineering

Training in the various mountaineering techniques

There are different elements to train in, both in theory and practice.

Different knots

There are 3 main categories of knots in mountaineering:

  • Belay knots

  • Rope tying knots

  • Connection knots

Using an ice axe

While it may seem simple, there are indeed different ways to use an ice axe, both on ascent and descent, on a glacier or in deep snow. Learn them!

Walking with crampons

Once again, walking on a glacier requires wearing mountaineering crampons. By practicing putting them on and taking them off quickly, you will be less dependent on others when climbing your first summit!

Choosing the right time to climb

Although summer seems to be the ideal time to start mountaineering, it's not completely true! Yes, in winter, mid-altitude mountains often constitute an ideal terrain (if snow conditions are sufficient) for learning. In addition to immersing yoursel in conditions that can be quite harsh (severe cold, snowstorms), the summits are lower and require less commitment. Ideal for practicing your skills!

Preparing your route

This is one of the fundamental points of the long days preceding the climb. The excitement is at its peak and the hours seem endless. Set aside training in the last few days to focus on preparing for your climb:

What is the weather forecast? The terrain conditions (Snow, Ice)?

Gathering all this information will help you optimize the contents of your mountaineering backpack.

What are the possible alternative routes?

On the day, depending on the conditions, your guide will be able to modify your route (for your safety). By knowing the different routes, you will be ready to face this kind of situation, sometimes destabilizing when everything changes a few hours before starting.

mountaineering disciplines

Surrounding yourself with the right people

Even the greatest mountaineers went through many stages before achieving spectacular solo ascents. Who knows, maybe you will be one of them one day? In the meantime, keep it real, and surround yourself with mountain professionals to train and achieve your first ascents. You can’t tur into an alpinist overnight! Here are some examples of organisations capable of accompanying you as your commence your journey in this wonderful world:

Mountain Guide Companies

Many mountain ranges have them. The most emblematic, the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix, brings together some of the best mountain guides in France and the world. A way to discover mountaineering safely!

Outdoor Travel Agencies

More and more agencies are specializing in outdoor travels. Among their services, courses for beginner alpinists are common. Gran Paradiso, Breithorn, or Dômes de Miage are among the most accessible. Working in collaboration with renowned mountain guides, they offer a great gateway to the discipline.

French Alpine Clubs

Whether you live in the mountains or in the city, there are French Alpine Clubs all over the country. They can be a great opportunity to work on your knot techniques through climbing, meet people who all share the same passion, and participate in the beautiful mountaineering outings that these clubs organise from spring in various French locations.

Boosting your mental strength

Indeed, the mental strength of the mountaineer plays a large part in the success or failure of a climb. Educate yourself, read books by alpinists who have achieved great things, watch films, listen to podcasts! Stimulating your mind will enhance your motivation, and you will approach your first ascents with great enthusiasm!

Live in the moment

Here it is, rule number 1! Realise how lucky you are experience moments close to the peaks, straddling Earth and Sky, between Man and the divine, between reason and intoxication. Let yourself be lulled by the silence of Mother Nature, intoxicated by her power, overwhelmed by her beauty, submerged by her harshness, while controlling your fears, to reach the summits, and experience bliss.

Thank you for reading these few lines, see you outdoors!
how to start mountaineering successfully