Mountain Climbing


Mountaineering, or mountain climbing, is the sport of reaching, or trying to reach, high points in mountainous areas, mainly for the joy and thrill of the climb. The sport involves intense physical activity. It includes hiking, rock climbing, and traversing slopes covered with ice and snow. Mountain climbing is by its nature risky; it can be quite dangerous unless climbers are properly trained. Climbers test their skills, strength, balance, resourcefulness, courage, and endurance as they master hazardous conditions and difficult terrain. Many also gain satisfaction from experiencing the grandeur of nature. The urge to “conquer” high peaks has led mountain climbers to develop the skills and tools that made it possible. 

Much of the equipment required for climbing also resembles that used by hikers and campers. Climbers need cleated boots and heavy socks, clothing that is warm and windproof without being cumbersome, a compass and map, a backpack, matches, and a knife and flashlight. They may also need sunglasses and sunscreen for protection from the sun, climbing ropes, an ice ax, a hammer, and crampons, which are sets of sharp spikes that can be strapped onto the boots to provide surer footing on ice. A piton, an iron spike with a ring at the end, is designed to be hammered into a crack in the rock or into the ice for support. Snap rings, called carabiners, are fastened to the pitons, and the rope is passed through them. Skis may be used on snowy slopes, and climbers at high altitudes may have to carry bottled oxygen. If a climb is to last longer than a day, it is necessary to take along a tent, provisions, and a sleeping bag.

Although the dangers involved in mountain climbing are obvious, experience, careful training, proper equipment, physical fitness, teamwork, and the use of good judgment can minimize most of them. Avalanches, rock slides, and rockfalls can occur, but the experienced climber learns how to avoid them. Caution and cooperation are essential; a lapse on the part of one climber endangers the whole team. Teamwork does pay off, and for the successful team the thrill of standing at the summit of a challenging peak with the world spread out beneath its feet more than amply repays it for the risk and effort involved.