A Beginners Guide to Alpine Mountaineering
For many hill-goers, and rock-climbers, too, a visit to the Alps is the logical next step after an initiation in Wales, the Lakes or Scotland. The big hills beckon. They are an arena offering challenge, commitment, achievement. But they are also natural cathedrals of stunning beauty and grandeur where one can feel very small and vulnerable. Under the influence of heat, thirst, altitude, adrenalin and fatigue, one can "tread the realms of enchantment" and return to earth feeling privileged and somehow enriched.
In Britain, we think of ourselves as going either walking or climbing, or perhaps scrambling. But in the Alps they are all forms of mountaineering. The Alps are, quite simply, hugely different to British hills, even Scottish ones in winter. Distances are so much greater, climbs so much longer, the consequences of bad weather or climbing slowly so much more serious. There is the debilitating effect of altitude, especially at first. There is the need to move together, sometimes in very exposed places, and to down-climb rather than always abseil in descent – skills rarely needed in Britain.
Then there are the effects of glaciation – the threat of ice-avalanches from seracs high above, the danger of concealed crevasses, and the need to travel roped most of the time.
There is much to learn about what to wear and what to carry, about using huts, about planning where to go and when, and what to attempt.
Rob Collister, a qualified Mountain Guide (UIAGM) for thirty years, discusses many of these topics in his article – A Beginners Guide to Alpine Mountaineering, read on ...