A guest post this week on a topic I really ought to write about sometime as well.

Climbing mountains sounds both exhilarating and dangerous, which may deter some but also encourages others. Though not a hobby for the weak of heart, mountain climbing offers benefits beyond the physical, making it an excellent choice for those already inclined to adventure. Climbing uses just about every muscle you can imagine. On top of the physical stamina necessary to sustain you over days-long journeys, you need mental stability and emotional strength to endure rigorous climbs. The following discusses what you need to know to start climbing mountains.

No Pain, No Gain

The old axiom rings truer in this sport than possibly any other. The physical strength necessary to propel you forward includes muscle mass and cardio endurance. In order to get in climb-ready shape, you need to start with your doctor and move on to a trainer. Because mountain climbing is so intensely physical, you will need to sit down with your doctor and make sure you’re good to go. Not everyone has the right genetics to make it happen. Physical limitations can be overcome, but some internal characteristic may rule this hobby out, such as heart conditions and other life-threatening issues. Make sure a health professional gives you a full physical just to be clear on the risks.

Once you’re cleared, hit the gym, the park and anywhere else you can think of to boost your body’s natural physique. Even if you’re totally out of shape, you can prepare to begin mountain climbing by following the same set of guidelines everyone uses: start small and build up. Hiring a trainer may not be necessary, but you should seek advice from friends or relatives who are physically active. Mountain climbing isn’t a solo journey, and your training shouldn’t be, either. Enlist some help and get started. One climber suggests staggering the routine, beginning with a solid base and increasing endurance until you’re ready to train for your specific climb. Another recommends including altitude training, which is a logical step in the progression of mountain climbing. The bottom line is this: you must be in top physical condition in order to climb a mountain. Any other way can lead to serious injuries and death.

Clear Away the Cobwebs

If physical strength forms a basic prerequisite, then mental and emotional fitness form necessary add-ons. As referenced above, climbing mountains is a group activity. This adds a level of safety and accountability. However, you might end up alone on a mountain in case of an emergency, and having the wherewithal to remain calm may keep you alive. For reference, Mt. Everest had a 29% success rate as of 2006, with a fatality rate of 2.05%. In fact, most climbers die on the descent of Mt. Everest. Since most of the climbers were in prime, peak physical condition, this means that being in shape isn’t everything. You need to accept the possibility of disaster and even death. Not everyone is prepared for this, but it’s crucial to undertaking a hobby that requires so much exertion. Emotional strength matters as much as the physical, and mental preparedness is key to survival.

While climbing might be exciting, it’s also very dangerous. Every adventurer needs to follow some rules, and when it comes to mountain climbing, following the right rules could save your life. Preparing for mountain climbing encompasses intense physical training as well as education yourself on crucial survival skills. Mountain climbing can be a fun and social hobby, and the best way to enjoy its benefits is to stay prepared.


Michael Bentley is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon who frequently writes about extreme sports, the drury outdoors, hiking & camping, traveling, adventure-seeking and other related topics.

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