Mountaineering 101: How to Get Started - AdventureTripr

Mountaineering 101: How to Get Started

Spenser Czuleger · January 22, 2021
Share with your friends:
Mountaineer climbing a mountain
Mountaineer using ice tool

Living in the PNW, you may have heard the phrase “the mountain is out”. This common, albeit silly phrase, tells you whether or not you can see beautiful Mt. Rainier or if it’s shrouded behind rain clouds at that moment.

Now that you've seen the top, have you ever thought about climbing it? At 14,411ft above sea level, it’s the tallest singular peak in the lower 48 states, and one of Washington’s five major volcanoes. Others include Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams. Some other amazing mountains which can be great for beginner mountaineers are Mt. Shasta in Northern California and Mt. Hood and South Sister in Oregon. With a bit of training and preparation, a climbing attempt of one, or all of these, is possible!

Your basics to getting into mountaineering are:

  1. Learning skills through classes, guide services, or experienced members of the mountaineering community

  2. Prepping both mentally and physically

  3. Getting the right gear

Mt. St. Helens from Lunch Counter on Mt. Adams
Mt. St. Helens from Lunch Counter on Mt. Adams

Take a mountaineering class or hire a guide service:

If you are not already a part of a supportive community that can take you under its wings, you can learn essential skills and get more comfortable by taking a class or hiring a guide service. They will teach you the skills you need, and provide you with practice before taking you up the mountain. You’ll learn skills such as how to use an ice axe, how to rope up together, and how to perform a crevasse rescue. 

Here are some classes on Mt. Baker and Mt. St. Helen’s that will equip you with the skills required to climb these mountains.

Physical and mental training:

First off, you need to be in shape. You don’t need to be an Olympian, but having completed a few of the harder hikes (or the willingness to train for them) need to be under your belt. Even the easiest of mountains to summit still takes endurance and stamina. 

Your training hikes can be as simple as putting on a heavy pack and hiking on steep trails just outside of Seattle. Or even using a stair climber while wearing a pack will build up your leg muscles and endurance. 

Altitude can get to you too. You may be okay at sea level and a few thousand feet above that, but people can start to feel altitude sickness as low as 5,000ft above sea level. The higher you go, the worse it is, and the more dangerous it can be. Knowing the warning signs and how to prevent them is crucial to climbing.

But it’s not just physical training, you have to train yourself mentally too. While mountaineering is incredibly rewarding, there are times you’ll have to turn around 1,000ft from the top because of dangerous conditions. You’ll have to endure steep slopes, stressful situations, and inclement weather, so be sure to be prepared for discomfort and danger. Not everyone is cut out for it, but if you can make it, it’s all worth it for the views and sense of accomplishment at the top.

Mountaineer with Gear
Mountaineer with Gear


In addition to the typical winter hiking gear, some of the technical gear you’ll need to invest in is listed below. Some of these items you can rent if you’re not quite ready to buy.

  • Mountaineering boots: Warmer than hiking boots, comfortable, and compatible with crampons, mountaineering boots are hiking boots but beefed up.

  • Ice Axe: This light axe can do things from saving your life in the event of a fall to making it easier (and more fun) to get off the mountain by glissading. Some mountains require two ice tools.

  • Crampons: These long spikes attach to your mountaineering boots and allow you to grip ice and snow to give you traction.

  • Climbing harness: While they make rock-climbing harnesses that will work for your mountain climbing, mountaineering harnesses are more comfortable and lighter which will make your trip up the mountain easier.

  • Climbing helmet: To protect your head. Rock climbing helmets will work too, you just want to make sure you’re able to attach a headlamp around the helmet. 

If you are climbing alongside guides, they will provide any additional gear such as ropes and carabiners.

Continue your mountaineering education:

Book one of the guided trips to Mt. Baker, Mt. Adams, our Beginner Snow Skills Course or Mt. Hood to learn basic skills, be led across crevasses, and get to summit the PNW’s most beautiful mountains. 

Also, try rock climbing as you’ll learn many skills, such as belaying, using a harness, and typing ropes, that can help you with mountain climbing.

And above all, stay safe and have fun!

Liked what you read?

Share the love: