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How to Climb a Mountain Successfully
Climbing a mountain is an exhilarating experience. Reaching the summit of a snow-covered peak, looking in every direction at the vast earth below you, and recognizing your accomplishment provides you with a sense of aw that few experiences in life can actually reward you with.
Of course, being aware of what might go wrong is also important. Although I have successfully climbed many mountains, I have also spent a night stranded on the top of a peak in Central Oregon waiting for search and rescue to bring up the needed supplies to get us off of the mountain.
Spending a short amount of time planning, using a little bit of common sense, and saying a prayer for protection can keep most hikers safe during a quick day hike up a mountain.
Preparing for the Climb
Preparation is of the utmost importance. Although it is not necessary to plan one's every step, it is important to have a general understanding of the route that will be taken, the distance covered, and the time needed to travel this distance.
It is often wise to contact the Forest Service about conditions, research online about others who have climbed this peak, and understand your physical ability to climb the mountain. Though I would consider myself rather fit, I ended up getting trapped on a mountain because we got to a point where it was necessary to rock climb. I love mountain climbing, but rock climbing is not something I feel comfortable doing without ropes.
During the Climb
The picture of the Middle Sister to the right is one that I have just recently finished climbing. It was an intense day of hiking. We walked for 10 hours from start to finish without much time spent resting. However, we made it to the top and the view was spectacular.
Several years ago I attempted to climb the South Sister, which is far less technical than the Middle Sister if you take the trail. We had take the trail before and decided to try something different - going up the back side of the mountain. This was a terrible mistake.
Us attempting to climb the back side of the South Sister resulted in a similar situation as would happen if one attempted to stand behind the backside of a donkey - you end up getting kicked in the face.
After hiking for seven hours, climbing several rocks that we did not think we could climb back down from, we realized that we were trapped. The peak was in sight - with the trail back down swarming with happy, peaceful hikers. Meanwhile, we were sitting on a point, with no way to get down, and a huge glacier between us and the summit.
Long story short, we called the Forest Service and search and rescue came up to bring us the needed snow equipment to get over the glacier. We called at 6 pm, search and rescue arrived at 1 am (a few of them attempting to come up the way we did, but turning around), and were finally to the bottom of the mountain at 9 am. It was a long, cold, exciting night.
One of the most important things I learned from my experience climbing the South Sister is never climb up somewhere that you cannot climb back down. Because we had planned on taking the regular path back down the mountain, we traversed several cliffs that we would not feel comfortable returning down from - ultimately ending up like a treed cat, trapped on top of the mountain. If we had avoided going up anything that we could not have come back down from, we would have never run into a problem.
Use common sense when climbing, do not take unnecessary or ridiculous risks, and have an exit strategy at all times.
The 10 Essentials from REI
The Ten Essentials
After being rescued from the top of the South Sister in Oregon, the search and rescue mentioned multiple times how important it is to always have the Ten Essentials. These are 10 items that they recommend you should take on every single trip and include the following:
- Navigation Tools (GPS, compass, map)
- Protection from sun (sunscreen, shirts, hats)
- Extra clothing for warmth
- Lights and extra batteries
- First-aid kit
- Fire (matches and lighters)
- Repair kit for your tent, sleeping bag (duct tape)
- Extra food in case you get lost
- Extra water and filtration
- Emergency shelter
You can watch the video to the right from REI about the importance of the ten essentials. The video is hilarious because it is so poorly made. Although REI may make quality products, they certainly do not make quality videos.
Of course, if you take all of the ten essentials you will end up needing a shelter and extra food because all of the extra weight will really slow you down! I believe that it is a good idea to be aware of what you will need and prepared for basic emergencies, but not everything is absolutely necessary (of course, I have also gotten stranded on top of a mountain before, so my advice may not be the best).
Cellphone: I have discovered that a phone is the greatest thing to bring hiking. Keep it turned off to conserve battery, but keep it with you. Many places now have reception and this can save your life. Not to mention the light and camera that can be used to signal or direct others in case of an emergency.
Mountain Climbing Books
Enjoying a Hike
Mountain climbing is an experience that everyone should strive to enjoy. Though the climb is arduous, the reward is worthwhile.
So many Americans spend any workout time in a gym looking at four walls. This will build up muscle, but this is not the natural manner in which man was intended to develop a healthy body. We were built to be out in the wild, experiencing the smells, sounds, and sights miles away from anything man-made.
Find a location to hike close to you and start exercising in a way that builds your body, frees your mind, and refreshes your spirit. Climb a mountain!