/ Getting into alpine climbing
Hi, this question has probably been asked hundreds of times before on here but oh well.
At the moment I mainly climb trad in the UK and often multi pitch, but have always been keen to get into alpine climbing, but am unsure as to the best way of getting into it. I’m 16, so I don’t know if that affects whether I’ll be able to get on any courses to learn. Or would the best/funnest way of doing it be finding a partner and just giving it a go, without doing a course first.
Excellent suggestion. There's a lower age limit of 18 so that's probably about 1 and a bit years down the line though.
If you want to get into it without hiring a guide I'd recommend that you first find a reliable partner who wants to learn and practice. Build up by scrambling and climbing in big boots, using alpine rope work as you go. Do lots of this and learn from the various available sources in books before furthering your knowledge online, books written by guides first though as online tutorials can contain incorrect info.
Remember practice makes perfect and be self analysing in your performance. Reality is that if you're teaching yourself you will want to err on the side of caution so do at least a year of scrambling most weekends trying to do as much ascent as descent of scrambling routes as possible while applying the techniques. Travel to Scotland, the lakes and Snowdonia and build up to completing the equivalent of 2munros a day on a weekend. This is all part of the process and part of the fun.
Fitness physically and mentally is a big thing. You will come to realise as you grow that true endurance comes with age, this shouldn't stop you from participating however it is something to be aware of you are going to suffer more from fatigue after long days with little to eat and drink. Resilience to this can be built up, as they do with young army recruits, and you can build it yourself. Remember every mental battle you win during your time training is one closer to succeeding on the hill. Follow a fitness plan which prepares you for many hours of exercise, not CrossFit or gym work as these produce superficial results which do not increase the ability to endure fatigue for a whole day or two. Training For the New Alpinism is a good book.
The other thing you need is money and facilities to travel this is hard to come by when training continuously in preparation. I don't really have any answers for that.
Plenty of people will say that your too young, however there are young alpinists and many top quality alpinists climbed their hardest routes in their mid 20s. Most of these people will assume that you have no experience but this doesn't mean you can't earn it. Be progressive in your approach, don't go too hard too fast, start easy as you have plenty of time to get good. Remember it's the hours you put in combined with continuous self examination and improvement that give you the experience and the judgement necessary to advance your skills.
Conville Course as recommended would be great in a year or two. Meanwhile, your profile suggests you are in a perfect spot to develop some alpine skills and you already have lots of skills ( climbing HVS multipitch trad at Bosi which is very similar to Chamonix granite). Try to avoid the temptation to buy lots of gear just yet!
So, some suggestions:
1) Climb lots of multipitch routes in a range of grades within a day. Focus on moving efficiently, efficient ropework techniques and building stamina.
2) Purchase Bruce Goodlad's book on alpine climbing ( others are available but I think his is especially well written ) and try the relevant techniques at home . For example; ropework for moving together , ropework for glacier travel, ropework for crevasse self rescue and rescuing a partner. Better still, get a friend / volunteer / members of a local club / like minded partner to practice these outside with. Be cautious however; granite is not kind on ropes, practice on very easy terrain first.
3) If you can, as others have suggested, try to get to some mountains for multi day walking, scrambling and climbing linking together routes. North Wales, Lakes and Scotland would be ideal.
4) If you have the opportunity try to get some winter walking / scrambling / climbing in.
5) At the moment your alpine dream may seem a long way away but the alps provide a whole host of different climbing opportunities. With your current skills set and equipment you could go rock climbing in a non glacial alpine environment and get to know areas before taking on fully alpine climbs.
Tons of good advice here already! I'd just add that it would be well worth considering the Austrian Alps for a first trip, for the simple reason that the scale's (slightly) smaller and you won't have to worry about acclimatisation. Peaks like the Wildspitze or the major summits in the Zillertal are magnificent in their own right, and should give you a great basis to build on. If you're after granite, then the Bergell in Switzerland ist perfect; Piz Badile North Ridge ist a major classic. Austria's cheaper though. Have fun and take care!
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