Friday, March 20, 2009

Hiking and Climbing "Big" Mountain Summits

A couple of days ago I did something I might actually regret. I signed up to climb a big mountain with a group this upcoming weekend. A real mountain - a 13er! Meaning, the summit of this mountain is over 13,000 feet in elevation.

Why might I regret doing this? Honestly, I don’t know if I’m ready to climb a big mountain like this. I’ve been hiking and snowshoeing a lot, I think I’m in good physical condition - but will that be enough to reach the summit?

Not only will I be climbing very high in elevation, but I will also have to climb up boulders to get to this summit. The hike itself will be a long one which is hard enough on the body, add hiking and climbing in high elevation and the difficulty of the trail itself. It could be too much, too soon.

When I moved to Colorado, I checked out a few websites for climbing mountain summits. Obviously, Colorado is very popular for climbing, hiking and mountaineering because it has so many big mountains. I was definitely intrigued by this activity and the pictures of these climbs were just phenomenal. I could almost imagine myself on top of these mountains, being able to look for miles and miles around me in all directions. Back then, just a few months ago, I thought climbing mountains was for those really adventurous and hard core people, now I realize that just like hiking and backpacking, climbing to the summits of mountains is just another activity that allows you to enjoy the outdoors and see some amazing scenery.

Climbing mountains isn't just something I want to “try” once. It's something I wanted to “do” and keep doing. Thankfully, since I hike a lot already I have most of the gear necessary for climbing most easy to moderate summits. The only two items I needed was an ice axe and a helmet. The ice axe would come in handy while climbing over ice or glaciers. Some big mountains have snow and ice on then all year round. The climbing helmet is to protect the head from the rocks.

Simond Ocelot Mountaineering Piolet Ice Axe and Petzl Elios Climbing Helmet

To prepare better for this weekend I read a few climbing reports about this particular mountain and the route we planning on taking to the summit. The route we were taking would be the more difficult of the two routes possible. Things like “ class-3 scramble” and “talus hike“ or “endless boulder field“ had no meaning for me yet so I honestly couldn’t tell if I was be able to do it or not.

I think in life we figure things out by comparing them to the others things we’re familiar with. In this case I had nothing to compare this to. Having never climbed any mountains with a “class rating” that #3 meant nothing. I just had to do it so I could see what it’s all about. Going with an experienced group, I was sure to learn many things.

I have only two concerns really. Will I experience any altitude sickness up there on the mountain, since I got a touch of altitude sickness last weekend camping at 10,000+ feet in elevation? And, will I be able to make it to the summit, will I have the endurance to complete this climb, will I be able to keep up with the group and make it back to the car in one piece? We shall see.

No comments: