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Solo climbing/backpacking trip – where would you go?

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Solo climbing/backpacking trip – where would you go?

Postby huwj » Wed Jun 27, 2012 1:17 am

If you had six months to a year out and a bit of money to go travelling, where would you go to work on your mountaineering & climbing skills? It's something I may be looking to do in the next year or so...

I'd like to get a heap of varied rock and mountain experience and build some good skills while seeing some interesting parts of the world. Basically go back-packing with a full alpine rack! I'd probably need some longer spells in cheaper places... so I like the idea of pitching a tent in Yosemite for a few weeks, renting a campervan to do a circuit of NZ's South Island, or maybe spend a month working the crags of Yangshuo. I could get to the states, buy a van Honnold-style and live out of that for a while...

A super vague question, I know... I'd just love to hear some suggestions to get me inspired for places that may not be on my radar...
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Re: Solo climbing/backpacking trip – where would you go?

Postby ExcitableBoy » Wed Jun 27, 2012 1:29 am

If you are talking about North America, then I would hit the Sierra Nevadas, Tetons, Cascades, Canadian Rockies.
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Re: Solo climbing/backpacking trip – where would you go?

Postby atavist » Wed Jun 27, 2012 1:59 am

Primary variables would be what season and what kind of mountaineering you want to focus on...secondary variables would be what languages you speak, how comfortable you are in the 3rd world, how much social life you want. And if you are doing some standard backpacking and sight seeing, everyone has some personal prejudice. For example my first big international solo trip was to Peru/Bolivia for 3 months. I went to see Machu Picchu so I added a few big climbs in the Cordillera Blanca. Pretty much everywhere around the world has some form of excellent climbing so the climbing itself doesn't necessarily need to be the decisive factor.

Having said all that, you can't go wrong with central California. It's prime time in Yosemite with the high mountains a short drive away for a reprieve from the heat. You can count on good weather with numerous options including glaciated stuff less than a day's drive north. With 6 months, you will have flexibility to get north to the Cascades, Tetons, Sierra and loads of less popular spots. If you've never been there, that would be my choice.

South Island would be a bit cold now, although it wouldn't be a bad option a few months later. Definitely world class mountaineering though I imagine it would be harder to find partners for any serious stuff compared to California. The territory is also a bit limited compared to the Pac coast, I don't think you would run out of stuff to do, but you might find it difficult to dodge crap weather.

Yangshuo is very nice, I've been there twice. Though you would be limited to sport climbing and there isn't much variety at that, all limestone and a lot of tufas. On the positive, it is a very social and international scene. Although I've heard there is some problems with access on some of the crags lately. Your costs will decrease if you like chinese food and know how to order it. Beyond Yanghsuo but still within China, there is little development for climbing.

If I were you and I wanted 'a heap of varied rock and mountain experience', I'd probably go to the Alps. It's amazing how often that place is overlooked. You definitely have to manage your costs but there is an ungodly amount of rock, it has all been climbed and it is very accessible and you'll find lots of climbers year round. Imagine all of Yosemite Valley and the entire Eastern Sierra accessible from your doorstep, then add rain and snow (a lot) - that's Chamonix. And with 6 months you would have unlimited possibilities for climbing or general touring...Spain, Scandinavia, Greece, Italy, Morocco...
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Re: Solo climbing/backpacking trip – where would you go?

Postby ozarkmac » Wed Jun 27, 2012 2:02 am

Wind River Range, WY
Teton Range, WY
San Juan Range, CO
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Re: Solo climbing/backpacking trip – where would you go?

Postby AlexeyD » Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:17 pm

ozarkmac wrote:Wind River Range, WY
Teton Range, WY
San Juan Range, CO


Great choices!
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Re: Solo climbing/backpacking trip – where would you go?

Postby obsidian » Wed Jun 27, 2012 8:32 pm

Read P.J. O'Rourke's "Holidays in Hell", and go somewhere else.

The Wind River Range, Central Wyoming is an excellent suggestion,...
So, is the Sierra Nevada Range, in California.
But, I would probably head for the Canadian Rockies, and,... Banff National Park.
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Re: Solo climbing/backpacking trip – where would you go?

Postby Sierra Ledge Rat » Sat Jun 30, 2012 2:36 pm

If you are going solo, and plan to stay solo, then look no further than the Sierra Nevada.

The approaches are short, objective dangers minimal (at least during the summer), good weather, spectacular terrain.

The Cascades and Canadian Rockies are beautiful, but the objective dangers (i.e, crevasses) make it difficulty and frightening for the solo climber.

The Colorado Rockies are also good, but they are just not as spectacular as the Sierras. Additionally, the approaches are a bit longer and many approaches require a touch 4x4 truck to reach the trailhead. If you are into ski mountaineering, then Colorado is a great option for solo summer skiing.

I've never been to the Wind River range, but I have planned some trips out there. The approaches are very long.

The Tetons would be a good choice, but the range is much smaller than the Sierras and your options are therefore limited in comparison.
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Re: Solo climbing/backpacking trip – where would you go?

Postby dadndave » Sun Jul 01, 2012 6:57 am

If you're thinking of spending a bit of time on the South Island you might want to consider buying a suitable vehicle and then selling it back when you leave.

A bloke I hiked with last year did that. There's a mob in Christchurch that organises this for backpackers planning to spend a bit of time which would make renting not such a great option.

If you want to know more, try a PM to "middlepeak" here on SP. He told me the name of this outfit, but I've forgotten....
What is this "scientific method" you speak of?
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Re: Solo climbing/backpacking trip – where would you go?

Postby Catamount » Sun Jul 01, 2012 1:44 pm

Six months is quite a lot of time. If I had that much time to spend in the mountains, I would likely spend the entire time in the western US. I would either attempt a thru-hike of the PCT or bounce around all over the place. Wind River Range, Tetons, Northwest volcanic peaks, Colorado 14ers, Idaho 12ers, Yosemite and the Sierra. Would be awesome. 8)
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Re: Solo climbing/backpacking trip – where would you go?

Postby huwj » Thu Jul 12, 2012 5:20 am

Really appreciate all the suggestions folks... Plenty there to keep me busy for a while! Looks like the trip should be going ahead so I'll definitely allow a good chunk of time for North America and do some homework on all the areas mentioned...

Cheers atavist for putting the effort in with all that info. I'm keen on the alps although am originally from the UK and likely to be living back there at some stage in the next few years. If that ends up being the case then I will have plenty of time to explore the area and I might be better off getting further afield while I have the time? So am leaning more towards America (North and South), Asia and Australasia at the minute...

One question I still have is about transport (cheers dadndave for the NZ recommendation). Here in Oz – and it seems in NZ – buying a cheap camper and selling it on a few months later is pretty standard practice, and all the backpackers mean there's a steady market. Is it a similar setup in the US? Are reasonably cheap and reliable campers plentiful? And If I did pick up a van in the US would I be able to easily make the road trip up to the Canadian Rockies or would there be too much red tape crossing borders?

Thanks all
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Re: Solo climbing/backpacking trip – where would you go?

Postby jvonrueden » Sun Jul 15, 2012 6:31 am

You could get a used van for $2,000, easily. I'm not sure how easy it would be for you to put license plates on it though- not having a permanent residence here. The licensing laws vary state to state- but all recognize each others license plates. In some states, liability auto insurance is mandatory as well.

If I wanted to go out solo, and really get away from it all, I'd head up to central Alaska, at least for backpacking. Not sure I'd be crazy enough to walk across a glacier solo.
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Re: Solo climbing/backpacking trip – where would you go?

Postby Andrew Rankine » Wed Aug 08, 2012 5:19 am

Well, I am taking a year off to climb all of the European Country highpoints, and learn some new skills as well. I believe that if you are going to be taking that much time off you should go somewhere new. I think that good mountain training can be found in many of the European ranges, from the Alps to the Carpathians. I mean, you can be talking glaciers and that on Mont Blanc, ski mountaineering in the same area, and multipitch rock climbing nearby too.
Since Europe is well-served by public transit you can get to a lot of areas easily by train, for example the High Tatras of Slovakia and Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Eastern Alps. This allows you to go to a lot of different areas easily, and on a day of bad weather you can go see the sights.
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