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Total Beginners needing some advice

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Total Beginners needing some advice

Postby Scylla » Fri Feb 01, 2013 5:55 am

Hi everybody,

We are a group of 8 first timers wishing to climb our first peak. No one in the group has any previous experience, but all are relatively fit, all in the late 20s or early 30s. We will be coming from five different continents, so there isn't an obvious peak in mind. Our schedules are simultaneously free from early May to the first week of June. The options being considered are the Alps (Mont Blanc or Eiger), Zugspitze, Kilimanjaro, and someone even suggested Fuji. I've done some Google research on the Alps, and I'm seeing extremely varying prices. We are obviously looking for something reputable, but we don't want to overpay for no reason.

So here are a few points we are hoping someone could help clear out.

1- On average what does it cost to climb each of Mt Blanc, Zugspitze, Kilimanjaro, Eiger, and Fuji? We will also need to rent all equipment.

2- Are any of those peaks not suitable for first timers?

3- Are independent guides a good choice? If so, other than this forum where to find and contact them?

4- Any other peaks you suggest? Any advice?

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Total Beginners needing some advice

Postby rgg » Fri Feb 01, 2013 1:04 pm

I been to Mont Blanc and the Zugspitze, but not to the other three, so I'll only answer for the first two.

Prices
Guided ascents of Mont Blanc, including instruction, start just above 1000 EUR pp. Gear rental is a small amount compared to that. Without experience, going without a guide would be stupid, but, obviously, it will be much cheaper. Taking into account cable car fares and a night or two in the refuge, you're spending between 100 and 200 EUR. And there are still cheaper ways.

If you can read a map, then you don't need a guide for the Zugspitze via the Reintal route. The first day you can hike up to the Knorhütte. Sleep there, go to the summit the next day. Descend the same way and either spend another night in the Knorrhütte, or lower down in the Reintalangerhütte. Some might suggest hiking back down all the way, but planning to do that with a group of 8 with no experience that would be a very bad idea. In general, for a night in an alpine hut, count on 60 EUR pp, including dinner and breakfast. Perhaps a little bit more.

Suitability
While inexperienced people book guided ascents of Mont Blanc, and quite a few actually make it, I would not recommend this, certainly not for such a big group. Most people hiring a guide actually have some experience already.
Try easier, less committing and less dangerous mountains first, and if that goes well, you can come back for it later. Or gain much more experience and climb it without a guide.

The Zugspitze is fine for beginners. And in case some of you are less fit than you think and are too tired on the summit, there is a cable car that can take you down quickly.

Finding guides
As I wrote earlier, I do not recommend Mont Blanc, but if you still want to go, now or after getting some experience, then check out the Office de Haute Montagne. Alternatively, you can try to get personal recommendations for local guides by people you know. If you are a member of the Nederlandse Klim- en Bergsportvereniging, you can ask them to help you with arranging guides for your group as well. With a group of eight, you can have a custom made trip.

Other Mountains
Countless! But it all depends on what your group really wants. Do you want a simple walk up? Glacier travel or not? Some scrambling or not? Or more technical rock climbing even? How many days? How do you feel about cold temperatures? And thin air?
Not knowing your group and your wishes, I couldn't even begin to suggest more mountains.

Good Luck, Rob
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Re: Total Beginners needing some advice

Postby albanberg » Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:31 pm

Go slow, be careful. Climb something easy first...maybe something with no snow. Mont Blanc can be very dangerous, even for people with experience. Does the group have normal backpacking experience? If not, you might want to start there.

ab
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Re: Total Beginners needing some advice

Postby Scylla » Fri Feb 01, 2013 4:31 pm

Thanks for your reply Rob and AB. I'm a little confused about Mont Blanc now. From all I've read around it seems not too difficult for a beginner. As for the group size, it will most probably be between 3-5 when all is said and done, because there will ultimately be scheduling conflicts. It is my understanding that the easiest route up Mont Blanc can be tackled with 2-3days skills training and no previous experience.

This reputable and expensive company promises just that: http://www.montblancguides.com Is there a catch?
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Re: Total Beginners needing some advice

Postby splattski » Fri Feb 01, 2013 4:42 pm

Welcome to mountaineering.
I'm also an advocate of trying it out on something easier before you go to the big peaks. And although climbing with a guide is a great way to learn and gain experience, a caution: just because you are with a guide, does not mean you are 100% safe. Check this out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6HXQxEX910
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Re: Total Beginners needing some advice

Postby Scylla » Fri Feb 01, 2013 4:54 pm

I don't think anyone in our group was expecting 100% safe. The risk of avalanche or rockfalls are part of the package. Is Mont Blanc worse than other Alpine Peaks in this regard?
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Re: Total Beginners needing some advice

Postby albanberg » Fri Feb 01, 2013 7:05 pm

You should be able to climb some smaller things in advance of the group trip. Each person could do their own outing with a friend or two. My understanding of Mont Blanc is that the weather can change very quickly and there are the other hazards that you mention. It's just better if everyone has done something else before being up there on crampons in bad weather and then they have a problem with the altitude etc.

Another perspective is I progressed very fast (as far as how high I went) but my progression was much slower than you are talking about doing.

Another option would be to have your group climb something smaller this year and then come back next year to do Mont Blanc.

It is good that you're thinking about doing the 2-3 day course first. But before that if everyone in the group has done at least some high altitude (relatively, say 10k to 14k ft) backpacking, I think that would help.

And...maybe everything will be fine for your group. It's hard for anyone to say not knowing all of you. Moving forward with caution is a good idea though. You guys are all young, so what's the rush?
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Re: Total Beginners needing some advice

Postby Scylla » Fri Feb 01, 2013 7:22 pm

Well Mont Blanc is not our only option. How about Everest Base Camp? From what I'm seeing it also seems quite beginner friendly. What about Kili?

This may sound silly to seasoned climbers and true lovers of the sport. However, many in the group are taking time off of work and flying half way across the world, so they are expecting to get some bragging rights. Obviously though, no one wants to kill themselves for that. However, a somewhat recognizable peak would go a long way. Again, sorry if this sounds silly to you guys. I'm sure for many of us after our first climb we'll be addicted and not care about such things anymore.
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Re: Total Beginners needing some advice

Postby albanberg » Fri Feb 01, 2013 7:53 pm

Yeah Scylla, go somewhere cool but safe for the group's level of experience. EBC trek is on my list for sure. Just remember that everyone reacts differently to high elevations. Some people have told me that they can't go above 13k ft. without feeling bad. My girlfriend has trouble going to 14-15k ft too fast. I have trouble sleeping at 17ish k ft. and I'm working on ways to aclimate better for that.
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Re: Total Beginners needing some advice

Postby SeanReedy » Fri Feb 01, 2013 9:37 pm

You have gotten excellent and polite advice. None of you have done a peak before, but are willing to fly half way around the world and spend up to a month or more to give it a try. You are willing to pay for guides and services. Perspectives differ, but I can imagine hundreds of equally enjoyable and adventurous things to do, many of which are probably less risky.

Scylla wrote:Well Mont Blanc is not our only option. How about Everest Base Camp? From what I'm seeing it also seems quite beginner friendly. What about Kili?

This may sound silly to seasoned climbers and true lovers of the sport. However, many in the group are taking time off of work and flying half way across the world, so they are expecting to get some bragging rights. Obviously though, no one wants to kill themselves for that. However, a somewhat recognizable peak would go a long way. Again, sorry if this sounds silly to you guys. I'm sure for many of us after our first climb we'll be addicted and not care about such things anymore.


^^^Now you sound beyond silly, or like you are just trolling for a heated thread to develop. If you lose the bragging rights concept, you could have tons of fun hiking, learning to climb, and/or having various other adventures in all kinds of places. Brag to whom? Impress whom? Why? Does that really make a trip better? Maybe $ would be better spent on group therapy. :wink:

Sometimes big name places aren't as great, nor as fun and adventurous as lesser known places. Why not lower the bar and try some easier stuff, maybe even unguided. If ya'll like the mountains after that, pay for a more famous, guided trip down the road some. Is the issue that some of your friends need a cool and recognizable name to attach onto and all agree to in order to have the trip even happen?

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Re: Total Beginners needing some advice

Postby Andes6000 » Sat Feb 02, 2013 12:49 am

From 5 different continents and you don't know what to climb? Here's a few things to get you started.

Find a reputable guiding company that is fluent in your language and ask them to give you guys a basic mountaineering course before the climb. If you guys have a few weeks then take a few days to learn the basics, it will allow for a much more enjoyable experience and is a good way to acclimate if you do this at the base of the mountain you are about to climb. Pick a mountain where you will learn to walk in crampons and use the ice axe but nothing above 4-5 thousand meters. Make sure your guide to client ratio is one guide for two clients. That's just a start, hope you have a good one. And remember, you always get what you pay for.
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Re: Total Beginners needing some advice

Postby WyomingSummits » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:29 am

I'd def start at 4-5k meters. If none of you have ever done extremely strenuous exercise at altitude, you could be setting yourself up for tragedy. Seasoned climbers have died at lower altitudes on 14k peaks here in the states from altitude induced complications......your body simply doesn't function the same at altitude, no matter how fit you are, so you need to give everyone time to acclimatize. People have died from Pulmonary Adema on the Everest basecamp trek....albeit it's not a common occurrence. I'm not trying to discourage you, but try to work in a smaller peak on your trip to see how everyone does.....it might avoid some serious issues/malcontent if some people get AMS on Kili and end up bagging the whole trip for everyone! With 8 people, odds are one of you is going to have at least moderate AMS at some point. Some people are just BORN to climb at altitude. Jim Bridwell was a famous alpine climber and was a chain smoker......his body just functioned well at altitude. you could put an Olympic athlete on the same rope and they may have to be carried down.....it's a bit of a roulette game. Find out how everyone performs before spending big bucks for guides and gear! :)
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Re: Total Beginners needing some advice

Postby Scylla » Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:11 am

No one here is trolling for anything Mr. Sean. If anything, it seems we are victims of intentionally misleading advertisements. These here are a couple of quotes from probably the best known Mont Blanc guide company (http://www.montblancguides.com) , which is why we were all under the impression that this is very doable:

Do I Need Previous Mountaineering Experience?
No. If you've done this sort of thing before you'll certainly find your experience useful, and our guides will be available throughout the week to teach you new skills if you're interested to learn. If this is your first time however it's not a problem, as all the necessary instruction in the use of ice axe, crampons, etc. is included in the week.


Is This Something I Could Do?
If like many of our clients you’ve not done anything like this before, it can be hard to get a clear idea of what’s involved in climbing Mont Blanc, as it’s not easy to make comparisons with other activities (if you have climbed before however, Mont Blanc is generally considered to be quite a bit harder than the normal route on Kilimanjaro). The actual ascent day is by far the toughest and involves 1600m of height gain, usually spread over around 12 hours. This is taken at a very slow pace however, and we will have carefully checked your equipment beforehand, to ensure that your rucksack is as light as possible, usually only a few kilos. Guides are experts at setting the right pace for their clients, and you will never be rushed unnecessarily but encouraged to find your own rhythm – trying to go too fast is a common problem. You will be roped up (generally 2 clients to 1 guide) for the ascent, though technical difficulty is not high and you hardly need to use your hands to climb at all.

We will also of course make sure you’re fully prepared for the ascent by practising all techniques involving ice axes, crampons, etc. during the first three training/acclimatisation days, so you don't need any previous mountaineering experience. (if you have climbed before however and would like to learn more, the guides will be happy to include some instructional sessions for you, e.g. in the evening in the mountain huts).


I must say I am really shocked at their claims, now having read all your replies. How can they even legally get away with this? They are also not the only company saying almost the exact same thing about Mont Blanc.

Andes6000 and WyomingSummits, thank you both for your reply. However, again I am a bit confused. You are suggesting 4-5k meter peaks. Mont Blanc is 4.8k. Is Mont Blanc a particularly difficult one? Is an equally sized (4-5km) in the Alps a better option?

We are not at all opposed to changing the venue, or even to try to get some skills training beforehand. Seems so far from your replies that Zugspitze might be the best option. Its just under 3km, and it has a cable car should someone fall ill from AMS or anything else. Additionally we have 2 medical doctors in this group (not sure if that helps any, but I have seen that there are medicines that help mitigate AMS).

Again, no one is trolling whatsoever. We are really serious about this, just misinformed due to having DONE some preliminary research. Believe it or not, none of us thought Mont Blanc was even something we could try without years of experience until we started doing the research I quoted above. So please accept that we are eager and genuine, just misinformed.
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Re: Total Beginners needing some advice

Postby Scylla » Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:21 am

Climberska, thanks for your suggestions. I will check those books out. As for the courses you suggest, that was definitely part of the plan. We were not going to do this without a short course at the start.
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