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Introduction/Beginner Question

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Introduction/Beginner Question

Postby StevenP » Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:46 pm

Hey all my name is Steven, I would love to take a minute to introduce myself and ask a few beginner questions. I have been very interested in mountaineering for the past few years but living in Florida does not provide such great opportunities for the sport. I am an avid camper and fisher and am also finishing my bachelors degree in May and hope to move to a region closer to the mountains. Now that I have a bit more disposable income I would like to take my first venture and am highly considering undertaking a guided climb of Mt. Washington in mid December. I am curious to hear from those that have experience with Mt. Washington and if anyone has other suggestions to 'get my feet wet' in the sport. If anyone has some beginner tips/suggestions it would be greatly appreciated. I look forward to learning and becoming part of the community here.

Thanks!

Steve
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Re: Introduction/Beginner Question

Postby LesterLong » Mon Oct 14, 2013 12:56 am

Hi Steve,

Welcome. My first mountain climb was Mt. Washington, in mid-February. It was a thrilling, scary, and exhausting climb for me. I had a guide, who was excellent. I don't know if i'd recommend a winter climb of Mt. Washington as a first climb, though. You would definitely need to be in above average shape.

Good luck.
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Re: Introduction/Beginner Question

Postby Sierra Ledge Rat » Mon Oct 14, 2013 4:04 am

Mt. Washington in the winter can be pretty serious, depending on the local weather conditions at the time of your climb. Learning the sport of mountaineering by climbing that peak in winter is like learning to drive at the Indy 500. Smart idea?

Mt. Washingotn is really just a big hill, not a mountain, but the weather can be so ferocious that it can be a real challenge. I climbed Mt. Washington in the winter of 1976, at the tail end of a big storm. And I've done some rock-climbing in Huntington Ravine (on the rock wall left of the central gully).

I suggest that you talk in great detail with your guide about very specific equipment and clothing requirements for your climb. And either do a lot of long-distance running or long hikes with a heavy pack. I strongly recommend climbing stairs for exercise - is there a building or parking garage with a few flights of stairs that you can climb? You need to exercise your hip flexors and extensors.

If you really are interested in mountaineering, I suggest taking a mountaineering course out west. Formal introductory instruction and a few weeks in big mountains will give you the biggest bang for your buck, and the supervision will keep you from killing yourself until you gain more experience.
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Re: Introduction/Beginner Question

Postby nartreb » Mon Oct 14, 2013 8:43 pm

I'd compare a *guided* trip up Mt Washington in winter to riding in the passenger seat in a Nascar qualifier round. It ain't the biggest race out there, and you're able to rely on the driver, rather than your own skills, to avoid a crash, but if your driver messes up you're probably dead. You may get some thrills, and you may decide you like it or hate it, but whether you learn much about the task at hand, rather than about the scenery in which it occurs, depends mostly on whether you're good at learning from somebody else's prior experience.
I agree a multi-day course is a better way to pick up and practice some skills. I also agree that taking a first trip in winter is not exactly easing into things. You don't say whether you've ever seen snow before; some things that are second nature to northerners (recognizing frostbite, for example) are not things you want to be learning above treeline. You do need to be in fairly decent shape, since in winter you're going to be carrying a fair amount of gear. For leg strength and cardio, try stair climbing (try ten flights twice a day until it feels easy, then add a backpack) mixed with a bit of jogging (three to five miles a couple times a week) for endurance.
Finally, are you interested in rock climbing, ice climbing, high altitude, or just don't know yet? You might have options for rock climbing in Georgia, for example, without even having to wait until spring.
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Re: Introduction/Beginner Question

Postby LesterLong » Mon Oct 14, 2013 11:43 pm

Steven,

Also, I'm sure you know about Mt. Washington's legendary weather. I.e., bad. From my experience, climbing it was adding horrible weather on top of areas in which I wasn't strong. I summitted successfully, but I lacked a foundation. If the guide were to have disappeared, gotten injured, etc., I wouldn't have been part of the solution. (I climbed with 4 other people, all of whom were experienced climbers.)

Mt. Mitchell is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, taller than Washington, and quite a bit closer to you, with far better weather.
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Re: Introduction/Beginner Question

Postby Scott » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:05 am

If you are going with a reputable guide service, I don't see why not to try it.

As mentioned, the weather can be extreme up there, but it sounds like a good trial by fire way of figuring out if you enjoy mountaineering in adverse conditions.
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Re: Introduction/Beginner Question

Postby StevenP » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:37 am

Thanks for all the information so far. I do plan on looking further into mountaineering introductory courses and into Mt. Mitchell. The weather is one of my biggest fears as I think this will add tremendously to the challenge. A bit more about me nartreb, I have indeed seen snow and backpacked in winter conditions. I am in very good physical shape and plan on training extensively, currently I run 3-4 miles a day and weight train. I do plan on adding stairs and then adding a backpack. With what I have heard so far I am really leaning towards an introduction program or an easier mountain. There was also a comment that got deleted wondering why a Floridian would be interested in mountaineering. Well I see it as an awesome challenge amongst some of the most beautiful landscape on Earth, when I watch documentaries and read books about climbers that have conquered k2 or the the 14 8thousanders it really fills me with awe, fear, excitement.
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Re: Introduction/Beginner Question

Postby JHH60 » Tue Oct 15, 2013 2:05 am

If you have the New England attitude that anything good for you has to involve suffering (I lived near Boston myself for 18 years), then Mt. Washington in winter is a fine choice. But as you probably know, the coldest windchill ever recorded was on the summit of Washington, and a lot of what you'll be learning is simply survival in very cold conditions - colder than you'll likely encounter in any US summer mountaineering outside of the highest Alaskan peaks. You could spend a week in the Rockies or the Sierra or the Cascades and have a much better ratio of (fun + broadly applicable mountain skills)/(suffering). There are lots of climbs you can do in the Rockies or Sierra that involve skills you already have, assuming you can handle backpacking and cross country scrambling up to class 3) that will give you a feel for real mountaineering and will let you build some of the soft skills that are important for mountaineering, such as route planning, navigation and route finding, appropriate gear selection, pacing, dealing with weather and other environmental issues, etc. You can also start to take courses in technical mountaineering skills such as rock climbing in areas where the rock is great (e.g., Sierra Nevada) or snow and alpine ice climbing, and crevasse rescue in areas where there is year-round snow (e.g., Cascades - though the Cascades also has good rock climbing).
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Re: Introduction/Beginner Question

Postby Sierra Ledge Rat » Tue Oct 15, 2013 9:31 pm

StevenP wrote:...why a Floridian would be interested in mountaineering...


I was going to ask the same thing. I was a big climber before I moved to Pensacola for several years (1983-1986). Like a dumb ass, all I did while I was in Florida was bitch about the lack of mountains. Hindsight being 20/20 I would gotten into scuba diving and cave diving while I was there.

Fast-forward 30 years - Now I live in the mountains of Appalachia and my primary sports are scuba diving and cave diving. :lol:
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Re: Introduction/Beginner Question

Postby JHH60 » Tue Oct 15, 2013 10:11 pm

Sierra Ledge Rat wrote:I was going to ask the same thing. I was a big climber before I moved to Pensacola for several years (1983-1986). Like a dumb ass, all I did while I was in Florida was bitch about the lack of mountains. Hindsight being 20/20 I would gotten into scuba diving and cave diving while I was there.


You could have dived with Exley on one of his many record setting projects, at least as a support diver. The level of skill required, risk accepted, and commitment on many of his dives was arguably comparable to the most extreme solo climbs. I read his book "Caverns Measureless to Man" when I learned to cave dive but unfortunately never met him - he died just a couple months before I moved to FL in the 90s.
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Re: Introduction/Beginner Question

Postby Yury » Wed Oct 16, 2013 5:02 pm

Hi Steven,
You can also find multi-days winter mountaineering schools in Adirondacks.
It's less extreme than on Mt. Washington, but you can learn the same technical stuff and probably even more (because you would spend less time fighting extreme weather and more time actually hiking, climbing and learning different techniques).
You can take a look at pictures of winter Adirondacks climbs at Google or Adkhighpeaks.com.
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Re: Introduction/Beginner Question

Postby Wendellator » Fri Oct 18, 2013 2:43 pm

Hello Steven, first i think it is great you want to get into mountaineering.When i climbed MT.Rainier we had a gentleman from Florida join us, Since he was at sea level, he trained was going to a University and climbing stairs at the stadium wearing a 30lb pack. It worked well.
In regards to MT.Washington i have uploaded some pics from my climb in Feb. Hopefully this will give you some idea of the conditions that you might encounter.
I am no expert at Mountaineering, my only piece of advice is...The Mountain will always be there never sacrifice safety for the summit,i have been within eyesight of Mt.Shasta summit and got caught in a white out we called it off.But i am here now writing instead of under the dirt. :o
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