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Next Step

PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 9:52 pm
by nakutial
Hello everyone,

I am sure there are many of these type of posts, but please bear with me. I have been camping, hiking, long-distance backpacking for some time and looking to take the next step into mountaineering. As I am from Florida, the opportunities for anything larger than hills has been lacking. I will be soon moving to Virginia, so this should give me some more opportunities to expand my skills and experience some colder camping. I have done some rock-climbing as well, but not very much.

Currently, I just plan to continue camping, hiking, and rock climbing to grow my skills. As I have been researching more and more; things generally comeback to taking training classes through companies like International Mountain Guides, Alpine Ascents, and etc... I am just wondering if these are worth it, or at when they would be appropriate to take them.

I feel that I am ready to take the next step and start getting up there, but I am aware of my own skill limitations. Maybe I am a bit impatient, but i want to start getting up high.

I appreciate any advice or guidance.

Re: Next Step

PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:38 pm
by Fletch

Re: Next Step

PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 11:58 pm
by Damien Gildea
nakutial wrote:... training classes through companies like International Mountain Guides, Alpine Ascents, and etc... I am just wondering if these are worth it, or at when they would be appropriate to take them.


Some of these are good, though like everything else in climbing, it depends just exactly what you want to do, and on your personal character and situation. Taking courses with these types of companies is not the old-school traditional way of getting into climbing but it's more popular now, and good for many people with limited time and opportunity. I've never taken one of these courses but I'm sure someone here has and can offer first-hand experience.

A few things:
- some of those courses are designed mostly around skills training, some have more of a slant toward actually climbing a peak in the course (Rainier, Baker etc). The latter seems to be popular with people who want to fast-track a route to the Seven Summits etc. which is fine but tends to shepherd you onto a path of going guided to get up peaks. If you want to be more independent, maybe, to start, use the companies for training, but then hook up with someone of similar or slightly greater ability to find your own way higher. I won't get into the arguments about whether this is any more or less valid than any other way. There's enough of that here already and you can make up your own mind.

- an in-between option that can be good is, rather than take a scheduled course - limited by dates and the strangers in the group - see if you can get together with one or two other beginners, preferably friends, and hire an experienced and qualified guide for several days of more personal instruction. They can tailor the time to your particular needs/desires, strengths/weaknesses. This will be more efficient for skills training and more flexible for any actual ascents you may do. The dollar price will probably seem a bit more, but you'll be getting much better value for money.

- weather is an issue, and will be for the rest of your mountaineering career. If you're after basic instruction in snow, ice and generally alpine climbing, you may get more done, better value for money, doing a course in in CO or CA where the weather is usually better. Though the big name alpine mountaineering companies might be in the PNW, it rains and snows a lot there and you might not get much activity done on a 5-7 day course. You can do ropework and hike anywhere, you don't need to spend thousands of dollars and half your holidays on that. Fletch's suggestion of the St Elias course looks great, but might be biting off a bit more than you chew for now, and there is a good chance weather would curtail your activity.

- another possibly useful step for the time-poor is, once you think you'd like to climb a little technical ice, go to one or more of the ice festivals. They have clinics and classes where you will get instruction as well as meet other people in the same boat as you. You will also pick up things from watching other climbers and the general show that you would not pick up either by doing a commercial course or just going out yourself. Bozeman MT, Cody WY, Ouray CO, some places in New England and others all have festivals in the next few months. Warning: They can get crowded, especially Ouray, so you may end up doing more drinking and gear-fondling than climbing.

Re: Next Step

PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:04 pm
by Buz Groshong
First, I'd ask where in Virginia are you moving to? Virginia can give you some better opportunities for rock climbing and mountain hiking than Florida, but the closer you are to the mountains the better the opportunities will be.

Secondly, I'd add that the value of the courses, etc. will depend on what you are looking for. I've done some climbing type of courses, and I did them just for the opportunity to do some climbs. I have no aspirations to do the seven summits, nor do I wish to become an expert climber who can climb on his own - I just wanted to do some climbs. For me the guided package deals were perfect; they were great vacations. They might be less ideal for you. On the other hand, as long as you live in a place like Florida or Virginia, they are the best you are going to get.

Re: Next Step

PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:26 pm
by radson
Warning: They can get crowded, especially Ouray, so you may end up doing more drinking and gear-fondling than climbing.


Just checking on how I can get to Ouray.....

Re: Next Step

PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2012 6:08 pm
by nakutial
First of all I appreciate all the responses they have been quite helpful.

I'll be moving to the Arlington area, and in terms of my own goals and what I want. I also have no desire to climb the highest peaks in the world, nor become an expert climber. I basically want to gain some skills in mountaineering and seeing if this is something to pursue, or find out its maybe not what I enjoy and stick to just backpacking and camping.

Again I appreciate all your responses.

Re: Next Step

PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2012 7:15 pm
by Buz Groshong
Arlington is a good location for access to the mountains. There are several hiking clubs in the DC area that regularly do group hikes in the mountains nearby - a good way to find out about some of the best local hikes. Group hikes are also a way to meet other hikers. You might also meet someone else interrested in mountain climbing, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Your best bet when it comes to mountaineering might be to give one of the classes or package deal climbs a try. Outfits that do the climbs will always give you a bit of training so that they can see that you know enough that you won't be a danger to them or to yourself. It might be best to start with one of the least expensive (and therefore easiest) climbs, perhaps something here in the US. Another alternative would be to do a trek and climb combination in a more exotic location. A trek and climb trip would be more expensive, but you should at least enjoy some aspect of it (you will probably enjoy all of it). After that you could just keep doing more difficult guided climbs or you could choose a class that features a climb/some climbs or you could just go for it and do a class to begin with.

Me - I did it gradually; started with an easy glacier walk-up and then kept doing more difficult guided ones as I learned. Only class I did was a simple one early on at Mt. Shasta.

Re: Next Step

PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2012 9:35 pm
by Fletch
Damien's suggestions are all right on. When I took "the next step" I ended up meeting a Seven Summit guy and he said he really enjoyed the guides at American Apline Institute and that I should call them to do a trip/school. I called and said I'd like to go to Aconcagua some day and what would they recommend for a 6-10 day instructional course (I didnt care for the Seven Summit thing and was really thinking of a Rainier prep course or something) --- they said with that much time, why not just go to AK and go from there? I said sure. Two years later, went right past Aconcagua and went straight to Denali. I also met five or so future climbing partners in those classes and I still climb with one to this day --- and I use AAI for anything pushing my limits outside of CO/CA. They are really great people.

But instruction never really ends. I take classes here all the time at the CMC, etc... Avy 1, winter camping, ice climbing, etc... I'm a big fan of not letting your skills get rusty, but also keep learning new things along the way.

So I would add to Damien's suggestion by saying there really is no wrong answer per se, just pick something, see how it goes, and go from there... good luck!

Re: Next Step

PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:16 pm
by Damien Gildea
Fletch wrote:... there really is no wrong answer ...


So you're saying the last 10 years and two months on this site have been a complete waste of time? Dang! :D

Re: Next Step

PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:21 pm
by Vitaliy M.
Fletch wrote:Damien's suggestions are all right on. When I took "the next step" I ended up meeting a Seven Summit guy and he said he really enjoyed the guides at American Apline Institute and that I should call them to do a trip/school. I called and said I'd like to go to Aconcagua some day and what would they recommend for a 6-10 day instructional course (I didnt care for the Seven Summit thing and was really thinking of a Rainier prep course or something) --- they said with that much time, why not just go to AK and go from there? I said sure. Two years later, went right past Aconcagua and went straight to Denali. I also met five or so future climbing partners in those classes and I still climb with one to this day --- and I use AAI for anything pushing my limits outside of CO/CA. They are really great people.



So when are we going for the top of the world? With Russell Bryce I hope, heard he is the best of the best.

Re: Next Step

PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:32 pm
by Fletch
Damien Gildea wrote:
Fletch wrote:... there really is no wrong answer ...

So you're saying the last 10 years and two months on this site have been a complete waste of time? Dang! :D

Not what I meant! :lol: But yes grasshopper... the only wrong decision is indecision... (I think I read that on a fortune cookie)

Vitaliy M. wrote:So when are we going for the top of the world? With Russell Bryce I hope, heard he is the best of the best.

Dude, sometimes I wonder if you really speak English. WTF dude? When I say I don't care for the Seven Summit thing, it does not mean that Denali or Aconcagua are off limits. As I said, Aconcagua was on my list at the time, and it no longer is. Denali was always on the list. Vinson and Kilimanjaro too. I could give a shit about Everest and whether or not I do the Seven Summits. It's not a goal of mine. Feel free to derail the thread so you can tell everybody what you tell them every time ---> guides suck, Everest is too crowded, hikers are not climbers, using a rope for 4th class is for pussies, and so on...stop being so damned passive agressive man.

Good talk V. Good talk.

Re: Next Step

PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2012 5:24 am
by Vitaliy M.
Damn Fletch, that's quite a response. Don't think I ever said "guides suck," or that hikers are inferior, or 'using a rope on 4th class is for pussies.' I have used a rope on 4th class! I hiked quite a lot too, and still do. Don't think I ever complained about Everest being to crowded neither. Would love to check out that area myself if I had the time/money, and all the other stuff I want to do could be put on hold.
Don't understand why Aconcagua is off your list though. If the regular route seems too easy now, there are plenty of other routes that are more challenging.

Re: Next Step

PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2012 6:23 pm
by Buz Groshong
Catamount wrote:If you are going to be in Arlington, VA, you will be within weekend striking distance of the Adirondacks (NY) and White Mountains (NH). Both will offer you plenty of opportunities to learn winter camping and mountaineering skills that translate well to other parts of this country (speaking from experience). There is certainly a lot you can learn on your own just by picking a peak, jumping in your car and heading north in the middle of February. There are also good winter schools in both the Lake Placid and North Conway areas to increase your skill set beyond "just" hiking. Good luck.


I wouldn't readily agree with that. Sure, you can drive up there if you've got a very long day to kill (each way). I will however readily agree that they will give you better winter experience relative to mountaineering than anything down here - we don't often get to ice climb in VA. We do have some steep trails and some good rock climbing though.