Advice for building skills/things to do

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CoA

 
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Advice for building skills/things to do

by CoA » Sun Apr 01, 2018 11:29 pm

I’d love to hear people’s advice and opinions on building a good experience base for mountaineering. I’ve read through the forums for a little while now, but it would be great to get some specific advice.

Several years back I spent a couple of days on Mt Baker with the UBC Outdoor Club to practice glacier travel, self arrest, crevasse rescue skills etc. It was awesome fun, so it’s finally time to scratch the itch and get into it properly, build some solid skills and aim for some good objectives down the track (Rainier, Denali etc). I’d ultimately like to work towards being independent rather than consistently taking guided climbs.

So anyway, a friend and I have signed up for a 6 day course on Mt Baker this coming (early) July to start building mountaineering skills. Following that I’m going to be hanging around for a few more weeks (my friend heads back to the NE) and have planned some solo friendly activities to continue building my skills - climbing Mt Adams, Mt St Helens, and some other things just for fun - some trails around Rainier NP, and hopefully Mt Whitney. But I currently have plenty of other time open for planning other things.

I basically have a two part question - first off, are there any other things that would be good for me to look at while I’m over in the PNW at that time of year? It seems like it could be a bit late (no snow) for the solo-friendly routes on Shasta, and Hood seems like it could be a step too far for a solo climb. Are there other mountains/things that I haven’t thought of that I should be considering to build mountaineering skills?

Part two is how should I look to build skills over the next year and a half or so. I currently live in the NE (NYC area) so that limits my ability to join a PNW mountaineering club and make regular big mountain outdoor trips. Any advice on what things I should look to do, groups to get associated with etc? I already hike and camp a lot, and train very regularly, so it’s more about building the mountain climbing experience than anything else. All thoughts welcome!

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Re: Advice for building skills/things to do

by ExcitableBoy » Sat Apr 07, 2018 9:53 pm

It seems like it could be a bit late (no snow) for the solo-friendly routes on Shasta, and Hood seems like it could be a step too far for a solo climb. Are there mountains/things that I haven’t thought of that I should be considering to build mountaineering skills?


Your instincts regarding the snow pack are pretty spot on. July would be late for many routes on Shasta and Hood, however, the snow pack would be pretty ideal for the North Cascades in Washington.

I would personally recommend not hiking up Whitney, St. Helens, or Mt. Adams. You are not going to use and improve your new skillset unless you turn it up a notch.

Here is what I would recommend for peaks/routes that are:
1. Typically in good condition during the timeframe of your visit.
2. Would be challenging for you
3. Would be within your skillset
4. Generally regarded as a reasonable solo

I would caution you to plan how you are going to descend steep terrain, be that carrying a rappel line and some rappel tat or judiciously only climbing routes you know you can down climb safely.


Mt. Ruth - Icy Peak Traverse

This traverse gives a lot of incredible scenery in exchange for a moderate approach. Expect some glacier travel and a final, short rock climb to summit Icy. I felt good and wholesome not roping up for the Ruth Glacier or the glacial traverse to Icy Peak. That said, climbers have fallen into crevasses on Mt Ruth and climbers often make one rappel to descend Icy Peak.

Mt Shuksan, Sulphide Glaicer
This super iconic peak does not offer any truly easy routes, however, the Sulphide Glacier is typically a quite mellow traverse and 3rd-4th class routes up the summit pyramid can be ferreted out.

West Twin Sister, West Ridge.
A fun rock climb on unique olivine. The route can be descended via the North Face with an ice axe and crampons.

Eldorado, East Ridge
A pretty strenuous approach and challenging route finding delivers the climber to the glacier where progress becomes easier. The climb up the East Ridge can avoid crevasses by sticking to the rocky ridge on climber's left. No way to summit without climbing the famous knife edge snow arête, or any reason why you would.

Colchuck Peak, Colchuck Glacier
The Colchuck Glacier has receded quite a bit and a slip on the ice is a more significant threat than a hidden crevasse fall. July should still make for descent glacier travel.

Mt Rainier, DC or Emmons Glacier
I am definitely not advocating for climbing Mt. Rainier solo, but rather hitch hike your way onto another rope team who perhaps lost a member due to altitude sickness. It works and with your level of training

Part two
How should I look to build skills over the next year and a half or so? I live in the NYC area so that limits my ability to join a PNW mountaineering club and make regular big mountain outdoor trips. Any advice on what things I should look to do, groups to get associated with etc? I already hike and camp a lot, and train very regularly, so it’s more about building the mountain climbing experience than anything else. All thoughts welcome!


Have you read this article: https://www.summitpost.org/alpinism-101 ... ion/756518

I think in your area you have the Application Trail Club that sponsors courses similar to those of the Seattle Mountaineers.

I personally think you can teach yourself a lot through reading and practicing the best you can. Get a copy of Freedom of the Hills and practice the knots, ascending fixed ropes with Prusik slings and whatever else you can.

Join a rock climbing gym. You can go alone and meet folks to swap belays with. Having a belay card gives some peace of mind that your new partner knows how to belay properly at the very least. New climbing partners can be helpful in suggesting ways to improve in your rock climbing technique, gear racking skills, coiling a rope, etc. Someone who will take the time to explain what he or she is doing and why is a mark of good mentor.

Climbing with a strong, capable, experienced mentor is the single best way to learn. Engage with other climbers and make plans for ice climbing, rock climbing, or alpine trips out west over holidays.

From NYC you have access to excellent ice and rock climbing venues in upstate NY, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

FWIW, I have a number of partners who went to school in upstate NY (SUNY Plattsburgh, Cornell), and generally speaking were stronger ice climbers than my partners who came up in the Washington Cascades.

If you take another course after your Mt Baker trip, you may want to round out your skillset and take a trad rock class or ice climbing class.


Good on you for training. Make sure you are training with an intelligent, well thought out plan. The new hot text is Mark Johnson and Steve House's book, Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete. I still favor Mark Twight's training approach in Extreme Alpinism; Climbing High, Fast, and Light.
Last edited by ExcitableBoy on Tue Apr 10, 2018 6:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Advice for building skills/things to do

by Jow » Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:56 pm

There is a local meetup group called Hudson Valley Hikers and they do all sorts of hikes at all levels in Catskills (2hrs from NYC) and Adirondacks (4hrs) lots of people live in city and can give you ride.

The adirondacks have some of best ice climbing in country and you can take course with EMS or REI etc. take a look at summit post user mudrat trip reports for what technical climbs are in daks.

Brooklyn Boulders and The Cliffs in Queens are excellent climbing gyms in NYC. The Gunks like 1.5hrs away are excellent rock climbing all levels you can take course there as well until you find partners.

Then venturing to NH more of the same just even wilder weather.

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Re: Advice for building skills/things to do

by Jow » Sun Apr 08, 2018 12:04 am

Also the most famous epic hikes in Northeast are

The Devils Path (Catskills)
Grand Traverse (Adirondacks)
Presidential Traverse (Whites)

All 3 around 25 miles with ridiculous elevation gains and loss. I think I listed from easiest to hardest

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CoA

 
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Re: Advice for building skills/things to do

by CoA » Sun Apr 08, 2018 11:16 pm

ExcitableBoy wrote:
It seems like it could be a bit late (no snow) for the solo-friendly routes on Shasta, and Hood seems like it could be a step too far for a solo climb. Are there mountains/things that I haven’t thought of that I should be considering to build mountaineering skills?


Your instincts regarding the snow pack are pretty spot on. July would be late for many routes on Shasta and Hood, however, the snow pack would be pretty ideal for the North Cascades in Washington.

I would personally recommend not hiking up Whitney, St. Helens, or Mt. Adams. You are not going to use and improve your new skillset unless you turn it up a notch.

Here is what I would recommend for peaks/routes that are:
1. Typically in good condition during the timeframe of your visit.
2. Would be challenging for you
3. Would be within your skillset
4. Generally regarded as a reasonable solo

I would caution you to plan how you are going to descend steep terrain, be that carrying a rappel line and some rappel tat or judiciously only climbing routes you know you can down climb safely.

Mt. Ruth - Icy Peak Traverse
This traverse gives a lot of incredible scenery in exchange for a moderate approach. Expect some glacier travel and a final, short rock climb to summit Icy. I felt good and wholesome not roping up for the Ruth Glacier or the glacial traverse to Icy Peak. That said, climbers have fallen into crevasses on Mt Ruth and climbers often make one rappel to descend Icy Peak.

Mt Shuksan, Sulphide Glaicer
This super iconic peak does not offer any truly easy routes, however, the Sulphide Glacier is typically a quite mellow traverse and 3rd-4th class routes up the summit pyramid can be ferreted out.

West Twin Sister, West Ridge.
A fun rock climb on unique olivine. The route can be descended via the North Face with an ice axe and crampons.

Eldorado, East Ridge
A pretty strenuous approach and challenging route finding delivers the climber to the glacier where progress becomes easier. The climb up the East Ridge can avoid crevasses by sticking to the rocky ride on climber's right. No way to summit without climbing the famous knife edge snow arête, or any reason why you would.

Colchuck Peak, Colchuck Glacier
The Colchuck Glacier has receded quite a bit and a slip on the ice is a more significant threat than a hidden crevasse fall. July should still make for descent glacier travel.

Mt Rainier, DC or Emmons Glacier
I am definitely not advocating for climbing Mt. Rainier solo, but rather hitch hike your way onto another rope team who perhaps lost a member due to altitude sickness. It works and with your level of training


EB, thanks for the great suggestions. Looks like a a re-plan of some of my time in the PNW is in order. I’ll research each of your suggestions in detail and work out a plan from there. I’m pretty rock climbing experience light aside from some gym climbing, so that may affect my choices. Joining a crew for s.t. like Rainier would be super-sweet, but I’m aware that it can be a pretty big sacrifice for a team to take a relative newcomer on.

Part two
How should I look to build skills over the next year and a half or so? I live in the NYC area so that limits my ability to join a PNW mountaineering club and make regular big mountain outdoor trips. Any advice on what things I should look to do, groups to get associated with etc? I already hike and camp a lot, and train very regularly, so it’s more about building the mountain climbing experience than anything else. All thoughts welcome!


Have you read this article: https://www.summitpost.org/alpinism-101 ... ion/756518

I think in your area you have the Application Trail Club that sponsors courses similar to those of the Seattle Mountaineers.

I personally think you can teach yourself a lot through reading and practicing the best you can. Get a copy of Freedom of the Hills and practice the knots, ascending fixed ropes with Prusik slings and whatever else you can.


Thanks for the pointer to your article - very useful and lots of helpful links. It seems like you’re advocating for a style of Alpinism beyond Mountaineering. Hopefully I can get a better taste for my preferred approaches as I learn more. I’m working my way through Freedom of the Hills at the moment.



Join a rock climbing gym. You can go alone and meet folks to swap belays with. Having a belay card gives some peace of mind that your new partner knows how to belay properly at the very least. New climbing partners can be helpful in suggesting ways to improve in your rock climbing technique, gear racking skills, coiling a rope, etc. Someone who will take the time to explain what he or she is doing and why is a mark of good mentor.

Climbing with a strong, capable, experienced mentor is the single best way to learn. Engage with other climbers and make plans for ice climbing, rock climbing, or alpine trips out west over holidays.

From NYC you have access to excellent ice and rock climbing venues in upstate NY, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

FWIW, I have a number of partners who went to school in upstate NY (SUNY Plattsburgh, Cornell), and generally speaking were stronger ice climbers than my partners who came up in the Washington Cascades.

If you take another course after your Mt Baker trip, you may want to round out your skillset and take a trad rock class or ice climbing class.


These are all things I need to do for sure. Looks like lots of opportunity closer to hand than I realized.

Good on you for training. Make sure you are training with an intelligent, well thought out plan. The new hot text is Mark Johnson and Steve House's book, Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete. I still favor Mark Twight's training approach in Extreme Alpinism; Climbing High, Fast, and Light.


I will check out those two resources. The training I do is actually very similar to what you advocate in the link you posted above, with a mix of strength and cardio.

Thanks for the advice and info - definitely very helpful for me!

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Re: Advice for building skills/things to do

by CoA » Sun Apr 08, 2018 11:30 pm

Jow wrote:There is a local meetup group called Hudson Valley Hikers and they do all sorts of hikes at all levels in Catskills (2hrs from NYC) and Adirondacks (4hrs) lots of people live in city and can give you ride.

The adirondacks have some of best ice climbing in country and you can take course with EMS or REI etc. take a look at summit post user mudrat trip reports for what technical climbs are in daks.

Brooklyn Boulders and The Cliffs in Queens are excellent climbing gyms in NYC. The Gunks like 1.5hrs away are excellent rock climbing all levels you can take course there as well until you find partners.

Then venturing to NH more of the same just even wilder weather.


Jow - thanks for the tips. I had a look at the group you suggested and it seems like there are a lot of things going on to get involved with. I will definitely also check out the trip reports from the adirondacks and see what’s on offer up there. I’ve been in summer previously, but haven’t made it there in the winter.

Also the most famous epic hikes in Northeast are

The Devils Path (Catskills)
Grand Traverse (Adirondacks)
Presidential Traverse (Whites)

All 3 around 25 miles with ridiculous elevation gains and loss. I think I listed from easiest to hardest


We’re actually going to be hitting the Devil’s Path in a few weeks time. We had planned on going a little earlier but all the late snow delayed those plans. The others are certainly on the list!


P.S. Apologies for delayed replies - as a noob my replies still require moderator approval prior to being posted.

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Re: Advice for building skills/things to do

by nartreb » Mon Apr 09, 2018 9:25 pm

We're veering off topic, since CoA was asking about technical skills rather than hiking. Day hiking is certainly mountaineering-adjacent but I find that there's a big difference between hiking with a day pack and slogging with a pack full of rope and other gear. Still, doing a hard day-hike will teach you a bit about long days, choosing your gear (and companions) wisely, and making decisions while tired.

For the record, I still haven't done the Devil's Path, but I'd rate the ADK Great Range traverse as significantly harder than the NH Presidential Range Traverse. The GR has deeper, steeper notches, making it much harder to maintain a quick pace. It's also much more committing, since only one end of the range is near to any road.

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Re: Advice for building skills/things to do

by CoA » Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:45 pm

Thanks for all the advice guys - I appreciate it. I had responded with a couple of messages, but unfortunately it looks like they got chewed up in the SP new user message approval black hole.

It looks as though Colchuck could be a pretty reasonable solo trip, and also Eldorado, although at some point it seems you would have to cross across a decent amount of the Eldorado and Inspiration glaciers, even if trying to stick to the edges of the glaciers.

It seems like there’s an option for climbing Shuksan that avoids crossing the sulfide glacier - by sticking as close as possible to the ridge crest which from reports looks to be snow field. There is also some pretty steep climbing near the top! Of course a Rainier climb would be awesome too, but very dependent on finding a group willing to take a relative newcomer.

It seems a big challenge to find that perfect middle ground - something advanced enough to build skills but not too crazy as to be recklessly dangerous!

Thanks also for the tips on the NE clubs - I hadn’t been aware that they also got involved in mountaineering activities, so definitely something for me to look into.

Actually, it just so happens I’m off to hike the Devil’s Path in a couple of weeks time. Looking forward to getting out for some decent o/n hiking.


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