Mountaineering Information

Mountaineering is the sport, hobby or profession of walking, hiking, backpacking and climbing mountains. In Europe it is also referred to as alpinism, while in the Americas the term refers to a particular style of mountain climbing, that involves a mixture of ice climbing, rock climbing, mixed climbing, and where the climbers carry all their loads with them at all times. In the Himalayan regions the style of mountaineering is Expedition. While mountaineering began as attempts to reach the highest point of unclimbed mountains, it has branched into specializations that address different aspects of the mountain and consists of three areasĀ : rock-craft, snow-craft and skiing, depending on whether the route chosen is over rock, snow or ice. All require experience, athletic ability, and technical knowledge to maintain safety. The UIAA or Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme is the world governing body in mountaineering and climbing, addressing issues like Access, Medical, Mountain Protection, Safety, Youth and Ice Climbing.

Compacted snow conditions allow mountaineers to progress on foot. Frequently crampons are required to travel efficiently over snow and ice. Crampons have 8-14 spikes and are attached to a mountaineer's boots. They are used on hard snow and ice to provide additional traction and allow very steep ascents and descents. Varieties range from lightweight aluminum models intended for walking on snow covered glaciers, to aggressive steel models intended for vertical and overhanging ice and rock. Snowshoes can be used to walk through deep snow. Skis can be used everywhere snowshoes can and also in steeper, more alpine landscapes, although it takes considerable practice to develop strong skills for difficult terrain. Combining the techniques of alpine skiing and mountaineering to ascend and descend a mountain is a form of the sport by itself, called Ski Mountaineering. Ascending and descending a snow slope safely requires the use of an ice axe and many different footwork techniques that have been developed over the past century, mainly in Europe. The progression of footwork from the lowest angle slopes to the steepest terrain is first to splay the feet to a rising traverse, to kicking steps, to front pointing the crampons. The progression of ice axe technique from the lowest angle slopes to the steepest terrain is to use the ice axe first as a walking stick, then a stake, then to use the front pick as a dagger below the shoulders or above, and finally to swing the pick into the slope over the head. These various techniques may involve questions of differing ice-axe design depending on terrain, and even whether a mountaineer uses one or two ice axes. Anchors for the rope in snow are sometimes unreliable, and include snow stakes, called pickets, deadman devices called flukes which are fashioned from aluminum, or devised from buried objects that might include an ice axe, skis, rocks or other objects. Bollards, which are simply carved out of consolidated snow or ice, also sometimes serve as anchors.

When traveling over glaciers, crevasses pose a grave danger. These giant cracks in the ice are not always visible as snow can be blown and freeze over the top to make a snowbridge. At times snowbridges can be as thin as a few inches. Climbers use a system of ropes to protect themselves from such hazards. Basic gear for glacier travel includes crampons and ice axes. Teams of two to five climbers tie into a rope equally spaced. If a climber begins to fall the other members of the team perform a self-arrest to stop the fall. The other members of the team enact a crevasse rescue to pull the fallen climber from the crevasse.

Wikipedia, Mountaineering, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountaineering (as of Apr 1, 2010)

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