Essential Tips for Beginner Mountain Climbers – How to Get into Mountaineering

Wondering how to get into mountaineering? We’ve got you covered when it comes to what you need to know before your very first climb. Read on for the top tips for beginner mountain climbers.

Mountain climbing is an incredible experience that allows you to push your limits and connect with nature in a way that is truly unforgettable. It can be intimidating to know where to start, but with these essential tips, you’ll be ready for your first climb.

In this mountain climbing beginner’s guide, we’re going to cover what you need to know – including how to overcome physical and mental challenges during your climb, what to know before you go, and how to mitigate risks. But we promise you, from breathtaking views to a mammoth sense of accomplishment, the rewards of mountain climbing are well worth the effort. 

So pack your bags, lace up your boots, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime with the help of this handy mountain climbing guide for beginners.

How to Get into Mountaineering

Start Small

mountains for beginners - ben nevis

If you’re wondering how to get into mountaineering, starting small is crucial. Climbing a smaller mountain can help you develop the necessary skills and confidence to tackle more challenging climbs in the future. 

Climbing can involve various skills like learning to use climbing equipment correctly, navigation, and decision-making. If you’re climbing with a guide, they’ll be able to provide equipment and know the routes up the mountain (which is ideal as it means there’s less logistical prep for you to do and it’s also safer for an inexperienced climber).

It’s no secret that climbing can be dangerous, and it’s essential to understand your limits. Starting with smaller mountains can help you gauge your abilities and build the confidence needed to continue pushing and move onto bigger peaks.

Train Regularly

Runners of trail - beginner mountain climbers

If you’re getting into mountaineering, you should start by increasing your fitness with a combination of cardio, strength training and flexibility.

It’s no easy feat to carry yourself up difficult terrain and so cardio should be the foundation of your training program to help you build endurance and improve your cardiovascular fitness.

We recommend running. You don’t need to be able to run marathons but should build up your runs slowly and include different kinds, such as speed work, tempo runs, and long runs, to help you develop speed and endurance, and learn how to regulate your breathing.

Or, if you have access to a gym, the step machine is excellent. It’s crucial to prepare your body so that it knows what it’s going to face on the mountain.

Strength training is equally as important – you should be incorporating exercises that strengthen your legs, core, and upper body (such as squats, lunges, planks, and push-ups). Strong muscles will help you maintain good form, prevent injury, and power through the climb.

It might not seem like a big deal, but flexibility work is critical to avoid muscle tightness and injury. It’s important to have a balanced training program that gradually builds in intensity and volume to avoid overtraining and injury. 

But, most importantly, make sure you listen to your body, rest when necessary, and adjust your training as needed.

Research Thoroughly

Man looking at mountain range - beginner mountain climbers

Every single mountain climbing beginner’s guide will stress that research is crucial. By doing your research ahead of time, you can prepare for a safe and enjoyable climb.

The first thing you should do is research the route thoroughly – including checking the weather conditions, trail conditions, and any hazards that may be present when you intend to climb. 

Next up, you need to assess your skills and experience level before attempting a climb. Some routes may require more advanced skills, so make sure you’re prepared and comfortable with the climb’s technical difficulties.

Once you’ve got a firm grasp on what you need to successfully climb the mountain, that’s when you can begin your physical and mental training.

Invest in Quality Gear

Hiking boots - beginner mountain climbers

If you’re wondering how to get into mountain climbing for beginners, investing in quality gear is essential for a successful – and safe – experience. That said, we know that it can be challenging to know where to start. 

First of all, a good pair of hiking shoes will prevent ankle strain and provide better traction while climbing. It’s important to invest in a pair that is comfortable, durable, and, most importantly, fits your foot shape. 

Also, you need to make sure that you wear your new shoes in before you tackle your climb – there’s nothing quite as uncomfortable as battling blisters on your climb.

Make sure to pack clothing that is breathable, moisture-wicking, and comfortable to wear while climbing. Look for materials such as synthetic or wool blends that will keep you dry and comfortable.

Investing in quality gear can make a huge difference in terms of comfort, safety, and overall performance.

Brush Up on Safety and Risk Management

Snowy mountain summit - beginner mountain climbers

Climbing a mountain is an exhilarating experience, but it also involves risks that you should not underestimate. Safety and risk management should be the top priorities for any mountain climber, whether a beginner or an experienced climber. 

Ensure you have the appropriate gear and equipment for the climb and always carry a first aid kit. As a beginner, you should be climbing with another person (most likely a guide, too), and staying alert is absolutely crucial.

It’s also important to stay flexible throughout the climb. Be prepared to adjust your plans based on the ever-changing weather conditions. Mountains are unpredictable, so be prepared to change your itinerary, delay your climb, or turn back if conditions become too dangerous.

Take Mental Preparation Seriously

Sunrise over mountain range - beginner mountain climbers

Everyone knows that climbing a mountain is a physical challenge, but what you might not know is that it’s a mental one as well. To succeed in conquering a mountain, it is important to mentally prepare yourself before embarking on the journey.

First of all, set realistic goals for yourself. Think about your current fitness level and abilities and set a goal that is challenging but achievable. 

It’s also essential to visualise yourself successfully completing the climb. We promise this isn’t just a hippy-dippy idea – we used this when we climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and it seriously helped us build confidence and a positive mindset.

Another helpful mental preparation technique is to practise mindfulness and stay present in the moment (we love using meditation apps like Headspace, but pick whatever works for you). This can help you avoid getting overwhelmed by the magnitude of the climb and focus on the immediate task at hand. It can also help you appreciate and enjoy the journey, rather than solely focusing on the end goal.

More Tips for Mountain Climbing + Getting into Mountaineering

Adjust to the Altitude

Hikers above the clouds - beginner mountain climbers

One of the most important things to mention when writing a guide to mountain climbing for beginners is altitude. Adjusting to the altitude can be a challenging aspect of mountain climbing, but with the right preparation and mindset, it really doesn’t need to be scary.

Acclimatizing gradually is the most crucial tip. Give your body time to adjust by climbing slowly and allowing for rest periods. This will help your body acclimate to the thinner air and reduce the risk of altitude sickness.

As well as this, drinking plenty of water and eating well (ie. plenty of carbs and protein) is essential for adjusting to the altitude. Dehydration can worsen the effects of altitude sickness, so it’s important to drink enough water to stay hydrated.

Another thing to mention is that, if you’re climbing with a guide, there will usually be some time in the itinerary to spend a day hiking to a higher altitude and then returning to a lower altitude to sleep at night. This might seem like a waste of time but it’s a huge help in giving your body time to adjust to the altitude and ultimately could be the difference in making it to the summit or not.

There are some altitude medications out there, and you should consult with your doctor if you think this might help you – we have to say, we have never taken this medication and have only ever had minor altitude sickness.

Stay Hydrated and Fuelled

Beginner mountain climbers

One of the most important mountain climbing tips for beginners (and experts, for that matter) is to make sure you have plenty of food and water. Climbing mountains is physically demanding and exhausting, and staying properly hydrated and fueled is crucial for maintaining energy levels and preventing dehydration. 

Dehydration is a common problem during mountain climbing, so it’s important to drink plenty of water. Always carry a sufficient amount and sip it frequently to maintain hydration levels.

As well as water, it’s vital to eat nutritious snacks to keep your energy levels up. Carry snacks that are high in carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. We like to pack energy bars, nuts, trail mix, and dried fruits to bring along with us.

It might seem counterintuitive to keep stopping to fuel up, but we can’t stress the importance of eating regularly to maintain your energy levels. Aim to eat every few hours or so to keep your body fueled and avoid feeling weak or dizzy.

Pace Yourself

Beginner mountain climbers

It’s safe to say that mountain climbing is an incredibly challenging but rewarding experience. It requires plenty of physical and mental stamina, as well as careful planning and preparation. 

And one of the most important things to keep in mind when you’re on the mountain is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Trying to push yourself too hard or move too quickly can lead to exhaustion and dehydration, as well as other health problems (namely altitude sickness), which can be dangerous when you’re in such a remote and challenging environment.

Take your time, let the training you have done in the run up do all the hard work, and focus on making it to the top (and back down!) safely.

Leave No Trace

Valley - beginner mountain climbers

It might seem like a silly rule, but respecting the environment is a crucial aspect of mountain climbing. 

Mountains are home to fragile ecosystems that can be easily damaged by us humans – something as small as leaving a plastic bag on the mountain can have negative consequences. 

It’s the responsibility of every single climber to minimise our impact on the environment and leave no trace of our presence on the mountain.

What to Expect on Your First Mountain Climb

Sunrise over peaks - beginner mountain climbers

Okay, so you now know how to get into mountaineering… But what should you expect on your first climb? Depending on the mountain, you may encounter steep inclines, rocky terrain, and other obstacles that require careful navigation and attention to detail.

No matter how well you’ve prepared, nature can throw pretty much anything at you. Altitude and weather changes can have a big impact on your body and your gear, so be prepared to adjust your plans – this might mean adding or removing layers of clothing, adjusting your hydration and nutrition, or changing your route to avoid dangerous areas.

Finally, do not underestimate the descent – the peak is only halfway! The descent can be just as challenging as the climb itself. Your body will be tired and your muscles may be sore, so take extra care to stay focused and avoid slipping up. We know you’ll be excited to get back to the bottom, but pace yourself and take it slow.

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