Mountain climbing
Credit: Sean Kerrigan

Want to bag a new peak? Here's how to make sure you get to the top


When it comes to getting to the top of a big peak, what you do long before you get to the base of the mountain is what really matters. In other words, proper preparation prevents piss-poor performance. Here's how to boost your odds of making it all the way up there.

  • Consider what kind of summit you're attempting to reach. Will there be kilometres of hiking, steep climbing, or both? Once you've assessed the fitness level you need to be at, pinpoint your weaknesses and train to eliminate them.
  • In one of his explore columns, Will Gadd writes about how he always trains for the worst case scenario. Imagine all the things that could go wrong—falling in a crevasse, being caught in first-aid emergency, being benighted—and make sure you're technically and mentally prepared to deal with them. If you're not, get trained before you go. Guiding companies and university outdoor programs/clubs frequently hold skills courses and will run custom ones on demand.
  • Brush up on your hard skills. For instance, if you've never worn crampons and you're heading up Mount Rainier, take an ice-climbing course this winter. At the very least, get out with friends and work out the cobwebs while the potential consequences are negligible. You'll appreciate the sharper skills and confidence when exposure kicks in during your climb.
  • Make a list of all the gear and clothing you'll need and double check it. Check that the gear you have is still in good condition. Buy what you need now and use it to ensure that it does what you'll need it to.
  • Break boots in. Dealing with blisters sucks and can end a trip.
  • Waterproof everything.
  • Learn to light your stove in the rain and wind.
  • Set up your tent. You definitely don't want to be trying to figure out how to pitch it in the pouring rain.
  • Test your teammates out on some shorter trips. Not only does this allow you to work on your systems and teamwork, but it lets you feel out each other's personalities in the field. There's nothing worse than sharing a tent with someone you can't stand for three weeks.

Preparing to climb a mountain is just like setting off on any peak bagging trip—the summit may be a long way off, but if you take it in little chunks, you'll get there eventually.

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