An Introduction to Alpine Camping
Alpine hikers, also known as “alpinists” or “mountaineers,” outfit specialised gear and prepare detailed plans to ascend mountains.
Due to extra equipment needs, alpine hiking is expensive at first. Alpine hiking also requires serious technical and physical preparation because you’re on the “edge” of risk.
If you have any desire for this, you’ll need to practice for years to take on serious ascents.
You’ll need to reach minimum levels of physical form, cliff climbing, mountaineering, and survival in extreme mountain conditions.
Some Pros And Cons
In the mountains, you face virtually every strange climate condition imaginable — intense sun radiation combined with super low temperatures; super dry air while your feet get damp; and calm weather quickly replaced with hurricane winds in minutes.
Just add thin air and lack of oxygen, and you’ve got the full picture.
These elements combined have a huge impact on your body, but you soon forget about them as soon as you climb on top of a tall mountain peak or cliff.
You hear total silence and see a scene that words can’t describe. And this is why thousands of people take up the challenge.
The technique of movement and gear are important when you are on a route, so you need to be extra careful selecting your gear before a serious ascent because problems could spring up at the worse moment later. Boots can fail, and your rope needs to be reliable for instance.
Terrain and climate pose serious risks, which makes alpine hiking or mountaineering a serious challenge.
Your risk depends on whether you’re attempting “thru” or “radial” trekking routes, though.
In “radial” trekking you enjoy the landscape and scenery. You go places where it’s nearly impossible with a heavy backpack. The only items you bring are special gear to insure your life.
“Thru” routes in alpine hiking is tougher. It usually takes at least ten days to complete. Most of the time, you’re far away from civilisation, and you need to have all necessary items in your pack.
And this is where the problem comes in – weight. Weight means a lot in mountaineering.
For example, a 3a ascent (nearly the highest category of difficulty) Mountaineers will go as far to cut the legs of their spoons to lighten its weight. Shaving every ounce is important.
Other significant differences can be that you won’t find any firewood to prepare your food or to fight hypothermia on some mountains (mostly starting above the 6,000 to 7,000 feet range).
In such situations, most mountaineers bring specially-purpose multi-fuel burners.
And that’s not the hard part. No one can live without water, but how many bottles can you carry with you? You need to make sure the route at leads you to some water source at least once a day. Your best bet is to set up camp near that place.
When you setup camp, you need to look around for hazards. It’s important to pitch your tent in a safe spot. Avoid placing your tent near trees — which may fall on you. The same goes for setting up over an unstable glacier, which can melt under you.
If you’re not sure, ask someone who has the proper experience.
Suggestions and Tips
· Here are a few alpine hiking starter pointers.
· While you’re moving, pay attention to your breathing rhythm. You need to breathe deep and inhale only through your nose. Exhale completely through your mouth.
· While ascending, you’ll need to talk with your buddies, so it’s near impossible to smoke (if you’re a smoker) at the same time.
· If you break your breathing rhythm, take short breaks every 3-5 minutes.
Beginners should know the hiker etiquette of the mountain.
Alpinists should follow the rules whether they’re on the trail, caught in extreme conditions, or while resting at camp. While some rules are less important than others, these are most important.
1. If two groups of hikers meet on a trail, the group moving uphill has the right-of-way.
2. If a group splits between fast and slow hikers, it’s common practice to encourage the slowest hiker to hike in front and have everyone match that speed. It makes sure slower hikers don’t get left behind or lost. The group lead often goes to the back to makes sure everyone is OK, and to make sure they’re on the right path.
3. Silence is valuable because loud sounds could trigger avalanches. In some cases, you might even need to warn your buddy behind you to avoid stepping on tree branches lying on the ground.
4. Of course, help your buddies.
In all, you’ll find both joy and pain from alpine camping, but there’s no place on earth where you experience fresh air, breathtaking landscape and scenery, and good company combined. It’s your choice. The mountains away from you.