Am I an Alpinist?


Original Post
Josh Lewis · May 3, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 25
The term "Alpinist" seems to be often loosely defined, hence why I'm starting this thread. Wikipedia redirects to the term Mountaineering. According to Wiktionary it is "A mountain climber, especially in the European Alps or in ranges of similar ruggedness and elevation". The second definition is "A downhill skier who practises the sport on high mountains". According to SuperTopo "The climbing medium will often involve rock, snow, ice and variable weather conditions." When digging deeper I found a great article on SummitPost about this subject which mentions handling objective hazards, educating oneself, physical training, gear, rock climbing, mountaineering, ice climbing, skiing, mixed, and exploring greater ranges.

A friend of mine believes you have to be a pro skier, ice climb WI6, rock climb 5.10+, and be able to do serious mixed climbing to be considered an Alpinist. I have not heard this opinion anywhere else.

I personally have hiked/scrambled hundreds of mountains, ice climbed, sent a few 5.9's (as well as many other alpine rock climbs), climbed Alpamayo, much glacier travel, steep snow climbing, have hit rock bottom , and am starting to get into skiing. I've been working hard on alpine style since my climbing accident due to my spinal compression and other injuries. I've also been getting back into the mountains a lot these days. According to the broad definition I make the cut, but not in accordance to my friend's definition. Thoughts on this?

Mike0110 · May 3, 2016 · Long Beach, CA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 0
Go here and you will be an alpinist.

christoph benells · May 3, 2016 · tahoma · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 55
when you combine skiing, technical rock, ice and mixed climbing in a glaciated setting you are practicing alpinism.

however, to be an alpinist, to me, it implies that this s also your source of income/everyday life.

I don't think a hobbyist can be an alpinist. I love alpine climbing, being in the mountains, especially big terrain like the alaska range. but I would't classify myself or any of my freinds "alpinists", but I would call them and myself climbers.

FrankPS · May 3, 2016 · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 15
I don't know - that's like saying you can't be a tennis player because you only play on weekends.

I think you can be a recreational alpinist. And that you don't have to be professional to be called an alpinist.

jaredj · May 3, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 0
Alpinism connotes some minimum degree of technical difficulty. I don't know what that minimum is (like Potter Stewart, I know it when I see it).

It's currency also is to help the ego draw a distinction between ones' self and casual peak baggers / backpackers. I once heard someone say "alpinism is what we do in the PNW, and mountaineering is what Colorado 14-er chasers do". I don't agree, but you sorta get the idea. To hit close to home for OP, maybe TRs worthy of cascadeclimbers.com are alpinism, but those for nwhikers.net aren't?

If you're asking for a modern definition, I'd throw my hat in the ring for "climbing with sustained technical difficulty in an alpine setting". This way we can kick the can down to the "what is alpine?" debate. To belabor PNW examples again, South Face of the Tooth and North Face of Chair Peak - alpinism?

I believe the genesis of the term was to draw a distinction in climbing style on big objectives (where mountaineering implicitly connotes siege - style tactics on large mountains). This distinction is fairly useless today, in that under this original definition anyone doing stuff in the mountains that doesn't involve establishment of multiple camps and complex fixed lines is doing alpinism.

Stagg54 Taggart · May 3, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 0
Josh Lewis wrote: have hit rock bottom
That's a hell of a story

Guy Keesee · May 3, 2016 · Moorpark, CA · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 105
So.... who cares what your FRIEND SAYS.

What do you think you are?

Just climb

EDIT... I just read your story. Big adventure comes at a big cost, good job on the self rescue. Stuff like this makes one stronger.

christoph benells · May 3, 2016 · tahoma · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 55
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you are an alpinist based on the pure badassness of this photo.

you've earned it.

and you've had a finger amputated, that screams alpinist.

bearbreeder · May 3, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 25
Spooner = alpinist

Spoonee = gumbay

Thats all there is to it

;)

Rick Blair · May 3, 2016 · Denver · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 163
Saw your website/blog. If you want to call yourself an alpinist, who are any of us to argue?

You are one damn fine photographer though. Great stuff!

T340 · May 3, 2016 · Idaho · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 0
Josh,
You obviously have a passion for climbing as well as photography. What anyone else thinks(including your friend) doesn't matter a bit. Don't let the "being" get in the way of the doing-if you follow me.

The best to you and your full recovery!
.

caribouman1052 · May 3, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 0
Josh,
I disagree with your friend. I think the minimum requirement for alpinism is the classic definition of Class 4 (you'd want a rope in case you fell) and the objective, which is presumably a mountain top. Whether the climbing involves rock or snow or ice or all of them, with or with out glaciers, I think the definition is pretty broad. I guess mountaineering begins at altitudes where cerebral/ pulmonary edema are typical risks, where alpinism doesn't necessarily include those risks. (Perhaps Alpinism is Low Altitude Mountaineering?)

I think the distinction between pro and amateur is pretty much contained in those words.

From what I can see, you've earned the right to call yourself an alpinist.

T.L. Kushner · May 3, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2009 · Points: 0
i think that what differentiates alpinism from other aspects of climbing is the combination of a few different factors. mixed/variable conditions(specifically the presence of snow/ice), being in the ALPINE environment, climbing with the goal of attaining a summit, and technical difficulty of the route. you could also throw in such aspects as remoteness, glaciers and all the hazzards that go therewith, tricky routefinding, or a long, tricky approach.

the tricky thing about climbing is all of the convoluted definitions of what things are classified as.

if you climb a hard technical route on the diamond in july would it be considered alpinism? probably not. i'd call that alpine rock climbing. you probably wouldn't encounter snow or ice. you would be in the alpine environment. you could go up to the top of longs afterwards so i guess that box would be ticked off, and the technical difficulty is there. i think that climbing the diamond in winter would undoubtedly fall into the alpinism category.

climbing something like the avalanche gulch on mount shasta would certainly include being in the alpine, snow/ice, a very long route, going to a summit. all that being said i would consider that route to be more like semi-technical mountaineering than full-scale alpinism.

i think the word 'alpinism' has a very fluid definition and can vary not just from climber to climber but even from outing to outing. i've done routes and after i got down i was so worked and so beleaguered that it MUST have been alpinism. but then i did the same route in much better conditions, with better weather and it felt just like a fun outing in the mountains but i personally felt as though i didn't suffer enough or have a hard enough time to let it fall into the mythic category of alpinism.

however you want to categorize it, rock climbing is just for hipsters, mountaineering is exhausting and boring, ice climbing is scary and stupid, skiers spend too much time chasing after white powder, mixed climbing is silly and masochistic. mountains are ugly and they should bulldoze all of them and build a bunch of strip malls.

get psyched, go outside, and go suffer your way up a mountain. call it what you will, it'll all be badass!

SteveMarshall · May 3, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 20
Alpinism is a style. Not much to do with technical difficulty. It is characterized by light and fast, single push ascents. As contrasted to traditional expedition style where loads of gear is hauled up, and many camps are established. An Alpinist carries all his gear up and down and relies on himself and his teammate instead of previously established camps. Things like fixing lines are also avoided for a purer style.

I would say it's more aligned with the style to pick more vertical and technical routes but there's no rules here ;) Also, IMO the technical difficulty isnt really important, 5.6 or 5.16 can still be done alpine style.

Also - nice post man, I clicked for the gnarly photograph but got hooked by the writing, read the whole thing. Keep it up

Scott O · May 3, 2016 · California · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 50
The lift operators in Chamonix shouted out "alpiniste" while inviting me to the front of the line for the ride down, so... yes?

Kyle Tarry · May 3, 2016 · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 84
SteveMarshall wrote:Alpinism is a style. Not much to do with technical difficulty. It is characterized by light and fast, single push ascents. As contrasted to traditional expedition style where loads of gear is hauled up, and many camps are established. An Alpinist carries all his gear up and down and relies on himself and his teammate instead of previously established camps. Things like fixing lines are also avoided for a purer style. I would say it's more aligned with the style to pick more vertical and technical routes but there's no rules here ;) Also, IMO the technical difficulty isnt really important, 5.6 or 5.16 can still be done alpine style.
I disagree with this broad of a definition. Since nearly all mountains in the lower 48 can be climbed in single day or single push, does summiting Adams via the south side walk up make someone an alpinist? I do not think so. If so, it is no different than mountaineering, and then what is the point of two words?

Like some others in this thread, I think "alpinist" carries some measure of minimum and sustained technical difficulty. I won't try to put a grade to it, but it's gotta be steep enough that mortals will want a rope; steep enough to use 2 ice tools, 5th class climbing, etc. I lean towards the objective requiring multiple types of climbing (rock, snow, ice), but that seems debatable. I don't think that a snow slog and/or a rock scramble qualifies.

I do not think you need to be a professional to be an alpinist. There are people with day jobs out there sending serious routes, the source of their paycheck seems irrelevant.

If you can do it in boots and microspikes, it's probably hiking. If you need 1 axe and you're plunging the shaft, it's probably mountaineering. If you're swinging tools over your head and belaying pitches, it's probably alpinism.

Stich · May 3, 2016 · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,230
Concerning oneself with the labels others bestow or withhold is a futile and pointless endeavor.

ViperScale · May 4, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 165
I just like to go outside and get high.

Lets leave it with that.

sean burke · May 4, 2016 · Concord, Ca · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 30
Alpinist: Someone who yodels, wears long wool socks, carry's a pick axe suitable for trenching at CALTRANS, Wears a feather, and nailed, tele boots, self cobbled with calf hide from the family farm, Cuts himself across the chest with a huge sword like Billy in the movie Predator.

Boss Alpinist

Nick Sweeney · May 4, 2016 · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 605
To me alpinism is climbing technical routes in an alpine environment. An alpinist is someone who has tackled at least several such routes. I've climbed Triple Couloirs on Dragontail Peak, certainly a route that has the feel of "ALPINISM", but don't consider myself an alpinist yet. I have a lot more left to learn and a lot of experience to build before I would be so bold to assign that name to myself.

Delete Delete · May 4, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 0

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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