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Summit Suggestions - Solo Beginner Mountaineering & Deep Snow Travel


Original Post
David Tolomei · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 0

Hi Everyone! First post, but love the forum.. 

I'm posting for suggestions of a solo beginner mountaineering route. I had intended to do Whitney this winter, as it sounded like the perfect level of difficulty, but there's no snow out there presently. I fully intend on taking a legitimate mountaineering course as soon as finances allow, but I gotta scratch this itch sooner than that.

What I'm looking for: A challenging mix of deep snow, & extreme weather; & at least a 2 day climb, but honestly, would be fine with a week or more out there. I guess logically I should avoid anything glaciated since I'm a solo beginner. 

Background: I haven't had any formal training, but I am a research junkie & train hard with my gear. I'm in good shape, have experience long distance hiking, & am comfortable at altitudes as high we have here in the continental. 

Gear I Don't Have: Harnesses, ropes, or any kind of protection. Confident I have everything else I could need, but happy to talk gear if this post takes that turn..

Thanks everybody! Suggestions will be very appreciated!

Eli Boardman · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 490
FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Do you have any experience or training with crampons and an ice ax? Avalanche hazard assessment? Those would be good skills to have before venturing off into winter mountaineering destinations. 

Edit: Eli beat me to it! 

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 322

Going off on your own is not a great idea, especially if you are looking for callenging weather and conditions without any experience. It is an easy way to die. 

You probably have some sort of mountaineering club in your area that does intro courses and full climbs for little to no cost. 

David Tolomei · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 0

Wow, I wasn't expecting so many great replies so quickly, thank you all very much. 

I wouldn't say I've ever climbed what I would consider a hard peak. I've hiked Whitney, Gorgonio, & San Jacinto, all in 3 season conditions with the intention of strength training & adjusting to altitude. I've been long distance hiking for about 15 years, & have always felt the desire for the bigger challenges introduced by alpine terrain. 

I do not have first hand experience with self arrest or crampon usage with any kind of exposure. I've read up extensively, so my intention was to self teach in a low risk area for a day or two at the beginning of this adventure. 

Longest solo trip was 10 days in remote canyons of Utah, & I would say that's probably my limit of enjoyment solo. While I don't have experience yet with these basic mountaineering skills, I do have extreme weather experience from snowshoeing up in Maine when I lived on the East Coast. -20F was not abnormal, & I really enjoyed the challenges brought on by those conditions. Those experiences I think are the first that inspired me to learn more alpine skills. 

I respect all of your input & trust that maybe the route I had in mind does not exist. I'm willing to travel anywhere in the western contiguous, & would welcome recommendations on how to find a beginner mountaineering group & subtract out the solo risk of my initial post. I'm open to take a course, but most I have looked at were 1k+ & that just isn't in the cards for me this Winter.

Thanks again!

Kevin Mcbride · · Canmore AB · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 160

Yer gunna die

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 322
David Tolomei wrote:

Wow, I wasn't expecting so many great replies so quickly, thank you all very much. 

I wouldn't say I've ever climbed what I would consider a hard peak. I've hiked Whitney, Gorgonio, & San Jacinto, all in 3 season conditions with the intention of strength training & adjusting to altitude. I've been long distance hiking for about 15 years, & have always felt the desire for the bigger challenges introduced by alpine terrain. 

I do not have first hand experience with self arrest or crampon usage with any kind of exposure. I've read up extensively, so my intention was to self teach in a low risk area for a day or two at the beginning of this adventure. 

Longest solo trip was 10 days in remote canyons of Utah, & I would say that's probably my limit of enjoyment solo. While I don't have experience yet with these basic mountaineering skills, I do have extreme weather experience from snowshoeing up in Maine when I lived on the East Coast. -20F was not abnormal, & I really enjoyed the challenges brought on by those conditions. Those experiences I think are the first that inspired me to learn more alpine skills. 

I respect all of your input & trust that maybe the route I had in mind does not exist. I'm willing to travel anywhere in the western contiguous, & would welcome recommendations on how to find a beginner mountaineering group & subtract out the solo risk of my initial post. I'm open to take a course, but most I have looked at were 1k+ & that just isn't in the cards for me this Winter.

Thanks again!

I don't know where you are from, but in the PNW we have the Mountaineers and Mazamas clubs.  I'd imagine that there are clubs in any mountainous part of the country as well.  You'd probably just need to do a bit of research.  

Paddy O'Hulk · · Lexington, KY · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 20

Do the Presidential Traverse in the Whites. Serious weather, lots of miles and elevation. Could be one long day or broken up into 2/+

Or do a traverse through the Adirondacks. This is assuming you're solid in winter camping. 

Drew Monaco · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 0

Perhaps Shasta.  One of the easier routes that doesn't involve glacier travel?

Bogdan P · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 280

The desire seems a bit misguided to me. If you want a winter/alpine aesthetic and you've only done summer hike ups, the next step is to start doing spring climbs, both on and off glaciated peaks. Do snow routes, but also be especially on the look out for classic mixed routes (where crampons are used on rock, and an ice axe is needed, but there's no dry tooling, might be graded M1 or M2). An example of what I have in mind is the 4th class section at the end of the mountaineers route on Whitney. It's only the last 200', and it's a long way to go for 200' of this kind of terrain, but it sounds like it might be something you're familiar with. Dragonstail couloir in rocky mountain national park is another similar option with a much shorter approach and an easy walk off. Seek out routes with lots of this kind of terrain and put in some mileage in the spring. Both can be soloed with minimal skill, but if you're inexperienced you'll feel uncomfortable going unroped on some sections.

Alternatively take up ice climbing or backcountry skiing and you'll find yourself a good conveyor belt to winter mountaineering.

Finally, as others have said, get avalanche training. If you want deep snow and extreme weather (read: wind loaded slopes) you're guaranteed to be negotiating avalanche prone terrain. Solo winter mountaineering depends entirely on your ability to navigate potentially avalanche prone terrain with 100% confidence that you won't trigger anything, because nobody's there to save you if you do. This kind of ability is not something you get from a course. You need to get AIARE I certified (or equivalent), and put in lots of mileage with (hopefully more experienced) partners while carrying a full avalanche kit just in case some really screws up. AIARE II might also be good. Only after having gained experience to read avalanche terrain very well should you consider going into the mountains covered in deep snow with extreme weather.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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