Mountain Project Logo

Mountaineering Destinations (Beginners)


Original Post
O’Shay Kramer · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 0

I know this topic has been done to the death, but I’m looking for some rather specific advice. I wanted to know if any good beginner mountaineering destinations with a variety of alpine routes. I have a decent foundation in rock climbing now (lead trad 5.10), but absolutely no experience in ice or snow.

The goal for me when I started climbing was to become an alpinist, and I just haven’t had the opportunity to do anything of that nature. I’m from Florida (living in Maryland currently), so not exactly ideal locations. I’m a student on a budget, but I’m taking a break from school and have about $8,500 for this trip + alpine gear. I’ve got a trad rack but really don’t know anyone else who does alpine climbing so I’m not sure where to start. I’m a pretty decent photographer so maybe I could trade some pics of people sending for some mentor ship? I have no idea.

Just to clarify when I say mountaineering, I mean more climbing in an alpine style (light and fast).

If you were in my shoes and had $8,500 for the trip, were completely new and didn’t know anybody, where would you go? I’m open to international suggestions as well. 

Keenan Waeschle · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 200

Don't spend all that in one place! Check out the North Cascades, Washington (State). Anywhere else in the lower 48 isn't really true alpine terrain.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

How long do you have, and what time of year? These are both important considerations. 

Cory Brooks · · Fresno, CA · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 771

Canadian Rockies.

O’Shay Kramer · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 0
JCM wrote: How long do you have, and what time of year? These are both important considerations. 

I’m taking a year off of school, so I’m quitting my Maryland job in September and then have until next September. So I can really go any time.


I was thinking easy(ish) approaches might be better so if I need to bail on a climb it’s easier, plus I’m assuming it’d be cheaper. Been up in the Alaska range, but that was for work doing some whitewater stuff. 
I was looking at Charmonix, mostly because there are always a lot of other climbers looking for partners. 
Getoutside · · Golden, CO · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 0
O’Shay Kramer wrote:



I was looking at Charmonix, mostly because there are always a lot of other climbers looking for partners. 

If you can afford Chamonix, you must go to Chamonix. Period. 

Mark Ra · · Frange, CO · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65

Definitely don't blow it all on one trip, you can do a lot with that much $$.

When you say alpinist, light and fast mountaineering, etc... what are some of your actual mid to long-term goals? There are 22,000ft peaks that you can climb light and fast without needing any technical skill beyond using a mountain axe and crampons to snow slog.

I'd start assessing your fitness level and working to ramp up so you can make the most of wherever you go. Uphillathlete.com has training plans and I believe there's a 2-3mo plan for time crunched mountaineers.

Chamonix can't be beat for quick alpine access and technical climbing. Lots of people start out on the Ecuadorian volcanoes (Chimborazo, etc...). Orizaba in Mexico can be a cheap trip to get some altitude (flights frequently <$300 RT). You can camp in the Ruth gorge. The PNW has a bit of everything, you can start with slogging up Adams then work up to Rainier, Hood, Baker, Shuksan, etc... The Canadian Rockies around banff/lake louise are stacked with accessible training routes. Ice season will be here soonish then cragging will be a good way to build skills. Much of your planning will also depend on finding partners.

 A basic mountaineering course will cover roped glacier travel, mountain axe use, crampon use, etc... You have enough money saved that you could also do a wilderness first aid course and an AIARE 1 course for decision-making and routefinding in avalanche terrain.

If you find yourself in the NE this fall/winter, Adirondack Mountain Guides ( http://adirondackmountainguides.com ) has really cheap full-day rates, they also have rental gear, and Ian is a real life hardman. Tell him your goals and the skills you want to work on then he'll know places to go and practice.

Climbing festivals can be a fun way to get started because you can take clinics, watch presentations and get stoked, demo gear to see what you like, and meet people to climb in the area afterwards. You can show up almost empty handed then get kitted out in top of the line gear to go learn and meet people.

http://bozemanicefest.com/
https://www.mountaineer.com/mountainfest/
http://valdezadventurealliance.com/ice-fest/
http://www.mwv-icefest.com/
http://www.smuggsicebash.com/
http://ourayicepark.com/ouray-ice-festival/
http://chamonix.arcteryxacademy.com/clinics

If you draw a 3-circle venn diagram with Motivation, Fitness, and Technical Skill, alpinism is going to be the middle where they all overlap. Make sure to nurture all three.

JKeller · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 10

Washington.

s.price · · the deck of Rover or Pagosa… · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 1,346
Mark Ra wrote: Definitely don't blow it all on one trip, you can do a lot with that much $$.

When you say alpinist, light and fast mountaineering, etc... what are some of your actual mid to long-term goals? There are 22,000ft peaks that you can climb light and fast without needing any technical skill beyond using a mountain axe and crampons to snow slog.

I'd start assessing your fitness level and working to ramp up so you can make the most of wherever you go. Uphillathlete.com has training plans and I believe there's a 2-3mo plan for time crunched mountaineers.

Chamonix can't be beat for quick alpine access and technical climbing. Lots of people start out on the Ecuadorian volcanoes (Chimborazo, etc...). Orizaba in Mexico can be a cheap trip to get some altitude (flights frequently <$300 RT). You can camp in the Ruth gorge. The PNW has a bit of everything, you can start with slogging up Adams then work up to Rainier, Hood, Baker, Shuksan, etc... The Canadian Rockies around banff/lake louise are stacked with accessible training routes. Ice season will be here soonish then cragging will be a good way to build skills. Much of your planning will also depend on finding partners.

 A basic mountaineering course will cover roped glacier travel, mountain axe use, crampon use, etc... You have enough money saved that you could also do a wilderness first aid course and an AIARE 1 course for decision-making and routefinding in avalanche terrain.

If you find yourself in the NE this fall/winter, Adirondack Mountain Guides ( http://adirondackmountainguides.com ) has really cheap full-day rates, they also have rental gear, and Ian is a real life hardman. Tell him your goals and the skills you want to work on then he'll know places to go and practice.

Climbing festivals can be a fun way to get started because you can take clinics, watch presentations and get stoked, demo gear to see what you like, and meet people to climb in the area afterwards. You can show up almost empty handed then get kitted out in top of the line gear to go learn and meet people.

http://bozemanicefest.com/
https://www.mountaineer.com/mountainfest/
http://valdezadventurealliance.com/ice-fest/
http://www.mwv-icefest.com/
http://www.smuggsicebash.com/
http://ourayicepark.com/ouray-ice-festival/
http://chamonix.arcteryxacademy.com/clinics

If you draw a 3-circle venn diagram with Motivation, Fitness, and Technical Skill, alpinism is going to be the middle where they all overlap. Make sure to nurture all three.

This is the best post on MP in a long time. Very cool Mark.

I started in Ecuador. Mostly because I had family there. Great place to get some basics. Awesome country.

Contrary to the North Cascades statement earlier there are plenty of places in the U.S. to dial in your "light and fast".

21 miles from my house is a 3,000 ft mixed route that will test all of your skills. And I live in SW Colorado.
2 mile approach on FS road.
FosterK · · Edmonton, AB · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 43

Canada - the Rockies and the Bugs - with the current exchange rate, could go pretty far in terms of living and expenses. The close access a lot of easy, moderate, and difficult glaciated alpine routes is hard to surpass - there's not Cham style gondola to the top though.

Shawn Fettig · · America · Joined May 2015 · Points: 0

Hands down go to the Bugaboos. Than work your way west to Washington Cascades.

Eliot Augusto · · Boulder, CO · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 60
s.price wrote:

This is the best post on MP in a long time. Very cool Mark.

I started in Ecuador. Mostly because I had family there. Great place to get some basics. Awesome country.

Contrary to the North Cascades statement earlier there are plenty of places in the U.S. to dial in your "light and fast".

21 miles from my house is a 3,000 ft mixed route that will test all of your skills. And I live in SW Colorado.
2 mile approach on FS road.

Well...what route?

Greg Shea · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 10
Eliot Augusto wrote:

Well...what route?

Same, which route? Sounds fun

Greg Shea · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 10

Also you could gain quite a few skills just taking a week with a partner and going around the gannet/dinwoody cirque in the wind river range for cheap if you plan to end up in colorado, but with an opportunity like yours I would suggest Canada or the cascades, Cham if you can, but I cannot yet attest first-hand to that.

s.price · · the deck of Rover or Pagosa… · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 1,346
Eliot Augusto wrote:

Well...what route?

Dance of the Shapeshifters

5.9 WI3, M3 steep snow

Not on MP yet.
Eliot Augusto · · Boulder, CO · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 60

That sounds like a blast!

Briggs Lazalde · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0

You have the chance to live my dream man don't spend $$ on flights. 

  • Get what gear you need cheap on MP
  • Borrow what u can
  • Live outta ur vehicle and bivy
  • Buy bulk foods to save money (rice, granola, beans) plus fun food though
  • Spend entire next summer from April to September in the Cascades and easily hit all the ring of fire volcanoes in the lower 48 plus play in the apline a ton because the options are limitless. 
Shower at YMCAs and camp grounds.(don't always need to camp in order to use showers)  

$8000 could go super far. I'd maximize seeing as much as you can with this amazing opportunity that life won't always make available. See more by stretching your dollar. When you enter the cascades in parts it says "welcome to the American alps"  so that would be a good indication that it is a good local playground you don't have to leave too far to go see.
Derek DeBruin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 585

Many cool places you could go. If the ultimate goal is technical alpine climbing, you certainly need to spend plenty of time in the mountains in general. But you'll also need lots of time cranking at the crag--that's where you build the technique and fitness to climb hard in the mountains. A big alpine route days from the car with dubious pro isn't the best place to learn how to climb hard ice or mixed. I'd be sure to factor that in.

David M · · Nashville, TN · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 0

Briggs - Nothing wrong this advice, but obviously it's not for everybody. I can't blame someone for feeling like a single guided 2-4 week trip (or maybe a couple 1-2 week trips) is a good use of their money, as opposed to stretching it into months by doing things more in-line with the 'dirtbag' mantra.

Some of us need to maintain our jobs. Or have families. Hell, I really don't have to worry about either of those, and I still couldn't do it. Just too much of a psychological barrier...maybe someday...

Matt S. · · Milwaukee, WI · Joined May 2018 · Points: 0

I really screwed up going into engineering.  There's not enough time off to do fun stuff like this :(

O’Shay Kramer · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 0
Mark Ra wrote: Definitely don't blow it all on one trip, you can do a lot with that much $$.

When you say alpinist, light and fast mountaineering, etc... what are some of your actual mid to long-term goals? There are 22,000ft peaks that you can climb light and fast without needing any technical skill beyond using a mountain axe and crampons to snow slog.

I'd start assessing your fitness level and working to ramp up so you can make the most of wherever you go. Uphillathlete.com has training plans and I believe there's a 2-3mo plan for time crunched mountaineers.

Chamonix can't be beat for quick alpine access and technical climbing. Lots of people start out on the Ecuadorian volcanoes (Chimborazo, etc...). Orizaba in Mexico can be a cheap trip to get some altitude (flights frequently <$300 RT). You can camp in the Ruth gorge. The PNW has a bit of everything, you can start with slogging up Adams then work up to Rainier, Hood, Baker, Shuksan, etc... The Canadian Rockies around banff/lake louise are stacked with accessible training routes. Ice season will be here soonish then cragging will be a good way to build skills. Much of your planning will also depend on finding partners.

 A basic mountaineering course will cover roped glacier travel, mountain axe use, crampon use, etc... You have enough money saved that you could also do a wilderness first aid course and an AIARE 1 course for decision-making and routefinding in avalanche terrain.

If you find yourself in the NE this fall/winter, Adirondack Mountain Guides ( http://adirondackmountainguides.com ) has really cheap full-day rates, they also have rental gear, and Ian is a real life hardman. Tell him your goals and the skills you want to work on then he'll know places to go and practice.

Climbing festivals can be a fun way to get started because you can take clinics, watch presentations and get stoked, demo gear to see what you like, and meet people to climb in the area afterwards. You can show up almost empty handed then get kitted out in top of the line gear to go learn and meet people.

http://bozemanicefest.com/
https://www.mountaineer.com/mountainfest/
http://valdezadventurealliance.com/ice-fest/
http://www.mwv-icefest.com/
http://www.smuggsicebash.com/
http://ourayicepark.com/ouray-ice-festival/
http://chamonix.arcteryxacademy.com/clinics

If you draw a 3-circle venn diagram with Motivation, Fitness, and Technical Skill, alpinism is going to be the middle where they all overlap. Make sure to nurture all three.

Wow! This is awesome. This is exactly the advice I was looking for. 

Some of my long term goals would be ascents of Cerro Torre, Moose's Tooth, and some ascents in the Karakoram. More interested in steep mixed climbing in alpine terrain than brutal uphill slogs (still want to do some of that too though). I think I'm going to wait until November, save more money, take an AIARE 1 course (already got WFR), and then head up to the Adirondack's to climb with a real life hardman haha. That way I can figure out what kind of gear I'll need before I buy any ice climbing/mountaineering equipment without having any ice experience whatsoever.

I think the AIARE 1 recommendation was some really key advice. Being safe in the mountains is probably the most important thing for me, and while everyone else had great post, they seemed to ignore the fact I had no experience in snow/ice.

The stoke is high and so is the fitness level! More training never hurt so I will definitely look into some of their fitness plans.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply to "Mountaineering Destinations (Beginners)"
in the Mountaineering

Log In to Reply